Tag Archives: Analysis

StravistiX – Awesome analysis for Strava

Introduction

A while back I came across an addon for Strava called “StravistiX“. Its totally free and it gets installed as a Google Chrome browser extension – but only works on your computer rather than on your mobile devices. (The extension exists for Opera too which is a lesser used browser, but not for Firefox, which is more well used which is a bit odd). I already think Strava is amazing for training analysis, but StravistiX takes things a step further.

What it does is embeds extra bits and bobs (OK, stats if you want to get technical) into the Strava website as you are browsing it. Some are more interesting and useful than others admittedly, but they recently introduced a feature that really opened my eyes. Apparently, something similar is already in Strava, but only for Cycling data and only with a Premium subscription. Its also the same as the Performance Chart in Training Peaks, but again requires a premium subscription.

So, for StravistiX to have this for free is a real bonus.

Once the addon is installed, you configure the settings to tell it your weight, gender, age and configure things like your heart rate and pace zones. You can also turn on and off features you do and don’t want to use. I haven’t tried all of them as there are a LOT, so the rest of the post is on the features I’ve tried, and I like.

Stravistix Settings

Subtle Enhancements to Strava

First up there’s this tile which gets added to your Profile page (It displays for you only on your profile) and shows you where you are at this year versus your previous years activity history – helpful if you want to “beat” last years mileage goal or something similar!

Stravistix Progressions for Strava

The Flyby is a feature in Strava I love to use because I’m a nosy so and so. When I’m out running and I pass someone who is absolutely flying, when I get back I look at my Flyby, and if they are on Strava I can see what session they were doing and view the activity data. Admittedly, its a bit stalky but its also helpful when looking at a race and see how you tore away from (or got left for dust) by the rest of the field! StravistiX embeds the Flyby button to every activity on your activity feed, so its easy to access the Flyby much faster.

Stravistix Flyby for Strava

The next panel appears when you are viewing an activity. It gives you some great additional stats for that activity, like how much of it were you climbing. It also shows you your “TRIMP”. This stands for “TRaining IMPulse” and I’ll talk about that a bit later in the post, but its similar to your Suffer Score – which is only available to Strava Premium members – so this is another free alternative to premium membership!

Enhanced training stats for Strava by Stravistix

Clicking the “Show Extended Statistics” button then lets you see full screen a full and detailed analysis of your data. The “Grade” information is shown below. But it also shows you heart rate, pace, cadence, and elevation. It splits them all into fully configurable Zones so you can see the effect of grade on your pace and heart rate, for example. Strava limits these zones, so having flexibility to add more could be attractive for some people.

Grade chart for Strava by Stravistix
Segments are one of my favourite things about Strava, and StravistiX have enhanced the segment view too. It adds some extra columns and colours to the segments that you crossed in your activity, so you can analyse your segment attempts directly on the list. It shows how far away you were from the CR, your PR and your ranking against the leaderboard for the effort.
Strava Segment Analysis by Stravistix

But now for something a whole lot more interesting…

The “Multi-Sport Fitness Trend”

Recently StravistiX released this (rather wordy – why not just “Fitness Trend”) feature and it seemed… somewhat familiar. Confusing, yet familiar. It essentially examines your training history and plots it into a chart showing 3 key metrics, all based around your “TRIMP” – I told you I’d come back to it!

TRIMP

TRIMP is your TRaining IMPulse and is a measure of the amount of effort you put into an activity. It calculates it based upon your heart rate during the activity and the zones you are working in. It’s just like Strava showing you your Suffer Score. The longer you run the higher your score gets. But if you are running “easy” then the score accrues at a lower rate then if you are running at your lactate threshold. So harder runs accrue a higher TRIMP. It does this totally dynamically, so is you have 2 miles easy, 4 miles at threshold and 2 miles recovery, it will accrue the score based upon just that, so for 2 miles your TRIMP will accrue slowly, for 4 miles it increases quickly, then for 2 more it accrues more slowly.

Fitness, Fatigue and Form

It uses these TRIMP scores, applies some calculations and plots them into a whizzy chart as 3 different metrics.

