WKO+. Should I bother?

It’s been almost a month since I last loaded a workout into WKO+, and I don’t miss it a bit! Admittedly, I’ve been recovering from (basking in the glory of) my debut Ironman race so there hasn’t been a lot of exercise to load in there. But still, I haven’t found myself wondering about it or wanting to go in there and have a look.

A bit of background. WKO+ is an application that allows you to log your training sessions and analyse them. Like most people, I started out using an Excel spreadsheet for this.

excel-training-diary.jpg

Then I got a Polar S625X watch and used their Polar Precision Performance Software…

polar-precision.jpg

I used this happily for four years. Then, in October 2009, I got my Garmin 310XT watch. This is when things started to get a bit murkier.

The Garmin comes with two training log options. The first is the Garmin Connect website. This is actually a pretty nice tool. When you sync your Garmin watch with your computer, your workout are uploaded to your computer and then into the Garmin Connect website as a seamless 1-step process. From the Garmin Connect website you can review both a summary and the details of your workouts and view the route on a map; you can send a link to your workout for others to view. Very nice! (apart from the recent ‘upgrade’ from Google Maps to Bing Maps which has been a massive step backwards).

The problem with Garmin Connect is that it only holds your Garmin workouts (so I can’t put my Polar ones in there, or manually enter ones I’ve done without a watch), it is only a summary of the data so I can’t drill down and really analyse stuff (like finding gradients of climbs, avg power/HR/pace over adhoc sections of the route etc), and it’s online.

This where Garmin’s 2nd option comes in. Garmin Training Center. GTC is a desktop training log application which has a pretty bad reputation around the forums. I’ve only ever used the Mac version and it has been nothing but trouble for me. I can’t even start it up now without it hanging my computer. Software updates are few and far between and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Garmin quietly drop this one.

I was unhappy to be leaving the Polar software – it just worked! – but it was unable to handle my Garmin files so I was out on the hunt for a new training log tool. The main candidates were: SportsTracks (Windows), WKO+ (Windows), Golden Cheetah (Mac), RaceDay (Mac) and Training Peaks (Online).

Enter WKO+

In the end I decided to go with WKO+. None of the products perfectly fitted my needs so I chose WKO+ as it is considered the ‘gold standard’ for training analysis software. Unfortunately, using WKO+ is a bit like poking your finger in your own eye – it’s bloody awful but, as contact lenses wearers can attest, it can be tolerated if the end result is worthwhile!

WKO+ gives you a training log, awesome analysis tools, and a cold-war era software experience. But it does the job!

So fast-forward 18 months and I have a year and a half of training data locked in WKO+. It’s strengths are the PMC (Performance Management Chart) and the wealth of other charts you can generate. You can also drill deep into training sessions and even compare sessions from different days to each other (how do today’s hill reps compare with last weeks?). Pretty good stuff.

But I’m really starting to find the whole Windows thing a drag (I use a Mac so have been using VMWare Fusion to run WKO+). I’m also sick of trying to manually enter my swimming distances and intensities – the tool for manual entries really sucks. There is no mapped route display, and elevation correction seems to be missing (or certainly not as good as the Garmin Connect or SportsTrack versions) and therefore run stress (rTSS) seems to be out when doing hill work. The lack of keyboard shortcuts and even common Windows shortcuts (like Ctrl-F4 to close a window) make it hard to become speedy with it. And the data really seems to be locked in there with no easy way to export out a season of training entries. I have it installed on two different Windows VMs and the lack of a configurable data path make it tricky to automatically synchronise via DropBox. Ahh for symbolic links…!

So I’ve got a list of minor complaints, but I’ve been getting some value. Clearly WKO+ needs a freshen-up, a rewrite. But unfortunately WKO+ seems to be stagnating and TrainingPeaks (the vendors) appear to be pouring their development resources into their online TrainingPeaks software. I really like how they are innovating with TrainingPeaks Online but I don’t want an online-only application, and I don’t want Flash!

It’s time to reevaluate.

What do I need? Where do I want to be with my training data in 5 years time?

Here’s my list:

  • I want all of my training data, for all years, to be consolidated in one application for swim, bike and run (and walk, kayak, MTB etc)
  • I want to be able to export that training data (at least in summary form) to Excel or similar
  • I want the data to be synchronised over multiple machines (be that via DropBox or a web-based central repository)
  • I want to be able to access the data (or at least my last sync of it) when I have no internet connection
  • I want a smooth 1-step import process that sees the data going straight from the device into the application. “Look Ma, no hands!”

And now the toys…

  • I want the PMC (or equivalent)
  • I want detailed analysis tools
  • I want mapped routes – preferably Google Maps!
  • I want elevation correction
  • I want to be able to see training sessions in both a list view and a calendar view
  • I want a Mac native application
  • I want to be able to view summary data from my iPhone – requiring Internet access is OK – but caching so that it is useable without a connection would be good too

Not that fussy, am I?

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4 Responses to WKO+. Should I bother?

  1. Eric says:

    I’m still confused why you didn’t go with SportTracks. With various plugins added in, it meets all of your needs except Mac native, and it still has a very active development. And it’s not 150 bucks. (minor quibble, true).

    • jontsnz says:

      I spent the first 4 months after I got my powermeter evaluating WKO+, SportTracks and Golden Cheetah (cycling data only). I was entering the same data into all three. I added the elevation correction plugin and the training load plugin to SportTracks.

      To be honest, SportTracks just never won me over (in fact, none of them did!). I never got comfortable with the busy UI: the panes within panes and the view options hidden behind dropdowns. I always had the feeling that there must be a better view/UI/workflow plugin but there are so many options it’s daunting to even start looking! Coming from the Polar background I was really looking for a simple big calendar view and struggled with all of the lists. Sometimes less is better! And I never quite worked out the Training Load view. But then again I really loved the built-in map/route view and I frequently used the elevation window to view climb gradients, even after I’d fully switched over to WKO+.

      So in the end all three had their strengths and weaknesses and I had to make a choice. I went with WKO+ because I wanted to train with power and I knew that WKO+ had been specifically built for that purpose; it seemed to be the most commonly used (based on blogs etc I read) and there were experts actively discussing it’s use (on the Wattage forums). I thought that maybe I would grow to love it… I was wrong!

      I still think I made the right choice at the time, because I wanted to learn about power and the WKO+ environment does that well. But now that I understand TSS, CTL, ATL, PMC etc, I am getting frustrated with WKO+’s shortcomings in other areas.

      I might upgrade to the latest SportTracks and give it another shot. It does need a name change though – can never remember if it is SportTrack, SportsTrack, SportsTracks or SportTracks!

  2. Rob Youl says:

    Have you tried Raceday apollo? I’ve been using it post ironman and it meets nearly all your requirements. Also posts workouts to your smartphone

    • jontsnz says:

      Hi Rob.

      Back in 2009 I downloaded a 30-day trial version of RaceDay Apollo (1.7.3). I never quite got the hang of it, and then the trial expired. So that was that! I can’t see me giving it another crack unless they pull out something special…

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