Category Archives: Lifting

It’s Nice to be a Novice: Using Data to Identify Fitness Gains in Low-Intensity Endurance Training

I recently decided that some endurance training would be good for me, so I bought a used spin bike and started riding on non-lifting days. It’s been fun to be a novice at something again and experience novice gains. One difference, though, between strength and endurance training is the ease with which novice improvement can be measured.

As I mentioned in my last post, strength gains are unambiguous: If you lift more weight than you’ve ever lifted before, there’ a very good chance you are getting stronger. With endurance training, it can be less clear. What’s the difference between your first and fifth 30-minute ride in Zone 2? Your rate of perceived exertion? Perhaps, but I’d love to see something more objective. So I decided to review my cycling data in search of objective indications of improvement.

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Using Data to Motivate the Post-Novice Lifter

Great products are based on insights about the people that use them. When I was at MapMyRun, we based our roadmap on three interconnected insights that are relevant to any fitness product:

  1. Everyone wants to get better. No matter where someone is in their fitness journey, everyone wants to improve. The common thread between trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon and training to finish a 5K is the desire to improve.
  2. Everyone can use a little extra motivation. Getting better requires consistent training. And while some are more naturally motivated to train than others, even the most dedicated athletes need a little extra push now and then.
  3. Getting better is addictive. Once a person gets a taste of improvement, they get a craving for more. This craving fuels the motivation to train, and so on. Getting people into this virtuous cycle of training is the sweet spot for any fitness app.

Strength Training Novices are Easily Motivated

I’ve personally experienced this virtuous cycle of improvement but in the form of weightlifting instead of running. I discovered the Starting Strength Linear Progression, a strength training program for novices, as a form of rehab after back surgery. Weight training turns out to be an even better example of the “getting better is addictive” phenomenon because novice lifters can improve so rapidly and measurably.

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