Productive training - do I trust TR plans or Garmin?

I recently started my first-ever structured training plan: sweet spot base mid-volume. For the moment I’m not doing any serious outdoor rides because I don’t want to risk overtraining, so this plan is basically all of my stress. I’ve been logging everything in my Garmin, and for the last few days it’s said my training status is “unproductive” or “overreaching”. How much stock should I put in this assessment? Should I dial my training back? For what it’s worth, my Garmin says my performance condition has been positive for all of my TR rides except for one that included single-leg drills at the beginning, and Garmin’s automatic FTP detection is within 5% of my ramp test results.

Side notes: I’m 26 and have been riding for a few years, and I’m not worried at all about my sleep or nutrition.

How much history does your Garmin have? I’ve recently been making an effort to record TR sessions with my Fenix 5 as my training load was really lacking. The first few weeks confused the system with a sudden increase in load but it soon settled down.

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Garmin bases that metric on HR so I would take it with a grain of salt. When I mix in running, Garmin essentially weights runs way more than biking and even 2 hours SS workouts show as hardly any load. That’s my personal experience at least.

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It had about 1 month of history prior to starting TR, most of which was lower intensity. I was traveling for all of that time and fit in Z2-3 rides when I could. Your experience sounds pretty much exactly the same as mine, thank you! Just don’t want to start my program in a hole.

Garmin actually bases it on cycling power too. However I would not trust garmin completely, they have these specifies ranges of low aerobic, high aerobic and anaerobic work so if you just do enough of those to keep in those ranges it will be productive. In real life we need easy weeks, we need hard weeks, we need days where we work on specificity etc and garmin can not account for that so your status might say unproductive.

tldr, trust TR plans.


From the Firstbeat website:


Looking at my own cycling data, Training Status sure jumps around a lot. I think its better to stick with your plan and ignore training status.

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Do you use training peaks or something similar that can show you your CTL ATL and TSB on a daily basis?

As much work as companies put into these recovery features and stuff, I’ve always been a little curious of how athletes actually use them. Put another way, what’s the Venn of people who are buying $400-600 watches, take their training that seriously, and then alter a diagnosed schedule based on the watch’s statement of their fitness? I’m sure it’s nonzero, but I find that interesting. In my own case, I always felt like my watch (an older one, so maybe less accurate) said I was essentially always ‘recovering.’ Neat, I guess, not not really actionable. It never made me want to not follow my plan.


Between the plan (some baseline of what sort of progression I should do based on my current performance, my goals and my availability) and how I feel (is my knee blowing up, do I feel capable of doing the workouts), there is zero place nor need for a third opinion that ignores my goals and how I feel.

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Someone on here (sorry, can’t remember who, maybe @Brennus?) let the Garmin estimate dictate their training for a bit, and it basically kept them ‘fresh’ for the whole time. To make progress, you need to stray a bit into ‘overreaching’ territory, or you will just stagnate. So for now I’d go with the TR plan, and ignore the Garmin.

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Garmin’s VO2Max (and therefore Training Status) compares HR with your power at that level.

As such, anything that affects HR will affect Training Status as well. Warm weather (or insufficient cooling for indoor workouts), poor sleep, fighting a low level illness, accumulated fatigue, etc can all negatively affect HR and Training Status. Over TRs standard 3 weeks increasing load followed by 1 recovery week pattern, it would not be surprising to see some Unproductive’s as accumulated fatigue builds in week 3. Unproductive is not too much to be concerned about. Overreaching is something that you should take somewhat more seriously.

Occasional Overreaching may be a good thing, but piling on more training stress on top of it may not be the wisest. Personally, I take an Overreaching to be a warning to check my RHR and stress levels more carefully. If they are high and not coming down, I might back off. If they are coming down overnight, I might just continue to train as normal.

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I’ve given a subset of this topic a lot of thought - Is getting this information from [INSERT WEARABLE] going to effect my training or otherwise be actionable?

I started with Whoop. It gave me HRV and sleep statistics that seemed fairly accurate most of the time (and by accurate, they matched how I felt). Strain score while interesting, wasn’t as interesting to me. The action items I got from Whoop: 1) By quantifying certain the effects on certain things on my HRV, RHR, and sleep (alcohol, irregular sleep schedule, workouts in the morning vs evening, etc.), it changed some behaviors; and 2) on what I labeled “dead days” (when my Whoop recovery score was below 15), I did not workout at all.

I then got annoyed with the Whoop subscription model and the “walled garden” of information. I started looking at Garmin watches. The cost of Garmin led to some real consideration of whether: 1) there would be action items, 2) if it was just information gathering for curiosity’s sake, or 3) whether it was a gimmick I would ignore. I decided it would be either the first or second; it would also be a cycling computer (I now use extended display on my Edge); and it would be a central place to record and view all of my exercise. I ended up getting a Fenix 6s Sapphire.