The first metric is called “Fitness”. This a rolling average of your TRIMP over the last 42 days and is also known as your Chronic Training Load – it gives an indicator of how fit you are based upon your training history. So, if you had a week with no running, this would slowly decrease – after all you don’t suddenly become unfit overnight! Similarly if you ran a bunch of hard efforts this would slowly increase as you can’t suddenly become more fit just because you ran a couple of hard efforts!

The flip side to your running – particularly running hard – is that you get fatigued. The harder you run (higher TRIMP) the more fatigued you are afterwards. The Fitness Trend tracks the average of your last 7 days exertions to give you your “Fatigue” score, also known as Acute Training Load. So, if you don’t run any hard sessions for a week, your Fatigue score will drop more drastically than  your Fitness Score as its based on your short term rather than your long term history.

Thankfully, the third metric is simpler to understand. It’s called “Form” and is quite simply your FitnessFatigue. So lets say your Fitness is 80 and your Fatigue is 90. Your Form is -10. This indicates that you are a bit tired and not quite race sharp – You are more fatiguesd than you are fit. On the other hand, lets say your Fitness remained at 80, but your fatigue is only 70 – this gives you a Form of +10 – you are less fatigued and sharper to race (or indeed run a hard session)!

Practicalities – Using Form Zones

Looking at it like that it really does confirm the old adage that there really are no short cuts to “Fitness” – the less fatigued you are, the better you race. Not exactly rocket science I know, and it’s intel we all (should)  know anyway, but seeing this visually plotted over time is much more helpful than simply seeing your Strava suffer score for your single activity.

But with all these things, the tool is only useful if you can use it practically. So, what can you actually use it for. A recent addition to the tool has added “Form Zones” so you can see roughly how these efforts are/should be affecting your training and race performance.

The below is taken directly from the StravistiX documentation.

  • +25 < Form : Transition zone. Athlete is on form. Case where athlete has an extended break. (e.g. illness, injury or end of the season).
  • +5 < Form < +25 : Freshness Zone. Athlete is on form. Ready for a race.
  • -10 < Form < +5 : Neutral Zone. Zone reached typically when athlete is in a rest or recovery week. After a race or hard training period.
  • -30 < Form < -10 : Optimal Training Zone.
  • Form < -30 : Over Load Zone. Athlete is on overload or over-training phase. He should take rest
  1. You can use your current form to make sure you push your training load so that your hard efforts are greater than your current fitness, but in a sensible way. By keeping your form between -30 and -10 is the sustainable way to see your perfromance improve. Any less than this and the benefits of your training will likely be negligible.
  2. You  can also see if you are over-training and risking injury by seeing a sharp spike in your “Fatigue” score as it will push you into the “Over Load Zone” The longer and higher you push that spike above your current fitness, the longer you’ll spend in this zone and the greater the injury risk. So if you are pushing that Form Score beyond -30 then beware.
  3. It shows quite clearly why you should avoid back to back hard efforts and how important rest is – you simply keep accruing fatigue and pushing your “Form” lower and lower below 0, risking bad things happening to your body. It also shows how important it is for recovery runs to be just that – they maintain your fitness but reduce your fatigue, as long as you do them at the right effort.
  4. It highlights the need for regular “quality” sessions to push you beyond your current “Fitness” score. If you aren’t pushing yourself regularly your form will slip into the “Neutral” zone. This is the zone you’ll find yourself in if you are in a recovery phase/week, or are tapering for a race. If you are spending a long period of time in this zone you are likely putting in “junk” miles and you’ll not see any long term improvement by hanging around in here!
  5. You can tell when you are ready to race as you’ll find your form in the “Freshness” zone, which will be somewhere between +5 and +25. Your short term intensity has lowered meaning your fatigue has dropped below your fitness score so you are fresh to race! This is evidenced quite nicely in the attached section from my chart – I didn’t think I was capable of the PB I got at Poole last year, but the chart shows my Fatigue had reduced by the perfect amount. Now if I see a Form score like that before a race I’ll know I can give it a good effort!
  6. You can, to some degree, use it to plan or at least assess your taper. Over time and history you know the sorts of sessions you will be running and what your TRIMP is likely to be and you can work out when you might peak. I might be a nice feature addition to allow a user to enter some values here to model their taper.
  7. The basic rules of cause and effect are, you train at a certain speed for a certain time you get better at running that speed. To get faster you need to push yourself on further again. I use McMillan to reassess my training paces after a race normally, but when training this might not be frequent enough. Now, I can see when my training reaches a plateau as I would be in the Neutral zone, even though I’m not doing a recovery or taper week. With this intelligence I can assess if I need to increase my training paces to increase the training stimulus. This should ensure a faster increase in performance as long as you don’t overly fatigue yourself in the process.

Review

I was blown away by this feature. Really. To some degree just because it proved that my training methodology made some sense, but mainly because I can see, long term, how this can help me improve as a runner.

It’s not anything particularly new – The creator credits Banister and Coggan (References below) who came up with and improved this concept  – but embedding it into your existing Strava data was jsut really nice and so easy to use. It took my some time to understand but once I did, I couldn’t help but be fascinated by it.

StravistiX have done a lot of hard work and made this free, Full credit to Thomas Champagne for a brilliant app. I will be donating to the project in thanks.

THIS POST WAS UPDATED 11th January 2017 to reflect great new additions to Fitness Trend.

Credits

Thanks to this article which explained to me what these numbers actually meant on a practical level. Credit: Training Peaks http://home.trainingpeaks.com/blog/article/applying-the-numbers-part-3-training-stress-balance

BANISTER, E. W. 1991. Modeling Elite Athletic Performance. In: MACDOUGALL, J. D., WENGER, H. A. & GREEN, H. J. (eds.) Physiological Testing of Elite Athletes. Champaign, Illinois: Human Kinetics

Wikipedia also has more information on the topic: http://fellrnr.com/wiki/Modeling_Human_Performance

Stravistix use the attached link as a source of information and I read it too to understand the practical uses of the zones: http://www.joefrielsblog.com/2015/12/managing-training-using-tsb.html

 

The Sweatshop Experience: Gait Analysis

Following my departure as Yeovil Montacute parkrun Event Director, the team surprised me by awarding me the “parkrunner of the month” for my services to the event, which I was chuffed as nuts about! The prize was a free pair of professionally fitted trainers.

mattsweatshop

This past weekend I finally got a chance to redeem the prize and visited my “local” (45 miles away) Sweatshop in Bristol, where I fully intended to make the most of the gait analysis and fitting experience.

My first “Gait Analysis” took place some time after my first half marathon. I visited Go Outdoors in Basingstoke, and it wasn’t the most thorough experience. Quite literally the bloke just looked at the sole of my shoes and decided that I should wear Salamon GTXs. Hardly scientific, no treadmill running at all to look at my gait cycle, and it felt a bit like I was being rushed or not treated seriously. Either way, the shoes themselves didn’t do my any damage, and I continued in them until I ran the Paris Marathon.

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Paris turned out to be their last outing (I went through 2 pairs), as they’d all but fallen apart by the time I got back to the hotel, and I left them in the room on departure. I would have liked to have kept them but they really smelled and needed the room in my case… so much for sentiment!

After Paris and after a week off running I thought it was time to get re-analysed. I’d progressed a lot as a runner, and thought I’d best get checked out at my most local store, Tri UK. This experience was much better than it was at Go Outdoors. I actually ran on the treadmill, they showed me the video and we tried out various shoes to correct my overpronation. The downside here was they were exclusively Asics. Not a problem really, they are a great running brand, but due to the limited options there was no real way to check the ones I tried on really were the best across the market.

Either way, I’ve been wearing Asics Gel Kayanos for the last 18 months, and I love them. But I wanted to make sure the shoes I was wearing were the right ones and weren’t causing my underlying injuries, so the visit to Sweatshop would have been well worth the visit, rather than just buying the same old pair online.

