Technology Versus The Human Factor

The Four Pillars of Success

Over the past decade, a debate has arisen between the effectiveness of technology versus the human factor of having a coach and the benefits of a club environment. Since the beginning of the 2000s, athletes have gone from owning a simple watch, to entering a new era of data tracking.

Athletes, commonly used to only seeing benefits if a coach was providing feedback to them, are now able to follow sessions downloaded directly to their smartwatch. It is true that the real nature of sport relies on human talent, but technology has arrived to enhance this process.

It is easy to be amazed by how technology has grown over the past few decades. The days when everyone would train based exclusively on their own perceived effort are long gone. With the help of smartwatches and training platforms, we can measure in real life the amount of power, heart rate, oxygen consumption, training effect and the outcome that all this has on the human body. So given this access to such detailed information, where does face-to-face coaching and group training now fit into a periodised training program?

Answering this question is obviously complex. Some people would blindly jump to either side, showing what they value most when training and competing. For some athletes, numbers and results are the reason to train. These numbers can be something performance based, such as taking 10 minutes out of a time trial, or something as personal, such as losing 5 kgs. For others, the value of having a coach as a human being that genuinely caring about them, their life and their worries can be far more valuable.

In this blog we try to find the common ground between the human factor and the technology. Understanding the importance of both will help us understand the power of our emotions, while also maximising our strengths.

Analyse your data in your own personal context

It is important to analyse the information your watch is giving you and introduce it in your personal context. By implementing your training as part of your lifestyle and your lifestyle as the cause of your training, you will be able to see both as part of yourself. A coach and a health professional will be able to assess you with how to read and interpret the data you see when training and resting.

For example, if you had an uncommonly high heart rate in your last run, this may have been caused by your quality of sleep, stress at work or home, heat, illness, overtraining etc.  Your data can give you information on your body chemistry and allow you to make wise choices, but a Coach may be able to find trends and prevent it happening in the first place.

Identify your strengths and weaknesses

We normally ask other triathletes “what is your strongest leg?” hoping to hear the answer of swim, bike or run. But did you know that you can also identify your perfect distance, based on data and your emotional enjoyment of it? This means that by using data and how much fun you have in a specific distance, the training can be tailored to get you better at that specific distance. Sometimes too a coach may be able to tell you what distance you would be best suited for based on your race results and training data.

Make the most of your efforts

To achieve this, we will need the perfect synchronization between the man and the machine. The coach, and the algorithm. The system can recommend the best training program for you, but only a coach will be able to adjust it to your day-to-day routine. A program can allow you to push harder than what you think, but only a coach can analyse when the best time to do this is. Only the human factor can see the family, work, grocery shopping, meetings, social gatherings that will affect your training. All of these factors play a big role in the way you adapt to your training.

Virtual training and racing

During 2020 and 2021, virtual training and racing became the norm. It was commonplace to see your teammate, an age grouper triathlete from Japan, and a Pro athlete form Belgium all on the same start line. That wasn’t only a fantastic way to push ourselves with the thrill of racing against such diverse opposition, but it allowed everyone to see and interpret data in real time. How hard can your heart go before you feel the fatigue? How long can you push your maximum wattage? These were questions that people could find out in real time. Combining technology with the fun of racing brought amazing results.

Finally, it should be noted that at this point in time, no algorithm or generic training plan, can replace the human factor. Conversely, a coach would be remiss to prepare athletes without using the benefits that current technology has to offer. Technology is here to help you optimise our lives, however it will never replace the human presence and the presence of those around you.

You can make your life easier with technology, but you can’t automate the love, comprehension, and care that only human interaction can give you.

If you would like to read more about how empathy can enhance your performance, check out the following blog written in 2021; Secret Stories Behind Success | Davey Black Triathlon. If you would like to have a chat to a Triathlon Coach Melbourne based, or via correspondence, then please drop us a line and we can discuss how you can use both technology and the human factor to help you reach your goals.

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