CTL/TrainingPeaks and TFNA

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  • #4995

    In another post Scott Johnston said that a CTL of over 100 for 2 months is something that you often see in 8000m-ready athletes. Obviously this is just a guideline. However, after playing around with TrainingPeaks to see what different CTL looks like I am still confused as to what 100 or 130 CTL might be. For instance, a runner who is training for a marathon and running in excess of 100mpw is only at a CTL of 75-80 as far as I can tell. If I change the HR during these workouts that doesn’t seem to make much of a change either. It also seems like strength training workouts don’t factor in much on CTL. I get that these issues are probably more something I should talk to TP about, but I am still curious what this 100 CTL level would look like for someone following TFNA?

    Let’s say you’re doing two hill climbing ME workouts a week and an ARCing session in boots and pack, plus some other Z1 volume. What does a week in the middle of 100 CTL look like? What does 130 CTL look like?

    Again, I get that there is modulation in any training plan, and that CTL takes several weeks into account to calculate CTL. I’m just looking for a general benchmark to assess my work capacity.



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    Frantik on #6378

    Very interesting discussion indeed. Thanks Scott for the detailed responses.

    So I have another question:

    Let’s say you plan for an event such as a 1 or 2 day ascent (mostly mountaneering goal at some middle altitude 3000-4000m) and lay down your 8-week training plan

    Do you only focus on arriving at that goal with the necessary CTL or the fatigue (ATL) and form metrics(TSB) are also/more important(as in arriving at your objective as rested as possible)??

    Because if at that last week you drop volume to taper for the climb, CTL drops a bit(at least for me now that I started using TP and plan ahead) and as a result TSB increases.

    lucye on #13970

    I’m also curious about the answer to Mariner’s year-old question, and can’t seem to find it elsewhere on this forum. Is the TSS adjustment for a heavy pack 20 TSS/1000 ft for any pack greater that 20% BW? Big perceived difference in effort in carrying a pack that’s 40% vs 20% BW. Thanks! – Lucy

    Mariner_9 on #13971

    One other question about the TSS adjustments: for my long ME workouts, TP already gave a TSS of ~150 or above. If I then start adjusting the TSS higher, do I end up with implausible numbers? Or does this not matter as long as you’re consistent with your adjustments?

    Zirbelkiefer on #13975

    This is a great thread which helped me tremendously. One question I have left is how to treat pure Alpine Skiing? For me this is a mix of strength training / muscular endurance with larger breaks (sitting on chairlift). I have no idea hoch much TSS to allocate … Maybe you can share your thoughts .. Thanks!

    Anonymous on #14004


    Sorry for overlooking this thread. Steve just brought it to my attention. The subject of TSS and the other TP metrics that fall out of it are somewhat involved and not completely straight forward so let me summarize here. Steve did do a video on this subject https://uphillathlete.com/performance-management-chart/ that helps explain the various scores like TSS, CTL, ATL, TBB but perhaps we need to to do another more in depth video on this topic.

    Points to keep in mind:

    1) TP uses a sophisticated algorithm that looks back at the past 6 weeks of TSS. The model uses a weighted, running average of TSS wherein the more recent workout’s TSS count more than the ones you did several weeks ago. All these metrics are only as valid as the TSS inputs to the algorithm.

    2) The TP algorithm can calculate TSS using POWER for cyclists using power meters, PACE for runners on relatively flat ground, or HEART RATE. Power TSS is very accurate because it is a direct measure of the work being done/stress of the training. Pace is the next most accurate because running pace is a very close proxy for the work being done/stress on the body. HR is the least accurate way to calculate TSS because HR is not a particular good proxy for the work being done/ stress on the body. Due to the variable nature of training for mountain sports we have to default to HR. This makes our input into the nice TP algorithm suspect to begin with.

