In this post, I’m going to discuss why it is crucial to visualize data to see overall progress. The database system that I have developed allows my clients and I to track progress over time. One of the features available is an option to quickly view all of the average splits for the same workout over time.
Take for example the following set of data from an athlete who is rowing a rate capped 40-minute UT2 piece on the ergometer. The dates of each workout and the average split for the workout are displayed.
At first glance, it’s difficult to see if the athlete is making progress. It seems like there is some inconsistency to the splits, but there might be an overall improving trend.
I have spent the last day developing code to dynamically generate a graph from this type of data so that the actual long-term progress is visualized. I just couldn’t help myself the science teacher in me just took over…. 🙂
Next, let’s see the data plotted as a line graph with an average trend line included.
There is one conclusion that you can now draw from the graph that was not apparent in the tabular format.
There is an overall trend of improvement over a four-month period. (black dotted line)
Despite the fact that there is not an apparent consistent improvement, it clear that this athlete is making some progress with aerobic capacity building. This athlete needs to work on their consistency, but they can be reassured that their efforts are bearing fruit over time.
It is sometimes challenging for someone who doesn’t have a great deal of rowing experience to learn how to execute steady state workouts effectively. There is a lot of benefit to rowing this mileage. The benefits include developing the ability to metabolize fat more efficiently, establishing higher concentrations of mitochondrial density, rowing technically more consistently, creating rhythm and the list goes on…
Seeing the big picture is important rather than assessing on a day to day basis. It could be tempting for this athlete to become discouraged when the gains are not happening all of the time. However, this graph provides evidence and proof of long-term improvement. As a result, the information allows this athlete to develop their self-management mental competencies and navigate all of the successes and setbacks in the journey.
Success over time is not consistent improvement every workout. However, the overall trend in a productive, periodized, and well-programmed training program should be an overall increase over time. Otherwise, you need a new training program or a discussion with your coach/team about what’s not working.
I encourage all coaches to visualize improvements for their athletes. In the rowing world, there are lots of options. Rosandall and Rowers are two options that come to mind. I respect the work that these folks are doing and appreciate what they bring to the rowing community.
In conclusion, #winteriscoming. I hope that you have a system to a place that allows you to visualize your performance and overall progress either individually or team-wide. When the daylight hours are short, and the erg is your main mode of exercise, it can be tough to keep motivated.
Keep the big picture in mind and keep that wheel a turning….it’s all worth it.