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I'm just an average age-grouper / weekend warrior blogging about Ironman Triathlon Training and this complex puzzle of juggling life, having fun and reporting on my various feats of strength and endurance adventures!

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Training with TSS vs. hrTSS: What’s the difference?

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When athletes switch from heart rate-based training to training with power, one of the first things they often notice is how much more “stressful” workouts look with the addition of power data. So why is that? What does TSS give us that hrTSS doesn’t?

Both TSS (Training Stress Score) and hrTSS (Heart Rate Training Stress Score) help to quantify the physiological cost of an individual effort or workout. However, there are key differences in the two metrics that need to be understood when analyzing workouts, prescribing efforts, and making decisions about one’s training. We’ll take a closer look at these two training metrics, and what they both entail below.

What is TSS?

Training Stress Score is a composite number that takes into account the duration and intensity of a workout to arrive at a single estimate of the overall training load and physiological stress created by that training session.1

Simply put, it’s a way of expressing the workload from a training session. By taking both intensity and duration into account, TSS allows for a better understanding of the “cost” of every individual effort and workout. TSS is calculated using the following formula:

TSS = (sec x NP x IF) / (FTP x 3600) x 100

Where “sec” is the duration of the workout in seconds, “NP” is Normalized Power, “IF” is Intensity Factor, “FTP” is Functional Threshold Power, and “3,600” is the number of seconds in an hour.

It’s worth defining and understanding this equation so you have an idea of why TSS is so accurate, and how the final score is derived. The components that comprise TSS are what make it so useful to athletes.

Normalized Power provides a better measure of the true physiological demands of a training session. It considers both rapid changes in intensity, as well as critical responses in the body associated with those changes.

Unlike average power, Normalized Power is the power your body “thinks” it employed based on the variability of the workout. Intensity Factor (IF) is the ratio of Normalized Power to threshold power (FTP). IF takes into account differences in fitness within or between individuals.2

It’s a great way to track fitness over time for a given effort, i.e. the same ride with a lower IF indicates increased fitness. Using TSS provides a well-rounded look into both the physiological expenditure of an effort, as well as what that effort means for the fitness and progression of an athlete.

What is hrTSS?

Heart Rate Training Stress Score (hrTSS) is based on time in heart rate training zones derived from an athlete’s lactate threshold heart rate. The calculation is made using an estimate of the amount of accumulated TSS in an hour given the level of exertion.

It’s important to remember that FTP is by definition 100 TSS per hour. This makes intense, or hypervariable efforts hard to account for given the limitations of the body’s cardiovascular system to respond rapidly enough to changes in intensity.

hrTSS is used as the default in TrainingPeaks when there is not enough data to calculate TSS, rTSS (Run Training Stress Score) or sTSS (Swim Training Stress Score). It can be accurate, depending on the effort, but doesn’t do as good of a job at incorporating intensity and duration into the equation.

Why is TSS Better than hrTSS?

The primary goal of a metrics-based approach to training is to understand what the body is undergoing from a physiological perspective, and how that ultimately impacts decisions regarding your training. Understanding the stress that training puts on the body’s systems, and whether or not the desired response is being produced is integral to the modern training process. Understanding what both TSS and hrTSS are allows for a deeper discussion of the two and their merits.

If you’ve not yet taken the jump into training with power, there is some value in hrTSS. The best way to use hrTSS is with steady state efforts, such as long tempo and sub-threshold work.

These types of efforts suit the hrTSS formula because there are no abrupt changes in intensity. It’s easier to estimate hrTSS when heart rate stays steady for longer periods of time. This metric begins to fall away when shorter and more intense efforts occur. The heart doesn’t respond rapidly enough to weight efforts above threshold properly.

This makes the “cost” of the workout seem much lower than it really is. While hrTSS may be recording a more moderate range, you’ll feel much more tired given that you’ve stressed systems in the body that hrTSS couldn’t pick up on.

TSS is the best way to ensure you have a good understanding of how taxing a particular effort or workout was. By incorporating Normalized Power into the equation, we get a much more accurate sense of the effort the body actually produced.

Picking up on these fluctuations in effort also allows for a much more accurate TSS reading. This not only is helpful in understanding a single workout, but influences core metrics such as Fitness, Form, Fatigue and ramp rate.

A more accurate Training Stress Score not only means you’ll have a better understanding of your workout, but you will likely also have a more productive approach to your planning, recovery, and execution.

The metrics that we have at our disposal help to inform our workouts, as well as help to execute them with a greater level of precision. Knowing how the metrics we rely on are calculated, and why it is we should trust one more than the other is important for any athlete.

TSS provides the most accurate picture of how both individual sessions and specific efforts impact the body. While hrTSS can help to quantify steady state efforts, it does not do a good job of highlighting the often stochastic nature of exercise. Using TSS will lead to more accurate planning and a better understanding of each workout.

The post Training with TSS vs. hrTSS: What’s the difference? appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

How to Use WKO4 to Identify a Sprinter’s Strengths and Weaknesses

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As a coach, I am always looking for more effective ways to individualize training. Power meters have not yet been used to their full potential in creating actionable data for long-term improvements in sprinting.

Fortunately, WKO4 is flexible enough that coaches and athletes can develop their own tools to better match the abilities of a rider to the demands of target events that require maximum power output.

In assessing endurance training through power files, we can track aerobic and metabolic fitness markers such as VO2max and FTP. However, if we take a similar approach with peak power, we can’t rely on power data alone.

In order to understand the limiters of sprinting to create effective training plans, we have to understand how we achieve maximum power by looking at its components: torque and cadence.

Each athlete has a range of optimal cadence for the best sprint performance. We can see this by graphing an athlete’s peak power for a range of cadences.

In the chart below, cadence is reported every 10 rpm but includes data +/- 5 rpm, which is sufficient for most cycling disciplines except perhaps track sprinting.

Therefore the 120-rpm point is the peak power achieved for 115-125 rpm. This particular athlete is capable of producing close to his peak power between 95 and 125 rpm.

01001-use-WKO4-to-identify-a-sprinters-strengths-and-weaknesses-blog-Image1

The pedal stroke is another important tool in understanding how power develops. Power and force do not turn on and off like a light switch, but develop with time. While sprinting, within half a pedal stroke (one leg covering 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock), power and force reach their peaks about when the cranks are generally level to the ground and then drop off again to near zero. This is illustrated in the graphic below from Pardyjak et al 1.

01001-use-WKO4-to-identify-a-sprinters-strengths-and-weaknesses-blog-Image2

The final component of understanding sprint performance is recognizing that force applied to the pedals is limited by maximum strength. However, strength improvements are velocity specific2.

Given that heavy lifting occurs at rather slow contraction speeds compared to sprinting, athletes who are only good at lifting heavy weights may not be good sprinters, because they lack sufficient rate of force development (RFD, how quickly force develops during the pedal stroke).

Our takeaway here is that it’s not only important how much force an athlete can apply, but how fast the force develops over time. RFD is the velocity limiter.

How fast do athletes need to develop force while sprinting? At 120 rpm, the time between the lowest and highest pedal force is about 0.125 seconds (from about 12 o’clock to 3 o’clock). Once an athlete maximizes RFD in this time range, maximum strength is the limiter, and then we’re back to how much force the athlete can apply. Endurance coaches will see a similarity with the interplay between FTP and VO2max.

Most power meter recording happens at one-second intervals that do not capture the nuance of RFD during each pedal stroke. Fortunately, WKO4 is flexible enough that we can still see how fast an athlete can develop power at sprinting cadences.

The force-velocity curve is my main tool to assess whether a sprinter’s main limiter is strength or speed. Since power is force x velocity (in units, W=N(m/s)), we can graph pedal force in Newtons (AEPF, average effective pedal force) against pedal speed in m/s (CPV, circumferential pedal velocity).

Reported with the curve are the x-intercept (m/so), y-intercept (Fo), and slope of the force-velocity curve (Sfv). These are not meant to be predictive but to be used to compare performances over time. For instance, when an athlete’s RFD increases, so does m/so while Fo remains about static, because force at higher cadences will increase, raising the value of the x-intercept.

