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Many coaches and athletes define functional threshold power (FTP) as 95 percent of the average power from a 20-minute, steady-state, all-out time trial. While this may provide an accurate FTP for about 50 to 60 percent of the population, it doesn’t hold true for a large number of athletes. Among the cyclists I coach, the range of FTP relative to 20-minute power is as low as 86 percent for a track sprinter and as high as 96 percent for some time trialists. Using a faulty FTP can lead to suboptimal training targets, resulting in power targets that are either too hard or too easy thereby leading to sub-optimal training adaptations. The variability in FTP relative to 20-minute power is due to how much work (in kilojoules) different cyclists can do over threshold. We’ll look at this variability in two cyclists using WKO4’s new metrics, which give deep insight into the “diesel” aerobic and “turbo” anaerobic parts of our engine and the relative contributions of each. We’ll then discuss the physiology behind FTP as it relates to the concept of maximal lactate steady state and why the new testing protocols are more valid FTP measurement tools for the way they create these conditions.

95 percent of 20-Minute Power versus FTP

Many popular training methods today are aimed squarely at improving 20-minute power. While improving 20-minute power can be a sign of progress, we don’t know if we’re truly increasing FTP, which is the amount of power that can be put out at maximal lactate steady state (MLSS). While in this state, an athlete will fatigue in between 30 and 70 minutes (known as time to exhaustion, or TTE)1 rather than the traditionally defined 60 minutes. It’s easy to see that FTP is not always 95 percent of an athlete’s best steady-state, 20-minute effort. In WKO4, the Aerobic Anaerobic Contribution chart will show us how power at 20 minutes can be different relative to FTP. This chart is pictured below for a well-rounded elite female road cyclist, and we can see an 11-watt anaerobic contribution at 20 minutes with a power of 279 watts. Her FTP of 268 is 96.1 percent of this power, and she can hold it for about 40 minutes. The second chart below is from an elite male track racer. At his 20-minute power of 262 watts, there is a 24-watt anaerobic contribution. His FTP of 238 watts (at a TTE of 75 minutes!) is 90.8 percent of his 20-minute power.

physiology-of-ftp-and-new-testing-protocols-blog-fig1 physiology-of-ftp-and-new-testing-protocols-blog-fig2 It is clear that the 20-minute test does not give the same result for these two riders. Individual riders can also get inconsistent results from their own data from different test days, as anaerobic contribution to a 20-minute test can vary depending on training cycle focus, diet or state of restedness. When a test cannot reliably measure what it purports to, it is invalid, and we must turn to different methods. To understand the validity of the new tests, we must first understand what FTP represents.

The Physiology of FTP

As mentioned in other articles, such as this one on TTE, FTP is an individual’s power output in watts, or work rate in kilojoules per second, at MLSS. It can be held for approximately 30 to 70 minutes (a 30- to 70-minute TTE) at a blood lactate concentration of 2-8 mmol1. The reason it’s a useful measurement is that it represents the balance between the breakdown of glucose to pyruvate (glycolysis) and the rate of pyruvate use by mitochondria (TCA cycle). For more information than we get into here, this article is excellent reading. The breakdown of sugar to pyruvate happens in a cell’s cytoplasm. Pyruvate has two fates. One is conversion to acetyl coenzyme A (acetyl CoA), which is used in the TCA cycle in mitochondria.

physiology-of-ftp-and-new-testing-protocols-blog-fig3

Pyruvate’s other fate is conversion to lactate, which can be converted back to pyruvate when exercise intensity decreases, or sent out of the cell into the bloodstream.

