If you have the latest 3rd edition of Training + Racing with a Power Meter pull it out and read Chapter 9.
Ok, for those that can’t speed read 26 pages here are my takeaways:
there is more art than science to using PMC
there are constants that need to be adapted to each user
how much you can ramp CTL varies
while the recommendation is to taper TSB to a range between -5 and 30+ before a race, a counter example is given where 20 minute best power was achieved with TSB between -62 and -130
book recommends not applying TSB guidelines too literally
book recommends applying the art of coaching along with trial and error
book uses the analogy that PMC gives 10,000 foot view of your training
chapter concludes with “the art of coaching is alive and well” and PMC can help better predict fitness peaks and improve chances of being on form at the right time. But those aren’t guarantees just because you get precise CTL/ATL/TSB numbers on a daily basis.
For all those reasons, I’ve come to conclude that PMC is really nice for looking at general trends (just like the examples in book). In my opinion the PMC is a great tool for ramping CTL during base and mid-season rebuilds. Maybe you’ve found it amazingly accurate at predicting your future, or maybe you like the assurance of looking at seemingly precise numbers. I get it. For those of you that have PMC deeply ingrained in your training it totally makes sense that you want TR to have PMC or some variant like Strava. If you try training without PMC, just might find my conclusions above also hold true for you.
There have been many hints from TR over the past year, including this one, that if you piece them together, below is at least this is what I conclude. And FWIW, as evidenced by @Bryce post, I think TR is struggling to respond to the many obvious questions/deficiencies of their analytics because:
Their direction doesn’t require the user to understand the data
They don’t want to reveal their plan publicly at this time
So FWIW, here is my take on this situation:
TR’s “sweet spot” (no pun intended) customer is he/she who is new to structured training and, especially, new to power metrics. If this cyclist does: a) what he/she is told, b) when he/she is told, and c) how he/she is told, then he/she will become a faster cyclist. And other than testing for your FTP via the Ramp Test and plugging that number into the TR system, little needs to be understood.
Physically and mentally, the TR program is hard for new athletes, or more accurately, athletes new to hard interval training. And learning what Normalized Power means and how it differs from Average Power; what Intensity Factor means and what TSS measures (and does not) is a lot to learn for the new cyclist who doesn’t have a lot of time and just wants to get more fit and/or achieve some specific A/B race/event goals. As such, the TR staff has minimized the “need-to-know” of additional metrics beyond what is provided.
However, there are literally dozens of questions on the TR Forum that don’t get answered properly with this approach. And while TR can make this “sweet spot” cyclist Faster, it won’t make them as fast as they could be IF THEIR TRAINING WAS TUNED FOR THEM and especially if they have more time to train than implied by the TR plans (i.e. what a high quality paid coach would do for you).
Path 1: TrainerRoad approach
So directionally, to address this fundamental issue with the current TR approach today (tuning your training to make you the fastest cyclist you can be with your time available) there are two logical paths. I and many others have chosen path 2 (that I will describe later), but I will first describe path 1, where I believe TR is heading.
It is known as PREDICTIVE and ADAPTIVE TRAINING. I am not a Xert user, but as one can read in chapter 6 of Training + Racing with a Power Meter, Allen/Coggan/McGregor give huge kudos to Xert for being an early leader in this category. The gist is that is uses your entire prior performance (power levels and how well you executed your training intervals) to PREDICT what you are capable of and ADAPT your training regiment going forward.
One can learn more about it in this chapter or go to the Xert website to learn more. The one difference I expect in TR’s version of Predictive/Adaptive Training (made possible through their AI initiative) is that TR will provide substantially less analytical data for the user to need/want to understand due to its target customer.
Path 2: Knowledge [with more time to train] approach
I don’t have a good name for this approach as it generally describes what all elite coaches and highly knowledgable self-coached athlets would use. But the gist of it is that if you have more time available to train than a time crunched athlete (TR and similar programs), instead of just becoming a “A Faster Cyclist” you want to be “The Fastest Cyclists You Can Possibly Be", there is a lot to understand! And the PMC chart (ATL, CTL, and TSB) only scratches the surface.
Dr. Andrew Coggan is the “Vint Cerf of cycling metrics" (Vint developed the protcols that underly the internet). In addition to virtually all power metrics that TR users are familiar with (i.e. NP, TSS, IF, ATL, CTL, TSB), TR uses Coggan Classic power training levels. However, a further breakthrough in training occurred in 2015, with the introduction of Coggan iLevels, where he (and his co-developers) took training with power to a whole new level.
Metrics, such as: Modeled FTP (mFTP; not your FTP test, but rather derived from several points in your PDC curve over a 90 day period), Functional Reserve Capacity (FRC, a measure of your anaerobic battery), Time-to-Exhaustion (TTE; how long you can sustain your mFTP), and Stamina (a measure of your PDC tail), for example, become very important to understand. But perhaps the biggest breakthrough in his (and his co-develolopers) research came when they determined that PERFORMANCE ABOVE THRESHOLD IS NOT LINEAR, and hence, introduced Optimized Intervals. [or said differently, using a straight % of your FTP for determining above threshold workout levels (as TR and similar programs do) will not necessarily lead to optimum results].
