Are Progression Levels Too Strict?

Having been using/monitoring the PLs for awhile now it’s become quite frustrating at times the level of strictness there is when it comes to PL levels and how they don’t take any work into account other than the workout labeled zone that specifically matches the PL. With the very small margins between most levels/zones there really needs to be more crossover considerations taken into account, especially for PLs lower than the “target”. An example is Endurance which for me had dropped over another full point before today’s ride because it had been a couple weeks since I did a specific workout under the Endurance PL umbrella–I did a 2hr Boarstone ride without any issue, but it was a “Stretch” workout. I had to manually choose this ride and had I just listened to AT I would have done something less productive. This drop in my Endurance PL came after having done a lot of other rides and especially Tempo rides that have probably half the time spent in the Endurance zone, which gets ignored.

Anyway, I think there’s room for improvement in how the PLs take into account the work that’s actually being done (hint: a big piece of information is already there in every workout summary showing how much time was spent in each zone), as well as how the “trickle down” effect of work at higher intensities is categorized. After all, TR has for years said shorter SweetSpot work has trickle down effects on longer less intense rides, but that’s being ignored at present.

I don’t lay much attention to PL’s….but I am also just getting back onto TR after being outside most of the summer / fall.

Doing TBMV2 right now….did a Tempo workout yesterday for 2:15 which was labeled “productive” and that made sense. Today’s ride was a 2:15 Endurance ride that was labeled as a “Stretch” ride with significantly lower power levels. Since I easily finished yesterday’s ride, today’s ride was hardly a “stretch” but since my Endurance PL was still stupidly low, that was how it listed.

Surely a 2:15 tempo ride should also increase your endurance PL……

I am just treating PL’s as a “gamification” for now….something to watch and try and boost, but nothing I am using to influence my training.

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Agreed with what you experienced with the Tempo workout and subsequent Endurance workout, and basically feeling like having to “game” the PLs. Room for improvement for sure.

They are fine for the more intense stuff. Just don’t care about the Z2 level.

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I don’t think it is just gamification. Just knowing whether a workout is meant to be Achievable or Productive, or when choosing alternates I find PLs tremendously useful.

But you are right that Z2 PLs are not very useful in practice. The hardest 3-hour Z2 workout is probably Big Mountain at level 7.3. And to be honest, I don’t want to spend more than 3 hours on a trainer, I get very much mentally fatigued after 2:30 hours. Outdoors, I can happily put in a whole day of riding if time permits. I reckon that will only become useful once outdoor rides are scored by TR’s AT algorithms.

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Maybe you already know this, but you can pair workouts with outdoor rides and you will get credit for that. Obviously it’s up to you to decide if the ride resembled the workout enough to get the related progression levels, but it’s working well enough for me when I do actual Z2 rides outdoors

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I completely agree.

Moreover, I’d say that endurance isn’t a great application for progressions levels, especially if you don’t have a lot of time to train. For example, at the moment I’m doing TBMV1, with a bit of added volume, and my goal was to do “easy” Z2 (<70% of FTP in my eyes) for a month, albeit in a structured manner. However, unlike the old plans, there’s much more time in zone between 70 and 75% of FTP, which I guess is a result of progressions levels since AT wants me to progress without doing longer rides than expected in the plan.

I don’t remember the old TBMV1 plan, but looking at my calendar I did the HV version in the past and basically it was Warren (4.4 PL) x3 in the first week, Koip (4.8) x4 in the second, Conness (5.6) x4 in the third and Gibbs (4.9) x4 in the “recovery” week. Obviously it wasn’t a very varied plan but it was still progressive and got the job done while staying <70% of FTP. Whereas now if I look at the HV plan (considering my 5.6 endurance PL), it has a lot of time at 75% and even workouts that are just 2h straight at 75%.

IMHO this isn’t what I’d expect from the early phase of a “low-intensity Traditional approach”. However, who knows, maybe AT is right and it will get people faster this way.

I am with you all on this, but I think there is some nuance around this that makes it tricky.

The difficult part of endurance rides is the length. So, in theory, if you can do any ride of a specific length in a zone higher than endurance, you can finish an endurance ride the same length. As pointed out, finishing a 2:15 tempo ride implies that an endurance ride the same length will be relatively easy. Likewise for SS, threshold, etc.