physiology-of-ftp-and-new-testing-protocols-blog-fig4

At all times, pyruvate is converted to both acetyl CoA and lactate. As defined by Billat et al., “blood lactate at MLSS represents the highest point in the equilibrium between lactate appearance and disappearance both being equal to the lactate turnover.”1 The 20-minute time trial does not reflect this state of equilibrium in an athlete. To see what this looks like with actual blood lactate concentrations values, take a look at the graph of test data below (with VO2 and ventilation graphs removed for simplicity).2

physiology-of-ftp-and-new-testing-protocols-blog-fig5

New Methods of FTP Testing

Now that we can see the ineffectiveness of the 20-minute time trial as a determination of FTP, I would like to present the FTP tests I designed to reflect actual physiologic FTP conditions. The procedures are longer, but there is unanimous consent, at least among the people I coach, that they’re physically and mentally easier. Empirical cycling tests make use of an athlete’s target FTP. It is critical to not overestimate the target, so all tests begin below the target. I give my cyclists a lot of interval sessions in their training plans, in which I’ll prescribe the first couple intervals at a set power, then tell the athlete to go all out on the last couple. As the average power across these intervals increases through a training block, I can ballpark where the athlete’s “target FTP” will be. If you want to use my tests but aren’t sure where your target FTP is, a 3- to 8-watt increase is a reasonable starting point; however, if during the test you believe you can do more, try it. I tell my athletes that there’s no wrong way to perform these tests; learning how to self-pace is a crucial skill for any competitive cyclist. Our tests also include a target related to TTE (if using WKO4). FTP training aims not only to raise power, but also to increase TTE, so I made these tests equal to or longer than TTE in order to bridge the inflection point where the power curve begins to drop off more rapidly. This point is shown in the graphs above as the vertical blue line. Before doing any of the following FTP tests, you must do a long and thorough warm-up. Your FTP will be equal to the average power of the entire test, and I double check it with the WKO4 modeled FTP.

Empirical Cycling FTP Tests
Baseline Test, 35-45 minutes or TTE

10 minutes at 92-95 percent of target FTP
Increase to 100 percent of target FTP for 15 minutes
10-15 minutes gradual power increase until exhaustion

Progression 1, 40-50 minutes or TTE + 10 minutes

10 minutes at 95 percent of target FTP
20-30 minutes at 100 percent of target FTP
10 minutes gradual power increase, if possible, until exhaustion

Progression 2, 35-60 minutes or TTE + 10 minutes

10 minutes at 97 percent of target FTP
20-45 minutes at 100 percent of target FTP
5 minutes all out

Progression 3, 40-75 minutes or TTE + 5 minutes

5 minutes at 97 percent of target FTP
Hold 100 percent of target FTP until exhaustion, 70 minutes maximum
Optional: Increase target FTP at halfway point

Keep in mind that you never have to do a test longer than you’re interested in doing it. Many cyclists are happy with a 40 to 45 minute test and would rather not go longer, in which case we just work with a TTE the length of their test. If you’re still concerned about your 20-minute power, rest assured; everyone I coach who prefers the Baseline or Progression 1 tests always sets a new 20-minute power during them. Athletes who move on to Progressions 3 and 4 do a separate mid-range test of 15-20 minutes. This quote about training with power was memorable to me: “Power meters help you calibrate your brain.” Feedback between power output and body sensations is a critical tool of success in all cycling disciplines. When I work with cyclists new to either training with power or performing intervals longer than 20 minutes, I always start with Baseline Test to assess their ability to self pace in the last 10-15 minutes. As they progresses in their ability to “feel” FTP, the ramp at the end of the test gets smaller or later. This is the sign they are ready to move on to the next Progression.

Interested in learning more how WKO4 can help you gain a deeper insight into your performance potential. Try a free 14-day trial today.

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For any triathlete or cyclist, if you are serious about your goals you will eventually find yourself riding indoors on your bike trainer. Thankfully, there are now many apps that make your time on the trainer more productive and entertaining. Additionally, these apps record your workout so you can analyze your effort. Here is a list of apps and a description of how they function to help you decide which is best for you. Plus, each one also uploads your training automatically to your TrainingPeaks account for immediate feedback. Many of these apps are also compatible with structured workouts exported from your TrainingPeaks account.

zwift

From friendly competition to casual group rides and structured training programs, Zwift is building a community of like-minded athletes united in the pursuit of a better experience. Athletes from around the globe can ride with each other in rich, 3D-generated worlds simply by connecting their existing devices (e.g. trainers, power meters, heart rate monitors, etc) wirelessly via the open industry standards ANT+ and Bluetooth Smart. Zwift offers a free trial, and has multiple subscription options after the trial period. Once you are finished working out, Zwift can automatically sync your training data to your TrainingPeaks account. Zwift will also import structured workouts directly from your TrainingPeaks calendar so can you make the most of your training time.

