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.