Should TSB determine training load?

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  • #6624

    Greetings, TFTNA amigos.

    I’ve been using TrainingPeaks for about 6 months and started by backfilling all my earlier workouts from the TFTNA spreadsheet in order to have a reasonable set of starting metrics. My question is: How do I optimally balance my TSS and TSB and yet continue to gain fitness at a reasonable pace? I understand how it works…as I perform workouts (TSS) I gain fitness (CTL) but I experience fatigue (ATL) and this results in a sort of “readiness” for my next workout (TSB). For the first 6 months, the CTL metric was my main focus and, of course, I loved watching it improve. But after a post-Chamonix layoff and recent restart to training I’m paying much closer attention to TSB and comparing that to how I “feel” after and before workouts. This new focus on TSB has led me to reduce my training load in order to keep it near zero at all times. So, back to the earlier question: am I too focused on TSB, or is this just the price of admission for long-term fitness and I have to accept the much slower/gradual CTL improvement? Or, is there a better way?

    Overall, I’m pleased with the previous cycle of training and I performed well in Chamonix this year (relative to previous climbs).

    Apologies if this answer already lives on the site – I searched a bit and didn’t find any discussion.

    Thanks in advance for any input!


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    Anonymous on #6630

    Hey SFmike,

    Good question. I’ve found the Training Peaks metrics to be very helpful, but it’s taken me a long time and many mistakes to figure out how they apply to me. It’s good that you’re asking these questions right away.

    Here are some thoughts:

    * Do some Googling for “Training Peaks ramp rate”. There are lots of general guidelines on how to load and unload your training and “ramp rate” (i.e. how many average TSS to gain per week) is the term that they use. In the past, I’ve tried to average 10 per month (2.5 per week, including a recovery week), but I can only do that for a few months, then I need a bigger break. Long-term, 8 per month is more realistic for me. (But I suspect ramp rate will vary per person.)

    * If you’re trying to maintain a TSB of 0, then I think it’s safe to say that you’re under-training. Sticking around 0 is very conservative. Conservative is always good, but unless life stress or illness is holding you back, it’s probably safe to venture lower.

    * I’ve read somewhere on Training Peaks (or maybe on Joe Friel’s blog) that hitting a TSB of -20 is acceptable if it’s brief (for just one day perhaps) and if it only happens once every ten days. Of course, professional-level athletes can probably go deeper longer. And again, if stress or illness are an issue, then adjust accordingly.

    * Alan Couzens also has some good rules of thumb on ramp rates relative to CTL. Relative rates make the most sense to me; the fitter, the stronger. In particular, he recommends:

    RISK CTL: <45 >70
    Low 4 6
    Moderate 6 8
    High 8 10

    * One thing to note is that Couzens’ numbers are for build weeks, not a chronic average. I think two or three build weeks should always be followed by a week that let’s you “re-surface”.

    I hope that helps. In general, Training Peaks is great, but you’ll need to learn what works for you.

    Scott (S)

    Anonymous on #6631

    Here’s the Couzens article that outlines how to plan on 10 TSS per month, including recovery.

    But again, don’t be afraid to dial it back if 10 TSS per month is wearing you down. Slower, sustained progress is better than harder, intermittent progress.

    SFmike on #6633

    Thanks, Scott.

    I appreciate your insight. You definitely read between the lines: I’ve been intentionally conservative due to stress-fracturing my foot in April yet healing just in time for a trip to Cham. I don’t want to wear “the boot of shame” ever again and have been very careful with training loads since then. I only came back into climbing 2 years ago, after a decade+ layoff so I’m aware my body is still getting accustomed to workloads and it will take time.

    I’ve allowed TSB to be slightly negative for the last week and it “feels” alright, so I think I’ll hold in the 0 to -5 range for a month and see what happens (only incrementally adding TSS when my gut says it’s okay). Also, thanks for the links to additional info.


    Anonymous on #6650


    Scott S is right on with his comments about TSB. Here are few additional comments. Just so SS doesn’t upstage me :-).

    1) Generally you want/need to keep the Purple (ATL) line above the Yellow (TSB) line if you want to drive CTL (fitness) upward.

    2) Acceptable CTL ramp rates vary surprisingly little from person to person. In big over reaching weeks, what Kilian likes to call Shock weeks, I find I can push some folks to a CTL gain of 10 for a week as long we know there is going to be a reduced load/recovery period. Normal training weeks run from 2-5 jump in CTL. Sustaining 5 is likely to get you sick or really tired. I did this once a few years back with David G. He was crushing for 3 weeks of about 7 average. Then the wheels came of with a month long cold/virus thing. OOPS!

    3) I find most folks make good progress when we keep TSB in the -15-25 range. More than -30 and they begin to feel more tired than I like. I like to see recovery from normal training loads in 24-48 hours unless its a special workout. When the hit -50 they MUST have a break. I’ve experimented with myself and -50 means I need a recovery week.

    4) The thing I have not ever figured out well enough to make a rule of thumb is the right TSB to shoot for right before the target event. This is the same issue I had back in the dark ages before TP metrics: How to taper athletes. Some respond best to keeping volume high right to the event. Some need a volume drop and intensity increase. Some need more rest.
    What I’ve observed since using TSB is that some are flat feeling if the TSB goes too high. This is mainly for ski racing (lots of high intensity). For climbers like David I notice that he seems to feel best when TSB is around -10 to -20. He gets too itchy and then stale feeling if he’s too rested. IMHO tapering is highly individual and you have to mess around and try different approaches.

    Good talk,

    SFmike on #6689

    Scott J.,

    Thanks for your additional notes. After reading (and re-reading) your (and Scott Sempel’s) comments, I adjusted my annual training plan and it seems reasonable to me given my preference for gradualness these days. Under the adjusted plan:

    1. ATL is definitely above TSB.

    2. The resulting CTL ramp rate appears to be approx 3 per week on a three-week cycle (2 build, 1 “rest”).

    3. Projected weekly TSB level -5 to -15 (rest week versus build weeks). Oddly enough, I checked my data from the trip to Cham and two particularly big days registered >500 TSS each. The resulting TSB showed -56 for the week (-99 on that specific day) and yes, I was knackered for several days afterward. This is where I want to improve long-term…my ability to recover day-to-day, hence overall capacity for multi-day climbs.

    4. I don’t know myself well enough, yet. The day before climb #1, my TSB was +13. Two days later on climb #2, TSB was -6. Two days after that on climb #3, TSB was -46. So, the data suggests I was terribly under-recovered going into climb #3, even though I felt okay at the start but was delirious by the end. The tank was drained.

    I have a lot of capacity-building to do and that’s ok(!).

    Many thanks!

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