Coming to TR from unstructured volume -- how to think about TSS for event prep?

I’ve been riding fairly consistently for many years, usually around 10k miles per year – so not a this-is-my-job-level volume, but a consistent dedication to getting out on the bike ~6 times a week. I’ve dabbled with workouts, but I’d say that this is all largely unstructured riding. And while I’ve learned to balance out intensities during the week to allow for recovery, I’d say I’ve failed to ever really train effectively for anything. After what feels like years now of spending a lot of time on the bike without anything to show for it, I’ve decided to actually try to train – to ride smarter, not harder. So I’m giving TR a try and so far I’m really enjoying the adaptive training system, the user-friendly interface & helpful videos (especially for someone relatively novice at sports training concepts). And have been a big fan of the podcast for awhile now – that’s a large part of my decision to sign up for the platform.

My first target race is the Croatan 150 race on March 18th. This is 150 miles of relatively flat gravel; I’m targeting somewhere around 8 hours (based on how folks I ride with have placed in previous years). I’m on the mid-volume plan. I selected that race as a “Gravel” event (first did TT, since it’s flat, but I think gravel is probably more correct given race dynamics and sustained zone 2-3 efforts?).

So, my over-arching question here is: How should I interpret the TSS metric in this new-to-me world where a significant percentage of my rides are structured workouts?

I know that TSS is not a first-class metric that TR is using to plan things out. I selected mid-volume plan, as my understanding is that it is recommended to choose lower-volume plan and add in endurance work (vs. trying to take out work from a high-volume plan). Leading into TR, my rolling average weekly TSS from outdoor rides was usually 1000-1200, but the TR plan is prescribing less than half of that. Seeing the planned TSS plummet like that on the chart is leaving me a little worried that I’m doing something wrong. I don’t want to sabotage my training for my upcoming event by doing insufficient work, but I also know that just adding TSS without structure has never done anything useful. And I know that keeping the same amount of volume with the addition of structure would probably be really exhausting. And it’s certainly possible I’ve just accepted a state of constant fatigue as normal :slight_smile:

So, more specifically:

  • Should I try to be maintaining that higher (e.g. 1000+) weekly TSS by adding in endurance work to the structure? And back off if I start to fail to complete workouts or have other signs of fatigue?
  • Or should I simply trust the plan and accept that the “smarter not harder” approach here means I might actually be generating less TSS but this isn’t going to make me slower [hopefully, the opposite!]? If so, what sort of value to I gain by adding extra endurance – how much before I’m just wasting my time?
  • And slightly tangentially, I remember hearing in recent podcast that rides of over a few hours in duration are probably not doing anything useful for me training-wise. I was considering replacing SS workouts on weekend with some longer-duration endurance rides — e.g. century rides in Zwift – as a way to train the body for being on the bike for 8 hours. (Partially to train nutrition, but I would have previously also assumed that just doing a number of rides like this would have been good preparation for an event of that duration.)

I appreciate any insight; I’ve been listening to the podcast (love it!) for awhile now, but I’m new to the platform and new to the discipline of structured training. I’m pretty sure I’m thinking about this all wrong :slight_smile: Sorry, this was longer than intended; thanks in advance for any pointers!

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Welcome to trainerroad! where overthinking is the norm.

this is purely personal experience and also listening to a few TR podcasts so please, take it with a grain of salt:

If I were to do purely outdoor rides, I would roughly be around 400 -500 TSS. Indoor-wise, I would be doing 250 - 320. I know from experience that if I do back-to-back weeks of 400 TSS indoors only I will 100% get sick. so you need to understand what your body can cope with that is sustainable.

You need to focus on quality not quantity. you should feel tired at the end of your rides but never fatigued and unmotivated. Recovery is just as important as training. The thing with overdoing is it will suck on the first week, and when you get to that 3rd, 4th, 5th week right before recovery, you will probably fall off a cliff. it sucks when every ride is a challenging ride. indoor riding is already hard however it shouldn’t be killing yourself hard just because you can.

it’s much better to go up in volume (by adding endurance workouts) rather than failing miserably and stepping down in volume. this will undoubtedly derail your training plan and affect you mentally.

whatever plan you go for, try it and stick to it for 4 - 6 weeks, if it still feels way too easy, then step up but gradually do so as again, sustainability and consistency is much more important than big numbers.

I hope these pointers help.


Sorry, just reread your post and you mentioned 18th March is your race date. which means you have 2 months to train and taper. 2 more additional things to think about is you need to make sure that you don’t overdo things and get sick (or other life stresses) and you need to have a certain amount of freshness before your race.

since you have identified zone 2 - 3 as your race specific training, I would monitor the 2 hour - 3 hour power PR’s on the analysis page and get that as high as possible before tapering down for the race.

I hope any of this was useful to you.

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Thank you! – Yes, really appreciate these insights. Yes, probably ideally I’d have started TR further in advance of this event; I’d been doing what I thought was just “base” for awhile leading into the year – but since it was unstructured, that really just meant “not caring” to me :slightly_smiling_face: and wouldn’t have necessarily been strictly endurance, etc.

Anyway, thanks again – very helpful.

What type of riding have you been doing and for how many hours per week? You have been averaging twice as much TSS as me, but ridden 25% fewer miles. Granted I live in a somewhat flat area, but it isn’t that flat.

I don’t think these two statements align…1000-1200 Weekly TSS is a LOT. Are you sure your FTP is set correctly? Seems like you have it set too low based on this info.


Ah ha – I think you’ve identified the problem!

I’m putting pieces together and concluding that when TR just guessed my FTP (I said “I don’t know” – even though I had an idea, as I wanted to do a ramp test to set a baseline), it picked a very low value and then applied that single value historically. I.e., before I had completed the ramp test, I guess it was importing old rides and applying that low-ball guess to my entire ride history (?)

That explains this graph and leaves me feeling a lot better.

But then the question is: how can I correct that historical inaccuracy? I might have hoped that TR would have adjusted FTP based on what it observed in files vs. assuming I’m a super-human :slight_smile:

For reference, I think it guessed my FTP to be around 213 and then ramp test put me at 304. (Though I suspect that is also a little low due to just being fatigued taking the test – Xert estimate has been fluctuating in the 315-320 range for a number of months. Anyway, I figured AI FTP would fix this for me [after the requisite number of workouts].

@Torneng , I think this also explains the TSS discrepancy. (It is hilly here, but not that hilly!)

You can delete FTP history… just hit the FTP Change “edit” button on the top right of the career page.

As for your volume, you should expect some drop as you increase intensity but you are used to high volume, I would not do any drastic cuts especially as your event is 150 miles. If you like riding that long and are used to it AND can still do quality why not? Just make sure you recover.

As for the really long rides… you do need to prep your body to be in the saddle that long but there is a point of no return. Your volume over the years will serve you well here.

Best of luck!!


Thank you – hugely helpful. I’ll go fix FTP history, which it sounds like should make the drop in TSS much less extreme and make it more plausible to actually keep up that level of TSS by adding in endurance, etc.

Thanks again to everyone for the help.

Edit: yes, after adding a new historical FTP value (Strava has some history of this, though it has apparently never changed for me over the years :thinking: ), the graph looks much, much better!

Thanks again @Power13 for putting me on the right track and @Jolyzara for the tips on fixing this.