Saturday, December 21, 2013

Mega Fitness Software Review Project

Things have been crazy for me the last few weeks. I’m finishing up one job with a major project that has been dragging on way too long. It’s the lynchpin that has held me to my old job – plus it really takes a significant amount of time and organization to move. Everything I own sans my road bike, clothing, and laptop was picked up Friday.
I’m evaluating where to live for my new job: sleepy town with a 5 minute walk to work, or big centre that is a 20 – 30 minute low traffic drive. There is a lot to things to think about going forward, but the big thing I’m interested in is getting back on a training plan.
Going forward I’ll be working more on sports and fitness technology. I really want to converge my job and my lifestyle, which is something that is commonplace in new, young, vibrant companies whereas there is less of that in older corporate companies. For me, that means that work can be a bit more flexible, but I don’t mind long days or testing a piece of hardware on a bike ride on my own time. In fact, the more sports tech I have access to, the better.
I’ve found that older style corporate environments are not ideal to a more physically active lifestyle. I won’t go into specifics, but the short of it is that it can feel more accepting of smokers than runners or cyclists. In some cases a lack of a shower or an open ideology to being active means can mean there is no chance of a physically active employee.
So what does this change mean for me:
It means a dedicated training (and food) plan. While some people use exercise and training interchangeably, I think of them as distinct and very different. Exercise is great but usually less structured and focus, while a training plan means something is planned with long term vision and each workout is decided beforehand – and you fight through an off day, or use a rest day as expected.
So this gets to something I’d like to do. I’ve been using several pieces of software and I haven’t found a good summary of them, their uses, etc. I kind of want to do something similar to what Ray does with his in-depth reviews, but for online workout tracking software. The biggest challenge is that they change – so a review 3 months old might not be valid. So here is a quick review and for reference TGI = Thoughts Going Into the Evaluation.

Software

  • Garmin Connect – I mainly use this because my watches auto upload to it using Garmin Agent.
    • TGI: It’s nice and automatic, but currently lacks the gamification fun factor which can be encouraging, I can export TCX files (but not .Fit that I uploaded, weird) but I haven’t gotten into the full toolset. I suspect it’ll be the easiest to download workouts to my devices (see further on).
  • Strava – I tend to make sure my data is uploaded to this also. It’s got a huge following, and is the most common one I’ve heard about or had reason to talk about.
    • TGI: Trying to grow from gamification/fun and being a usable tool for training. I like it for the gamification and monthly challenges, but when I tried the Pro it felt it didn’t fulfil my expectations and only added minimal power features – that was 8 months ago. I did use the App while running but it didn’t capture stride data or Heart Rate from my sensors, and while possible to take my FR60 data and converge it with the GPS based app, it felt like a clunky and difficult process. Now I have a GPS watch too so it’ll be interesting.
  • TrainingPeaks – These have been the long standard for serious athletes to analyse their data. They have an online version which I signed up for, but haven’t used recently. It’s a serious tool. There is both the online version and the offline WKO+ 4.0 which is coming out. I will likely buy the WKO+ 4.0 and sign up for the pro online version.
    • TGI: It has involvement from the people who literally wrote the book on powermeters. I haven’t used it seriously recently only because I don’t believe my workouts were worth tracking seriously. They have new math models that they don’t want to share or let be peer reviewed. I have huge issues with that. It’s black box engineering. I’m looking forward to seeing it, but at the same point I’d have mixed feelings.
  • Cycling Analytics – I haven’t uploaded to this recently, as the pay-wall went up now that it’s reached some maturity. It’s a newcomer to the field and is aiming at being a Training Peaks competitor with quick turn around on features and unique analysis tools.
    • TGI: It’s aiming at being a serious training tool, and less of gamification. It’s a super clean piece of online software. It recently went pay-wall but has some really cool features. It has new training plan features. It’s very much in its infancy but features are being added on a weekly basis almost. It can accept lots of file inputs.
  • GoldenCheetah – The Free software for tracking training.
    • TGI: I used it once, but then tried the trial of WKO+ 3.0. I felt neither did everything I wanted or gave the flexibility. That was a couple of years ago. It’ll be interesting to see what it can do now.
UPDATE: I've added a couple that people have mentioned.
  • Sporttracks.mobi - Online Software package, came around as an online tracking software from the company that produced the SportTracks 3 software
    • TGI: I haven't use it, but a lot of people have gone out of their way to post comments, or drop me an email. When that happens it has to be pretty good for people to alert me
  • SportTracks3 - The desktop version (sort of). Desktop tracking software came first.
    • TGI: Again, I haven't used it, but I've been reminded by people about it. It looks like a WKO+ competitor. Kind of like GoldenCheetah it supports plugins. This is nice since it grows the functionality fairly easily and it's open to third parties. The plugin's list is decently large with a lot of nice functionality.

