New to TR - volume/intensity worries, not enough?

Just to be clear, even if you had more granularity with the power curve, I’m not sure how useful it is. For example, when I ride outdoors, I rarely go really all-out on shorter bits, after all, I still want to enjoy the rest of the ride and not limp home. Indoors, I only do workouts, and they are not designed to push me to the limit. So most of my data is not useful for the power curve (at least not for its intended purpose.

And even if I had a good amount of proper all-out efforts, I am still not sure most people can easily draw useful information out of it.

Maybe we are talking about semantics here, but I don’t think marketing pushes FTP as much as you say they do, IMHO it is that FTP has for the longest time been the only performance metric that is easy to grasp and front-and-center in TR.

(Arguably, PLs still cannot be used to track performance since AFAIK TR does not allow athletes to plot their PLs over time, you’d have to track them manually.)

Why is that absurd? I think it is more difficult to finish PL9 sweet spot workouts than PL5 workouts, and that this reflects a difference in fitness.

The reason why I am saying PLs are not a performance metric — or perhaps a non-ideal performance metric — is that allow no comparison between very different levels of FTPs as well as a number of other, more subtle reasons, most of which are specific to particular energy levels. (E. g. endurance PLs are limited by my time on the trainer, not my fitness.)

Even if PLs were based on full ride data (i. e. including outdoor rides) and it’d accurately reflect your life bar/number of matches at a given power, it still isn’t clear whether a lower FTP and very high PL is better or worse than a 5 % higher FTP and lower PL. Probably that is because the answer is a clear “It depends!”

As far as I understood the official TR messaging, PLs (and workout levels) were meant to fulfill both roles, that of a tool to help you select a suitable workout and as a performance metric. But it was not presented as a performance metric alone.

IMHO TR’s next big frontier, after releasing the scoring algorithm for unstructured rides, are performance metrics. Depending on the plan you choose, they should choose suitable metrics. Ideally, users could tweak the emphasis, too, but that might be too hard for an initial release. One metric that they should implement ASAP, though, is training consistency. Training consistency is probably one of the few metrics that is relevant no matter what your goals are, no matter whether you follow a polarized or a sweet spot-centric plan, etc. It is also easy to quantify and the numbers are easy to understand.

Not interested in a big time back and forth with you here. I’ve said my piece. I am not a TR user any longer. I recognize that many people are, and I will never badmouth TR as a product. I’ll only point out some of its limitations in relevant discussions.

The reason saying “progression levels moving up is an indication that you are faster” is absurd is because PL is based largely upon TSS. TSS is a made-up metric with some serious limitations that should not be the primary driver of your training plan. Your training shouldn’t be designed in such a way to make sure that TSS goes up a certain amount every week, or that CTL progresses up and up and up. Progression levels ensure that the tail is wagging the dog. That’s the reason that no coach worth their salt was the least bit concerned when Nate proclaimed that AT and progression levels would make coaching (the workout selection bit of it, anyway) obsolete. It is a gross oversimplification of the training plan design process to simply say that the goal of a training plan is to grow TSS/CTL. If you wanna do that, bang out tons of long sweet spot work… you can get a big TSS/CTL that way… you can also train yourself into the ground that way, too. TSS/CTL progression are the outcome of intelligently designed training plans, not the other way around.

If your PLs are going up, are you getting faster? Maybe. Are the workouts you’re doing harder? Probably. Is that a good thing for you right now and based on your goals? It depends. Are you recovering well and adapting to those harder workouts? That’s how you actually get faster (and TR leaves a lot to be desired in their “recovery weeks” IMO)… and the only way to get faster is to actually check your performance… or are you just bludgeoning yourself with slightly harder workouts week after week? You’re not faster because your XXX progression level went up by 0.5 this week. (I think you agree with me on that).

There’s a reason, even with AT at the helm, that you still have a number of people coming on this forum on the edge of burnout and wondering what’s gone wrong after TrainerRoad worked for them for XX number of months or years or seasons. AT/PL doesn’t address that nor fix it. I have little doubt that it’s better than the half-dozen or so plans TR had before AT/PL, but it is hardly the panacea the marketing makes it out to be, IMHO.

