Online Training & Fitness Diary Reviews
I’ve been meaning to write a reviews of the various online training diary applications / website for a while now. I’ve written a review of the training software available for a Mac before, but the online offerings have probably now overtaken these in features and even robustness.
I still like the idea of local, offline software as it means I have a copy of my data on my machine that I control. I’m still not 100% comfortable trusting of the cloud – not necessarily from a privacy / security point of view, but more the case of it just disappearing without trace one day. I wouldn’t want to lose it all. However, the online offerings when it comes to tracking your fitness and training are developing rapidly and now seem to offer more than those available as standalone pieces of software.
The pace of development means that I haven’t been able to write an exhaustive review of all of them. Not only do they change all the time, but I don’t have the time to try them all in great depth, nor do I have the money to buy subscriptions to them all. So, rather than write an exhaustive review of them I thought I’d list the ones I’ve tried, let you know my first impressions where I didn’t go much further with them and provide some more details on those that I do use regularly.
Training Peaks is probably the the Daddy of them all. Full featured, well known and endorsed by some world class coaches and athelets, it calls itself the ‘Ultimate Training & Nutrition Software’. It is indeed very good from what I’ve seen. However, I haven’t coughed up for the full premium membership as it isn’t cheap at $19.99 per month or $119 for a 12 months subscription.
The free offering allows you to record your training and sync with various devices such as Garmin watches. You can add workouts, record meals and nutrition and keep track of various metrics such as your weight, body fat percentage and general well-being.
Premium Membership gives you advanced analysis of your workout data, the ability to plan and schedule future workouts, use annual training plans and much more. If you want to track absolutely everything, analyse your data in depth and have the money to do so, then Training Peaks may the way forward.
However, I’ve never really like the aesthetics of the application as it looks like a piece of PC software rather than a swanky Web based app. It takes quite a while to load and isn’t the easiest to use. The sheer number of things that you can track and analyse can make it a little confusing and you could easily end up spending more time uploading data and recording various aspects of your training and nutrition than you would actually swimming, biking and running.
Manufacturer Specific Websites
Most manufacturers of sports watches and GPS devices have their own online web apps. Some of these includes offerings from Polar, Suunto, Nike and of course Garmin. They allow integrate with their various models of watches, GPS units or foot pods and should allow you to visualise all of the data they collect. I don’t have products from all of the manufacturers so haven’t tried them all, but for the most part, they work well, but may be a little limited. As a user of Garmin products I do use Garmin Connect.
Garmin Connect has improved significantly over the years and has now pretty much replaced their standalone app (Garmin Training Centre). Garmin took over a previous online training diary application called Motion Based and have made it their own. I actually quite like it. Garmin Connect works well (for the most part) with my Garmin devices. Workouts recorded on my new ANT+ enabled Forerunner 910XT appear ‘automagically’ within Garmin Connect and it is one of the only ones so far that provides support for the Swim Metrics features of the 910XT.
I particularly like the calendar view and the way it shows you your weekly totals for duration and distance, although a monthly total would be good too, as would a breakdown of the weekly and monthly totals by sport type.
Garmin Connect also allow you to create workouts that you can then send to your Garmin device so that you can follow them. You can also add these workouts to your calendar so that you can create a plan. Unfortunately there doesn’t appear to be a way then convert a planned workout into an actual workout, or better still would be an auto-detect feature that ticks off planned workouts when similar workouts are synched from your Garmin device.
Analysis of your workout data is pretty good within Garmin Connect. As I’ve already mentioned, its the only place I’ve been able to analyse my swim metrics ands it does this very well. GPS, Heart Rate and elevation data is also well presented with Garmin Connect.
Where it does fall down though is in summarising this data. It does provide ‘reports’ but these are limited and it really doesn’t have any sophisticated way of tracking your performance or training over time and reviewing how you’ve been doing.
Despite this, if you own a Garmin Device it is well worth using Garmin Connect.
Sports track live
Sports Track Live is a little different. I started using it purely for windsurfing sessions as it provides a perfect way for analysing speed. Not only does it filter out any spikes from your GPS data but it also provides you with a list of best times / speeds for various distances such as your maximum speed over 100m, 200m, 500m , 1nmi and so on, along with your top 5 speeds based on 10 second averages, 500m and so on. The mapping is also very good.
Things have moved on since then and it now also includes features for other sports, but I’ve never really used it as a training diary. Last time I checked it wouldn’t sync with Garmin devices so I have to upload a .gpx file to it which makes it a little clunky and it doesn’t really offer any unique selling points that would make me use it.
The social aspects are fairly good though with various Groups that you can join and be entered into ‘speed ladders’ to see how you stack up against other group members. Again, this one is mainly used for windsurfing and I do still upload some of my windsurf sessions to it.
TriBlogs is a fairly new find by me, but I’m liking it. In fact, I’m liking it a lot and it is actually what prompted me to finally get around to writing this post. Aimed squarely at triathletes it so far seems to offer pretty much everything I need from a training planner and recording app. It seems to have the best features of most of the other options but without too much of the extra ‘fluff’ that isn’t needed, and what it offers it does so in an easy to use, well thought out way.
