Getting started with TrainingPeaks

Getting started with TrainingPeaks

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Knowledge Level: Intermediate

The world’s best cyclists prove that training smart is the key to world class results. But you don't have to be on the GB Cycling Team or an elite coach to use the exact same software for planning and analysing training, nutrition and daily metrics.

British Cycling has teamed up with TrainingPeaks, our Official Training Software Supplier, to provide discounts to both cyclists and coaches that are members of British Cycling. Gold members will receive a 40% discount on the monthly subscription for TrainingPeaks Premium Athlete Edition. All other British Cycling members will receive a 20% discount.

TrainingPeaks are also producing exclusive content to help you optimise your training and make the most of the packages they offer.

In this article, Jason Short of TrainingPeaks explains how to get started with TrainingPeaks and some of the key metrics you’ll be using. Jason Short is the a coach and owner of Threshold Endurance Sports based out of Southern Denver in Colorado. Jason is a seasoned veteran in the European racing scene, racing for both European teams and the U.S. National Team.  He holds a degree in Exercise Physiology and dedicates a lot of his time to the junior development pathways within USA Cycling.

How to get started with TrainingPeaks

Set a Goal: Take a look at some of the events you would like to participate in and decide on one or even a few.  You can always do a few smaller events leading into your main event to test yourself and make sure you’re on track.

Make a Plan: Take the time to outline how much time you have to train leading into your event on both a weekly and daily basis.  Assess where you’re at in terms of your fitness and the time you have already committed to your training.  When you know how much time you have to train and how much you’ve done, you can start carving out a plan that will allow you to gradually ramp up your training for your goal event.  You may even take a look in the TrainingPeaks Training Plan store or the British Cycling Training Plans to see if there are any programmes geared towards your event that fit your ability level and the time you have to train. 

Get started and track your progress: As you begin to complete your workouts, it becomes important to track your progress and keep a close eye on how well you’re adapting to your training.  Using some of the tools available in TrainingPeaks, you’ll be able to get a good feel as to how well you’re progressing and predict excess fatigue. 

Determine your Threshold and set your training zones:  The first step in making sense of all the data is determining your threshold which can be determined using a power meter or heart rate device.  Generally, you would want to use the device or devices for the test that you plan on using for the majority of your training since your results will determine your training zones for subsequent workouts. Look here for the British Cycling Threshold Testing protocol.

Determine your training zones: Once you have determined your threshold values, you can then use a zone calculator to establish your training zones. This will set the stage for establishing your training zones so they target the physiological systems targeted by each workout. There are a number of different calculation methods used on TrainingPeaks or you can use the British Cycling calculator but it’s important that the calculation method you use corresponds to the prescriptions made by the training plan you’re following.

Key TrainingPeaks Metrics

Average Power (AP): Your Average Power is simply the numerical average watts you produced for your ride.

Normalized Power® (NP®): Normalized Power is somewhat complex to understand but takes into account the fact that no ride is perfectly steady. As explained by Andrew Coggan, NP takes into account that the physiological response to rapid changes in exercise intensity are not instantaneous, but follow a predictable time course and many critical physiological responses, like lactate production, are curvilinearly rather than linear. Basically, NP says what power you would have produced had your effort been perfectly steady. NP is better estimation of the physiological “cost” of a ride than AP.

Intensity Factory® (IF®):Simply put, your IF is the ratio of your Normalized Power to your Threshold Power. The IF is a rough estimate for the intensity of a given ride. It is also great way to compare the relative intensity of a ride or race between riders given changes in a riders threshold value.

Variability Index (VI): Your VI measures how smooth or variable your power output was. It is calculated by dividing your Normalized Power by your Average Power. For long events like a sportive you want your output to be steady, so a VI of 1.05 or less should be your goal. If racing a criterium, you may see a VI of 1.2 or higher due to the surges in power.

Training Stress Score® (TSS®): Based off of the duration and intensity of your session, Training Stress Score is a single numerical value for the level of stress you have put on yourself for a particular training session. You can earn 100 TSS for 1 hour at your threshold power or heart rate.  If you are accumulating over 100 TSS per hour, your threshold power or heart rate is probably set too low.  TSS is a great way to keep tabs on how well you’re adapting to your training when paired with the Performance Management Chart (PMC).

Performance Management Chart (PMC): The Performance Management Chart keeps tabs on your daily TSS and will calculate long term training stress (Chronic Training Load or CTL), short term training stress (Acute Training Load or ATL), and the balance between those two which is your form (Training Stress Balance or TSB).  As you start to train, you will see your ATL increase based on your short term training.  As you start to log more miles, you’ll see your CTL increase over time which equates to your long term fitness level based on your long term training.  However, the catch is that TSB or your form will decrease as ATL or short term training stress goes up and in turn raises your CTL or long term training stress.  When you get it right, you can bring your CTL up through cycles of increased ATL, then allowing some rest to bring your TSB back up.  The trick is getting your TSB back up to where you can feel recovered but still take advantage of all your past fitness.  This is how you can peak for key events, but it’s a bit of an art form as many factors can influence your day to day training stresses as well as your ability to recover.

In the next TrainingPeaks article, we look at the demands of a hilly sportive and, using power data from real riders, show you how to avoid common pacing pitfalls and optimise your performance.

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