It works for you? Good, I am glad. Stick with it! :beers:

Again, the CEO has been known to limit the addition of metrics to those that in the team’s view help you “get faster”. I wouldn’t be holding my breath for the addition of metrics like EF, decoupling, FRC/W’ and other metrics people use to determine their fitness based on performance (not based on workout completion).

Anyway, I sound like I’m bashing TR here. Not my intent. TR is probably the best value in cycling training for many, many people.

Wasn’t that the default outside of the TR world?

Of course, TSS is a flawed metric, but I think every metric has its downsides that come into play as soon as you want to balance volume and intensity during training. I’ve never been coached on the bike, but my impression was that many (most?) coaches use Training Peaks to manage interactions with their athletes, and CTL progression was one of the things essentially baked into TP. CTL is used, to my understanding, as a way to quantify how quickly you ramp up the difficulty. I don’t think or train in terms of CTL, so I don’t have a strong opinion. But my understanding is that people who use CTL when creating training plans, they know about the limitations and take them into account. FWIW, this is also true for TR, if memory serves, they said that their plans used to be based more on a TSS ramp, but their AT-enabled training plans use dynamic ramping rates for base and build. Speciality phase seems to follow widely accepted principles, too, less volume, more intensity specific to the plan and discipline you have chosen.

Maybe we can turn this around: what are useful performance metrics for you and why? I know you have a deep background, and despite my criticism that TR lacks good performance metrics, apart from consistency I’d struggle to tell them what performance metrics specifically they should add for a given plan. (Or what metrics users should keep an eye on with third-party tools.)

I’d even struggle to come up with useful metrics for myself even though I have set myself specific training goals for the season.

The point isn’t that TSS is totally useless; it’s that intelligent training plan design looks at TSS / CTL AFTER the plan is designed, almost like a check sum. TSS is not the primary driver of progression. If you’re writing a training plan targeting a specific CTL rather than the actual performance measures like volume, ride duration, time in zone, power, pace, etc., the event(s) demand, you’re doing it wrong. (IMO)

In base training, Efficiency Factor, and to a lesser extent power progression in testing and heart rate decoupling at longer and longer durations.

EF is NP/HR over a certain period. I track this for long endurance rides, generally sub-LT1 riding, but I also run a test at ~LT1/aerobic threshold periodically on my athletes. Duration is relevant to their goal events, so crit racers do 45min, longer road races do 90 min or more. I track EF at a specific HR over the course of time and expect it to go up as an indication that their base training is on track. When that starts to level off, I can shift up their training. I watch it on rides of 3hrs and longer as well, and expect it to go up over the course of weeks and months of base training.

Decoupling, I’m watching how much HR and power decouple from each other on long rides. Most riders will decouple some after about 3 hours, but that can be trained, and if you can get it to start going down at longer and longer durations, you have an indication of better endurance and again, effective base training. Duration is relevant, again.

Of course, performance in testing. I use the PDC, I also personally do long-form threshold tests (hour power, e.g.), and of course you expect power to go up over time until you bump into a ceiling.

Once you get beyond that kind of base aerobic training, it really depends on the athlete as to what I’m tracking. Might be 3 min power. Might be 20 min or 50 min power. Might be Pmax or 15s power, might be sprint or 5min power after 1500kJ of work is done… hell, I have athletes for whom I watch their average cadence on long rides because they’re grinders. In a way, I watch FRC, but FRC is kinda made up too, and is just a function of repeatability at high power, so I think you can get a lot out of just going hard repeatedly and doing it a max effort, then watching for power and/or number of completed efforts to go up. (Which has nothing to do with targeting a % of FTP, by the way…)

It really just depends. (I’m not a scientist, I don’t have a lab… I use field metrics that are available to anyone with a power meter and HRM.)

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Consistency is key for sure. I would venture to guess most or a lot of people would benefit from riding more.

Just to be clear, I didn’t claim it was useless, just that the limitations seem to be known by the people who use it.