I do have a few reservations though. First up, it is owned, written, developed and run by a single person – Dave Oziem. This isn’t necessarily a problem, in fact it could be a positive feature. As a web developer myself, I’ve built web apps and websites along these lines before and when doing so I become very attached to them, want them to succeed and therefore end up responding to support requests and feature suggestions in double quick time. It is however a lot of work and sometime there just isn’t enough time in the day for one person to cope with the demand. I don’t know Dave and have little experience of his support yet, hopefully it’ll be good, but as memberships to TriBlogs increases he may not have the resources on his own to keep up with the demand. I have posted a couple of suggestions and questions on the forums at TriBlogs and have yet to have an answer, so only time will tell how well TriBlogs can keep up with developments.
The other issue could be one of scalability. Should TriBlogs become very popular – and from what I’ve seen of it so far, it should – then will they have the servers, bandwidth and general capacity to cope with the demand. Again, hopefully they have plans for this as it would be a shame to see it suffer due to its own popularity but only time will tell.
At the moment I’m sticking with it and taking a risk as what it does it does really well. As well as taking the ‘best of the rest’, it has some innovative features of its own, is easy to use and is more full-featured than it first appears.
Diary – The Diary side of things looks nice, is robust and allows me to sync data from my Garmin devices – It doesn’t yet seem to support the swim files from my 910XT though. The diary shows you an overview of your training sessions and provides you with weekly totals for distance and duration. It also provides these totals broken down into each sport which is better than that offered by many of the other site listed here. There is also the ability to add notes and there are customisable summaries for totals.
On top of this you can create charts galore, track equipment usage, record wellness data, record race results and even perform and record ‘tests’. These fitness tests allow you to perform tests from a series of shared tests and then track your performance within the tests. You can even create your own tests that allow you to enter the various test data, calculate complex formulae from the data and then record the results – very clever!
I’ve tried this out with the PWC170 test that I do occasionally. I created the test within my TriBlogs account and added the following formula to it:
Planning – As well as the diary, TriBlogs has a planning feature that allows you to plan upcoming sessions and races. Again, this works well and once you’ve completed the sessions you can easily convert them to logged sessions in your diary or simply tick them off if you’ve already recorded them. You can even add periodisation / phase notes to your plan and follow some set programmes if you wish.
Coaches – If you are a coach then you can you register as a coach on TriBlogs. This then allows you to create plans for the individual athletes that you coach and track their performance too.
TriBlogs also allows you to create goals, although as yet this feature isn’t very complete – Apparently they are working on it though.
The dashboard homepage provides a useful user configurable overview of your training, plans and other features and even contains countdowns to your upcoming races (scary!)
In addition to this, TriBlogs has some social aspects as well. Each member can have their own blog where they can write about their training and racing – you can of course then read other peoples blogs. There are also Groups that you can join. Once you’ve joined a group you are then entered into a little ‘competition’ that lists the people in the group with the most training time or distance logged for a particular week or month. At the moment, there aren’t a huge number of users or groups so these aren’t well used, but as the site grows they could become fun to be a part of.
Overall, I’m liking TriBlogs and hope to keep using it. I can’t wait to see it develop just a bit more and hopefully see the user base increase,
MapmyRide / MapmyRun
MapmyRide and MapmyRun have some really nice features such as categorised climbs and should be one that I spend more time with but for some reason I’ve just never been taken by it. It has too many adverts in free mode and is quite expensive for a premium membershipss at between £5.99 and £19.99 per month.
Strava is excellent if you like to compete either with yourself or others, and is one of the sites that I now use on a regular basis
It allows you to download from Garmin and many other devices, offers good mapping and elevation data and has some nice features such as Grade adjusted Pacing for runs.
The main reason for using though are the social aspects and in particular the ‘Strava Segments‘.
The Social aspects allow you to follow other members so that you can see what they’ve been up to and compare yourself against them. You can even get sent a daily update via email of your friends activities on Strava.
Strava Segments are what really count though. Significant climbs on rides or runs are automatically made into a ‘segment’ and you can create your own segments too. These are then compared against the rides and runs of all other users to provide leaderboards for each of them. People then battle for King of the Mountain (KOM) standings on the segments adding a really nice competitive edge to the site. You can track your performance over the segments yourself, follow other members and track their performance, or search for segments that you might want to compete on. All of which encourages you to try just that little bit harder next time you get to a climb that you know is a ‘Strava Segment’.
It’s one of those sites that really starts to work once you know a few other people who also use it. A number of the people that I cycle with around here use it so we have some healthy competitions on some of the segments. It’s used mainly by cyclists at the moment, but I do upload my runs to it as well.
Strava does provide a diary of your sessions and has some nice features as far as that is concerned, but it’s not really a full-featured planning and training analysis tool, it’s all about the segments!
As you can see there are plenty of online offerings for training diaries available. Each have their own take on the idea and some are better than others. As yet, there isn’t one that does it all, so like me you might end up using more than one. At the moment I think I could get away with my new find of TriBlogs and Strava. I’d use TriBlogs for planning and recording my training and Strava for the social, competitive side of things. I’m still also keeping things on Garmin Connect though as that is the only one that supports the Swim data from my 910XT.
Which ones do you use and why? Let us know in the comments as I’m bound to have missed some good ones.
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