Other software (little lower priority)

  • MapMyRide/Run – I used to use this when I got my smartphone initially, but moved to Strava. I want to give it a shot, especially since UnderArmour just bought it.
    • TGI: I think UnderArmour wants to bite into the market, but they aren’t going to have time to fully integrate their new goals to the company. I have a lot to find out about this since I haven’t used it in a long time.
  • Endomondo – A friend of mine uses this. I tried it a long time ago, and I will give it a shot to see where it slots in. Apparently ANT+ support is so low on their radar that people have resorted to hacking the .APK to fix it. There is a huge thread on it.
    • TGI: Suffice to say I suspect it’s for casual exercisers and not serious training.
  • Poweragent / Powertap Mobile –These are very new to me. Initially it looks like the it’s aiming to have similar functionality to Training Peaks, but they are power focused.
    • TGI: No real knowledge! Don’t know if they are Powertap specific though. It’ll be interesting to see how well it works with non-Powertap data.
  • Wahoo Fitness App – Not quite sure of the capabilities, but willing to look into it
    • TGI: No real bias again. I think it’s less for training management and more for trainer use, but can also upload other data.
  • iSmoothRun – Apple running app. Not much known (yet)
    • TGI: Current lack of iDevices needs to change in order to check this out. Seems to have a lot of cool features, but definitely run specific.
  • Email me with others!

Test Equipment (Hardware / Software):

Going into this I am going to be using a few devices. I’m going to try and get access to some Apple hardware (maybe an iPod touch?)

Garmin FR60:

This was my first entry into the sports watch era. It lacks GPS, but does Footpod, HRM, Speed, Cadence, Speed/Cad combo, multisport speed/distance sensor (never seen these), and weight scales. Only records once every 5 seconds, but uses a common CR2032 battery in the watch and lasts a long time (1.5 years before I did my first replacement I think). This thing is a trooper, but the strap is dying like all old FR60’s. I’ve been emailed a good strap hack fix though. I love it, and if the FR70 had been the 60 + GPS or power data supporting it would have been amazing – but it would cut into the triathlon watch sales.
DCrainmaker.com Review of FR60

Garmin FR910xt:

Does everything the FR60 does, but also powermeters and 1 second recording and downloadable workouts. Lots of other features including workouts, customizable screens, etc. Max of 4 fields can feel cramped when biking compared to the Edge but I think it’s a great do everything device.
DCrainmaker.com Review of FR910xt

Garmin Edge 500:

Kind of like the FR910xt (well, maybe closer to the FR310) but now considered the low end brother of the 510. Cycling specific and the go-to entry for powermeters on bike. Lots of firmware updates have occurred. It’s a big seller and tends to retain value in the used market.
DCrainmaker Review

Samsung Galaxy S (Cyanogenmod 10.3):

My current personal phone. I’ve had it for a while. Was Gingerbread/Froyo but using Cyanogenmod it’s now Android 4.2. It’ll likely get replaced with an Galaxy S4 for the ANT+ support in a couple of months.

TrainerRoad

I’ve never used it, but I constantly redirect people to this when they ask me about of CTE (which was my poor attempt at a trainer software but I still use it). I want to try some new indoor riding software.

CTE


The software I wrote to prompt me through workouts. It’s quick and easy to fire up, but it can crash easily if I do anything stupid. I don’t distribute it unless my arm is really twisted, and if I do I have to remove the ANT+ network key, so unless you’re an ANT+ adopter, it’s kind of useless.

Hardware / software possibilities

4iiii’s Viva
Kind of needed to deal with the BTLE side of things. It acts as a bridge between ANT+ and BTLE (BT Smart). Also, it’s the “premium” style of Garmin’s and I need a new HRM. Also, I have eczema. Apparently Mio Alpha in ANT+ didn’t make it out except for pre-orders I heard (I hope I’m wrong). So I’ve been dying for someone to come out with an optical HRM that is ANT+ for years.

iDevice?

