Online Training Log – Three Approaches

| March 15, 2017 4:48 pm

It has been nearly 7 years since I wrote previously about using one of the online training logs.  Back then I discussed the current state of several options, including Garmin Connect, Strava, Plus 3 Network, Daily Mile, Training Peaks, Ride with GPS and MapMyRide.  Most all of these online services have changed significantly in the past several years.  While I have used them all previously I narrowed my usage to only three of them and therefore I am discussing here only these three:

  • Strava – for the social butterfly with many features included in the free version and some good training tools for premium members
  • Training Peaks – for serious athletic training but the free version is of little value.
  • Garmin Connect – extensive free service for Garmin users

It is interesting how all three services have tried to add in popular features from the other services in order to better compete.  For example Strava popularized the use of segments and social connections so Garmin Connect implemented those two things.  But there is a big advantage of being the first in a space.  Just as Facebook has dominated the space for a social network, Strava has become so entrenched now that it is likely that most of your cycling friends are there, and maybe many of your running friends.

Strava has also implemented some of the performance measurements of Training Peaks but never seemed to have their heart into it.  This was not why most people post on Strava. They post to show their friends what they did and to aid that, Strava supports adding photos of your activity, and focusses on getting kudos, the equivalent of Facebook’s Like, along with comments.   Much of these features are included in the free Strava account.  They have attempted to add more features to the premium version, such as performance monitoring, but they are rather lame.  .

Heart Rate Zones

Even as of now you can only have one setting for heart rate zones in Strava while Garmin Connect and Training Peaks allows you to have separate zones for cycling, running and swimming.  Strava uses only one type for auto calculation, based on Max Heart Rate, while others offer many different well established standard.  Frankly using only maximum heart rate is probably to worst what to get heart rate zones but that is what Strava uses.

Here is an example from a recent tempo run I did. This how things look like on each service.

Strava

Strava shows their famous “Suffer Score” but it looks like I mostly was in heart rate zone 4.  That is because I was using their inadequate method of establishing heart rate zones based only on maximum heart rate and one set for all sports.

Training Peaks

Training Peaks is the ultimate in customization.  I use Joe Friel’s heart rate zones that use the difference between my maximum and resting heart rate (called heart rate reserve) to get me 7 zones, really 5 with the high zone split into 5a, 5b, 5c.  What a different view.  I was pushing my heart rate too much, spending too much time in zone 5c.  I spend quite a bit of time in the range 161-164 bpm which Strava put into Z4 but Training Peaks into Zone 5.  Sure I could figure out things on my own and manually put them into Strava, but why should I have to do that?  Only because Strava is not serious about performance monitoring.

Garmin Connect

Just like Training Peaks, Garmin Connect lets you have different heart rate zones for different sports and it does over many different methods from automatically creating them.  This is what this same run looks like on Garmin Connect. Just like Training Peaks, it shows I spent most of my time in Zone 5.

Fitness, Form and Fatigue

Training Peaks pioneered performance monitoring and developed the concept of fitness, form and fatigue.  Here is Strava’s rather lame approach to duplicate this (offered only to premium members).  It might just be me but I find using this chart rather useless since I also run and swim and unless I am always using a heart rate strap or power meter, it doesn’t count, according to Strava.

Strava

Although Strava has offered their Form and Fitness curve for some time, it is only with some recent changes that I find the curve to be very good.

 

Training Peaks

This is a big focus for Training Peaks.  However it shows that I am at a lower fitness than I was one year ago, highly unlikely since I am peaking for a marathon.  I think Training Peaks gives too much weight to longer workouts, at low intensity, than it does to the intervals and tempo runs I have been doing lately.

 

 

Garmin Connect

This is not something Garmin Connect offers at this time, but then Garmin Connect is a free service and to get this type of chart you need to pay for both Strava and Training Peaks.

Training Calendar

Strava

If you want to keep track for your actual training, such as how many miles you have biked, run and swam by each week, it is pretty much impossible in Strava unless you use a service like velowview.com that pulls your data from Strava and presents it in a lot of useful ways.  Strava only will tell you what you have done the current week and the current year.  None of that is shown on this calendar view that uses a hard to visually method to distinguish between types of sports.

Training Peaks

I love the calendar view for Training Peaks because it offers a lot of information.

Garmin Connect

Garmin Connect is pretty good. You can easily see cycling vs running, but it lumps all the totals together here.

Other Considerations

This only covers a few features of each service.  If I were to cover the social aspect, Strava would rule the world, so if that is important to you then by all means use Strava.  I use it for that reason and I upload all my activities to Garmin Connect and both Strava and Training Peaks will automatically pull that data from Garmin Connect.

All three services offer a free version. With Garmin Connect, everything is free for Garmin device users and most such users will setup things to automatically upload there and let Strava and other services pull from Garmin Connect.  Strava and Training Peaks both offers a free version, but Strava’s free version offers much of the what the social butterflies want.  The premium version of Strava let’s you see things like segment leaderboards by age groups, but you are out of luck if you are much older than 65 since Strava assumes no one should be exercising beyond that.  Training Peak’s free version is rather limited.

Where I am Headed

I have been a premium member of Strava for 7 years now].  That costs $60 a year.  It’s social aspect, including showing your many followers what you have done, and allowing for comments and kudos, and it’s dominate position makes it something that most want to belong to, at least as a free version member.  If you don’t belong to Training Peaks, then maybe being a premium Strava might make sense.  Training Peaks costs $120 a year, twice what Strava. It is used by many who are serious about training, especially those who have a paid coach who might communicate through Training Peaks with established workouts.  If you are not serious about specific workouts, then you might want to pass.  If you have a Garmin device, you should set it up to upload to Garmin Connect automatically and they let your other services pull the data for there.  That way everything is automated.

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