SSBMV2 - why does my training continue to be in the Grey zone?

Hi folks,

I’m looking for some guidance here.

I’m currently in week 2 of the mid volume base phase. Monitoring my TSB:

My concern is that I’m spending a lot of time in the grey zone. Joel Friel’s blog states: “… the Grey Zone. You don’t want to spend too much training time here because there’s not much happening that will improve fitness. You’re sort of at a plateau in training. This is typically the zone you are in during a rest and recovery week, when tapering for an A-priority race, and when returning to hard training following an extended break.”

JF suggests that most of the training should happen in the Green zone. The only way to get there is to ride quite a bit more. I got to green following hard, long outdoor weekend rides, and even then, my TSB would creep back up to the Grey zone… without those outdoor rides, I feel like my TSB would be in the Fresh zone all the time.

So, my concern is that I may not be making the gains I’m after and question whether I should be doing more, and if so, how much more?

Thanks!
David

First thing that pops into mind is to double check if you have your ftp set correctly. If you keep on riding a lot and the tss is under-calculating then I would assume that the system calculates your tss from a much higher ftp then it should.

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The TSS of the TR sessions is the same as the TSS/load used for the graph I posted.

My FTP is set correctly as far as I can see, both in TR as well as Intervals (used to plot the above graph).

Or are you referring to something else?

Following the SSB2MV plan, what can I expect? Should I be where I’m at in terms of TSB or should it be lower?

If everything is set correctly then maybe @davidtinker will be able to help you out?

Regarding your tss level, again if everything is in fact set correctly and you are sticking to the plan then your tss is as it should be according to the demands of set plan.

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Sounds like you have everything right and the chart is correct. That makes this a coaching question about how the plan you are on works. Maybe someone familiar with the TR plans can comment?

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Are you getting faster? If so, take it with a grain of salt. This is my run through traditional base mv 1 - 3, only dipped into the ‘Optimal Training Zone’ at the end, but my ftp went up 41w.

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What were you doing before you started this plan? As noted, if you are returning from an extended break, you could just be in the zone as you accumulate enough stress to push your zone lower. I always find this takes me longer to achieve than I expect, especially after an off-season or an injury.

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Interesting! So you were in the blue/grey zone for most of your training.

Thanks for all the replies!

My FTP is going up and I am getting faster, so i think this is working for me. However, this made me wonder whether I could further maximize my training and progress by adding more load/intensity to push me into the green zone, without burning out? If so, what kind of sessions would be beneficial? Or is that a recipe for disaster?

Regarding what I was doing before: not much… I started cycling about 4 months ago, so I guess anything I do at this point would have a positive effect on my fitness level :-).

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Adjusting plans is going to be super personal based on how well you recover, how stressful your daily life is, and how much load you can really handle. Gaining that feel for how much more or less you can do comes with experience.

Being new to the sport, even if you have a background in other sports, you’re gonna see your FTP jump pretty aggressively over this first year or two of structured training. Already you’re up 30w and only part way through base, so there’s going to be a ‘calibration’ period while you play catchup and that starts to level off.

I wouldn’t put too much stock in the metrics for now as I think the data is somewhat unreliable (looking at your 4hr ride at .92IF) and the metrics will suffer as a result. I’d stick to the plan, substituting a long outdoor ride on the weekends is definitely encouraged, and rather than trying to optimize your training, focus on building good habits and understanding the systems that lead to optimal training.

Focus on your recovery, fueling, understanding what the different zones should feel like (especially sweet spot and threshold), and how you feel as you progress through the plans. Work on developing these skills and habits, and then as you start to understand how your body deals with the training stress you can make a more informed decision about when to add volume or when to take it away!

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Thanks! Makes sense. I’ll just keep on doing that and try to stop being impatient and looking at the data too much ;-).

The “training zone” is just zones for TSB.

At a high level, TSB is really just comparing your current amount of training with your amount of training recently. In this case, “amount of training” is measuring in TSS (which is basically difficulty-adjusted hours), “current” is an average with a span of roughly a week, and “recent” is an average with a span of roughly six weeks.

The occasional long weekend rides, which are high TSS, spike your averages up above the level of the prescribed training plan. When you follow the plan for a week, it’s necessarily “gray zone” material, because your recent average has been pulled up by the high-TSS event.

Specifically, your outdoor ride on 2/29 put you 200 TSS over the plan. The following rest week dragged you up to the grey zone. The first couple of weeks of SSB2 are a little friendly, so with the residual boost from the outdoor ride, you’re oscillating around in the grey zone for now instead of oscillating around at the top of the green zone.

