Strava’s Fitness Progress; is it killing me?

Hi there
Not sure if this is the correct platform to raise my concern but there’s only one way to find out…
I am a great fan of Trainer Road and have been a member for several years.
I love the “Train Now’ feature and have recently posted a question around when running activities which I alternate with cycling will be considered in the round and therefore the “Recommended” workouts in Train Now be adjusted to match my condition etc…
My question regarding Strava taps into this question also. When I click on my Progress on Strava and look back at 2 years and 1 year I see that I am currently 10% down on both and it is depressing … Should I just accept this and get over myself or should I whip myself to close the gap and can TR help me to avoid over doing it?
I was really pleased today when I left the shed and rode outside. A quick 35km with 30.2Km/hr average speed which I find pleasing, but without power pedals it’s hard to know a) if this is in line with TR predictions compared to workouts on my Turbo and using Train Now and b) if my condition is good as for some reason the only metric I could see was the estimated power and this was way under my current FTP of 246, even though I really pushed myself.
The result of the analysis in TR was a measly TSS 61, and this in no way seems accurate.
The cheapest power pedals I can see are £500, and I would rather not splash out to get these as I am not a hard core cyclist but wonder if TR can help me in the various embedded questions above;
Incorporating Running into my Calender for TR to recommend the best cycling workouts for me based on my performance in both disciplines.
Should I chase Strava fitness performance or 1 and 2 years ago? I want to but when I am knackered I feel it probably isn’t a good path to take.
Can my Garmin/Strava stats be able to better tally with TR so that the TSS for example is a better reflection of my effort even without a power meter?
Sorry for all the questions…

I’d say get over it. Personally my best results are records are from 5 years ago and the tech is just so untrustable to me……

Improve tomorrow compared to today is a better use of our efforts

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So this is one of those things that you’ll quickly realise is better to just not look at. The fitness graph doesn’t represent anything really, and in my opinion is just a stress factor for anyone using it to gauge performance.

Its the same with CTL in TrainingPeaks, you can’t just aim for a specific CTL, since all TSS is different, and just chasing a specific number, whether its CTL in TrainingPeaks or Progress in Strava.

Honestly, if you want to get faster and use power as a metric in your training, then its worth getting the power pedals.

You might average 30km/h today, but 25km/h tomorrow, and be putting out the same power, but wind was different.

And to your question regarding TSS, no, not really. Its all an estimation, and all the apps will do it differently.

If you get power pedals, you can use them as your single source of truth, indoors, outdoors etc.

I would say that the path you’re on, by beating yourself up due to a fictive made up number by Strava is very counterintuitive in the long run.

Just ignore it, focus on the indoor sessions and just ride outside for fun. If you do save up to get the power pedals, you can bring the structured training more outside, or at least be able to gauge performance outside and compare that to indoors :slight_smile:

Think of it this way, if you are doing a long period of mostly aerobic endurance and some intensity, then using Strava fitness or CTL will give you a good way to compare training load across seasons.

But if you are doing a lot more intensity and very little aerobic endurance, it doesn’t make as much sense to use training load (Strava fitness or CTL).

Ok all that said, the most fundamental thing I learned about cycling performance is that it scales with volume. More hours, more fitness. And it seems to be true across my 6 seasons of data, so I focus on average hours/week.


‘Fitness’ has a specific meaning in the field of exercise science. It is basically how well one can tolerate training load or how high of a training load one can tolerate. So basically high weekly TSS = ‘more fitness’. How does that jive with your meaning of the word ‘fitness’? Or most people’s definition of ‘fitness’?

Another consideration is, CTL / fitness are scaled relative to FTP or estimated FTP. Am I really equally ‘fit’ compared to a person with the same CTL / fitness score if they have a FTP 150w higher than mine? And these metrics don’t take into account things like repeatability or fatigue resistance.

Don’t get me wrong, CTL / fitness are useful metrics but in the right context. That context being your goals / events / etc. Don’t chase ‘fitness’, follow a plan that addresses weaknesses or areas you want to develop / grow / improve and CTL / fitness is a result of your training.


And just to add to that, more volume must also equal less intensity. If you’re doing 20-25 hour weeks, you cant be riding hard, ride easy and let it be cumulative load of all those hours.

Also, thats why its wise to do Low Volume plan and add easy endurance rides on top :slight_smile:

or use plans that are based around aerobic endurance first, intervals second, with defined total volume targets (for example 8-12 hours/week).

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Careful, you know we are on TR forums now where intensity comes first :wink: Can’t be making too much sense proposing endurance training for an endurance sport…


TR has a good looking aerobic endurance first, intervals second cycling plan as part of the full distance triathlon base phase :+1: And the older SSB plans (pre 2017?) had a lot of endurance.

