1) Fundamentally, Training Peaks is a glorified training log and planning tool. There’s nothing magic about the numbers it spits out, but it does make it much more organized and I have found it really useful for planning and tracking. Steve House did a video on some of the more useful features of Training Peaks here: https://uphillathlete.com/performance-management-chart/ –
2) CTL, ATL, and TSB are pretty simple. There’s a little question mark next to the numbers on your Training Peaks main dashboard with definitions and links to more info. CTL = 42 day average of your daily TSS. ATL = 7 day average. TSB is just CTL – ATL. Conceptually, think of CTL as what you’ve been able to maintain over 6 weeks. ATL is what you did this week. If you’re building, what you did this week (ATL) should be a bit more than what you’ve been doing (CTL) and thus your form should be a bit negative. If you’re tapering, then you should see your form shoot up.
3) Yes, you need to enter your zone ranges manually. You can use whatever zone system you like, and Training Peaks will track all of your charts and things automatically.
4) Seems correct-ish to me, except I don’t think the % of Max HR is useful – all of these numbers vary from person to person. From what I can tell, there are several different ways to define the metabolic point we’re aiming to train below. AeT, VT1, Nose-Breathing, a certain lactate amount in your blood – and our metabolic system changes daily based on a million different factors. It’s like one of those things that you can go as far down the rabbit hole as you want. I thought about putting a lactate meter on my Christmas list (but didn’t…). If you followed the UA protocols and you feel like you got numbers that made sense and correlated with what you expect, I think you’re in “good enough” territory. For what it’s worth, what’s helped me is that maxim of “it’s much better to train well below your AeT than it is to train above it even a little bit” – and use everything I know to make sure I stay below it. If I tested my AeT HR at 150 but I’m struggling to nose-breathe at 150, I’ll slow down. If I’m easily nose-breathing but my HR is above 150, I’ll slow down. If my legs feel heavy but my HR is under 150 and I’m nose-breathing, maybe I’ll slow it down anyway so it feels like I could sustain it all day.
5) The zone settings don’t matter in TP per se, but it will help you track how much volume you’ve done in each zone which is useful. In terms of if it matters to Training Peaks, my understanding is that the ONLY number that Training Peaks uses to calculate TSS is your “Threshold Heartrate” (I think even the “Threshold Pace” doesn’t do anything for hrTSS but it might for rTSS – someone else more knowledgeable than me might be able to answer.) BUT – if you’re using the Uphill Athlete zone system, the “Threshold HR” is what UA would consider the Anaerobic Threshold, so you would enter in your “Threshold HR” to whatever you are using for the top of Zone 3/Bottom of Zone 4. You can have Training Peaks to recommend a threshold number for you – I think their definition of their Threshold HR is what you can maintain for one hour at maximum effort. 100 TSS is supposed to be that effort. It’s important to remember that 1) it’s a personalized number – what I can maintain for 1 hour maximum effort is really different than what the pros can maintain for 1 hour – but in our Training Peaks we’d both get 100 TSS for the effort; and 2) it’s an “imperfect-but-the-best-we-have” proxy – if your threshold number is off in TP by a bit maybe it changes your TSS numbers to be off by a few percent which in the scheme of things probably doesn’t matter. The terrain won’t care if your CTL is off by 10% or not. In general the thing that’s useful in TP are the trends – how much fatigue are you carrying and are you building gradually and modulating – TP helps you visualize that information really well.