Good organisation is key for any athlete who is trying to improve, be it someone just wanting to get fit and lose a few pounds or someone aiming to the very top, more often than not its the athletes that succed are the ones that are able to organise themselves in order to complete the goals that they set themselves. As a good example of this in 2013 David Tanner was awarded a knighthood for his services to rowing due to the organisation and structure he has brought to British Rowing as the Performance Director, and it is due to this organisation that British Rowing is now the very best in the world, topping the table at the 2012 Olympics.
Most rowing squads I have been involved with try and have good organisation by having the coach set a training plan and sending it round by email, and the rower keeping a training diary to keep track of the training they have been doing so the sessions are logged and can be reviewed later, but this isnt ideal as that way unless the coach collects and copies the training diary, they dont have a view into how the rower has been completing the sessions and what improvements they have made! This is an issue that isnt just specific for rowing, its the same in all sports, and so in order to get around this issue a number of companies have sprung up for sports where you can log your training online and have coaches check out how you are doing, examples like Training Peaks or sports tracks , but these are all “generalist” sports trackers and due to this aren’t really ideal for rowing since they don’t usually have enough detail for rowing sessions and also weight sessions. Recently however a new company has entered the market with a product that is aimed specifically at rowing, and so I thought I would check it out to see what it could bring to the market.
Just as a note I am writing these reviews because I’m inherently a curious person with a technology interest and I like to try and investigate tools or technologies that I can use to help improve my own rowing (hence this blog). I like to think that these reviews may help others who are looking to improve, but if you have any questions or something I have said is wrong please feel free to contact me and we can discuss/correct as required
Sportlyzer is a website that offers a new way to organise a rowing squad by providing a free workout logger for rowing athletes and, for a premium, a workout planner and analysis software for rowing coaches. That means if you are a rower who just wants to log the sessions you are doing and then look back at them later you can, and if you are a coach looking after a number of rowers then you (or the club) can pay to allow you to set up the training sessions people should be doing, and then review how people have performed after the session is done. To that end there are two levels of account you can have, everyone starts off with an athlete account to track their own training, however a club organiser/coach can then upgrade to a coach account and set up a club for other athletes to join. So what do you get with each of the accounts?
Sportlyzer Athlete account
Once you have registered (you can set up a new account or you can link it to facebook, Google or Linkin) you will be able to log in and the first thing that Sportlyzer will ask you is enter some personal details, and also eventually what your goals are (are you training for fitness or do you have a specific goal).
Once that is done you should be in and ready to log your sessions! The UI is really good, and I have found it works well both on a Desktop and mobile/tablet interface. In order to add a session all you do is click the “+” symbol and you then get 4 options
– Add workout (you pick activity, duration, place or route, distance and how hard the workout was. You can even set the activity to repeat if you plan to do the same thing every day/week and there is an “advanced” option if you want to add more accurate details on heart rate)
– Add health problems (hopefully you wont use this too often)
– Add comment
– Add daily info (height, weight, resting heart rate and simple details of fatigue, muscle pain, stress, sleep problems and workload)
All in all there are a lot of data points that you can add, I especially like the option to upload a GPX file for the workout as if you have used a Garmin or smartphone running an app that outputs a GPS (like this one) then you can upload that and it will instantly show the map of the session you did along with all the details of distance, heart rate etc. Pleased to report that the .GPX files taken from the iOS NK Speedcoach app works perfectly
If you are already using an online account with someone like Garmin, Polar or Suunt to upload your data then you dont have to upload it again to Sportlyzer, they have set up and automatic sync from their websites meaning that, once you upload the training data to the manufacturer’s website (Garmin Connect, Polarpersonaltrainer or Movescount), Sportlyzer will download it and you can see the same data (including maps, heart rate splits etc) on Sportlyzer as well. Automatic sync happens once every 24 hours although you can make the sync happen faster by just clickng the sync button in Sportlyzer. http://blog.sportlyzer.com/syncing-with-suunto-polar-garmin/
The next tab on from the daily diary you can get the summary or “stats” of the training you have done to date as an overal summary which is quite good to view (and quite terrifying in a lot of ways!) and it will show the number of workouts you have done, total distance and also the amount of time spent in the heart rate boundaries
– See your training plan (created by your own coach or the training program generator at Sportlyzer.com).
– Record the route of your outdoor activity (running, cycling, etc) using the built-in GPS and see it’s route on the map.
– Enter your workout manually.
– Enter your daily parameters (weight, sleep, morning heart rate, fatigue, muscle pain, etc).