Strava doesn’t use FTP or power at all for the fitness level. The formula is this:

*ride: fitness +1
day off: fitness -1

*for the ride to count, it has to considered productive. I don’t know all the details but a minimum level of effort over a minimum amount of time. It seems to be a mix (tempo or more for 1 hour or endurance or more for longer)

Ride 5 days a week, the week is +3.

If you do TR’s low volume plan (3 very hard rides a week), you still only get +3 for the ride days and -4 for the 4 days off so a -1 net for the entire week. You’ll see that your FTP gets better, you can spend more and more time at high intensity but Strava will be marking your fitness -1 each and every week.

IMO, ignore that graph. Strava is useful for logging your workouts, tracking your power curve, and tracking your segments. That’s it.

Better ways to track your growth:

  • FTP
  • power curves
  • segment times
  • EF

Hi everyone thanks so much for such an encyclopaedic list of replies covering all my concerns and distilling down what is key.
It seems you are all on the same page which is not to focus on the Strava, TSS etc except just use them for a general trajectory.
Beat yesterday is a good guiding principle on a daily basis but even that is not really possible, invariably a good performance is hard to top shortly afterwards, at least for me, and let’s face it, being over 60 I dare say my performance will decline.
The Train Now in TR seems to stretch me each time, sometimes so much so it can be a struggle to turn the pedals in some intervals but I do my best to finish with little variation between what I put out and what is expected.
I realise that Strava is all about time spent or not spent doing stuff, more quantitative than qualitative and yes, friends who do long rides aid 5 or more hours will have better fitness scores than someone like me who is time poor and just keeping it going both running and cycling!
Thanks again everyone you have been immensely helpful and I guess I would expect nothing less from TR users, what a cool platform!

I’m not quite sure how Strava calculates fitness but when I ride a lot and am possibly worn out it gives me a high number but when I ride/ train strategically and get better results both in power and speed it gives me a lower fitness score. Arguably I am fitter in the latter case but Strava is giving me a lower score :thinking:

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All these calculations (TSS in Trainerroad, Strava “fitness”, TrainingPeaks CTL, ATL, TSB) to be as close to the truth as possible require a constantly up-to-date, accurate FTP. (When’s the last time you updated your Strava FTP to match your Trainerroad FTP?) Even so, not all TSS is the same.

I wouldn’t chase a chart. Let it go! Go forth young padowan and ride happy. :grinning:


I’ve stopped looking at Strava fitness completely. It seems to be an equivalent for CTL, but if you don’t have HR it would put the stress as zero.

May have changed, but that was the case a year ago before I discovered Intervals ICU.

As you say though, any “fitness” is relative to FTP and if that’s not up to date it’s a bit pointless.

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Normalized power, which is an input to calculate CTL, does account for repeatability. TSS is a function of normalized power, ftp, and ride duration.

If you don’t train with a power meter, none of these numbers matter anyways.


Thanks again.
I think I need to park the Strava fitness as it is not in anyway accurate and volume is the only driver it seems.
Numbers are great but they need to be understood and it seems the only number that makes sense without the need for interpretation is power… As someone suggested, I should save up for power pedals, alternatively I should just enjoy the ride.
Cheers :+1:

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You’re going to have to go into more detail on that beyond making an assertion. I can get the same TSS for a ride in a ton of different ways and don’t see how it tells me about repeatability, at least without specific contextual information. I’ve been training with power for a while and don’t recall seeing TSS used to describe repeatability before. gives a better description how fitness tiredness and form are calculated :

“The blue line shows fitness. This is a 42 day exponentially weighted moving average of your training load. The purple line shows fatigue. This is a 7 day exponentially weighted moving average of your training load. To get fitter you need to create stress by increasing training load i.e. keeping the purple line above the blue line. Your form is your fitness less fatigue. When your form is in the optimal training zone you are gaining fitness. When your form is fresh and you are fit then you are ready to race. Avoid staying in the high risk zone for long or you might become over-trained. You need to include periodic rest weeks in your training to recover from fatigue and to be at your best for goal events. References: Monitoring your training load by Science2Sport and Managing Training Using TSB by Joe Friel”

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Also make sure your bike weight in Strava is correct and your body weight should be you fully dressed/weighted (water bottles/tools etc) for Strava Power to be more accurate… for your outdoor rides.

I’ve found Strava average power’s not too be a million miles away compared to when I’ve used a PM, for the similar average speeds.

A ride may have many repeated power spikes and equal the same NP as a ride at a steady power. If the two rides are the same total duration, then they have the same TSS.
Of course, they may have different NP and different duration and still equal the same TSS (ride 1 has lower NP and longer duration vs ride 2 with higher NP and shorter duration).

TSS is not explicitly used to describe repeatability of a ride, but it implicitly captures repeatability through NP.