Zwift is best if you are looking to compete against your friends in real-time on virtual group rides.

rouvyRouvy (formerly CycleOps) is compatible with virtually every smart and non-smart trainer. Rouvy is available for iOS, Android, and PC so you can run it on your favorite ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart enabled device. Using Rouvy, you can ride real routes from all over the world as the app tracks your training data. You can also pre-program your interval workouts and Rouvy will automatically control the resistance on your smart trainer. Rouvy offers new users a two week free trial, and multiple subscription options after the trial period. Once you are finished working out, Rouvy can automatically sync your training data to your TrainingPeaks account. Rouvy will also import structured workouts directly from your TrainingPeaks calendar so you can make the most of your training time.

Rouvy is best for you if you are looking for a app that can run on multiple devices, and gives you the flexibility to ride virtual routes or perform structured interval training.

thesufferfest

The Sufferfest is a comprehensive training app for cyclists and triathletes. You get unlimited streaming or offline access to a library of structured cycling, running, and triathlon workouts, 30 Yoga for Cyclists videos, and a 10-week Mental Training Program. The Sufferfest offers individually-optimized workouts through its exclusive Four-Dimensional Power (4DP™) platform, which measures how you produce power across a range of efforts to personalize power targets. The app also includes access to a full suite of training plans for road, mountain, triathlon, and cyclocross, which are available on TrainingPeaks. Connection to smart trainers and other fitness devices allows you to train to specific targets, analyze performance data, and share instantly to TrainingPeaks. The Sufferfest offers a 7-day free trial and is available for iOS, macOS, and Windows.

The Sufferfest is best for those who want personalized workouts and additional content to train both body and mind.

erg-video1

ErgVideo is a video-based power-training application that syncs the power profile of the riders in the video to your smart trainer. ErgVideo software is designed for ease-of-use, so you can be up and riding each day in as few as 2 clicks. Multi-rider mode supports up to 24 riders from a single PC, and records all ANT+ device data using a single ANT+ USB stick. The free version of ErgVideo can be used without the purchase of additional videos, and can import structured workouts from your TrainingPeaks account. When you are done with your workout, ErgVideo can automatically sync your training data back to your TrainingPeaks account.

ErgVideo is best if you are looking to combine focused power-training sessions with action-packed, high quality, and real-road real-life visuals to keep you completely engaged and motivated.

trainerroad

TrainerRoad is available for iOS, Mac, and PC and connects to your ANT+ or Bluetooth Smart devices to measure your power, speed and other metrics. It then uses that data to customize workouts to your personal fitness level. You can train with a power meter, smart trainer, or use TrainerRoad’s own VirtualPower® feature—all you need is a speed sensor and supported trainer. TrainerRoad features a 30-day money back guarantee if you are not satisfied with their product.  ERG and MRC files exported from your TrainingPeaks account can be imported into TrainerRoad.

TrainerRoad is best for you if you are looking to perform structured interval workouts.

hurts-ergo

Hurts Ergo is available for download from iTunes and works with the Wahoo KICKR and KICKR Snap smart trainers. Structured workouts scheduled in TrainingPeaks can be directly opened in Hurts Ergo from the TrainingPeaks iOS app. The Hurts Ergo app is then able to control the resistance on the KICKR so you can perform the exact workout that your coach or training plan prescribed. You can also pair your bluetooth heart rate monitor and Wahoo RPM sensor to measure heart cadence sensor. Hurts Ergo is free and a one time $2.99 in-app purchase enables uploading the completed workout data to TrainingPeaks.