What I would do is not worry about it.

I’ll note also that the outdoor rides may be particularly high TSS, perhaps because you’re using a different power source that reads higher than your indoor trainer, or because your performance indoors isn’t as high as outdoors (and your FTP is set from an indoor test). You have a 4-hour outdoor ride with 0.9 IF, which is pretty high.

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Thanks for the explanation and your thinking about the power meters is correct: there is indeed a difference in power readings between my ERG trainer (Elite Suito) and my Stages
Power meter. For example, today I did Bluebell and my trainer recorded an average of 156W while my Stages averaged at 165W. I don’t know which one is accurate though. Based on the reviews and specs, I think the Stages is more accurate. My last two FTP tests were done on the trainer (ramp test).

My outside rides are mostly group rides and for some reason I can endure the outdoor suffering a lot more easily than indoors.

But based on what you are suggesting is that my actual ‘outdoor’ FTP may be higher than my indoor (trainer) FTP value, right? And using a different power source for those outdoor rides using my indoor FTP, shows too high TSS and IF values so that when combined with the data from my indoor rides, it sort of gives a wrong overall picture in the graph? So actually, if that outdoor ride had a lower TSS and IF, the graph would be closer to green than grey?

Did I understand that correctly?

If we imagine that your Bluebell data is representative, the Stages is reading about 5% higher. That means that the TSS for a ride recorded with the Stages will be about 10% higher than if the exact same ride was recorded with the trainer. So keep that in mind. Note that the Stages and the trainer are reading from opposite sides of the drivetrain, so even if they were perfectly accurate, their readings would be different by a factor of your drivetrain loss.

You’ve got most of it. The thing that is pushing your TSS graph away from what you expect is your big outdoor rides. One factor in this is that your “outdoor FTP” may be higher and your outdoor power meter reads higher than indoor, so the TSS for those rides is artificially high relative to your indoor workouts. The other factor is that you’re just doing extra work – you’re substituting a two-hour sweet spot session for a four-hour group ride. It’s more volume. On the weeks you don’t do that, it’s less volume. That’s going to have an impact on a graph that’s all about average volume.

This is my not-a-coach opinion: I wouldn’t worry about it. What you need to improve is progression. The Trainer Road plans have progression built in to the design. Friel’s recommendation to hit a particular TSB zone is essentially a prescription for volume progression, which is useful since Friel is essentially teaching you how to build a plan – and your plan needs progression in it. But if instead you think of your situation as taking a TR plan that already has progression and doing some extra work on top of it here and there – the bouts of extra work are not causing the base plan’s progression to become ineffective.

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If it makes you feel better here is mine, my weekends are the only ones that dip into Green area.

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I think my favorite part of Intervals.icu is the capability to see forward into my race. By exporting my TrainerRoad calendar into Intervals, I can see what next week will look like if I nail every workout. I can even take it all out to my races (the red dots).

Depending on how I am feeling, I try to add a couple of endurance rides or strength training to try to keep it on the green.

You can see I overloaded in the end of January since I had a family vacation in early February. This allowed me to drop back into the blue but not into the Transition Gold area.

Also, I am about to start recovery week at the end of SSBII…
I have an extra ride for most of Build phase (a group ride) which I might or might not do… this will likely bring my form up which will change the form at my race. With the ability to look forward, I can add and delete training and see how it affects my FUTURE form.

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That’s actually pretty cool to see. Did not know you could do that.

That is super cool, thanks for pointing out this feature. Just earlier today I was wonder what training load I would need to tackle to hold my current fatigue steady. It was difficult to calculate the 7-day exponential moving average in my head. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I don’t think the plans have that high of TSS ramp rates, so there’s nothing in the plan itself that is going to force a low TSB by design. That will entirely depend on CTL entering the phase. If your starting CTL is 0, you will have a crazy negative TSB throughout MV2, and if you start with 200… well, you get the idea.

At some point you have to add volume (duration and/or intensity) over what you’ve been doing to continue to build CTL at a faster rate rate (TSB more negative). You have to do more work.

But don’t be afraid of the grey zone… there’s nothing magical about the number and everyone is different. Pay attention to how you feel, level of fatigue, recovery, etc. If feeling good then start adding some low intensity volume and see how you react. If that’s not enough, do + versions of workouts, add a 6th day, move on to HV next time, etc… If you’re not feeling great or feel like you’re at your limit, don’t pile on TSS just because your TSB is “too high”.

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