It was a bit odd walking into a David Lloyd Leisure Centre in order to find the shop, but once inside it was just like any other Sweatshop. In fact it actually seemed a bit better stocked than Reading, and has a wide range of brands, unlike the Nike exclusive shop in Exeter. Finding it wasn’t easy, as there was no signage for the shop itself at all. If I hadn’t checked on the website, I would never have known it was actually inside the leisure center.

ssbristol

The chap that served me was extremely knowledgable. He asked me all about my running background, if I’d had any injuries etc before getting my on a foot analysis machine. The purpose, it seemed, was to sell me custom insoles – obviously a value add/upsell service that they are trying to punt to customers in order to help prevent foot related injury.

What he was saying made sense. As a species we evolved as front foot walkers, which meant the foot arch and plantar fascia were stretched and exercised while walking and running. Nowadays, we are heel walkers and (generally speaking) runners, so the foot arch doesn’t get stretched in the same way which leads to your foot rolling inwards – overpronating. This can lead additionally lead to tension in the Plantar Fascia which can also lead to other problems in the achilles and calf, and of course then you overcompensate in the other leg. It was a pretty compelling argument. The long term cure was to run with your toes in an elevated position. This should, over time, stretch the muscles in the foot to counter the tightness and correct your pronation and be the cure to all of your running ailments!

The sale itself was for custom insoles moulded to your foot with the toes elevated that you slip into your trainers. But at £45 quid it seemed a bit steep and I figured I’d go and research them a bit (which I’m sure I’ll get around to at some stage… maybe). He did mould the soles anyway (Apparently they can get remoulded) so I could see what it was like running in them during my analysis.

The lad in the shop when to get me a pair of neutral shoes to run in and came out with some adidas Ultra Boosts. WOW. They were so lightweight and so comfortable running in them felt effortless (Well, as effortless as can be given my awkward running on a hangover on a dreadmill).

He then showed me the footage, as well as explained each stage as we cycled through my stride and showed me where my foot was rolling in. It was clear as day that I am definitely still an overpronator!

We then looked at the stability shoes on the market which are typically recommended for overpronators and we looked at the Nike Zoom Structure (I think), adidas Sequence Boost, and the newest model of my old favourite, the Gel Kayano 22. These were largely my own selections, purely because I a) liked the Nike brand and wear Nike clothing all the time, b) I’d heard great things about the Boost technology. I’m sure I would have been able to try Brooks, Mizuno, New Balance if I liked but I wanted to try these three.

The Nike’s were so comfortable and looked fantastic. I loved them, however I made the decision going into this process that I’d go with the shoes that made the best correction to my overpronation. They did a very good job but there was still a small roll to my foot. The guy said that they looked pretty good, but said we are best to try all three, which I agreed with.

We then went to the adidas. Even lighter than the Nike’s and even more comfortable, but noticeably less support than the Nike’s.

Finally, we went to the Gel Kayano 22s. After going through the 20s and the 21s with barely a change between them, the 22s are a big departure from the norm. A completely remodelled upper, different material and different build to the structure of the upper too have made them hug the foot much better and also seem to be a lot lighter (10 grams according to the literature). They look much more modern and seem to have learned from their competitors who have similar technologies in place. But the most important thing was the treadmill test. Bang. it was immediately obvious that this totally corrected my pronation.

T547N_4201_0010248197_f_lateral_primary

So I ended up with the same shoes as I always get. But I wear them now with a renewed confidence that I am in the right shoes for the job, and confidence as a runner can do wonders from a psychological point of view.

I have to applaud the chap who served me who was patient, knowledgeable and experienced and know exactly what he was doing. It was an incredibly pleasurable shopping experience, made even better by the fact that I wasn’t paying!

If you need a gait analysis, I recommend Sweatshop. Great range, great service, great knowledge. Thank you for a fantastic experience.

 

 

 

 

Why Strava is Awesome – A Brief Guide to Analysing Your Training

A lot of people I know use Strava. Either directly on their mobile devices, or by linking their GPS running watches so their activities upload there, and it is a fantastic way of tracking and recording your runs.

But it’s so much more than just an app, but you don’t really know it until you sign into the website rather than the app.

