Sunday, June 12, 2016

The data sharing explosion and why its not as awesome as it seems

"Be humble and relinquish all desires. Instead, give all you have with love and life will surely deliver all its possibilities in abundance."

Chris Moore - 1980-2016

I know its been too long since I've last posted, but I've been writing this particular post for a while in my head, and finally got some semblance of order to put on paper. Before I get into the meat of this, the world lost some pretty important people over the last 10 days - Muhammad Ali, and Chris Moore of Barbell Shrugged.

I was too young to see Ali's fights live, instead, watching videos of his fights, just mesmerized by him. I am a boxing fan, and have been since I was young, trying to sneak into the basement when my dad had all the guys over for PPV fights on the weekends. The first full fight I can remember is Hagler v. Leonard, and I was devastated that Hagler lost. I was such a huge fan. But there was this towering image of Ali, complete with stories from family members who saw his fights, including my parents meeting his business manager on a flight to Las Vegas when I was 1, as well as my dad meeting the man himself in The Plaza hotel lobby in 1975. My dad was in New York on business, and as he was heading out for the day, he happened to see the champ sitting alone in a chair, reading the paper.It was 6 am. But this was still the Plaza, and it was Ali. To see him alone, at that time in his career, it was like happening upon a unicorn. My dad approached him, shook his hand, and Ali took 10 minutes of his very busy schedule to talk to my dad, a fan of what he did in and out of the ring.He told Ali he had a son, me, at home, that would one day become a fan of Ali. Ali focused the conversation on my dad and our family, not his accomplishments. According to my dad, it was just 2 men talking about family and life, not the heavyweight champ of the world, one of the most prolific men in and out of sport, talking to a fan. At the end of the conversation, he asked my dad what my name was. Once my dad told him it was Guy, he took a copy of his itinerary for the day folded it, and wrote -

"To Guy. From Muhammad Ali. Peace"
March 1, 1975.

I was almost 2 years old. That autograph still sits on my desk today. And over the last 41 years, I have become the fan my father promised. Ali's passing was a giant blow to so many. But his spirit, his legacy, his heart will live on.

On Monday, one of the founders of the podcast, Barbell Shrugged, Chris Moore, passed away at the age of 36 from heart failure. For those in the world of strength and fitness, Chris was a huge influence. He was funny, super smart, quirky and insightful. He played kind of the "big meat head guy who lifts" routine, but when he would discuss topics, he couldn't hide his knowledge. His passing was a shock, particularly because of his age. He had done so much for the world of functional fitness athletes, providing them a platform via podcast, to get insight to their world, and its growth. He was preparing to do more with his art, which was stunted by his untimely death. For those interested in helping see his vision continued, please visit, He was truly the "barbell buddha" as demonstrated in the quote above. He will be missed, but his memory and legacy will continue through his art and the men and women who continue the Barbell Shrugged podcast.

On to this post's topic. Over the last 4 years, there has been an explosion of data sharing, primarily in the form of posting one's daily workouts. At first, it was simply people posting on Facebook, or twitter, or Instagram about their run, or ride, or swim, or lift, etc, complete with a selfie to match.But sites like Strava or Garmin Connect and now Training Peaks, allow people to essentially show everything they do for training with the world. The notion was - create more community virtually. However, when you give a group of Type A's enough leash......

What we now have is this 800 lb social media gorilla  "who's got the biggest dick" festival. What was supposed to be a place to track data and use metrics to quantify improvement, has morphed into a larger version of the weekend group ride. People trying to one up each other on "the Main Street Hill" or "I ran more mileage this month than you" without any semblance of direction or purpose. The best efforts of athletes are left on the training grounds, and race day efforts are not what they could be.

Here's an example. People either have a training plan or don't - which is actually a plan, its just super random and not designed to work. Then, a top pro athlete will share their race data, or training data. (Most recently. Lionel Sanders posted his race data from 70.3 champs). Suddenly, athletes start to shift uneasily, wondering how they too can produce that massive wattage on the bike, and run as fast as he did. Somehow, hundreds of athletes develop amnesia simultaneously, and don't realize that what works for Lionel or any other athlete is not a road map for their own success. But people begin grinding themselves into the ground trying to match what he did, or what he does. Instead of focusing on their own weaknesses, cleaning up their own issues, the assumption is that if they simply follow whatever the winner of XYZ race did will promise them success. If you think about it for a minute, that logic is completely idiotic.

The training volume aside, you have no idea how your body will respond to the stresses. You don't know what the nutrition, hydration, or rest requirements are to keep up volume and intensity. Recovery protocols i.e. - mobility, isn't known or programmed, accessory work to ensure injury is avoided is unknown And any type of therapy protocol - massage, heat/ice contrast, recovery boots, stim machines is also unknown. And even if it is, there's no guarantee that you will respond the same as the person standing next to you. But this has become the norm, not the exception.

The coach in me gets frustrated for a few other reasons -

1. Your coach knows, or should know you- how you handle workloads, when to deload, what type of recovery, nutrition, sleep, etc you need. That's why your programming looks the way it does. Its not, or should not be cookie cutter, unless you are following some free web based plan. When you start asking your coach to program stuff based on what you see others doing, you are essentially saying you really haven't been following the plan from Jump Street. That could be a big reason you aren't seeing the improvements the way your coach had expected, and the way you expected. 5 hour rides or 3 hour strength and conditioning sessions don't work for everyone.

2. As an athlete, my training is my business. The only person I need to share results with are my coach, and the people he works with, in order to make the next week, or day's training fit correctly. I used to ride with a guy who would constantly ask me what my wattage was on the ride, or the average of the ride. I never understood that. I'm doing what my coach wants me to do, and I pay for that service. Why would I break his trust and share that information with another athlete? Not to mention, how is my data going to translate to his training? What if he's more efficient of a rider than me, or vice versa? He didn't know my workload prior to, or post the ride. What if I had to run later in the day, or swim, or lift? Understand that I'm not trying to be an asshole, but I pay for a service. That information is, at least in my opinion, private. My coach expects me to keep it between us, and I expect him to create workouts for me that are specifically for me, not something he saw work for another athlete.

3. If my athlete is sharing workouts that I program, they are essentially getting training for free. This is how I pay my bills. Coaching athletes and classes. I coach one CrossFit athlete who understands this particularly well; he trains at a couple gyms, and when he's not at mine, he simply smiles when asked what he's been doing. They see him training, they see his results, but he doesn't share how it all breaks down. He understands privacy and values what I do for a living. But take it a step further - what if an athlete shares a workout I programmed with someone, and that person gets injured? Think about it, workouts are written based on where the athlete's current fitness level stands, weaknesses and strengths, as well as where they are in their season or program. That workout makes sense for that athlete and that athlete only. It could be damaging to another athlete, regardless of fitness level if they don't understand the intensity, pace, weight, etc. Suddenly, any harm done shifts to me, or any coach who unknowingly had an athlete share workouts without even a thought. It shouldn't, people should know how to take responsibility for their actions, but unfortunately, I've seen otherwise.

This isn't to say that I don't agree with group rides, or runs, or swims, or strength and conditioning sessions. But its important that we keep our eyes on our own paper to ensure success. Ditching your plan is a plan to fail. So think before you continue to follow your favorite athlete trying to mimic their workouts. There's a long list of broken people who trail behind them. Have faith in yourself and your coach. Imagine how successful you could be if you did.

Stay strong,