Testing the Endomondo Training Plan – Part 2

Wow. The follow up to the previous post was put off for a long time. About 18 months actually.

I did keep up the training plan though, so for a recap on how I felt about using the Endomondo training plan:

After I finished my first 12-minute test, the estimated finish time for the marathon went down quite a bit. It seems the dynamic function is working well. I am guessing this is because I ran a bit longer and faster than was scheduled in the plan. The start of the plan felt too easy initially, so the adjustment was good. At the same time, all the following workouts got their pace and distance adjusted to better fit with my fitness level. The distances got adjusted to be longer and with higher pace. I would actually have wished for a sharper increase in difficulty, but that may have been because I was just getting back into shape again. Improving your maximum is a whole different thing than getting back to where you have once been, so for someone who starts off close to their peak this is likely a good thing.

The first month or so actually went very well and I was able to follow the plan. The schedule makes it easy to see how long you are expected to run, which makes planning a bit easier. The app can also remind you about your workouts in case you are forgetful. What I started struggling with after a while was the increasing frequency of the workouts. As you get further into the program the workouts increase to about 4-6 a week. I found it got increasingly harder to find time to get out running once a day. At about this time I also caught a cold (Easy in the Swedish winter) and had quite a bit to do at work. As a result I started missing a few workouts, which wasn’t nice to look at when I reviewed my schedule. There were a lot of red days, which kind of makes you feel like you are failing. I did try to catch up by not doing the actual workout of the day and instead doing the latest unfinished workout. This strategy was not very good and I don’t recommend it. It gets incredibly hard to catch up, given that there is already workouts scheduled for almost every day. You will also need those rest days to recover every once in awhile.

Overall I was quite satisfied with how the program adapted to my speed and progress, but it did tend to put the goals a little more on the easy side. I actually never had any problems reaching the distance or pace goals for scheduled trainings, even though I couldn’t do every workout. So a steeper increase in difficulty would have been nice according to me.

Summary

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • If you’ve been using Endomondo before, the statistics and numbers for the setup are already available to you.
  • Dynamic assessment of fitness level to adjust training plan
  • Integrates nicely with the mobile app. Just click the planned workout and go!
  • Possibility to export workout files for your Garmin GPS or similar, if you prefer that instead of the mobile app when you’re working out.

Cons

  • Requires the paid Premium subscription
  • Only one training plan at once. When you start a new training plan, the previous one is deleted. Your workouts are still kept in the workout history though.
  • Not possible to move planned workouts, though you can link other workouts within +/- 1 day
  • In a busy life, it is hard to put away up to 6 days a week for running. You probably won’t be able to also go to the gym during the program.

 

Finally, for those who wondered how my marathon went in the end… Unfortunately it didn’t. I got booked on a trip that same weekend and decided to go for that instead. From a training perspective it was of course a failure, since I did not complete what I started. Perhaps it was a good thing though, because rain was pouring down on the streets of Stockholm with a temperature of around 10 degrees centigrade.

Testing the Endomondo Training Plan

This is the first in a series of posts that will review the Endomondo Training Plan as preparation for a marathon.

2 hobbies of mine are training and mobile apps. I have always enjoyed sports and have been running for more or less my whole life. Combining this with an interest in mobile apps is quite easy nowadays because of the abundance of applications and gear that allows you to track every move you make. With technology, we now have the possibility to track everything we do and how we progress. Heart rate, speed, pace, distance, calories etc. can be broken down and analysed. You can twist and turn the numbers for hours if you’d like. It gives you a clear overview of your progress and you can see exactly how you are doing on your way to your goals. For the interested, it’s quite a gold mine for self analysis and improvement.

I believe that we will see more and more of these tools. In just a few years they have progressed tremendously, and I really hope the improvement will continue. In a few years we might even have come so far that we can actually get really well tailored, dynamic, personal training programs for just a fraction of the price a personal trainer costs per hour today.