It’s a great social networking tool for runners. I no longer post run information on Facebook, as no-one really cares that I did a 5 mile recovery run. But your “followers” on Strava do.

Some people say its like Facebook for runners, though I think its more closely resembled to Twitter. You aren’t “Friends” with people, you follow them. You can comment on posts they make, but can’t post on a “Wall”, and you can give people “Kudos” which is like a “favourite” (or a “like” I guess).

Your “tweets” are your activities… and that’s where the real power comes in. Strava is EXCELLENT for data analysis.

I’ve heard “But it just means I’ve got to upload my watch there too which is twice the work”, but you needn’t worry. You can set your Strava account to automatically pull data from all the main GPS upload sites like Garmin Connect, Suunto, Tomtom, and Fitbit.

Activity Log

In it’s most basic form, its a training diary and gives you a summary of your mileage on a day by day basis. But it uses subtle little visual aids to help you understand it.

traininglog1

The circles are sized depending on the volume (time/distance) of your activity, so you can see which days you did the most volume – which is one way to identify hard and easy days (Along with any rest day’s which of course appear blank).

The other way is through the Tagging system. When you upload your runs you can tag them a “Run”, a “Workout”, a “Race” or a “Long Run”. From the screenshot above you can see these are represented in different colours. An ordinary standard easy run I tag as “Run” which is light green. Any “session” I do which I’d consider a “quality run” such as an interval session or tempo run I tag as a “Workout” which is Orange. “Races” are red, and “Long Runs” are Dark Green.

Hovering your mouse over the circles gives you the ability to have a quick overview of the activity, a link to it’s details, and you can quickly re-tag it too. I use the “How did it go” box for all of my runs and type in how it went so I can always check to see how I felt after the run – it can be more useful than looking at pace/heart rate data.

traininglog2

How does this help? Well lets say I had a terrible race. I could look back on this screen and see that in the build up to the race I didn’t have enough rest days, didn’t taper my mileage enough, or ran back to back hard sessions. It’s quick and easy. I can then hover over the circles and spot where I write in “What a horrendous run I had no energy and I think this is because…”.

Athletes worldwide keep training diaries, magazines publish their importance on a monthly basis… Strava is your training diary… and so much more.

You can then scroll back to look to see how your weekly and monthly mileage increases and decreases to see if you broke the 10% rule, you can see how much elevation you gained in a week compared to others too, which could also explain why some weeks feel easier than others – it may be you climbed a lot less!

Workout Analysis

The feature I found most recently is the “Workout Analysis”. When I tagged my run as a “Workout” and looked at the activity, I saw a screen I’d never seen before.

traininglog3

Its a brilliantly graphical way to view your sessions. Distance is the horizontal access, pace is the vertical axis. The darker the blue, the faster you went. So looking at the above you can see exactly what the session was. Most importantly you can see how consistent you were. In the example, the session was 2 x 500m at 5k pace, and then 300m at 1m pace. So the first 2 intervals of the 3 should have been consistent, but they weren’t, and you can see clearly every 3rd interval is slight shorter but slightly quicker.

You can also use a neat little tool Strava has called “Grade Adjusted Pace (GAP)”. If you are out road running, chances are that the road isn’t flat and therefore as you rack up the miles you’ll ascend and descend, so your split times will naturally be slightly faster on downhill, and slightly(!) slower on uphills. By toggling the GAP, you can see how all of your splits equate to on the flat. Brilliant for long tempo intervals/runs on the road so you can make a more accurate analysis, especially round ‘ere (in my best west country accent).

Race Analysis

Toggling your run as a Race gives you a brilliant little Race Analysis chart instead. It takes your usual pace/elevation chart and overlays some great information such as your wider split times dependent on what distance the race is.

For example, over the marathon distance it gives me my 5k split times – which brutally shows just how badly I detonated at Manchester. I can see that my 5k splits were pretty even up until 30k where I started slowing. What I deduce from that is that I should have gone out slower, as though I was consistent I just didn;t have any juice at the end. A slower long burn would have hopefully resulted in a more even and complete race. It also highlights my fastest and slowest miles, and I can see in the middle there was a mile where I was much faster than target and also would have jeopardised my race.

traininglog4

When I look at the same view for a 5k race it breaks it down into my 3 x mile splits.

