"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana, Reason in Common Sense, The Life of Reason, Vol.1
I sat down with a high level professional triathlete last week to discuss goals and where they are headed with their training. When I asked about power data and Garmin run files, the athlete responded with, "I just go by feel usually, no data."
This athlete is confused, like many out there, that somehow data collection and analysis means you can't trust your gut in what the right training is for you. The truth is, high level athletes must still do a lot of training based on "feel", no matter how much data they have. The stakes are so high for this athlete, that they have to become very much in tune with their body. They can't afford rest days which aren't needed, or a stimulus which sets them back a number of days with deep fatigue or injury, affecting consistency.
The collection and analysis of data for athletes is only going to help the "feel" process, by providing objective feedback to better hone their assessment skills of themselves, and actually build confidence in the training they're doing. It helps them to learn from the past, not making the same mistakes over and over.
When an athlete feels tired, and isn't sure that a workout went well, especially on the bike, the numbers can sometimes show otherwise, that the session was a great success with great performance. Time and speed on a bike is not always going to show that, especially in windy conditions. Or when they feel they aren't sure to push on thru a spell of fatigue, data can help provide some clarity, and ease the stress of a decision like that.
When an athlete also goes back and looks at data over many seasons, they can tell what training they tend to respond well to, and thru the years the body will change and need a new stimulus, and possibly a new stress balance, (intensity/recovery). Again, learning from the past with the objectivity of data, helps to prevent mistakes for the future.
I laugh when I read about coaches not letting their athletes use power meters, or GPS for running. These coaches are either afraid of the truth, (that they will make mistakes), don't know or understand how to use these tools and learn from the data, want their athletes to blindly follow them, and/or are lazy.
Training will never be perfect, but those who use all the resources available to get it as close to perfect as possible are the ones who maximize their potential. True athletic brillance is found with both the art of "feel", and science, in training.