TrainingPeaks University: Learning how to Bring Athletes into Race Form

Recently I had the opportunity to take part in the TrainingPeaks University class.  This event was held in San Diego and took place over two days.  It was taught by Joe Friel, author of the Cyclist’s Training Bible as well as countless other books and periodicals.  He is a plethora of information and has been a role model in our industry for decades.

I signed up for the curriculum because TrainingPeaks is the software that is known to be universal in our business for working with athletes towards their goals.  We use this software to plan and to monitor our progress.  It is held closely as the best web based communication tool to date.  I wanted to learn everything this program had to offer in order to give me an edge in the market and to be a better asset for my athletes.

I walked away from the week well versed with the software and have immediately put it to use with my current clients, but there was one item that stood out in the class that I wanted to write about specifically. 

Joe Friel has incorporated a tool that allows us to specifically assign numeric values to our athlete’s fitness, stress, and fatigue levels.  Specifically, he has created for us an understanding of Chronic Training Loads (CTL), Acute Training Loads (ATL), and Training Stress Balances (TSB) to create a Performance Management Chart (PMC) which is the most valuable chart in the TrainingPeaks system. An example of this chart follows.

Performance Chart.JPG

The CTL (blue line) of an athlete primarily indicates how much of a training load they are capable of handling, and relates to their fitness level.  The chart likes to be presented in a 42-day rolling history balance.  The ATL (pink line) relates to the stress being causes on the athlete on a day to day basis.  We incorporate hard days followed with easy days, mixed with moderate days and the variances between how hard an athlete worked comparative to their CTL is placed on this chart in a 7-day rolling history.  I can use these numbers in order to monitor when and how hard an athlete should be working and when they should be taking rest.  We can also use these numbers to prepare for race.

Race readiness you say?  Yes, the chart indicates a level of race readiness that we can actually read!  While these numbers correlate uniquely to each athlete, to find the best range to race in can literally come down to an “imprecise” science.  Notice in the chart the TSB (yellow line) which is the CTL minus the ATL to create a figure of “form”.  The form of an athlete, whether they are coming into form or out of form is a balance of their previous trainings and loads.  It has been proven that most athletes race well when their form is anywhere from +15 to +25, but athletes have also experienced great race days in the -10 to +10 range.  What do those numbers mean?!  In sum, when you have a larger load of stress and fatigue on the system, the numbers will always be in the negative.  The further into the negative the TSB goes, the more ATL the athlete is currently handling comparatively to their CTL.  It’s a range that the athlete must be in for the body to feel stress and prepare for growth when given recovery.  If the TSB number is in the positive it means that the athlete is fresher.  Their ATL’s have been pulled back.  Yet if we are too fresh, this number shows high and the possible result is feeling “flat” at race day.  Great information to have!

In conclusion, the Performance Management Chart was one of the single most useful tools that I was able to learn about at the TrainingPeaks University class.  Such invaluable knowledge to now have in order to better guide my client’s success and monitor their growth. 

Kata Skaggs