New health and wellness app helps Team Dimension Data stay on top formBlog
Team Dimension Data takes the app route to monitor riders' health and wellbeing
Professional cycling is one of the most physically and mentally demanding sports in the world. Being able to monitor the wellbeing of the riders is crucial in ensuring that they can perform at their peak on race days.
When the team isn’t racing, the individual riders are scattered across the world. Each trains according to an individually tailored programme created by a team of sports scientists, doctors, and coaches. The more information this team has, the more they can optimise the training programmes of the riders, making sure they are ready for race day.
To get the team access to the best possible data, we've created an app that allows the riders to report back on how they're faring from a health and wellness perspective. That’s why we called the app Phila (pee-lah), which means ‘to live’ in Nguni.
We wanted to make the app simple and easy to use.
The app allows the riders to, quite quickly, report on anything that might be jeopardising their ability to train, and alerts the support team to these issues. This covers travel, sleep, training, fatigue, and any illness or injury, as well as any equipment issues that they may be having.
We're taking advantage of a custom-developed smartphone application to create the link between the riders and the team. The app has been developed by Dimension Data's Digital Practice in partnership with MIK Health which specialises in athlete performance and health technology solutions.
For us it was important that the riders would need only two to three minutes in the morning to answer the questions.
One of the more important pieces of information that we gather, from a scientific point of view, is what altitude they’re sleeping at. Over time we should be able to gain insights into how that affects overall performance. We’re also interested in the impact that travel and, more specifically, travel across time zones might be having. We do have some idea of where riders are spending their time because of the training data that we already get from them. But this will give us a deeper level of insight and tell us where they are on days when they’re not training.
Some of the questions are more subjective. We ask the riders questions such as when they went to sleep, when they woke up, as well as the quality of sleep.
We also ask them about their mood and their view on their training the previous day. We obviously have the detailed training data from their bike computers, but this gives us a view of how the riders felt about the session, whether it went well or badly. They also get to rate the perceived effort from the session, and we can compare this with the effort level the coach aimed to achieve. This lets us to compare the actual performance, the intended effort level, and the rider’s view, and then we look at the differences between them.
The app gives us insight into how well the riders are training.
The riders also let us know if they’re able to train that day and, if not, what the reasons are. This could include injury, illness, weather, equipment failure, or other issues.
Part of the benefit of this app is that we hope to be able to spot early on any potential illness. Team doctors can then intervene early and hopefully prevent a minor illness from escalating into one that might prevent them from racing.
Much of the data that we’ll be getting is subjective but, for us, the value comes from integrating this data into training data that we already collect. In training, the riders generate a lot of data, using power meters, speed and cadence sensors, heart rate monitors, and GPS receivers to measure almost every aspect of the effort they’re putting in. This data is recorded on the riders’ Garmin Edge computers, collated, and shared with the sports scientists/coaches based in Lucca, Italy. They analyse the data and use the information to optimise the riders’ training programmes so that their performance peaks are aligned with their, and the team’s, goals for the season.
We hope that we’ll be able to integrate the data from the app back into the TrainingPeaks software that we use to plan the riders’ training schedules. We also want to create a simplified dashboard that’ll allow the team management to see the status of each rider from a single screen, with issues that need attention flagged for action.
The goal is, in the short term, to improve communication between the riders and the team. But looking forward we want to apply machine learning and predictive analytics to optimise rider management. These insights will help us to keep all the riders performing to their maximum potential.
Read more about Team Dimension Data's rise to greatness in pro cycling here.