Maybe an ipod touch? It might be better if I got the older generation so that I can have the 30 pin connector to make it ANT+ compatible. I actually have an iphone 3G with a broken screen (that still works fine), but I don’t know if new apps will work on it. Might be a stop gap to try with. Old iOS 4.0 though.

Sensors

What sensors  I’ll be using to test with. Everything I own is ANT+, and considering multiple devices will be recording, it’s the only way to go for me.
  • Heart rate monitor
  • Footpod
  • Quarq Saturn Cinqo
  • Accuity Prototype 1 / 2 (probably 2 –the Quarq + Accuity combo)
    • I want to make a prototype compatible with my MTB though so I can have power data on all bikes.
  • Kurt Kinetic Road Machine (and regressed math!)
  • Trek Duotrap (Trek Madone 5.2) and Garmin GSC-10 Speed Cadence Sensor (Specialized Hardrock)

HACKS

Best Bike Splits – Haven’t gotten a chance to use this, but apparently it can be pretty cool to figure out how hard you need to go for a race. Starting to look into it.

The Double Edged Sword

One thing that people have noted about me is that sometimes I can have a hard time focusing and that I need to get better at finishing one project before moving on to another – that’s totally apt. It’s a goal of mine to get better over the long term and I think I am. A 1.5 year powermeter project is evidence that I can remain focused, but getting to production will be the true measure of my mettle.
So this is a spare time project without a hard time line. For me my priorities are work and health, and then the blog secondary. However, knowing this software is likely a benefit for my new employer. It means I’m exposed to what is out there and how it’ll relate to our products. It also means that I won’t be reviewing our products, or direct competes. I want to take an objective stance. I can’t be as objective as Ray, but I can try to not be biased.

6 comments:

  1. Keith; great post. I have also been working on compiling my own list of software, and adding comments based on my experience for any software I have used. You can find that here: http://darrencope.com/cycling-software/ I try to keep it up-to-date as I find new things (which I am amazing keep turning up, but this post points out more...)

    I suggest you check out Golden Cheetah again. If you haven't used it in a couple years, you will be amazed how much it has progressed. And if you dislike the 'black box' approach of WKO+ (as I do) then it's definitely the way to go. v3 is quite superior to v2, which you would have used years ago.

    Good luck with the move! My vote would be for sleepy town with a 5 min walk--leaves more time (and less traffic) for riding :)

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    1. Thanks! That is an amazingly comprehensive list! I'm going to start out wide in looking at all the software out there and then narrow into looking at what I find most useful. I'm finding features that I didn't know existed in a lot of them -- mainly because I didn't look before. Your list is going to help me tremendously. Wanting to try Best Bike Split soon!

      Ya, Golden Cheetah is in the mix and looking forward to seeing all the improvements!. Lots to look at over the next few weeks, currently digging into the online offerings first. My first task will be evaluating everything in terms of putting in a training plan which is happening now.

      I'm split on the move decision. That 5 minute walk versus 20 - 25 minute commute is a huge factor for me but most advice is move bigger town. I've got a few weeks to decide as I stay with a friend!

      I'll be sure to be following your site! Thanks!

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  2. You both seemed to miss SportTracks.mobi The online version of sporttracks. Its still rather new so features keep getting added on but currently very usable. I've been using it myself along with sporttracks 3 (for the few features I can only get with custom plugins).

    Great list though. There are quite a few I had never even heard of and will give a try.

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    1. Hi Brian.

      I just got an email on SportTracks reminding me. Good catch. Darren Cope has an ever better listing here http://darrencope.com/cycling-software/

      I'm just getting into testing software now to input my training plan, so this is great news. There are a few others on that people have contacted me about which I'm looking into.

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  3. Hi,
    I strongly suggest that you add the SportTracks.mobi web site in your list of analysis.
    I've been using it for few weeks and it's pretty impressive and easy to use thanks to a nice ergonomy.

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    1. Thanks. Several people have mentioned it. You'll likely find it in my first pass about inputting training plans into the software. I'm going to look at the SportTracks.mobi initially and I might see if I can look at SportTracks 3 (their desktop version). They apparently complement and offer different functionality with different focus'.

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