Hurts Ergo is the best choice if you have an iPhone or iPad, a Wahoo KICKR and structured workouts scheduled in your TrainingPeaks calendar.

ICW-app

Indoor Cycling Workout can be downloaded for free from the Google Play app store and is available for ANT+ enabled Android phones and tablets. ICW works with any ANT+ FE-C smart trainer. You can also pair your ANT+ heart-rate monitor.  A one time $2.99 in-app purchase enables uploading the completed workout data to TrainingPeaks. Structured workouts scheduled in TrainingPeaks can be directly opened in Hurts Ergo from the TrainingPeaks Android app.

ICW is the best choice if you have an ANT+ enabled Android, an ANT+ FE-C compatible smart trainer, and  structured workouts scheduled in your TrainingPeaks calendar.

kinomaptrainer

Kinomap features hundreds of GPS videos generated by Kinomap members and lets you ride routes from all over the world. Kinomap is compatible with most smart trainers, and with any basic trainer with the addition of a speed/cadence or power sensor. A multiplayer mode is also available for up to 10 players, so you can challenge your friends or anyone else online. Kinomap is available for iPhones and iPads. When you are finished with your workout Kinomap can automatically sync your training data to your TrainingPeaks account.

Kinomap is the best choice for virtual rides up the cols and cotes of Europe. The Alpe d’Huez video is one of our favorites.

perfpro

PerfPRO Studio is a PC based training application that supports up to three riders with the Home version and unlimited riders with the Studio version. PerfPRO Studio is compatible with nearly every smart and non-smart trainer. The software can connect to your power meter, heart rate monitor, and other ANT+ devices using a USB ANT+ Stick. When using an ANT+ speed sensor with a fluid/mag trainer, PerfPRO Studio can estimate your power output. PerfPRO  Studio supports ERG mode, course mode, and its own proprietary “MixMode” where segments can be ridden in both ERG and course mode during the same workout. Using a GPS bike computer and a video camera, users can also create their own virtual ride videos for year round playback.  ERG and MRC files exported from your TrainingPeaks account can be imported into PerfPro.

PerfPRO is the best choice when you need to connect multiple bikes, power meters and smart trainers to the same PC.

Use these apps to get in a great workout when the weather isn’t cooperating, or you just need to get it done. View the complete list of indoor training apps that are compatible with TrainingPeaks.

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Sooner or later, we all have to deal with an injury. Whether it’s just an overuse issue, a simple sprain,  or something more serious or chronic—dealing with an injury is a mental and physical struggle.

For Northern Hemisphere endurance athletes, now is the time of year when we have a little bit more time to heal, recover and gradually ease back into training. However, whether you’re dealing with an injury during the off-season or right smack in the middle of racing season, for the most part your course of action for how to heal and start training again is the same.

I spoke with Max Prokopy, a specialist at the UVA SPEED Clinic at the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine, to learn what advice he most often gives the many endurance athletes he works with about how to return to training after injury and how best to deal with a recurring one.

While first and foremost it’s important to make sure you’ve gone to see a doctor to rule out anything that might preclude you from resuming training, once you’ve done that and are on your way back to your baseline, here are five habits for making sure you stay that way:

1. Get a foam roller and use it often.

While foam rolling should not be used as a cureall for any training injury you encounter, it can be a good way to perform self-myofascial release over tight areas like hamstrings, glutes, hips, quads, calves and more.

Foam rolling, while sometimes not a pleasant experience, can help increase bloodflow, which will help your muscles recover faster in between workouts and can aid in preventing particularly tight muscles from causing a gait abnormality that is either contributing to or causing an injury.

A good example of this is a tight calf. Many runners, particularly those who run on their toes, experience a shortening and tightening of their calf muscles, which can lead not only to calf pain, but also to plantar fasciitis. By regularly rolling out your calf muscles after a run, you can help prevent this common overuse injury from occuring.

Try these four foam rolling exercises to get started.

