Saturday, April 27, 2013

Rant: Program design software and some more….

I will be honest here: I F*CKING HATE PAPERWORK. My ultimate goal is to make things as simple as possible and to focus on the most important aspects of coaching (well, coaching) instead of losing precious time and energy on B.S. And paperwork is B.S.

I have been using Excel extensively lately – from designing the yearly periodization chart, to keeping track of performance scores and player profiles, to attendance sheet and workloads monitoring, along with wellness scores, power output and designing team and individual workouts. Managing all of them demands a lot of time – so much that I am getting enough with it. There has to be simpler solution. At least I hope so. And hopefully without the need to spend a lot of $$$.

Managing Databases like this in Excel is clunky, if that is a right word. It is really hard to ‘connect’ individual databases without some VB code and without Excel crushing or slowing down. I am actually thinking about learning Access and building better DB (Database, not dumbbells) with queries, user forms and reports. But Hell – I am strength and conditioning coach, not a damn programmer.

I believe that coaching should be 80% actual coaching and planning and 20% paperwork. Now it is vice versa unfortunately for most of the coaches.

Suppose you need to design a program for a friend that asked for one to get in “shape”. Sure thing – it is pretty simple: you have a general idea what this guy should be doing, maybe even what weights should be using along with progression. You put it on white paper, looks great, but then – you need to write a training SHEET. Put exercises names, pictures, descriptions, reps, sets, weights. And then you end up spending 90% of the time for designing the damn SHEET.

There should be an easier solution. One should have a system that helps him do this. Maybe a list of Excel templates in different folders. Maybe a pro software solution.


I have been trying to minimize paperwork when it comes to wellness questionnaire. Thanks to Jose Fernandez who pointed me toward iFormBuilder and KlipFolio software I have actually managed to do so using trial account period. I have been spending my free time on learning those systems and torturing user support with bunch of emails (which is EXCELLENT in both companies and I am more than thankful for all their help and patience) and have finally created a simple solution for collecting data from players using smartphones (or web log in for unfortunate [or even fortunate?] few who don’t own them). This might be sRPE (rating of session) or wellness questionnaires. No paper, no copy-paste, no formulas in Excel, no errors, no losing time. You can send notification to players, they fill it in less than 20sec and you get graphical scores in a nice dashboard.

We are still deciding whether we plan using iFormBuilder/KlipFolio combo or going for a pro solution like Kinetic Athlete. Anyway, if someone is interested in building a solution like this I am more than interested in providing consultations. It is perfect for low budget clubs.

Anyway, it is worth noting that monitoring is not a magic bullet that will make all programs work – it is a tool in you tool box. Dr. David Martin explained it the best.


What amazes me is the lack of integration of data. Staff in different clubs collect their own data in their own sheets. Some of them are lucky if they actually use DropBox or Trello or shared Google Calendar. Some use high-end solutions like Smartabase or The Sports Office. Most of them use none. Not even a white board. And most of them suffer from same organizational problems – lack of communication, lack of clearly defined roles and responsibilities and accountability. Sad but true.

I believe investing in a software like this, along with educating stuff and being on a same page is of utmost importance. Yet a lot of clubs spend zero time on this aspect. They assume this, but eventually it hit them back real badly.


I was amazed by the amount of work done by Joe Kenn to design and enlist all workout templates in my favorite strength book – The Coaches’ Strength Training Playbook. It is one of the best resources out there and luckily Joe is working on the second edition which I can’t wait.

Going back to the example I gave above – when you design a template for someone. Would’t be easy to already have a given template, select exercises from the list, select weekly progressions instead of building things from the scratch every time? Of course it would.
I am playing with AccelerWare software at the moment. It is made for strength and conditioning coaches for the designing the workouts, and running the whole business. It is VERY complex piece of software with a lot of functions and possibilities. I am just learning how to use it and will eventually decide whether to switch from Excel to it. I have been on Skype with Stewart Briggs, a coach behind it, who was kind enough to give me a run through. I am still amazed by its possibilities. I am thinking about customizing it using ideas from my Excel tables and start using it without losing time on Excel or learning and building my own solution in Access.

Now I can have all workout templates on one spot, testing batteries, set/rep/% combos and progressions and can quickly design workouts without losing time.

Anyway, I would be more than interested in hearing what other coaches are using to solve these issues. What software are you using and how are you integrating data, data basing it and implementing it to day-to-day workouts.


  1. Mladen,

    Like you I still use Excel because no builder is good enough for what I am doing. I have been using smartphones and tablet solutions, but what are you using to warehouse and analyze data besides a simple cloud option and R or some IBM tool?

  2. Great post, Mladen. I, too, am fed up with trying to learn how to manage all of the programs and program variables into neat and orderly fashion. I recently created excel templates based upon generalizations of different training stages (beginner, intermediate, advanced, etc.) It's a start for me and I will see how things go. I am all about keeping it simple. Unfortunately there still is some complexity to what we do.

  3. Great Post Mladen,
    If you haven't read it then give it a look. Even though the Omegawave solution is quite expensive it is IMO worth it. You could maybe look into their app for smartphones which uses HRV

  4. Thanks for feedback guys. Carl, the beauty of Excel is that you are able to custom tailor a lot of stuff - yet the down side might the inability to make things automatic, especially when connecting two databases - HLOOKUP and VLOOKUP, as well as MATCH and INDEX, but it looks clunky.

    Thanks for the heads up on OmegaWave David.

  5. Hi Mladen,
    Excel is painful, it is useful but requires a large amount of learning to get to grips. Then time spent inputting and analysing.
    I have spent ages inputting all my exercises and complexes into a toolbox that I can use drop down menus from into a workout template.
    It does save time in the long run, although I have yet to analyse training data properly post programme.
    Trello: great for project management in part time teams at different locations. Cuts down the email traffic immensely.
    Evernote: fantastic tool that syncs between devices automatically, can use photos, and voice recordings for memos and adjustments.
    Dropbox: good for file sharing videos and documents with coaches/ athletes.
    Google+: best tool for communicating with other coaches. Hangouts are great, as is screen share and photos.
    Of course, I have to spend time learning how to use all this stuff!

  6. I am one half of the iTRIMP software, would like to know what you guys think of it and what you would like to see in the software, i had all of the issues mentioned above, luckily i met a siftware developer who saw the potential in such a tool. we tried to price it so i wasnt out of the reach of amatuer clubs.