Can I ask you for some clarification here? I am not sure how this metric is particularly useful: let’s say for the sake of arguments, I’m tracking this metric for my endurance rides. When my FTP (and consequently Z2 power) increases, but the heart rate stays the same, the ratio increases. Likewise, the ratio increases, when I can manage the same power output at a lower heart rate. So far so easy. However:

  • Comparing performance across seasons seems to be hard to impossible if my FTP has changed significantly. E. g. in 2019, I peaked at an FTP of 311 W, last year it was 342 W, a difference of about 10 %. My heart rate zones have remained more or less what they were. So hypothetically, if I rode 70 % 2019 FTP in 2019 at 126 bpm (i. e. quite fit for the time), then this roughly corresponds to 70 % 2022 FTP at 140 bpm. How do you compare EF across seasons, especially when you don’t yet know what your peak figures are?
  • Factors like weather can significantly influence heart rate. E. g. when we enter summer in Japan, my heart rate spikes until I get acclimatized. And even when I get used to warmer temperatures, when I ride in the heat, my body really does need to expend more energy on cooling. How do you factor in weather and other things that may influence your heart rate without being an indicator of worse performance?
  • The numerical values seem very much tied to individuals, especially at higher power levels: my heart rate is probably on the lower end, but I know that max heart rate (across individuals) has no bearing on performance. Someone else with a high max heart rate can be equally (un)fit.

This seems more like a metric that I do use quite regularly, but only for myself, heart rate elasticity: how long does it take for my heart rate to cross 130 bpm after a work interval? At 40 % FTP when I am fit, it is 70–90 seconds, being close to 90 seconds even after the last interval of a hard workout.

What is PDC?

I have trouble seeing the utility in many situations. I of course understand that if you are a racer and a critical feature in your A race is a 20-minute climb, then yeah, you should make that a metric. But I think a lot of people struggle with what I’d call “resilience” and repeatability. For example, what if when fresh I am super great at this 20-minute effort, but within a race I cannot put in this 20-minute effort without destroying my performance afterwards? Or what if within a race repeated surges break you? Looking at these numbers after having put out 1,500 kJ might be more indicative of resilience.

(I’m particularly interested, because in my case I’m very happy with my growth in power, but I’d like to focus more on repeatability and resilience.)

PS Please do not interpret my questions as criticizing your metrics or somehow trying to argue you are wrong. I’d just like to learn, and part of that is to understand how you handle the limitations. No single metric is (and can be) perfect.

EF has nothing to do with FTP. You track it for certain types of rides, specifically the long Z2 endurance rides. EF goes up across seasons with improved fitness. If you’re doing a 3 hour Z2 ride in 2021 at EF of 1.15 and you do the same 3 hour Z2 ride in 2022 at 1.22, you’ve gotten fitter. Your ability to ride long durations at low intensity (I call this “durability”) has improved. That’s what base training is all about!

You make notes in your training log to indicate outlier performances. As you acclimate to the heat, this effect becomes negligible. Three weeks ago, riding in 80+ degree heat my EF was 1.11 on a long ride, lower than previous weeks. Was my fitness worse? Of course not. It was hotter than it had been. Now I’ve ridden that way for the last six or so long rides, and my EF is back above where it was previously - my durability has improved.

I don’t use it at high power levels. HR becomes less and less useful, particularly above threshold because it doesn’t stabilize.

Power Duration Curve. Literally how much power you have put out in whatever time period (30 days, 60 days, 500 days) at given durations of 1s out to your longest ride.

That’s why I said It depends. :slight_smile:

If you’re training for a race with multiple climbs, then things like 20 min power after 1500 or 2500kj expended is key. If you’re a crit racer who trains for breakaways, you might only need to do 20 min power once and what you can do once is what matters, or your sprint after an hour around threshold might be more important to track.

If you get dropped on surges, odds are good that your aerobic fitness is lacking, you need to raise FTP or just get more aerobically fit. If you’re 5W/kg and a 70 VO2max already, then that’s probably not true and it might be repeatability in which case THAT becomes about “last week you did 500W for 1 minute three times on 2 minutes tempo recovery, this week, we do it four times.” etc.

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I don’t follow: FTP determines your power zones, so it determines what it means to be in a certain zones. The zones depend linearly on FTP, so if I raise my FTP by 10 % and I ride at IF=0.70 in two rides and the heart rate stays the same, my EF increases by 10 % even if I’d say my fitness is the same.