The Endomondo Sports Tracker

For a few years now, Endomondo has been my go to sports tracker. This is mostly because I favor the interface over other apps like Runtastic, Runkeeper, Nike+ etc. I just find it easier to both see and control when the phone is sitting on my arm and I have to reach it to stop or see my current stats. Other than the interface, most of these have quite similar functionality and at least for a beginner the free versions may very well be enough. When you want a bit more statistics you can opt in and pay a little each month to get the full features, as they all seem to be moving towards a subscription based payment system. In the end, they are quite interchangeable and you cannot really go wrong with one or the other. They seem to be looking a lot at each other and progressing in parallel.

Some common features provided are these (at least all of them are available in Endomondo):

  • GPS and tracking on a map
  • Lap times, kilometer times, pace, calories burnt, speed, elevation tracking etc.
  • Social sharing and integration
  • Link comments, weather etc. to a workout.
  • Engage in challenges with other people
  • Create routes or try routes created by other people
  • Statistics about most possible things
  • Integration with Polar, Garmin etc.
  • … and much more

The GPS functionality in Endomondo seems to be quite good too. At least for me it doesn’t skip out and put my position way out of track as I know might happen in some other apps. Because, you know, I don’t suddenly just teleport a kilometer away and then magically come back to the same point to keep running. This may very well be a hardware issue in the phone though, but in takes some clever algorithms to smooth these things out.

Endomondo also integrates nicely with for example MyFitnessPal for calorie counting and weight tracking. Functionally it has provided me with everything I have needed up until now, though one big letdown was that I purchased PRO a few years back with all features They then added the Premium subscription option and removed some of the functionality from the PRO version that I paid for. I mean, I paid for it. You cannot just remove what I paid for, right? Hope that doesn’t happen again… But all in all, I’m pleased with the software and have found no reason to change it for something else. That’s why I’m giving it a shot of being my personal trainer for 5 months when charging for Stockholm Marathon 2015.

Going for the Marathon

The Long Road

I have recently decided to run Stockholm Marathon on the 30th of May 2015. That is around 21 weeks from where I am today, the 4th of January 2015, and it’s not a day too early to start training. I was on the lookout for a training schedule and stumbled upon the EndomondoTraining Plan that is part of the Premium subscription. I tried googling for some more information about it, but found almost no reviews or comments. So I thought, why not try it out and at the same time thoroughly review it?

Putting together a long term training program is quite difficult if you are not a pro and following some plan from the internet may be hard to commit to. Also, I do not really have an interest in personal trainers, even though they probably are awesome as both motivation and a knowledge base. And last but not least, I like to test these things out to see if they work :) So I decided to experiment and test this for a while. If it works, I will go for the whole plan until the race. Sadly, if I see that the feature of dynamically adjusting the pace and distance doesn’t work as it should I will have to drop this program. There is simply no need to follow something that isn’t working. This is especially true if you commit to it for such a long time.

If you are reading this for your own reference and want to decide whether or not you should try this for yourself, this is my current situation. Before starting the program, I went for a 10 km run. This was to provide Endomondo with input when starting the plan. You can find details about it here. In sort, it’s:

  • Distance: 10.65 km
  • Time: 54:27 min
  • Pace: 5:06 min/km

The terrain was maybe not optimal, with a lot of up and down + ice, but it should give a good idea of my current shape.

Setting up an Endomondo Training Plan

Setting up the training plan was easy and can be done from the website or directly in the mobile app. It asks you for some basic information to determine your goal and your initial fitness level. From this, you get suggestions on plans and can configure training days, start date and goal date. Endomondo also states that the training plan is dynamic, meaning it takes feedback from your completed workouts and reconfigures planned future workouts to better suit your current level. How well it does this remains to be seen, but on paper it sounds awesome. Searching for plans online often gives you a static plan which isn’t tailored to your progress, which is bad if you are progressing faster or slower than expected. Rolling your own plan doesn’t guarantee that it’s good, and you may very well do something stupid. By all means, if you know what you are doing you can do it, but for a hobbyist it might be better to stick with a program.

Setup of Motivation and Goal

Select Main Goal

First you are asked about what you want to accomplish. You are given two options here:

  • Going the Distance
  • Going Faster

I have actually run a marathon before, so I chose the Going Faster option. I was also hoping that this would configure the program to be a little more tough, as I read that the program was too soft in it’s schedule for other people. Going the distance should be more focused on just getting you through the race, which I have already done.

