Unlocking Peak Performance: Essential GPS Metrics Every Athlete Should Track

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]I’ve been using GPS data to monitor athlete training load, fitness capacity and my own personal workouts since 2016. GPS technology is less expensive now which means that amateur athletes now have access to tools that were once reserved primarily for the elite and professional teams. 

However, it can be difficult for athletes, sport coaches and aspiring strength and conditioning coaches to understand what all these data mean. More importantly, you need to be able to understand the data in order to change training routines and make informed decisions. 

In this article I provide key insights into GPS metrics, make these numbers simple to comprehend and show you how I would track this data at an elite level.

We’ll concentrate on the following: 

  • Total Distance
  • High Speed Running
  • Maximum Speed  

Subscription platforms can be useful at times to visualise training load but I prefer to export raw data to MS Excel. 

Total Distance

In the example below I’ve shared one week of off-season GPS for a US Division I NCAA Women’s Soccer team. The figures reported in this template is total distance covered for each of the three weekly training sessions. The total column includes distances from all three days while the average column displays the average weekly distance covered.

What are some of your observations?

Using Bogardus as an example, we can see that Monday was a moderate session, Tuesday was a heavy session while Wednesday was a moderate session.

What are the practical implications here?

  1. Strength based sessions (at a high effort) might not be advised on the Tuesday as this is the highest training load. In addition- we might need to reduce strength training volume on Wednesday as this athlete may need to recover.
  2. We can view team average training load for coaches. Is the Tuesday session meant to be the most difficult?
  3. We can view high and low performers and adjust individual fitness plans or training as needed. For instance, we see that Merrigan covered 6,486 metres throughout the training week while Buonomo only covered 4,353 metres. Why is that? Do they play different positions? Is one athlete trying harder than the other? Is Buonomo ‘minding herself’ from a recovering injuries. These are some ways that tracking total distance in training sessions can help.

High Speed Running

In this example high speed running was tabbed if speed was over 4.5 metres per second. Different brands and technologies will have their own figures for this.

You can use high speed running to help quantify the overall intensity or difficulty of a training session. Let’s use Bogardus as an example again.

We know from the previous example that their total distance covered for Monday was 4,792 metres. 450 metres of this was performed at high speed. 450 divided by the total distance given equals 9.39%.

Therefore, 9.39% of the total session was performed at high speed. This is often a surprising number for sport coaches and has serious implications for in-season and off-season training.

Here’s my 2 cents:

Most sport programmes place too much of an emphasis on high volume running at high speeds. This sounds good in theory but the reality is that this often leads to burnout, excessive fatigue and increased likelihood of injury.

If you want to train specifically for your sport, use the GPS data as it will help guide your programme requirements.

Maximum Speed

Tracking maximum speed can help you determine if an athlete is getting faster throughout a preseason or sprint based preparation period. In addition, maximum speed can be quickly lost in-season so it is important to try to ‘top up’ on this at least once per week.

You can also look at maximum speed from a rehabilitation perspective. We can see if an athlete is back to their former self or if they are carrying certain limitations.

High Performance GPS

The purpose of this article was to just touch the surface for key GPS metrics can be used to help design fitness plans, bring athletes back from injury and increase fitness levels.

In the photo below I want to show you what a higher level insight into GPS might look like. This example accounts for almost two months of GPS data collection. The figure provides training days, total daily training load and total metres of high speed running.

In this example we can easily see which training days are easy, moderate and difficult and we can see how difficult the two matches were versus the training sessions.

GPS Training Plans

If you use GPS to track your workouts and want to improve your fitness level and maximum speed- we can help. Send us a message for more information. Whether you’re returning from injury, looking to take your training to the next level or simply want to follow a plan without getting burned out – we can help.

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