    3) As mathematician George Box said: “All models are wrong…..Some are useful”. So even with our model being flawed it still offers us some kind of measuring stick. But we need to be able to make our hrTSS inputs as accurate as possible so that the model’s output will be more accurate. This entails some guesswork and fudging which has its drawbacks for sure. Being consistent is what counts the most. You want to be comparing apples to apples in your own training first and foremost. Forget about comparing yourself to other or some arbitrary number like TSS of 100. That is not a magic number. It’s a very rough guide for an individual. That individual will be fitter with a CTL of 100 than when they have a CTL of 80.

    This is where the magic happens and so hold on.

    1) TP’s model was designed to reflect the TSS for aerobic endurance activities. As soon as we start using it to measure things like strength training/technical climbing, ME workouts,

    2) Aerobic Training:Up to ones anaerobic threshold the relationship between HR and effort/pace is linear. In this aerobic zone HR is a good predictor of TSS making the TP model for aerobic workouts using hrTSS pretty accurate. Over AnT the relationship goes non linear the harder you push the more non-linear it becomes. What this means is that in the more anaerobic realm of intensity each increase in pace/effort results in a smaller and smaller increase in HR. The TP model understands this and again does a decent job of adjusting for this. However the non-linearity is not the the same for everyone so this begins to introduce some potential for error.

    3) Strength Training: This is where the model goes completely off the rails. That’s because HR bears almost no relation to the effort or training effect of strength workouts. By “strength” I mean: lifting weights, hill sprints, hard climbing moves, down hill skiing or moving a piano. Anything that you do that requires very high effort and lasts for a short duration. Yep. those terms a pretty nebulous. High effort means you can’t sustain if for long. The higher the effort the shorter the duration. A pitch of 5.10c is going to require less strength (effort) than a V7 boulder problem. Most us could could not string together 100 feet of V10. So, figuring out how to count the TSS of strength workouts is a grey area. I’ll get into how we do it at UA in a minute.

    4) Muscular Endurance: The water becomes even muddier here because ME is a mix of strength and endurance and spectrum along which your workout could be place is long with no great measuring stick here. All we can say for sure is that one end of the spectrum requires greater strength so will allow fewer repetitions (sustained movements or endurance) and the other end requires much less strength so allows many more movements. But no matter where you are on that spectrum; from a 3 move crux to a vertical K run to a gym ME workout to a weighted uphill water carry, you will be operating at, or very close to your endurance limit for the amount of strength you must put out. HR may or, in many cases, may not be a good proxy for the effort. The farther you are toward the strength end of the spectrum the less HR reflects effort. Anyone who as done a well executed weighted water carry ME workout or a hard climbing session where your legs or forearms are are limiters can tell you that their HR does not reflect the effort expended.

    5) Adjusting TSS for aerobic work: Here’s what we typically do (of course there are exceptions). For sub aerobic threshold workouts hrTSS will typically net you a hrTSS of around to 50-70/hour with the less aerobically fit being on low end. Aerobic workouts done at one’s anaerobic threshold yield a hrTSS of 100/hr. For all these aerobic efforts we add in 10TSS for every 1000 feet (300m) gained and lost in these workouts. This is admittedly arbitrary but be consistent with this fudge factor and you’ll keep things apples to apples. When we add weight we add 10TSS/1000 feet / 10% of body weight carried. Arbitrary again but pretty effect.

    6) Adjusting TSS for strength and ME work: With Strength workouts we typically award 60/hr for one hour of our general strength/conditioning sessions. Max Strength we award 80/hour. Same for a good hill sprint session. For ME we use the residual fatigue from the workout to set the TSS. Workouts that have a strong ME effect will leave you fatigues (doesn’t matter if its forearms or quads) for several days before you will begin to recover to the point where you could potentially complete another workout at the same intensity. For these we generally award 100-200 based on fatigue.

    Hopefully this helps.

    anram_87 on #52025

    Hello everyone!