2. Stretch your hip flexors every day.

Whether you are a triathlete, a cyclist, a runner or just an endurance athlete in general, chances are you spend the vast majority of your training hours in the saggital plane (moving forward) and likely bent forward to some degree. Stretching your hip flexors is a great antidote to all of your fun endurance activities, particularly those hours spent in the aero position on your bike or running.

Stretching your hip flexors regularly can help you prevent a host of problems, including knee pain, hip pain and even low back pain.  

Luckily, stretching your hip flexors is simple and can be done anywhere—even while watching Game of Thrones! The “Couch Stretch” is a fantastic way to stretch out the front muscles of your body. To do it, start on all fours with your feet facing a wall or other flat, sturdy surface. Lift up one leg and drop your knee down as close to the wall as possible, while your other leg comes out into a kneeling lunge position (making sure your knee is over your ankle and in a comfortable position). The closer your knee is to the wall, the more intense the stretch will be.

Try doing this stretch once a day, starting with 30 seconds on each side and working up to several minutes on each side.  

3. Practice diaphragmatic breathing.

So many athletes, particularly triathletes, unknowingly have their diaphragm go up while inhaling rather than down. This can lead to a host of physical pains, as well as an increase in stress levels.

Diaphragmatic breathing is commonly practiced during Yoga, but learning to adjust your breathing during activity can lead to performance gains simply by optimizing your body’s ability to take in oxygen and engage your core.

The best way to start learning diaphragmatic breathing is not while running! Start by lying down with your knees bent and one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. As you breathe, feel your lungs expand (your belly will also extend). Try to keep the hand on your  upper chest as still as possible.  

You can also do this by standing in front of a mirror as your breathe and watching your diaphragm (which is located at the base of your lungs) go down as you inhale, and up as you exhale. Over time, you can also focus on learning to engage your core as you exhale, which is a powerful tool for keeping the powerhouse of your body engaged throughout the day.  

This all might seem awkward at first, but once you practice it you can be more mindful of your breathing during running and cycling. It is also a great way to learn to control your heartrate, breathing rate and your overall stress response to harder efforts.

Get started with diaphragmatic breathing with these four yoga poses for endurance athletes.  

4. Do these two glute exercises regularly.

Having strong, functional glutes is key to preventing a host of injuries and incorrect movement patterns. Many endurance athletes have quite overdeveloped quads, but quite tight and underdeveloped glutes and hamstrings—an imbalance that can lead to hip pain, IT Band Syndrome and more. Do the following two exercises as part of an overall regular strength training and functional movement routine:

Single Leg Squat

Placing one leg up on a bench or other roughly knee-level surface, your working leg will be out in front of you in a squat position (making sure your knee is over your ankle). Lower down into a single-let squat position, aiming to get your knee as close to the ground as possible. Do three sets per leg of 8-10 reps.You can start this exercise sans weight (it’s that hard!), but overtime add weight—either by holding dumbells or placing a barbell on your shoulders for increased load.

Single Leg Glute Bridge

Bridges are great exercises for firing your glutes before a workout and for general strengthening. Start by lying down on a mat with your knees bent, making sure your ankles are hip-width distance apart and are roughly six inches away from your bottom. Stretch one leg out in front of you (keeping it in line with your hips) and slowly lift your hips off the ground into a bridge position. Be careful not to use your low back to lift, but instead focus on the power coming from your glutes. Slowly lift and lower 8-10 times before switching legs. Repeat for three sets. As you are lifting and lowering make sure your hips remain level—you will quickly see that this is a fantastic way to quickly identify weaknesses from side to side!

Learn more exercises to add to your routine for functional strength here.

5. Undergo biomechanical testing.

Facilities like the UVA SPEED Clinic are changing the way athletes address injuries and plan their training. Through technologies like Vicon Motion Capture Software, people like Prokopy can take everything front joint position and limb alignment to real-time gait analysis into consideration when creating custom-tailored strength and rehab regimens.

