Thursday, January 12, 2012

Training with Data on a Budget

One of the biggest roadblocks for most people to use data in their training, is the cost. But this becomes less and less of a real issue everyday. As new models of power meters and GPS come out, they simply add a bit more bells and whistles, and the products that still collect data and allow athletes to download and analyze it, become cheaper and cheaper. This is really all you need. Keep it simple, and you'd be amazed how cheap EFFECTIVE training can really be!

Let's say your budget is $1500. I have taken the liberty to show you how you can begin training using data for less than this budget.

Combination #1


Run data collection
Garmin is the major player, dominating the market, and even as they have introduced nicer models, they have also introduced cheaper models with effective features, such as downloadable data, ANT+,  and done it with much more aesthetically pleasing watches, unlike their original and bulky Forerunner 205/305/310XT models.

I recommend Garmin's Forerunner 210 model. It does it all, small on the wrist, acts like a normal watch too, at $299 on Amazon. There's a 110 model for cheaper, but the 210 gives you all the important data of pace, heart-rate and cadence on the run, (via foot-pod). The 110 is not as good, as the 210 comes with everything you need to download the data as well,  is the better investment.
Power data collection
I recommend splitting up the computer units you'll use for the bike and run. Come race-day, this is faster and  easier. Also, it helps to save battery life if one unit isn't doing all the work. When you have a dead battery, you have no data.

For the bike and power data, a single wireless unit with ANT+ capability, like the Garmin Edge 500 is a great unit, available at Amazon for $249. You can purchase this model without a HR monitor, because the one with the 210 is compatible with this one as well, so two for the price of one!

Power meter
The easiest power meter on the market is the Powertap, and it is priced extremely cheap at $660, with ANT+, on an excellent training wheel at Competitive Cyclist. You won't need the computer head, because you've got the Edge already.

Total cost for this combination: $1208, ($292 below budget!)

If you want a race wheel, you can use the savings from the budget to buy a nice front wheel, and then go to Wheelbuilder and get a disc cover, (Aerojacket), for your training wheel. It will make it suddenly a great racing wheel, and in some studies, even better!



Combination #2


Run data collection and Power data collection in one unit
Though I mentioned above that I'm not a fan of one unit for both, some people are. The best unit for this is either the 910XT, ($449 at Amazon), or the 310XT, ($349 at Amazon), both listed with the heart rate monitor.

Here's the 910XT and the 310XT...

You will want to buy the foot-pod, as cadence data can tell you a lot of information about how your running is. It is $88.94 at Amazon, and is compatible with both the 910XT and the 310XT.



Power meter
Again, the Powertap from Competitive Cyclist at $660, with no computer head, is still the best deal.



Total cost for this combination: 
$1197.94 for 910XT, with foot-pod and Powertap
$1097.94 for 310XT, with foot-pod and Powertap

This last single-unit combination is not much lower in cost than the 2 unit combination, so consider the advice of separating the two. Also, you can use the savings to get a disc cover mentioned in combination #1.



Analysis Software
And last but not least, is the software to analyze. This is the best part, TrainingPeaks is FREE! If you want some bells and whistles, you can pay for a premium account, but if you have a coach who uses it, you likely get the premium account included in their services.

You can truly see how a $1500 budget is more than enough, and as little as an $1100 budget will get you using data and taking your training and performances to new levels! No more excuses, time to do it right!

Coach Vance

7 comments:

BobC said...

The Garmin Forerunner 305 is a true multi-sport device (swim/bike/run + transitions) that is available at many places online for $140 including the HRM strap.

I recommend starting with a 305, then save for the new 910xt (which adds swim stroke data, altimeter, and dual-channel power recording) then keep the 305 as a spare/backup.

The main limitation with the 305 is that you can't wear it on your wrist while swimming: The shock of impact with the water can exceed it's "water-resistant" (not "waterproof") rating. So just wear it under the swim cap, which works great.

I also recommend getting the bike and foot pods, and the quick-mount kit that permits the unit to quickly be moved from swim cap to bike to wrist. This applies to whatever unit you get.

-BobC

BobC said...

One more thing: My experiences with the 305 are verbosely documented on my blog: http://bobisatrinewbie.blogspot.com/

Search for "305" to see all the relevant posts.

mwbyrd_70@yahoo.com said...

Jim,

Nice article. Can I use it here at the shop?

Thanks,

Mike Byrd

Holly said...

