Measurability and Repeatability in Training

In recent months, I’ve come to realize how much I love the tempo trainer for swimming. It also sparked the realization that I have finally found a method for to ensure measurability and repeatability for swimming.
What’s so important about measurability and repeatability?
Repeatability is the ability to come back day after day and train with a certain level of effort, intensity, etc. and ensure that you’re creating the same conditions as you had the last time you trained. Measurability allows you to measure those conditions to ensure repeatability.
For example, weight training has both easy measurability and repeatability. That 30 lbs. dumbbell is still going to weigh 30 lbs. the next time you pick it up. Thus, you’ll know if you are getting stronger or weaker, depending on how many reps you can curl that dumbbell.
The problem with us triathletes is that it’s not so easy to have measurability and repeatability with our three sports. Of the three running is probably the most measurable and repeatable. With cycling and swimming it’s not so easy.
If you don’t have an accurate way to measure effort and the ability to create conditions to ensure repeatability, you won’t know for sure if you’re improving over time. For example, you may have increasing effort, but you may be actually performing worse if you’re overtraining.
So it’s important to be able to measure your training conditions and to recreate them so that you know with some level of certainty that you’re improving, or how your body is performing so that you know when to back off or increase effort.
I thought I’d list my favorite training tools to maximize measurability and repeatability:
Treadmill – The treadmill allows you to recreate running conditions with great accuracy, in both speed, duration, and grade. Its relentless nature doesn’t allow you to fall behind; if you do, you either fly off the back of the treadmill or have to keep up. Thus, I can generally know if I’m either improving over time or not, or if I’m just a bit tired and can’t repeat a workout on a particular day.
Track or measured distance running – Running a measured distance and recording the time allows you to know if you’re improving over that distance and path.
Power meter – Riding outside with my Powertap allows me to see what my instantaneous power is, as well as for the entire ride. I can compare that over a given path, or even just against other rides, and see how my power output compares to previous rides. With power measurement, I don’t necessarily need to ride the same path; I can compare power outputs and see if I was able to increase overall power output or not.
Computrainer – The Computrainer is the best way to repeat workout conditions. After the calibration step, it will give you the same workout conditions as you had last time.
Tempo Trainer + Counting Strokes – You would think that swimming intervals was good enough for repeatability. However, swimming is a complex activity that is dependent not only on raw endurance and strength, but also on your technique. If your goal is not simply to just work harder (which I would argue it shouldn’t be because you can only go so much faster by more effort and you can do much better by refining and reinforcing technique), then you need to not only measure your interval time but also how well you swam the interval. If you think about it, you can go faster by increasing your stroke rate. But if your technique gets messy, you might swim an interval at the same time as if you had swam it before with better technique but lower stroke rate. Thus, the tempo trainer ensures you are not changing your stroke rate, and counting strokes gives you a measure of how good your technique is.
With these training tools and methods, I can ensure measurability and repeatability of training conditions, giving me a nice picture of how I’m improving (or not!).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *