• Suzie

Training Peaks. Friend or Foe? Part 1

Joe Friel, a name I have seen on many a book, website article or quoted whenever 'power meter' or 'Training Peaks' is mentioned. The man himself, walked into the room in the Manchester National Cycle Centre on a Friday night, later than myself, but with a better excuse after flight delays.

I was late, as I had attempted to fit a turbo session in before cooling down by riding to the train station and jumping on the train to Manchester National Cycle Centre. Trying to keep the Training Peaks diary green. For all those who use Training Peaks, I am sure you know the feeling.

A screen shot of how Training Peaks looks, an online diary, where a coach can upload the training, the athlete then downloads their run/bike watch (Garmin/ Sunnto etc) into each activity. Green= activity completed correctly, orange almost right (e/g 45 minutes done for a prescribed 60 minute run) and red for incomplete (for the above, Monday 20th, i didn't do the 20 minute run so it was red)

The evening was a free event, kick starting the weekends Training Peaks University workshop. I went to learn more about Training Peaks, as an athlete and as a coach. I had contacted the other wannabe triathlon coaches on the British Triathlon level 2 course I have just completed to see if anyone else was keen. For those unable to attend, I promised to take notes, instead of emailing the notes to the others on the coaching course, i thought i would put them up here, so anyone can read them.

The evening was a combination of insights delivered by Dave Schell and Joe Friel. I have condensed 90 minutes of wisdom into a few blog posts. This is post 1.

In this post I will focus on the idea that you can plan and measure your training in a more advanced/smarter way than just recording duration of training.

Joe Friel's philosophy; "If you want to improve it, measure it". If you have a goal, you need to figure out what you need to do to move towards the goal and you need to track your progress towards your goal.

If you want to make x amount of £ you would be checking your bank statement. If you wanted to lose weight you would be standing on the scales regularly. The same is true for training.

Joe created Training Peaks to allow athletes to accurately track, measure and plan training. It is an online training diary/tool.

In endurance sports, there are 3 factors to measure

1) Frequency of training. How often do you run/ride/swim? (Ideal to track for the novice)

2) Duration of training. How long was your workout? (Ideal to track for the intermediate)

3) Intensity of training (Ideal to track for the more advanced )

In Training Peaks, the CTL (Critical Training Load) uses data from all three of these metrics from the last 42 days of training to provide a current fitness score ' The CTL score'. If you have a paid version of training peaks compared to the free version, you can see a performance management chart that shows your CTL 'fitness' line build or decline through time, depending on if/how you are training. More about this in Blog Post 2.

Training peaks is a tool. It can be used to build and plan training in a progressive way in a more advanced way than just adding more hours.

For example a popular way to develop training is to have a block of 3 weeks of progressive training and then an easier week. The hours may look like this. Week 1= 7 hours, week 2= 8.5 hours, week 3 = 10 hours, week 4= 6 hours. But this doesn't necessarily mean more fitness will be built from more hours. It depends what you do with those hours.

Instead training can be planned and delivered using TSS (Training Stress Score) week 1= 500 TSS, week 2= 600 TSS, week 3= 750 TSS, week 4= 400 TSS.

You could have 10 hours of riding in one week, at a low intensity it could be a TSS score of 200 (scenario A), But 10 hours of riding, with some at a higher intensity with efforts included in some rides it could a TSS score of 400 (scenario B) Both could read as 10 hours of riding but are producing very work loads (TSS score) and ultimately different effects on fitness.

The training stress score is worked out when you upload your bike computer or run watch to the Training Peaks software, using metrics you have uploaded to your profile, such as threshold Heart rate, critical power scores etc. It is some fancy formulae!

I am currently reading Joe Friel's 'The Cyclists Training Bible' and he gave a great example of how to give each work out an intensity score.

Duration of the workout x Power/ Heart rate Zone

So if you rode for 60 minutes with 20 minutes in Zone 1, 20 minutes in Zone 2 and 20 minutes in Zone 3 you can give the 60 minute ride a score to show workload

20x1= 20

20x2= 40

20x3= 60

Total workload for 60 minute ride= 120

Having thought about this, you could easily apply this to your training diary, using perceived effort instead of power/HR zones.

Duration of the workout x perceived effort.

Using the above calculation in your training diary could look like this:

Training Peaks effectively uses metrics such as duration of exercise and intensity (using power/ Heart rate on a bike or pace/ HR on a run) to work out the TSS (Training stress) score. Basically a more advanced version of the above. Training Peaks works out the training stress score when you upload your bike computer (Garmin) or run watch (Sunnto) to the Training Peaks software. If you do not use a heart rate monitor or a power meter for training, training peaks is not for you.

As well as working out your total stress score for each activity, you can view graphs that show you how much time you have spent training in each zone. Which is a great tool for keeping you on track for getting a good 80:20 training ratio (80% aerobic (steady zone 2) 20% anaerobic (hard zone 4 +)

You could again use this idea in you training diary using perceived effort. You could add up the amount of time you spent in perceived effort 1-6 (call this aerobic/ steady zone 2 training) and how much time you spent in perceived effort 7-10.

The summary of post 1 on training peaks is, you can track your training in a smarter way than just recording duration of training.

In blog post 2, i will share what i learnt about Performance management chart and in blog 3 about how to plan training using the work out builder, allowing you to plan training based on TSS score rather duration of the session.

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