I purchased the Garmin 310 recently but the GPS was way off and I couldn't get the HR to work. Maybe I got a bad unit and could have exchanged it, but I returned it and when back to my old polar. I appreciate these recommendations!

Jim Vance said...

Bob,

Yes, the 305 is pretty good, but I believe the newer models are so much better, that for the money it is not worth getting the 305.

For example:
- Low battery life, which decreases even more over time. They say 10 hours, but many are down to half that.
- Because of the low battery life, often requires re-charging, usually after each use. Many times athlete miss data from a run because of lack of power, forgot to charge.
- Accuracy, it is just not as accurate in it's data recordings as the newest models. Also many errors in the data.
- Bulky and ugly compared to similarly priced items.
- No wattage tracking, (matters if you only want one unit).
- Download cradle instead of ANT+ wireless.
- Less memory compared to newer models.
- Bulky foot-pod, compared to newer, sleaker ones.

Amazon has the 305 new at $223, and used at $99. I know some places have listed it cheaper than $223, but for the purposes of the post, it just didn't get my recommendation.

That said, when the 305 was the top of the line, I used it effectively. But until it is less than $100 regularly and brand new, I'm for the newer models.

Jim

BobC said...

Hi Jim,

You wrote:
Yes, the 305 is pretty good, but I believe the newer models are so much better, that for the money it is not worth getting the 305.

It provides 90% the functionality for 30% the price!

- Low battery life, which decreases even more over time. They say 10 hours, but many are down to half that.

The 305 is an OLD model! All units experience battery degradation with age/use and number of charge cycles. Wait until the 310xt gets as old, and you will see a corresponding decline.

- Because of the low battery life, often requires re-charging, usually after each use. Many times athlete miss data from a run because of lack of power, forgot to charge.

The shorter battery life should encourage a charging HABIT. At least it does for me.

- Accuracy, it is just not as accurate in it's data recordings as the newest models. Also many errors in the data.

It is within 1% of the 310xt on land: I have side-by-side data. And a 305 under the swim cap kicks butt on a 310xt on the wrist during a swim.

- Bulky and ugly compared to similarly priced items.

Not really that much difference in size or weight. Look at the side-by-side photos in DCRainmaker's blog, and compare the weights from the spec sheets.

- No wattage tracking, (matters if you only want one unit).

True! That's the only major feature missing. And anyone who can afford power can also afford a higher-end unit. But for those who will be waiting a while before getting power, it is better to also wait on getting a higher-end unit!

I, for one, am VERY glad I got my 305 right away instead of waiting for the 310xt, because now I can aim for the 910xt, which kicks butt on the 310xt.

- Download cradle instead of ANT+ wireless.

You still need a cable for charging the newer units. A cable is a cable is a cable...

In fact, if you charge from a USB port, then the 305 uses FEWER ports on your computer! Newer units need one port for power, and one for the AntStick.

- Less memory compared to newer models.

True, but the memory is nicely matched to the battery life. You'll always run out of battery before you run out of memory.

- Bulky foot-pod, compared to newer, sleaker ones.

The newer foot-pod works perfectly with the 305: You can buy whichever one you want. Again, the older pod is significantly cheaper, and the weight is quite close - the newer pod mainly has better packaging (check the specs).

Amazon has the 305 new at $223, and used at $99. I know some places have listed it cheaper than $223, but for the purposes of the post, it just didn't get my recommendation.

Sears carries the 305 online new for $140! And I've found new units online at less well-known stores for as low as $120. Google Shopping Is Your Friend!

That said, when the 305 was the top of the line, I used it effectively. But until it is less than $100 regularly and brand new, I'm for the newer models.

Unless you can afford TWO of the newer units, there is nothing better than the 305 for use as a "first" unit, and nothing better than the 305 for use as a "backup" unit. The 305 is a great workout unit, and the battery will last for any triathlon shorter than a Full Ironman!

When you look at the money saved, that's equivalent to maybe two pairs of running shoes, or a pair of tri bike shoes, or new pedals and cleats!

For a beginner or junior or age-group athlete, especially one without an infinite budget, the ~$200 difference between the 305 and the newer units can certainly go toward better uses. Such as paying for coaching!

Unless, of course, somebody else is paying. In that case, ignore everything I've said, and get the best they'll go for!

-BobC

Unknown said...

This is a great post... I have been looking everywhere for a powertap under $1,000. My biggest problem now is burning up on the bike, gunna solve it!