My friend Emily recently experienced this firsthand. She’d had hip pain for a year, seen two doctors, had x-rays and an MRI, even undergone two injections, but the most helpful intervention was a couple sessions with the physical therapist.This injury was incredibly frustrating to a woman who’s been active her whole life. She had her heart set on another IRONMAN next year, but she was hestitant to pull the trigger until her injury was sufficiently behind her. “How could I when no one had figured out the cause of this hip pain so I could fix it and go on?”

Athletes worldwide have been supported by clinics like the UVA SPEED Clinic, where the goal is to work with each athlete’s unique biomechanical footprint making them the most healthy and efficient athlete possible. It’s a resource that endurance athletes should keep in the back of their minds, even if they aren’t currently experiencing any injuries.

After measuring Emily’s join and limb alignment, they carefully placed 17 reflective markers on her limbs, pelvis, lumbar and thoracic spine. She was asked to run on a force-plate instrumented treadmill so they could capture her movement (inefficiencies and all) and use this, along with a detailed injury and training history, to help determine the best course of action.

By the end of the session, Prokopy had deduced that despite equal limb lengths and a level pelvis, when Emily puts load on her right leg, her knee internally rotates. This does not happen on the left side, which, combined with her paradoxical breathing, could be contributing to her hip pain.

After showing Emily the digital images and explaining the information they yielded from her treadmill analysis, Prokopy explains his diagnosis in detail and gives her several exercises to do to correct them. He coaches her through each one, making sure she can complete each one perfectly, before having her test out her new running form outside.

Finally, three more drills are taught as she runs through the vacant parking lot to put everything together. “I want to generate long lasting improvement in her movement,” he mentions. The funny thing was that she could already feel a change for the better. “It makes me run differently,” she says. Different is good.

Before she leaves, she’s given a detailed exercise plan, a DVD of her personal data, and exercises and stretches to review when she gets home.

Dealing with an injury of any magnitude can be a frustrating process, but by following the above habits you can be on your way to full training capacity in no time.

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For many athletes, the very idea of racing an IRONMAN is daunting. The distances involved are so great that most athletes are overwhelmed and, as a result, tend to approach training with a very narrow focus (volume) while ignoring other important aspects of training.

Where to start? How rapidly should I progress? How much volume is enough? What intensities should I target? These are all questions that need to be addressed prior to creating an IRONMAN training plan, if one is to achieve success.

While focusing on being able to complete the distance may be appealing, it is only addressing one factor in the racing equation while ignoring perhaps the biggest contributor to IRONMAN racing success—intensity. If an athlete, or coach, truly wants to plan for a successful IRONMAN race, they will need to look beyond the volume approach.

Identify Your Sport-Specific TSS to Determine Your Goal CTL

This is where athletes can take their training to the next level by planning with Training Stress Score (TSS). TSS is calculated by combining the duration of a workout with its Intensity Factor® (IF), how hard the athlete worked compared to his/her functional threshold, or the maximum intensity that can be sustained for approximately one hour.

TSS allows an athlete or coach to compare the imparted training stress of workouts of different types, and even disciplines, on an “apples to apples” comparison. In this manner, overall training stress can be precisely controlled and allocated to areas that are most in need to elicit the biggest improvements in performance, without overreaching the athlete and risking illness or injury.

Because TSS is data driven, it is critically important to start off with complete and accurate data for Functional Threshold Power (FTP) or pace, as well as heart rate (HR) for each discipline (HR for swimming is not currently viable), and to test regularly to make sure your Training Stress Scores are accurate for the workouts throughout the training cycle.

Once you have reliable data to calculate TSS for your workouts you can start planning your training. The first step to successful planning of any kind is to identify both where you currently are and where you want to be at the conclusion.

I believe you should start your planning by having a target fitness level for race day. When using the Performance Management Chart (PMC), Chronic Training Load (CTL) is the measure of fitness you accumulated through your training—the six-week exponentially weighted average of your daily TSS.

You can look at past seasons and identify the CTL you achieved prior to a successful race to set a target, or, if this is your first IRONMAN race or you want to set a PR or take your racing to the next level, you can rely on general season targets that work for most, although not all, athletes (Figure 1).

