Trying to understand structured trainings

I am trying to understand how TSS relates to fitness and gains, generally (of course I understand that sleep, rest, nutrition, and biology also impacts this).

I just started with SSB1 mid-volume. It’s easy for me to handle, and TSS is about 400 a week (one week is 490).

Previously, over summer, I did either short powerful bursts of 60KM / < 2h rides and long endurance rides of 3-5 hours (100-130km), about 3-4 rides a week with one long endurance ride. I did this from May until mid October. Then, I bought a Tacx 2 Neo, moved over to structured workouts using Zwift, and now finally TrainerRoad. If I see what TrainerRoad estimates, TSS was about 600 in those outside weeks.

My question is: is 400 TSS a week enough to build myself and improve myself if I was able to crank out 600 TSS? Or is this not how it works?

Finally, my Strava fitness increased dramatically ride after ride, a bump of 3-4 points every time outside (peaking around 130 fitness). Whereas now inside, strava fitness increases max 1 point, but curve is more or less flat.

So I am trying to understand where to pinpoint TrainerRoad with mid-volume training plans and what I should expect in terms of fitness, gains, and whether I am “doing enough” or whether structured trainings just work differently.

TSS is just a metric to show that there’s an increased workload from week to week in the plans, it doesn’t equate to whether that workload is relevant to what you want to achieve, as the refrain goes: “not all TSS is equal”, some stress can come from work or relationship problems. You could make gains on a weekly TSS of 300 if that comes from the right workouts.

It’s perhaps more useful to look at it if you begin to feel tired and start to quit workouts and/or reduce the intensity of them. It helps to keep a diary, even just making notes in the provided field on each workout can help, then you can look back and figure out your maximum effective TSS. Indoor training could be summarised as: “do something very effective then recover properly”. Just adding more workouts, indoor or outdoor, can eat into that recovery.

Remember that the Ramp Test (and the older 8 minute and 20 minute tests) aren’t there to accurately calculate your FTP but to allow the software to align your level of fitness with the workouts so that they target the right bits of your physiology at the right time. TR is also a plan, SSB 1 & 2 are foundation work, hence “base”, getting you ready for the hard work in the build phase. It seems typical that people don’t see much improvement over SSB1, a little over SSB2 but then get all the gains in Build.

Your Strava fitness score might just be naturally levelling off - there’s nothing to say it has to increase all the time.

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Thanks. Yes, it is difficult for me to gauge whether I am “on track” in terms of training and recovery. So far, it is really easy for me to do the trainings. As in, the training itself is just about right, feeling that I am really “done with it” after the training, but I feel fit again for the next training. So I think that is ok.

Thanks, that’s really informative. So far good. Most difficult part for me is getting enough sleep, I track my sleep now with Sleep Cycle, averaging about 7h22m of actual sleep over the last month. Hopefully that will be more close to 8h over time.

Thanks, I was wondering about that.

It actually declined significantly since I shifted from outside riding to inside riding and structured workouts on my Tacx Neo 2. But I think this says more about strava than about TrainerRoad. It is not really clear how exactly fitness is calculated, except that something is done mathematically to average power and “relative effort” (heart rate?). So I trust TrainerRoad more than I do Strava.

It would actually make for a nice long Podcast for @chad to walk through how base I to base II to build to specialty are supposed to work. Perhaps looking at it first from someone brand new to structured training, and then again from the lens of someone who is already well trained already and looking to up their game.

I know this has been covered in pieces, but perhaps having it in one place with benefit of many years of TR data and referencing some of the analytics would be fun.

Adding some groovy tips about how to adjust a program, things like the maintenance plans and how to use them, when to throw in the week long VO2max prep series, etc

Might need to be a video lecture …


Complex question.

Resources for you:


EFR Get Fit to Race (start here, read all the articles in teh right column):



@DarthShivious I think a podcast episode about this would be interesting, but extremely hard to put together, and very long. It’s all so personal and dependent on so many other factors that I would imagine it being very hard to distill down into a manageable format. Now, if there was a TrainerRoad-U, sign me up in an instant!

@iLLucionist Sounds like you’re new to structured training, and as someone who’s going on their second full season of structured training, I think the best advice is make a plan and stick to the plan, and listen to your body. Structured training is a big world with a lot of variables that are always changing. I’d start with the mid volume plan, give it a couple weeks to get into it, and then start playing with it. Do your research on the base / build / specialty plans, and some research here on the forums, plenty of ‘how should this feel’ type posts. Especially in base it’s easy to say it feels too easy, bump up the intensity, and end up digging yourself into a hole. On the one hand, this isn’t bad as it gives you experience into how much is too much, on the other hand it derails your training while you recover.

As the boys say on the podcast often, it’s easy to get caught up in the minutia of training marginal gains, and miss some low hanging fruit. That’s not to say don’t be thinking about how to tinker to maximize your gains, but I be mindful of making sure you’re 1. Nailing your workouts, 2. Eating to fuel your workouts, and 3. Recovering. Lastly, @bobw makes an excellent point that I think is vastly underrated to your training, keep a diary. Literally anything is better than nothing, and it’l do 2 things for you, 1 you can look back on it and draw meaningful conclusions about how to better your training, and 2, it’ll just make you more mindful of how you feel. I find it’s very easy to let one strong emotion cloud other emotions, and a workout that I felt great about, 30 minutes later when I open up my work email and my mood takes a 180, when I look back on that I’m more likely to remember that workout as being crappy and make a poorly informed decision based on that.

Thanks! Very informative.

Thanks! Yeah, I started keeping a diary of my workouts since this Monday, curious what I will get out of it.

My only worry now is that 1-1h30 structured trainings is not enough when I get back at 4-5h endurance rides in May and onwards.

Have a listen to this podcast

It covers the analytics part of TR but as part of that it covers how to consider TSS, etc.

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You’ll be surprised I think. Since there’s no time stopped, coasting, and the resistance is constant all the way around the pedal stroke the indoor rides are more effective.

How much more effective is a debate, and i don’t think that anybody would argue that 1:30 z2 inside is equivalent even 3 hours outside, but it’s going to be very effective.

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Try using Elevate App (a free Chrome extension for Strava) - their fitness and freshness graph is much more relevant/“accurate” than the one built in to Strava, I believe.

2 Likes is a good one, and the creator is an active tr user / forum user.

I just had a quick look - thanks for the heads up. Is it possible to add dated FTP numbers like you can on elevate/wattsboard/etc, or just the current one?

yea, from on the ‘Activities’ or ‘Fitness’ page hit the ‘Edit’ drop down and you can bulk edit activities for a date range.

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There’s nothing keeping you from substituting one of the weekend rides with a longer endurance outdoor ride. If you click on the annotation at the beginning of every week in your calendar there is a description of that weeks goals. Almost all of them say something to the effect of “if you prefer and longer lower ride, substitute [Saturday ride] with [some 2+ hour TR ride]”. But then just do that other ride outside.