Here is my take on the Garmin in the three weeks I’ve had it:

  1. I wore it and the Whoop simultaneously for two weeks, and the Garmin gives similar measurements on HR, recovery, and sleep (the only material difference is in the measurement of “deep” sleep);

  2. HRV on Whoop and Body Battery on Garmin correlate very closely each morning, except Garmin goes the extra step of adjusting throughout the day;

  3. Garmin “Stress” measurements are seemingly accurate, useful, and very informative on how certain things affect my body;

  4. the Garmin provides a lot more information than Whoop (I’m still trying to figure out the value of respiration rate and pulse ox, but I do like many of the others), and

  5. Garmin is a central repository for all my workouts.

As to action items, I tend to use it like Whoop - when my Body Battery is very low (under 20), I don’t train at all. When bad habits creep up and affect sleep and recovery, I note them and make changes.

To get specifically to your question (yep, it took that many paragraphs) - whether to use “unproductive” or “overreaching” as a guide - I think it depends on your goals and how much you value the marginal gains from “perfection.”

I think the stat itself is probably some version of accurate (as accurate as a watch can be). Does that mean you’ll be incapable of completing TR workouts when your battery is low? Of course not. But does it mean you may not get as much gain from that workout as you would if you were “fresher” or that there is a better workout for you that day? Probably so. Will the difference between those two affect the average amateur’s performance or results? Probably not appreciably.

TrainerRoad is, by it’s own description, “structured training.” The plans are probably pretty dialed in for the middle of the bell curve. It is the opposite of Xert - the adaptable workout platform (and I’m not saying Xert is great at it; I’m just saying it advertises itself that way). Your Garmin is pointing out that you aren’t the middle of the bell curve. Again, will it materially matter to your training? It depends on how far from the middle you are, but probably not.

For me, on a low volume plan, I have some flexibility to listen to my Garmin. I have TR workouts on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. If my “battery” is low on any one of those days, I can move the workout to the next (especially moving the Saturday to Sunday). This may be tougher with mid and high volume plans.

Whew. That was a lot. I’m also going to cross post some of this to the Whoop thread.



I don’t. I just downloaded Golden Cheetah though. What do you think is the best way to use this stuff in your training?

Great breakdown. Sounds like I should keep the Garmin advice on the back burner for a while and see how it correlates to how I feel beforehand and how successful my workouts end up being. Your point about using it to understand how external life variables impact training/recovery is a good one (for me sleep is a big one - overall I sleep well but occasionally have days where I get very little sleep, and I want to know whether I skip that day, or if two in a row is the threshold, or if I should do Z2 only, etc). It makes sense that TR plans account well for the physical stress they induce, but of course not life stress, and Garmins/etc can help understand the latter.

well utilizing CTL and ATL you can determine the load training is placing on your body and start to see how you feel based on that load. Looking for some markers and ratios that correlate to how you’re feeling.

In general I think people ride too hard too often leading to burn out.

I would ignore Garmin. Training status is partly based on a VO2 estimate that uses your HR and power from recent rides. I’ve found this estimate changes with pretty much every ride. My HR at any given power varies quite a bit depending on temperature, time of day, when I last ate, how fatigued I am, etc. So if I do a ride on a hot day, my HR is higher, Garmin thinks my fitness has dropped and suddenly tells me I’m “Unproductive”. Not in any way useful in my experience…

FWIW I’ve had good luck with Garmin Edge 520 and 530 vo2max estimates while using a chest strap. And those estimates match up with WKO4 and WKO5 vo2max estimates.

530 should be better because it also adjusts for temperature / heat acclimation, right? Although i guess if you live in a place with consistent temperatures it shouldn’t make much difference.

If i understand Garmin / FB correctly, then the measure of fitness up or down is simply whether your power:hr went up or down. So this is just factual; it is what it is, and (barring a broken power meter or HRM) there’s nothing to trust or not trust.

Now what to do with it is a different question. You could get a fitness drop because you exercised in the heat or humidity, or because you weren’t hydrated enough, stuff like that.

But if you have controlled for other variables and your performance is softening, this is something to consider. If it’s happening consistently towards the end of a hard training block, this is one potentially useful signal that it’s time to take a de-load week and let your body shed some fatigue. So, I don’t “trust” it in the sense of thinking you can just follow its recommendations blindly, but I certainly trust it in that it is potentially valuable data that you can draw conclusions from under the right circumstnaces.

When your body and data are telling you to de-load but your plan is telling you to keep going, well, there you gotta use your judgment. This is the hardest part, I think. Nothing against TR but it’s basically a canned plan (although customizable), so bear in mind that while the plan designer might have a good idea of how most people SHOULD respond, they don’t have any idea how you ARE actually responding.

Again, nothing against TR. This is just why a coach costs so much more.

I’ll definitely learn more about the heat acclimation this summer, when it routinely is in the 90s. Bought the 530 in late August, didn’t have much time to see how the heat acclimation works:

Never got to 20% before the weather started cooling off.

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