This obviously makes it a lot easier to update your workouts straight after training and although there are some parts of the app that I think are in Estonian (for example when adding a time during a manual entry it states vm and nm rather than am and pm) all in all it is quite easy to use and intuitive
As mentioned earlier, the coaching account is created by upgrading an athlete account to the coach account and, at the same time, setting up a new club, after which you can then add more rowers to the club. Once this has been created you can set up organising the athletes with training plans, logging payments, logging workout tests, setting up an internet page that people can view without having to log into their sportlyzer account etc, all the things a club coach would normally have to do, except Sportlyzer allows you to do it in a way that means its instantly shared and accesable by all the athletes, and it also means the coach can view all the athletes accounts who are members of the club, so they can use it to make sure everyone is doing the work (or at least reporting that they are!)
So specifcially within the coach account you can
– Set the training plan that your athletes are to follow
– Check the attendance of the athletes within the club
– Track payments made by the athletes (entry fees, membership fees etc)
– Set and view “tests” that the athletes can be set
– Access digital athlete profiles on the go.
– Track attendance at group workouts.
– Log and stay on top of monthly club fees.
Supporting the coaching claim of Sportlyzer the company also runs a rowing academy which interested coaches and rowers can sign up for, its essentially a newsletter that is sent out fairly regularly and discusses various technical points about rowing, for example proving a number of videos on rowing techniques, providing presentations of the science behind how our bodies work when we are rowing so to better understand how we can train to be faster. The contributors to this section are a range of experinced ex-rowers (Xeno Muller) and sports scientists and I personally have found the newsletters really interesting as they tend to either highlight areas that I am also looking into or areas that I may not have thought of yet and it might be worth checking out, so they are worth signing up to if you have an interest in the science behind rowing
General thoughts and summary
As a whole I do like the Sportlyzer software and I have already started to use it to track my own training, in writing this review I have been in contact with Sportlyzer and they have been very receptive to a number of comments and suggestions I made when writing this review (for example recently they added the option of putting in 500m splits as well as velocity in m/s as I felt 500m splits was more appropriate for a “rowing audience”) but there are some suggestions that I have sent to them that I would like to see implemented in the future
– Currently when adding weight lifting you cannot specify what excercises you have been doing and what weight you have been lifting, this isnt really ideal as one thing every rower with a training diary does is track the weights they are lifting (usally starting with a “max weight test” in order to find out what they should be lifting), Sportlyzer have confirmed this is coming in a future update
– The iOS athlete app seems like a really good app, and I especially like that you can use it as a GPS tracker to actually track your training, however I would like to see the app made more “rowing specific”, so like the NK Speedcoach app have it give rate and speed per 500m as rowers are used to, that way it could be used in the boat to track the outing for uploading later, also some of the features like tracking your resting heart rate would be hugely improved if they made it possible to use the phone to take the reading (like they have done in this app)
– It would be good if more data points were available to be added to the workout log, for example the watts created during an outing, this might not be as useful to everyone at this stage but as Ive mentioned before I think we will start to see more and more implementation of power meters in rowing as time goes on in a similar way to cycling, and in cycling being able to log power vs heart rate is seen as a great way to log improvement to fitness over time
– It would be good to be able to produce more graphs in the stats tab, for example the main thing that the rower would want to see would be any improvement over time, and a good way of showing that would be by presenting the ratio of the number of watts per heart beat over time, that way you would hopefully see an improvement in the number of watts you are able to produce per heart beat as the months roll on
– Since Sportlyzer is looking to be both a coaching tool as well as a training log, it would be good to see them implement something like the training plans page that Trainingpeaks have, where people can share their training plans for others to try, and professional coaches can set up accounts and can set workouts for rowers who are willing to pay an additional fee
– I really like that you can “link” this account to other sites that you may already use (e.g. Garmin) so you dont have to duplicate effort, and I would like to see that expanded out to other sites if possible, especially ones like Withings or fitbit as they offer a range of products that track things like sleep, weight that would also be useful to track (and would make it easier to input if it was automatic rather than having to do it manually)
All in all I think Sportlyzer is a very good entry into the market, it certainly has a lot of advantages over keeping a paper diary in your kit bag as you can quickly and easily update the log on your smartphone or computer when you get home, and I think the main squads this would appeal to would be Junior squads who I think would really enjoy the social aspects and also their coach would benefit from being able to track what exactly they are doing in training! I think to appeal more to the more senior rowers it would be good o see some more development in the coaching side of things, so that the rowers/coaches can produce outputs from the data to show the boat speed is improving over time, or that the erg split is dropping as the months roll on, data which would be very useful for keeping the rower motivated (especially through the winter months) and could even identify when the training plan might need to be tweaked if improvements plateau.
For more information on sportlyzer you can check out their comprehensive list of tutorials which are located here