Top five apps to improve your training
These days there are applications (‘apps’) for everything. Apps to style your boyfriend because he dresses like he’s stuck in the eighth grade, apps to find your soulmate, apps to translate your baby’s cries (yes, this exists), apps to face swap your face with your dog’s…what a time to be alive! The possibilities are endless.
But in all seriousness, this explosion in apps and the ease in which you can download and use them has far reaching possibilities not just for your love life but also for enhancing and optimising your training. That’s right, there are apps that actually have functional benefits.
I’ll be straight with you, I’m not the biggest gadget or tech nerd. I leave that to my Dad. He works for a tech company out of Canberra and I don’t want to steal his thunder. Having said that, I’m a member of Gen Y and we’re rarely seen without phone in hand. There’s only so many times I can refresh Instagram, Twitter and Facebook before I need to switch apps and as such I went in search of apps that I could use to help my training. These are my top five cycling training apps:
Have I lost you already? I bet you were getting ready for me to blow your mind with an app that you have never heard of. I apologise for letting you down. But the reality is Strava is a fantastic training tool.
You can search routes if you’re in a new area, check times for certain segments or climbs to give you a bench mark to work towards, and record your sessions. All fantastic tools. I use it for none of these reasons. I use it for the intimidation factor.
I am a strategic ‘Stravaer’. I do not Strava ‘all day, every day’ as my athlete profile proclaims. Instead, I pick and choose my rides. If I have a five hour ride on my program with 3000 metres of climbing you can bet that I’m going to record and upload that. The three recovery rides I’ll need after that? Definitely not.
You can also use Strava in the opposite way. That being, only upload your coffee shop rides, occasional dog walks and city commutes. The tactic here is to lull any potential Strava stalkers into a false sense of security.
I do upload every ride I do all week to TrainingPeaks. I also upload every core session. Every run. I even uploaded a shopping day once. Shopping is cardio.
While a lot of people use TrainingPeaks to upload their training files from their SRM, Garmin or any other data recording device, track their fatigue and communicate with their coach by writing comments after each session it’s also a great way to simply diarise your training.
You don’t need to be on a pro team to use it. Gone are the days of the little black book where you wrote what training you did each day and the occasional phone number. Instead, you can download the app and record how many hours and kilometres you rode, what efforts you did and how you felt. The phone app simplifies everything and even allows you to specify what sport or kind of session it was.
My favourite part of this app is the total hours trained figure that shows in the summary box at the end of each calendar week. I just feel like a badass when I see my hours getting close to, or over, 20.
3. Sleep Cycle.
One of the most common questions you’re hit with when training or racing with your team is, ‘how did you sleep?’ It’s usually fired at you a few seconds after you sit down at the breakfast table and are still rubbing sleep from your eyes.
Now, instead of answering, ‘good’, ‘average’ or simply grunting I answer with a percentage. About two years ago I decided to take the guess work out of the answer and download a sleep app.
‘How did you sleep?’
’98 per-cent sleep quality.’ If we’re going to gloat about our power numbers, our body composition numbers, our gym numbers, our Twitter and Instagram follower numbers, why can’t we also gloat about our sleeping numbers?
Let’s not get into the nitty-gritty of it all. As I’ve mentioned, I’m not a tech geek. I have no idea how my iPhone comes up with this figure, nevertheless I take it to be 100 per-cent accurate 100 per-cent of the time.
Jokes aside, monitoring your sleep can give you an insight into how your body functions and what it responds best too. Sure, there are stock standard numbers that people throw around — ‘you should get eight hours of sleep a night’ — but everybody responds differently.
If I’m having a rough week, feeling run down, or fighting off sickness it can be interesting to see what my sleep quality and quantity was the week previously. Alternatively, if I have a good race or feel really good on the bike over a period of time I will often analyse what my sleeping patterns were leading up to and during this period of time. For me, I’ve found I race my best on 9.5-10 hours sleep.
Now, teammates who have ridden with me for a while ask, ‘what quality?’ This morning I answered 100 per-cent.
4. Seconds – interval timer
A lot of my training is made of intervals. Five minute strength efforts, one minute power climbs, 10 second sprints. While I have my cycle computer to record all this I often find myself glancing down at the time as my legs protest like a child who’s mother won’t buy them the kinder surprise at the check out and praying that the time is almost up. I also find that when I do this, the quality of my effort decreases.
Over the summer my sadistic coach had me doing weekly ergo sessions where I had to sprint for 20 seconds, rest for 20 seconds, sprint for 20 seconds, rest for 20 seconds…you get the point. I found that I was regularly cutting seconds off the end of the sprint while I glanced at the time counter and willed the time to be up.
I ended up recruiting various people to be my time keepers, or as I liked to affectionately call them at the time ‘torture masters’, so I couldn’t cut any corners. When I got to Spain last month I found myself sans torture masters and went looking for an alternative. Enter ‘Seconds – Interval Timer’.
The app allows you to program your specific interval training sessions and counts you in and out of the efforts. It has a great layout so you can display it in front of you if you’re on the trainer, or you can play it over your music if you’re out on the road. It’s the only interval app I’ve tried but it hasn’t left me wanting like when you go to a really expensive restaurant and leave still feeling hungry.
While I realise this is probably in the same category as Strava I like Spotify for training because of the playlists you can create and how they can impact and influence my mood. I use music to pick me up before and during training.
The offline feature of Spotify is what won me over from just hitting shuffle on my iTunes library. Being able to download a playlist to suit my session and not having to have an encyclopaedic music library is a big bonus.
So what am I listening to? While the latest top 100 on Spotify will often do the job, if I’m feeling like I need to be particularly empowered for a certain session I might switch to my ‘B*tches who Slay’ playlist.
While these are my five favourite apps other riders have their own. I did a quick snap poll among my teammates and Amy Pieters showed me her favourite app. It was a heart rate app called EC-HRV test which tracks your heart rate and actually recommends how hard you can train that day depending on your resting heart rate.
Emma Johansson said she sometimes likes to use a ‘7 minute workout’ app for a quick session and ‘Fat Secret’ to count calories and keep a food diary.
Do you have any secret — or not so secret — apps you use to help you train? Share in the comment section below.