The difficulty arises when you are in a plan and have to take everything together. Right now, I am a PL 1.2 for endurance. I know for a fact I could easily complete any endurance ride up to 2.5 hours (which would put me at 6.8). I don’t want that though. Within my plan, my endurance rides are essentially recover rides (doing SSMV1 at the moment). I’d rather keep my endurance rides around a 1.2 and do harder SS rides the following day*.

whenever I go down this path of trying to fix one thing like this, I find that it affects a whole host of other items within the software.

*I guess technically I don’t know if it would adjust my Wednesday rides if my endurance PL is a 6.8, but I am willing to bet it would.

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But are they? For example, I’m currently at 4.2 SweetSpot and 4.4 VO2Max, but because I haven’t done a specificly labeled Threshold workout in awhile it’s currently sitting at 1.2. There should be some crossover effect there. I know I could just choose a harder Threshold workout if I wanted to, but that’s not really how it “should” be. Maybe AT takes more of this into account? I’m not sure.

That’s fair. Having more control over what you choose to accept or not for AT updates would certainly help in cases like that. I’m doing HV Ironman training and I’m locked into months of a Canadian winter now so long indoor rides are kind of a necessity unfortunately. :joy:

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I ignore progression levels for anything below threshold. At the lower intensities, progression levels show what you have done rather than what you can do, so they probably shouldn’t exist. It really shouldn’t be a goal for many of us to get high levels in lower intensities, as those are often meant to be recovery days.

As for crossover, TR probably needs to assign two progression level ratings for many of the workouts. A while back, I did Palermo, a 7.3 V02 max workout (although 0% of the time is spent in V02). The intervals were at 130% for 2 min. Is that anaerobic? This one probably should have an anaerobic level as well. Meanwhile, Spencer -2, which only reaches 125% on the intervals, has an anaerobic rating, but not a V02 rating. Go figure.

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It sounds like you don’t understand the value of working on aerobic capacity/endurance.

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Thanks for the insult, but I think your comment is directed at TR. For most of us, their plans never recommend an endurance ride that is even close to a max effort. Maybe you have six hours. Perhaps you can convince them that all but their log course tri plans don’t reflect an understanding of aerobic capacity/endurance. So my endurance “progression level” has nothing to do with my endurance capacity (max) is, but rather just how easy TR thinks my recovery days/weeks should be. They recently lowered the intensities of endurance rides and recovery efforts for most plans.

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I agree for Endurance and Tempo I agree (particularly considering how little actual Tempo workouts there are in TR plans), but for Sweet-Spot, it really helps defining progressions.

I believe the progression concept is sound - there are a lot of threads here about VO2Max progressions, for example, and the AT concept addresses this.

Yes, sweet spot is somewhat of a gray area there. The plans don’t mean for us to be blasting max efforts in sweet spot, and it’s kind of misleading when some look at progression levels as what they can accomplish rather than what they should accomplish. I think that with threshold and above, the progression levels start to be much more about your abilities at your current FTP rather than just what you have done recently.

As someone who tends to have a low VO2 capability compared with threshold, I disagree as far as VO2 is concerned. And (again) with the large number of “what progression should I use for VO2Max” threads pre-AT, I don’t think I’m alone.

Apologies if you get it. Don’t think I can convince TR of anything.

TR has done a very good job with Workout Levels for all zones. Plans aside, progression levels updating and decay rates have been evolving and a moving target for months.

I wasn’t as clear as I could have been. I meant that your V02 max progression level (if you do those workouts) probably reflects your V02 max abilities at your current FTP setting. Are you saying that your V02 max progression level is above or below your V02 max capability?

I agree that the workout levels are great. I actually think they’re the most important indoor training innovation since the smart trainer. For me in the plan that I use, and most of the TR plans, the calculated progression (not workout) level has a largely different meaning based on the zone its describing. I’m following a plan. My current threshold progression level is 5.1. That ride was very hard, so its a close approximation of my threshold ability. My current endurance progression level is 3.3, but given enough time and sugar, I could probably knock out any endurance ride in the catalog. So, if you’re following the large majority of TR plans, your endurance progression level isn’t going to mean more that how easy your easy rides have been.

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Since I’m in SSBLV1 (in which there is no VO2Max), can’t (yet) answer the question. This said, I tend to require quite some time to successfully transition towards longer VO2Max intervals at a given FTP.

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