Select Your Distance

You have the possibility to tailor your distance here, but the common distances of 5, 10, 21 (Half-Marathon) and 42 (Marathon) are also given. Naturally, I chose the Marathon option as that is what I’m running.

It’s worth noting that you are recommended to do an initial training plan to get you started if you do not have a lot of experience, or are not in good shape already. This is a really good idea if you are just starting out, as going for something too big may cause you to give up. The goal is simply too far away.

Determine Fitness Level

Once your goal is determined, Endomondo wants to see where you’re at right now. This may be harder or easier depending on your experience. As I wrote earlier, I did a 10 km test-run just to see my current status. You can of course lie, but you’re only cheating yourself.

Your Current Pace

Having done an introductory workout is an advantage even here. Otherwise, you can chose between these options:

  • Slower than 6:00/km
  • Between 5:00-6:00/km
  • Faster than 5:00/km

It doesn’t ask you for at what distance this pace have been achieved, so I just guessed here. Hope the dynamic feature will correct the pace later…

Your Weekly Running Distance

If you don’t know, just estimate. I entered 20 km, which is close to what I’m running each week. It’s worth noting that there are limits here as to what you can enter. If you plan to enter into a Marathon Training Plan, you have to run at least 20 km per week, or you will not be allowed to start the training plan.

Plan

When you have entered your goals and current fitness level, you are given the options of plans. Endomondo then gave me the options:

  • Beginner Marathon
  • Marathon

The Marathon plan was the harder one, and seemed to focus more on what I wanted (speeding up my pace). Beginner marathon stated it was for first time runners, but I didn’t try it to see what it gave. If you’re more active, you will get options for even harder plans.

Finally, you configure some meta-data about the plan. You can edit all these things later, except for the start date.

Result

I was happily surprised when I saw the generated training plan. I was expecting something quite “tired” and not really usable, like the same 3-4 workouts every week with slight distance and speed increase. But these were the results:

  • 21 Weeks of plan, with a total of 98 workouts (averaging around 4.7 workouts per week).
  • A lot of weeks with 6 planned workouts, though some are quite easy.
  • Lighter training the last 2 weeks of the program. The last long run given in my program is 27 km exactly 2 weeks before the end date. From all advice I’ve ever gotten, this should be good. Running too far increases risk of injury and you do not want to do that close to the race. The body also needs to recover for quite some time before the race, which seems to be taken into account here.
  • Mixed workout types with easy runs, long runs, intervals and tests. Ranges from 3-6 times a week.
  • Different phases of the training which focuses on different things, such as increasing your distance or increasing your pace.
  • Test-sessions where to adjust the plan as you progress.

On the negative side, I think that the estimated pace for the final Marathon is a little disappointing. 6:55 min/km. It’s not a bad pace, but I’ve already ran a marathon faster than that. I hope that this will correct itself as I progress on the dynamic plan.

Also, if you fail after a while in your plan and want to delete it, don’t worry. The workouts will still be there. I tried by creating a program, doing the first workout and then deleting the program again. It’s good to know, since it’s not so nice after 60 workouts to realise they are all gone when you delete the program, right?

First impressions

Pros

  • Very easy to set up. A whole training schedule for months to come is designed in seconds.
  • If you’ve been using Endomondo before, the statistics and numbers for the setup are already available to you.
  • Dynamic assessment of fitness level to adjust training plan
  • Integrates nicely with the mobile app. Just click the planned workout and go!
  • Possibility to export workout files for your Garmin GPS or similar, if you prefer that instead of the mobile app when you’re working out.

Cons

  • Requires the paid Premium subscription
  • Not possible to extract the schedule to iCal or similar
  • Not possible to move planned workouts, though you can link other workouts within +/- 1 day

 

Follow my progress

The program is available publicly on my Endomondo page, if you are interested in seeing the results and the progress. Look for the workouts tagged with Marathon. Here you also have the opportunity to get a more detailed view of what the complete program looks like.

Also, check out my Twitter Page. I will post workout updates there.

Finally, as I progress I will keep the review going here on my blog.