01001-use-WKO4-to-identify-a-sprinters-strengths-and-weaknesses-blog-Image3

Below are a sprinter’s force-velocity curves for the baseline (summer road season), strength base (fall), and strength-speed build (winter) periods.

01001-use-WKO4-to-identify-a-sprinters-strengths-and-weaknesses-blog-Image4

We see during the strength base period that force at low pedal velocity (<1.25 m/s) increases. This is because adaptations to strength training are specific to muscle contraction velocity, which we see as cadence or CPV. Heavy-lifting velocities are well under 1 m/s, so one would not expect more than a modest increase, if any, at higher velocities.

The inclusion of high-velocity work both in the gym and on the bike leads to an increase in the force-velocity curve, resulting in a slope similar to pre-training. To see this periodization directly as power, we can look at the power-cadence curve shown previously.

01001-use-WKO4-to-identify-a-sprinters-strengths-and-weaknesses-blog-Image5

During the base and build periods, power in the 120 rpm range (remember the graph actually shows 115-125 rpm) increased only about 50 watts, while power at low cadences increased dramatically, particularly in the 50-60 rpm range, a leg speed similar to heavy lifting.

The addition of speed training to raise the athlete’s RFD increased power at 120 rpm by about 220 watts. There were no increases of strength during this period.

To track sprint training load over time and to see the minimum work required to increase or maintain Pmax, I created the following chart to see the kilojoules burned in Coggan’s iLevels Pmax and Pmax/FRC. I call this sprint TSS, or sTSS.

Additionally, there are sCTL and sATL, which act like the familiar CTL and ATL values used to track overall training load, but the constants are adjusted to reflect appropriate periods of adaptation and recovery. Comparing these with Pmax, we can follow trends like we would when comparing CTL and FTP.

01001-use-WKO4-to-identify-a-sprinters-strengths-and-weaknesses-blog-Image6

(Special thanks to William Renfroe for his help in writing the expressions used in these charts.)

 

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The Best of 2017: Our Top 5 Nutrition Articles

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Is there a greater nutritional minefield than the holidays? We think not. If you’re searching for your plan of attack for how to slim down in the New Year, or just some advice for how to plan your nutrition better for your next race, our top articles have all the info you need to get that scale moving in the right direction. Now, put that cookie down slowly and walk away …

1. Your 14-step Guide to Weight Loss During Base Training by Lynda Wallenfels

If the only thing holding you back from that PR is a few lbs, then follow this 14-step guide for losing weight safely, even as your mileage begins to tick up during base training.

2. Why Carbohydrate is the King for Endurance Performance by Ted Munson, MSc

Proper nutrition is often the missing piece of a successful performance. While there are numerous theories on the subject, here is a definitive guide to understanding how carbohydrates fuel our bodies.

3. Are You Eating Enough? By Lindsay Zemba Leigh

While leaning up before a race can lead to faster results, there is a fine balance between race weight and taking in too few calories to see optimal performance. Here’s how to identify whether or not your everyday fueling practices are giving you the energy you need to stay energized, maintain muscle and prevent a slower metabolism.

4. The Peter Attia Approach to Dieting for Endurance Athletes by Paul Laursen

Many endurance athletes have found success with a lower carbohydrate diet that puts an emphasis on fat oxidation. Here’s the first in our two-part series on the subject that outlines whether or not this diet might be beneficial for you, and if so where to begin.

5. What Your Body Actually Needs During Different Types of Endurance Exercise by Andy Blow

Are you clear on how to hydrate and fuel during a 10K, but don’t know where to start when it comes to a 70.3? Here’s our simple guide to understanding how to plan your hydration and fueling needs, based on the length of activity.

Need more tips and workouts to fuel your 2018 racing and training goals? Check out the rest of our year-in-review series, including our top-five articles about cycling, multisport, running and strength training, and learn more about how TrainingPeaks can help you reach your goals.  