If I understand you correctly, you compute EF for a given fixed power, say, 230 W. On the one hand, I understand why then EF is lower. But on the other, this isn’t how I (or many others) train: I either train by power, which is relative to my FTP. Or I go by heart rate. In a sense, I keep either the IF fixed or the denominator fixed.

Yes, sure. I guess I am not clear on the actual value on the numerical value you are tracking here. When it is hot and, say, I do an endurance ride by heart rate, I know why I am slower and I usually make a workout annotation to that effect. Or, an important factor I did not mention, whether I train indoors or outdoors, I don’t expect the heart rates to be the same.

But it seems like a metric that needs a lot of context in order to be properly understood. Not a criticism, just trying to understand here.

That hasn’t been my experience. I don’t want to introduce too much anecdata into the discussion, but e. g. at one of my all-time power PRs, I did 117 % FTP for 6:50 minutes at 159 bpm, and I had gas left into the tank (I went for a popular Strava segment during a ride, but had 50 km left to go home and didn’t want to destroy my legs). My average heart rate across that segment was lower than the 158–163 bpm I’d expect to see during a threshold effort.

At least for me heart rate at threshold and heart rate recovery have proven to be two important metrics to gauge my fitness.

EF is normalized power / HR and he has mentioned a few times it’s for zone 2 riding. Not a fixed power number.

It’s not just looking at what your heart rate is at 230 watts, but over a longer interval.

Not that I’m trying to get mixed in here, but your example or riding above threshold for 7 minutes and your heart rate being at threshold is why you look at EF for longer distances and it’s meaningless above threshold (mostly….). When you did that effort:

A. Wasn’t long enough to be compared a true “threshold” interval (think 12-15 minutes at a minumum).

B. There is considerable lag for heart rate. You basically did a V02 effort (if your FTP was set correctly) but the average HR for that effort ended in your usual “threshold” zone for heart rate because of the lag that is inherent to heart rate.

Which is why training by power is superior to HR. But HR can be looked at post-hoc in certain situations to track fitness (like looking at your heart rate as it compared to normalized power over a 3 hour endurance ride from one day/week/month/year)

Just my two cents. But @kurt.braeckel is steady dropping knowledge bombs on this forum.

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Recently I took a break from cycling, just a few months. When I came back I exclusively did TR Mid-Volume using AT. My finding is that while TR did help get me back to a point where I could resume riding with my normal groups the volume would not be enough to help me excel.

For example, my Tuesday TR ride might be 100-115 TSS, the group ride is 250-289, same for Thursday, weekend ride (Saturday) would be 125-135 on TR, but >300 outside. I realize that if I don’t stick with the group rides I won’t get back to my old race performance levels.

That aside, TR has done wonders to get me back up to speed, and if only sticking to the plan then it would be hugely advantageous to add a lot more Z2 volume.

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I might be way off here, so hopefully @IvyAudrain could clarify for me if so, but I don’t think PL’s are determined by TSS.

As a super quick rough and ready example, reference Reynolds and Rubicon+2 or Starr King.

I agree with a lot of what you say regarding different training options, I hope TR also implements in the future plans the option of choosing between easy/endurance days (specifying number of hard day’s). I don’t think it’s an easy solution though as I’m picking a lot of the silent majority don’t need/want to spend most of their time at Z2.

First World problems we face eh :upside_down_face:

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Strictly speaking, they probably aren’t only tied to that because obviously there are outliers. Hopefully some smart humans put some thought into the progressions and workout levels. But the end effect is you progress every workout every week and continuously grow CTL until the AI box tells you your FTP goes up based on the workouts the AI box prescribed you and you start over again, all while not really recovering (because TR recovery weeks are just lower volume endurance weeks, not actually recovery). Regardless of how you parse it, intensity progression for the sake of progression results in stagnation.

I take your point about every workout, every week increasing in difficulty being an issue. That’s not been my experience to be honest, my Friday is always easier than Monday and/or Wednesday.

I guess the biggest difference between TR and paying a coach is that a decent coach can read between the lines or watch metrics to gauge fatigue, whereas TR relies on honest self-reporting.