As for software tools to use such path 2 approach, in my experience the dual combination of TP Premium and WKO4/WKO5 has been ideal.
Debatable. All the local TR users I know do not fit that profile.
Local folks I know, that get on podiums either a) follow their team’s training plan and supplement with indoor training if necessary (some TR users, some Zwift, some both), b) pay a real coach to help them achieve spots on the podium, or c) use TrainerRoad instead of paying a coach.
Path 1: Some form of TR adaptive training would be welcome.
Path 2: If you have more time, go out and ride. While WKO may provide some useful guidance on optimizing some aspects of training, it is not a training plan and what you wrote reads like a commercial or marketing hype. As a result you lost me after the first sentence.
Go look at the FTP Bell Curve for TR users. How many of your local TR users that you are referring to fall to the left of the curve, with FTPs of 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 2.5 for example?
Of course, myself included: use TR but make substantial modifications to the prescribed workouts to achieve the best results. However, to be able to do so, regardless of whether they fall in any of your 3 buckets, requires more knowledge and more time available.
Yes. As I attempted to communicate, TP Premium and WKO4/5 are software tools (not training plans) that allow knowledgeable athletes and coaches to improve upon standardized plans, such as TR (which I do) and/or develop your own workouts/plans (which I also do).
The mention of Optimized Intervals was to cite but one example how new insights Andy Coggan and have his fellow researchers have made can lead to improving upon the historical method of using straight percentages.
As for, “. . . go out and ride”: Using path 2, at age 61, with the exception of Pmax, I have literally crushed every PR I have set over the past 17 years from distances as short as 5 sec peak to 102mi/11kft century I did last weekend. And FWIW: I’ve gone from 2 bars to the right to 4 bars to the right on the TR bell curve with this approach.
Thanks Bryce, appreciate the clarity this brings. Without sounding a little disingenuous for what TrainerRoad does bring us, I’d like to know what is coming down the pike. After listening to podcasts where TR has highlighted that there is no intention of providing in-training entertainment within the product and now clarity that there is no plan to include Fitness/Form/Fatigue metrics within the product - can we be clearer as to what is being planned within the product? I get that you like to be vague to protect against competitors but give us something to look forward too. Given the recent price increase, I am not sure that a new interface in 12 months time is going to cut the mustard. Competition will hot up within Sufferfest given the recent acquisition - is TR being progressive enough?
PS. I do love the product so please do not take my comments as negative but moreso constructive on how I see the future…
Could you add some personality to adaptive notices and let me pick the style I respond to best? Take optimization to the next level! Say I respond better to insults and sarcasm - give me a Carrot app experience! Or I need tough love - talk to me like Dr Laura responds to a clueless caller. Or … … say hello to your new favorite training overlords!
Don’t need coach Chad for that. It’s simple, give up your job and train 20-30 hours a week, live above 2000m altitude and speak to Lance about the extra things you could do off the bike to boost your performance!
Here are my thoughts! First, the time period used to calculate CTL, ATL, TSB are arbitrary and (in my opinion) an oversimplification & just flat out incorrect in some cases. I think I get the most benefit from sweet spot/threshold work I did three or four weeks ago. I get the most benefit from VO2max work I did 1.5 to 2 weeks ago. I see improvement from neuromuscular work in a week or so. Different physiological energy systems have different training periods & just staring at TSS fools you into thinking something else.
I don’t detrain in a few days. Or even in a week. I can maintain a lot of fitness for quite a while by doing not too much maintenance work. The fitness/fatigue/form triumvirate fool people into thinking fitness is decaying if they don’t workout for a couple of days. And, again, different energy systems loose fitness at different rates…the arbitrary periods most folks use to track fitness/fatigue/form are an oversimplification and, well, arbitrary. Everybody intuitively understands you don’t recover from VO2max work at the same rate you would expect to recover from a similar TSS of sweetspot work…but the PMC chart doesn’t differentiate between the two.
Imagine we both want to achieve a CTL of 100. I decide to do it via one hour of threshold effort every day for the net few weeks. You decide to do it via Z2 efforts. Which of us is more likely to achieve the 100 CTL goal? Most intuitively understand the Z2 plan is more likely to achieve success but the PMC chart can’t tell the difference.
So those charts are good, better than nothing, but far from perfect. I think they cause a lot of confusion. Worse, I think they cause people to be absolutely sure about things that might not be correct.
Please send me the Strava ID of the missing activity. You can get this from the address bar when looking at it in Strava. I can see if I can find anything in the logs. There isn’t anything much you can do from your side unfortunately.
If you’re at all serious about your training then you know that CTL, ATL, and TSB are not worth much at all. If you want to get detailed those are not the metrics to be looking at.
If you want to get fast and keep it simple the TR rolling 6wk avg TSS is more than sufficient to provide you a trend line of whether you are accumulating stress over a few weeks, stagnant, or degrading.