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The Best of 2017: Our Top 5 Strength Training Articles

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Lifting weights has been proven to increase power, off-set muscle loss due to age, prevent osteoperosis, and even lengthen your life span—so why are you still avoiding the weight room? We’ve got all you need to get started with or improve upon your strength routine with these articles on functional strength, isometrics and more.

1. Build Triathlon Specific Strength with Functional Isometrics by Tim Crowley

Functional isometric training is a great way to add variety to your strength routine, while increasing durability and power within the swim, bike and run movement patterns. Here is a routine with specific functional isometric movements for the swim, bike and run.

2. 4 Foam Rolling Tips for Endurance Athletes by Alison Hanks Naney

Foam rolling, when done as a part of a well-rounded strength and recovery program, can help increase blood flow and increase your range of motion. Here are four foam rolling tips for optimizing your time on the mat.

3. VIDEO: Endurance Roundup- Single Leg Movements by Mike Ricci

These two single-leg movements can be done anywhere, and are a great way to improve your pedal stroke power and running gait efficiency.

4. Functional Training: How to Strength Train for Movement Not Muscle by Allie Burdick

Functional training, which entails strengthening the specific muscles used for a particular sport, is a great way to get more bang for your buck in the weight room. Here are some great examples of functional training exercises you can do to mimic the movement patterns of swimming, biking and running.

5. Integrating Strength Work During Race Season by Taylor Thomas

Many endurance athletes run to the weight room during the off-season, but then bolt right back out again once racing season begins. Here’s how to balance your strength training during race season so it still maintains its effectiveness without getting in the way of your sport-specific training and racing.

Need more tips and workouts to fuel your 2018 racing and training goals? Check out the rest of our year-in-review series, including our top-five articles about cycling, multisport, running, and nutrition, and learn more about how TrainingPeaks can help you reach your goals in 2018.

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The Best of 2017: Our Top 5 Cycling Articles

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If the weather outside is frightful, now is the perfect time to set up that indoor trainer and let the good times roll. Check out some of our most popular trainer workouts, and get inspired to increase your FTP after reading about how Cannondale-Drapac’s Rigoberto Urán clinched the runner-up spot during this year’s Tour de France.  

1. 3 Trainer Workouts to Beat the Holiday Madness by Lindsay Zemba Leigh

If cramming in that indoor session in between trips to the mall and obligatory holiday office parties seems impossible—don’t fret. All you need is one of these holiday-inspired sessions to blow off some steam and incinerate some of those gingerbread cookies you’ve been enjoying so much. The best part? Each workout is a hour or less!

2. 5 Trainer Workouts to Help You Stay Fresh This Winter by Chris Baddick

There are some advantages to being stuck indoors on a trainer. Yes, it means you can finally get caught up on Game of Thrones, but it also means you can focus on some technique and strength work that might otherwise be unsafe out on the open road. Try one of these five workouts to dial in your skills and build early season strength and speed.

3. All-Out Miracle Intervals to Improve Average Power by Gale Bernhardt

Whether you’re in the middle of racing season or just looking to improve your power ahead of next year, by balancing some easy sessions with this once-a-week all-out interval ride, you’ll see a bump in your average power in as little as six weeks.

4. 5 Simple Ways to Increase Bike Power by Tyrone Holmes

If you’re looking to improve your racing results, there is no better way than by increasing your ability to push higher watts over a given distance. In the first of our two-part series, we highlight some detailed drills, workouts and techniques for increasing your bike power output.

5. Stage 19-20 Power Analysis: Rigoberto Urán’s Road to Glory by Stephen Gallagher

In what turned out to be a highly eventful year at Le Tour, Team Cannondale-Drapac pulled out several unexpected, knock-out performances. Chief among them was dark horse GC contender Rigoberto Urán, who clinched the runner-up spot after a decisive final time-trial in Marseille. Here we outline several power files from the team’s top riders as they made their way toward the Champs-Élysées.  

Need more tips and workouts to fuel your 2018 racing and training goals? Check out the  rest of our year-in-review series, including top-five articles about multisport, running, nutrition, and strength training, and learn more about how TrainingPeaks can help you reach your goals.  

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