    Maybe as English it is not my mother tongue I am not understanding properly the discussion, in my case I did a trek on Sunday with no weight (so weight should not be considered) but I gain 1281m and loose 600m, so the total ascent/descent is 1800 approximately, hence which is the fudge factor I should add to my workout?

    I think it should be 1800/300 = 6 * 10 = 60TSS that have to be added to my hrTSS, am I right?

    Just to have the whole picture if hypothetically I would have carried more than 10% of my bodyweight then the maths would have been 1800/300 = 6 * 20 (10 for vertical and 10 for weight)= 120 to be added to the hrTSS, no?

    Thank you!

    Jens Bracht on #77638

    Hi UA Team,

    I’m trying to figure out how to “fudge factor” my ME workouts. If David Goettler and Luke Nelson are getting 150-200 for their workouts, my guess is they are doing A LOT of reps/weight/work and so it seems fitting for them to receive a high number like this. I’m assuming a workout that makes them “sore for days” would look quite a bit different from my own ME workout. Shouldn’t the average/recreational competitor/big-mountain-seeker, receive a far lesser number for an ME workout that involves less work? hrTSS seems to be a metric that very well coincides with the amount of work done. So shouldn’t the ME workout tss score also reflect the amount of work done relative to the athlete? 150-200 is closer to Goettler and Nelson’s CTL, so someone with a CTL of say 80, might receive a score of 100.

    A 5 mile run might make a newbie sore for days, does that mean they should get the same high TSS score as a hundred miler for Nelson? (Rhetorical).

    The comments on this thread make it sound like average Joes are getting ME scores of 100-200 despite them doing far less work than Mr. Goettler and Mr. Nelson. So their CTL/Fitness scores in Training Peaks are probably “fudged” higher than they should be.

    Personally I have a CTL of ~50, I just did a ME workout 3 days ago and am just now starting the feel recovered, but not quite. I gave myself a score of 75.

    Would love to hear the UA Team’s thoughts on this.


    Jane Mackay on #78082

    Hi Jens,

    I summarised your question for coach Pedro Carvalho. His answer is below.

    This is how I summarised it:
    Jens wants to know what fudge factors to use for the ME workouts.
    Does the fudge factor change depending on how well trained you are?
    Does your CTL affect the fudge factor you use?

    And this is his answer:
    I would say yes , for the same effort ( external load ) , it would create a different internal load in each person, and so , it would be higher in an untrained person .
    It would be logical to raise slightly the tss for the more untrained .
    CTL is chronic training load , the amount of load a person could hold on the last 40 days … when you put a higher fudge factor , you are putting a higher TSS per training and that amount of tss would raise the CTL value.

    You’ve probably also found it, but just in case, this article lists the main fudge factors: https://uphillathlete.com/aerobic-training/trainingpeaks-metrics-ctl-tss/

    Does that help?

    bill on #78168

    I started wondering how much these adjustments matter for anyone not training at the edge of their capacity and at risk for over-training. I was making them for a couple of training blocks but not really seeing how they changed anything other than my CTL, and I was left wondering about the downside of fussiness/anxiety/over-focus on numbers versus their value in making training adjustments or preventing over-training.

    Maybe I am missing something here but if we watch for over-training by doing a good job of tracking fatigue, resting heart rate changes, on-the-hill performance, etc can’t we skip the fudge factors, at least for the aerobic work we do?


    Jane Mackay on #78195

    The fudge factors changing the CTL is the point. The fudge factors are important if you use the CTL and the other TP-generated metrics as guidance on your readiness for a particular activity.
    If, as you describe, you rely primarily on subjective factors, then no, the fudge factors probably aren’t so important for you. The only thing to be aware of is that the CTL is *not* going to be a good guide if you don’t numerically/metrically record the extra tax on your physiology generated by carrying load, moving uphill, etc.

    bill on #78323

    Thanks Jane. Sorry, I think my question wasn’t clear. I will see if I can figure out how to re-phrase it.

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