To be honest having done some coaching, paid for coaching, and obviously talking with many athletes over the last two decades there’s a vast number of people who get little back from a coach. People are often inclined to do too much, TR just needs a way of better altering the plans to all the extra stuff people add in.

It’d be an interesting statistic to know what proportion of athletes follow TR/AT without adding in extra riding, and whether those people are also burning out.

Anyway, I wasn’t supposed to be getting into the debate, I was just chiming in with regards the PL’s as it was something I’d noticed a while back as I’m always sitting in the very high SS and moderately high Thresh PL’s and can say noticed the big difference between say 1x40 and 4x10 (as a rudimentary example).

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What should recovery weeks look like in your mind?

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You bring a great point. Following my post above, the TR plan would be a much more gradual increase. My CTL increase just following TR was very linear. Now going back to my group rides which have almost 2.5-3x more TSS CTL is heading skyward and fatigue even more so. I’ve burned myself in the past so I need to really take the rest weeks seriously, otherwise it’ll equal another crash and burn.

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This is what I do since signing up 2 months ago. TRLV: M/W/F long Z2 outdoor rides Th/Sa. Prior to that I was doing unstructured rides purely based on feel. Interestingly I’ve gone from 750-1000 TSS down to 600-800 TSS and feel more tired now then pre TR. I’m also not sure if I have the same, less or more fitness. I definitely feel a little insecure as I’ve gone from climbing 12000’-18,000’ a week down to 5k’ - 10,000’ (as TR is on trainer).

I’m committed to finishing out my century plan which ends with my final race in Oct before making any judgements. Time will tell!

This is what hurt me at the end of last year. The assumption that doing a lot of volume indoors would be adequate. I found out the guys who were doing 1500-3000m of climbing per weekend were a whole lot better equipped to tackle the mountains that I was.

Oh well, my original point above was that the intensity of the TR hard days is great, but still much more is needed (both in volume and number of intervals) to resume levels previously seen by continuous outdoor riding.

That’s an important qualifier. If you go from just riding to any type of structured workouts, it is very, very likely you will see gains.

For example, prior to TR, I went from riding >= 12 hours per week to 5–8, now 9–11 hours per week. Before my wife and I had kids, I’d usually spend the majority of one day per weekend on my bike. I was very skeptical when TR suggested “only” 5–8 hours per week seeing as I rode much more than that. My first FTP test with TR pegged me at I think 277 W. My peak last season was 342 W, and I am now at 339 W. Because I lost weight in the process, too, I increased my W/kg even more than that. FTP and specific FTP aren’t the sole measures of fitness, so please just view these numbers as a stand-in for other indicators. E. g. during my first Cat 3-equivalent race, I barely made the time cut. Now I’m usually one of the strongest riders. Ditto for Strava segments.

You shouldn’t. Kilometers and meters of climbing are not useful metrics if you spend significant amounts on the trainer.

I’d separate things into fitness and skills. For fitness, indoor training can get the job done. You need to spend time outdoors for skills, though.

You can simulate climbing on the trainer (by choosing a low gear if you are in erg mode). Fitness is something that in my experience develops much faster indoors, mainly because you have less breaks (due to traffic, traffic lights and the like) and — depending on where you live — no filler (= i. e. the commute necessary to get to a place where you can just ride). E. g. I need 15–20 minutes to get out of the city, one way. If I have 90 minutes to train, I’d get at most 50–60 minutes in outdoors and exactly 90 minutes indoors. That adds up. In addition, when one of our kids wakes up early or throws a fit (I train in the morning before everyone else gets up), I can help my wife. Perhaps your living situation is different, though.

The thing that you lack, though, isn’t “climbing”, it’s things like pacing, smooth power delivery outdoors and cornering. But if you do two outdoor rides per week, that seems to be covered, though.

In what ways? Just fitness or are you referring to skills?

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This is my suspicion (and hope). :slightly_smiling_face:

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Before I got into training, my idea of the best way of getting faster was to ride as fast as I could every time. :man_facepalming:

Riding with structure means riding with purpose. When you are supposed to do an endurance ride, you either won’t be able to play in the mountains, or you have to do so very carefully. And very often that means riding slowly. I don’t like to go in the mountains, because I feel like a boy in a toystore without a wallet …