These averages are sport-specific CTL targets, and are based on your cycling FTP for your bike CTL, and your running FTP (in kph) for your run CTL.

Swimming TSS is a more nebulous entity due to the variety introduced not only by technique, but also by the different conditions encountered in training – different pools, open water, temperature, drills, kicking etc., and should be determined in a more athlete-specific manner. Collecting and analyzing enough pace data from comparable pool training sets or open water swims will provide the best estimation of race day performance, CTL target and TSS for the swim.

Figure 1 Peak CTL guidelines for athletes depending on their goal (rFTPa in kph)

fig1

Credit: Triathlon 2.0 by Jim Vance

Determine Your Goal Race-Day CTL to Plan Your Training

Once you have your race day CTL Target, subtract your current CTL from it to identify your required CTL gain, then divide that number by the number of weeks to race day to determine your weekly CTL gain.

You now have overall and sport-specific weekly TSS targets to structure your training. At this time, you will also get your first important feedback in the form of the answer to the question, “Is my goal reasonable given my current fitness and the amount of time I have available to prepare?”

If your weekly CTL increase (known as your ramp rate) is within the accepted norms (Figure 2), then it is fair to say you can expect to achieve your goal with minimal risk of illness or injury from overdoing it. If it is far above that, then you will have to re-evaluate your CTL goal.

Ramp rates are individualized and dependent on past training, athlete level and goals as well as injury proclivity, although I’ve found that rates of 5 to 8 per week work for most athletes. Below that and your training is probably lacking structure and focus. Much above that and you risk injury.

Figure 2 CTL Ramp Rate guidelines based on risk of injury.

fig2

Credit: Triathlon 2.0 by Jim Vance

Using TSS/CTL Targets To Plan Specificity IRONMAN Training

Once you have calculated your CTL gain and weekly TSS targets, it’s time to start planning the specifics of your training. Depending on an athlete’s starting point, it may become apparent that one sport might need more focus than another, allowing for a very precise and efficient TSS allocation to achieve the required fitness gains without overloading the athlete and risking injury.

You should consider that 1 point of CTL is not equal among the three disciplines. Due to the weight bearing nature of running, running CTL is harder on the body than an equal amount of Cycling CTL, which is more impactful than a comparable Swim CTL. As a result, ramp rates may vary greatly among the three disciplines.

It is a good idea to incorporate race specific stress in training early on, provided the athlete has the fitness to handle the training load. TSS allows you to impart that specific stress rather than focusing on much less precise time or distance measures.

The bike leg is the longest segment by far and it will also greatly impact your ability to run well in the marathon. As a result, preparing your body to handle the rigors of the specific effort should be a priority.

An IRONMAN bike leg will usually record approx. 250 to 300 TSS (you can approximate yours by using your FTP, IF and estimated finish time), giving you a target for a specific training stimulus to plan for. Initially this can be a low intensity long duration ride, and evolve to more closely mimic race intensity and duration as the training progresses.

Swim race TSS values are much lower given the shorter duration of an IRONMAN swim leg and can therefore be more easily achieved in training, allowing you to develop the tolerance required on race day. I would not recommend reproducing race day run TSS in training, given the increased risk of injury.

IRONMAN run TSS projections can be made based on training metrics such as Intensity Factor, Functional Threshold Pace, and the Mean Maximal Pace Curve after a race TSS ride. On average an IRONMAN run will vary between 190 and 250 TSS, depending on the athlete, while IF ranges are between 0.7-0.85. With this information, you can determine the appropriate IF, and thus pace or power, you or your athlete can hold off the bike and train to achieve that goal.

Adjust Your Plan as Needed Along the Way

This approach will quickly provide answers to some important questions. Is your target run pace too aggressive for you to sustain off the bike? Can you tolerate your bike race TSS after a race equivalent swim TSS? Is your nutrition plan sufficient for the projected race day TSS? Can your body absorb the nutrition under the specific stress? You will then be able to adjust your plan, as needed, well in advance of race day giving you the confidence that you have a solid and executable race plan.