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I can see here the same thing I saw at Manchester – I faded badly at the end! Again, I can see here I went out too quick and had nothing left by the end and needed to walk, which is that lovely dip in the curve!

Pace Distribution

There are a few golden nuggets of advice I’ve followed over my time running. Firstly, run most of your miles easy. Secondly, run within your training zones, which I always calculate and use from McmillanRunning.com. Using both of these rules you should (In theory) avoid burning out through overtraining in zones your body isn’t ready to reach.

Although Strava doesn’t use McMillan Running directly (That I can tell) to identify these zones, I think it uses a very similar method. Enter a recent race time/distance and it gives you the various zones you should be working out in. Then when you look at an activity, you can see how much time you spent in those zones.

Here is an example of a recovery run. Most of my time is spent in the Active Recovery zone and the Endurance zone. There is some anomalous information but some of that could be attributed to speeding for short periods of time (For example, to cross a road), or that I just was not focussing on keeping my pace down.

traininglog6

Also, this uses “GAP”, so whilst I know I was maintaining my pace at a solid clip, because I did some climbing the GAP slants this a bit. On the whole though, I am happy with the above as a recovery run. What I could do to improve this or to work at a lower effort level (Which is the purpose of a recovery run), is next time I run the same route to take the hills much slower.

By looking at the activities in this way (Along with the usual elevation chart) you can start to see a bigger picture of your activity and tweak what you are doing accordingly to make sure you really are taking your easy runs easy, and in turn make sure that you are running your hard runs hard enough to obtain the maximum benefit!

What would be really nice is if I could set my pace distribution levels to match exactly what my McMillan pace zones should be, but as they tend to have a degree of crossover it wouldn’t really work – perhaps they could let me set them manually like they do heart rate?

Heart Rate

I use a heart rate monitor, and one of the things I always look at to see how hard I’ve worked is the heart rate stats. Admittedly, sometimes it seems more accurate than others, but that’s more a measure of my ability to wear it properly than anything else. Strava gives you some great ways to see how hard you are working and scores them.

This heart rate chart came from the same recovery run as the Pace Distribution chart above.

traininglog7

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to say “Hmm, if this was meant to be a recovery run, surely the heart rate should be in the upper half of that chart rather than in the ‘Tempo’ section“… and that’s absolutely right. If I was recovering properly my heart rate should have been much lower. So I clearly worked too hard, at least according to that chart.

There could be many reasons for this. Maybe you need to consider that your pace zones need adjusting – are you really still fit enough to be running that race time? (This was my diagnosis!) Was it a really hilly route? Were the contacts on your monitor suitably moist? Were you hydrated enough? (Being dehydrated means your blood is a bit thinker and needs to pump more to get the blood around the body). Ultimately, though, did you feel you were running as hard as the HR monitor says is usually a good enough indicator.

If that’s all a bit complicated though, you can get away with just looking at your “Suffer Score”.

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The higher the suffer score, the longer and harder the activity, based upon your heart rate. Your “Points in the red” represent the amount of time you spent at your “threshold” zone or higher and represent really tough running. For your usual “run of the mill” runs you may find that you don;t get a named score. but if you’ve worked hard (A long amount of time, or a high proportion of points in the red to suffer score) you may get rated “Tough”, “Extreme” or “Epic”.

The only “Epic” I’ve had was during the Manchester Marathon, but I have had a few extremes, usually after a very long run or a race, and regularly get a “toughs” after a session.

If you get a “Tough” score after a recovery or easy run, it wasn’t as easy as you think!

Overview

I started out writing this post to evangelise how cool I think Strava is because of its great features, and its turned into a bit of a how-to guide. Please be aware this is how I use it and I’m no trained coach! I’m not advising anyone to do anything, but this is how you could use it.

If you aren’t on Strava, get on it. It’s worth it.