I had been using ithlete for several years as part of my own training monitoring and found the basic data helpful as an additional weapon in my armoury. So when I was given the opportunity to use an ithlete Team App in conjunction with my coaching role for the TORQ Track Team I was keen to see what it could bring to the table.

We’ve all heard of the expression ‘paralysis by analysis’. An overly zealous (and sometimes stifling) use of data leading to unnecessary complication of a reasonably straightforward challenge. With the levels of data now available for athletes it’s easy to follow the maxim that more is better but is that really the case? As a coach it’s my responsibility to pick through performance data and use it in a practical manner to develop my athletes and I’m continually looking for new and/or more efficient and effective methods. This is where ithlete enters the arena.

In my analysis of power and HR data I can get a good idea of how a training session has been completed and, over a period of time, I can see how a training programme is developing an athlete. But this data primarily shows me how an athlete has performed and not necessarily what effect this performance has had on his or her body. Tracking HRV with ithlete helps to fill that gap in my ability to manage athletes.

HRV monitoring has been useful not only in terms of training effects but in managing lifestyle issues such as work stress and sleep. Athletes tend to concentrate on the physical side of training and sometimes forget the impact that a tough period at work or a series of bad sleeps can have on their recovery and performance. It has been interesting to see these effects, as they tend to show up in HRV data before a decrease in performance. An athlete may very well be training strongly but a lower HRV signals an issue that merits addressing before performance drops noticeably.

I’m sure many coaches would agree that sometimes athletes need to be protected from themselves! The competitive nature and dedicated approach of most athletes can easily lead past the desired overreaching phase into an overtrained state. Power and HR data can be omitted from feedback but ithlete readings keep it all honest!

I’ve found the ithlete Team account a useful and very convenient tool. It is easy to use and, if you’ve done your homework on HRV, easy to interpret. By having all your athletes’ data in one place it can save time and also ensure you don’t miss anyone’s data when things get a little busy! Now if I could access each athlete’s Training Guide-30 day Activity Summary, a good tool would get even better!
My experiences with HRV monitoring to flag up a developing illness are that the athlete will be experiencing some early symptoms at the same time a noticeable change in HRV occurs. There may be some illnesses that reduce HRV before any symptoms but I’ve found for the usual colds and general bugs, HRV changes occur with the developing symptoms. In these cases, a combination of ‘perceived’ illness and HRV reduction confirms the necessity for a short term review of training.

What can be particularly useful is timing a return to exercise. Often an athlete will be keen to return to training before they are properly recovered. They may feel OK but HRV readings will confirm or contradict their perception of readiness.

2016 goals for the TORQ Track Team will focus on track team pursuit events. The team are current World Masters Team Pursuit champions and also hold the world record for the event so we are keen to retain the title in Manchester in October and maybe lower the record yet again. We are also looking to ride the Team Pursuit at the British National Elite Track Championships. With the standard of women’s cycling rising all the time, this will be a considerable challenge but one the ladies are keen to accept.

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Individually, team members will be competing and defending titles in the national track omnium series, national masters track championships and world masters track championships. Highlights will be Janet Birkmyre aiming to defend her national elite Derny champions title together with World Masters track titles. Mel Sneddon will be hitting the Time Trialling scene to continue her winning ways and personal best improvements. Maddy Moore will be looking to retain her world and national track titles whilst competing in a range of other events that include road circuit races. Louise Haston will be using her experience from time on the Scottish Paracycling national squad to develop her track racing with the longer term goal of the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

By Chris Davis

TORQ Fitness Women’s Track Cycling Team Coach

Chris Davis has competed in and coached various sports but now concentrates on cycling. He is a level 2 British Cycling track coach and works with individuals in various disciplines as well as with groups at Wales National Velodrome. He is a weightlifting coach and also has a sports Injury and remedial massage business. Chris has National, European and World Masters titles on the track and is also an active competitor in road racing and time trialling.

Chris has guided riders to numerous titles at World, European and National levels. Two riders have progressed to national track squads with one on course to ride in the Rio Olympics.

Helping riders to achieve their goals and treating each rider as an individual are the underlying principles in Chris’s approach. A personal best in a local time trial through to a world title or a place on an Olympic track squad, each success is a source of satisfaction.