Training for an IRONMAN is daunting, but the planning does not need to be. Planning using TSS based on your individual data will eliminate guess work, simplify your training and greatly improve the probability of reaching the start line with the fitness and confidence to have your best performance.

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Like many longtime endurance athletes, 55-year-old Tony Cathcart of Queensland, Australia, had found himself in a bit of a performance rut. Despite training consistently, the ultrarunner was feeling stagnated and felt that he needed to make some adjustments to his training.

Luckily, he had a solid six months before his “A” race of the year—the Blackall Range 100K on the Sunshine Coast. As the 2017 Australian National Long Course Championship, he knew it would be a competitive field, but if he could get his training squared away he knew he had a solid performance in him.

So he reached out to U.S.-based coach Andrew Simmons of Lifelong Endurance. “Andrew is a nice guy with a good sense of humor, but I could tell that he really knew his stuff and I just liked his overall approach,” explains Cathcart.

Simmons got to work right away looking at Cathcart’s data, and right away a few things jumped out at him. “He was running too hard too often, spending a significant amount of time in Zone 3 and never really pushing hard into his upper zones,” expalins Simmons. “This also meant he wasn’t running slow on his easy days, so he was never really getting the recovery that he needed.”

Simmons also added in a strength-training regimen so Cathcart could gain durability in the later stages of his 100K. “Strength training was crucial to his success as it allowed him to stay strong late in the race while also increase his running economy and efficiency.”

Finally, Simmons adjusted Cathcart’s periodization schedule from three weeks up, one week down to two weeks up and one week down. “This gave him the ability to recover more often so he wasn’t accruing too much fatigue during his builds.”

Within six weeks, Cathcart was hitting PRs on segments he wouldn’t have been able to touch previously, and during the few months leading up to the race, Simmons built Cathcart’s Chronic Training Load (CTL) from 50 to 77. “I could see all of this improvement through my Ramp Rate in TrainingPeaks, and it was just so motivating,” says Cathcart.

After ever run, Cathcart would head home, upload his data and immediately check out his Performance Management Chart (PMC) to see how he was progressing. “It’s such a professional approach, having the ability to see your progress on your dashboard but then also getting the valuable feedback from your coach,” he says. “I mean, other apps provide you with the social aspect but with TrainingPeaks you can really get into the numbers and see where you’ve been, where you’re at and where you’ll be on race day.”

To gauge his progress further, Simmons would have Cathcart run along the same route as a tempo workout or time trial. The route featured many of the same elements, plenty of climbing and technical singletrack, that he would encounter on race day. “By doing this we could compare effort to effort and see if he was completing the route with a lower heart rate or higher pace. Plus it helped him with mental preparation for what he would encounter on race day.”

“During my taper Andrew sent me this really great email letting me know that my ramp rate and my CTL were exactly where he wanted them, and it just came at just the right moment to make me really feel ready for my race,” says Cathcart.

When the gun went off on October 20, Cathcart was rearing to go. He held a solid 14-hour pace through the 70K mark—despite severely declining conditions—and while they closed the course shortly after he passed through due to weather, because he had already made it through that section, he was allowed to finish. “I was really proud of myself for going fast enough that I wasn’t one of the unlucky ones who had to stop their race prematurely,” says Cathcart.

With a top-10 age-group finish in a highly competitive field on an extremely difficult day, Cathcart and Simmons are ready to step things up together in 2018. Cathcart will be attempting his first 100-mile race later next year, and the two have just begun his training in earnest after some much deserved time off. “My expectation is that Tony will be able to run down a Western States qualifier and get a ticket in the lottery,” says Simmons. “I’m excited to start working with him again and help him see his true potential!”

Are you in a training rut or struggling to get to that next level? Learn more about how TrainingPeaks can help you reach your goals.

The post TrainingPeaks Success Story: How This Ultrarunner Busted Through His Training Rut appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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