Monthly Archives: September 2015

Google Sheets, Motion Graphs, and Student Fitness Levels

Above you will see circles that represent students.  The small circles are girls and big circles are boys (sorry girls, not trying to suggest you are smaller, change it to same size if it offends).  The colors represent their grade in school.  Red is seniors and blue is 7th graders.  I have a variable called VDOT in the x-axis and the students potential mile time on the y-axis.   All variables can be changed dynamically and feel free to play around.  When showing this to my students I will only change the y axis to fitness levels.  I am not 100% sure what VDOT means and I am sure it will be a blog of its own when I have time, but for now it can be thought of as the amount of oxygen consumed in a minute for each runner.

I coach track and have always felt my running program lacked something substantial.  Then out of the blue I heard about this coach called Jack Daniels.  After reading one of his books, “Daniels’ Running Formula”, I could see why.  This book may be the first track manual I have ever read cover to cover.  Simply amazing technical information.  Not sure I understood all of it, but what I gleaned has made a huge impact on my program and the fitness of our team.   Being the graphics geek that I am, and knowing that Hans Rosling’s motion graphs are easily produced in google sheets (Check out, I decided to collect my own data from my athletes and track their Daniels fitness levels during the 2015 track season.  I was able to collect data for students in grades 7 – 12 from March to May.

I started out at the beginning of the season running everyone in a 12 minute run.  I told them to run as far and as fast as they could in 12 minutes.  I plugged this data into the site Training Zones/Running for Fitness.   This site produced a VDOT  which in turn I used to create a fitness level, also using Dr. Daniels’ formula.   As the season progressed I was able to use students competition times to evaluate VDOT and fitness levels.  You can see that a 12 minute run is not very motivating and the moment competition started their fitness levels blew up.  Anyone that ran less  than 800 meters had to continue the 12 minute runs in order for me to gauge their fitness levels.  Everyone on my team had to complete this.  It included my throwers.  I lost some throwers and sprinters because of this, but my plan was and always will be to improve fitness.  Gold medals produce temporary joy, but personal fitness habits create a lifetime of joy.

The real reason I share this is that I hope it generates ideas on how to represent local data with the ideas of Hans Rosling.  Every small community has data that could be tracked and monitored using this tool.  It is fairly simple.  I have some grand ideas to take this to the next level in state level data tracking, but for now this is a beginning.  Lets see where it leads.  Until next time…. God Bless.