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TSS

Posted By: KP
Date: Sunday, 25 January 2009, at 8:50 a.m.

Training Stress Score (TSS), estimates the training load of a cyclist and was invented by Dr. Andrew Coggan. I believe he used Eric Bannister's heart rate-based training impulse (TRIMPS) as a model. TSS considers both the intensity and the duration of each training session. Coggan has said that it might best be used as a measure or prediction of the amount of glycogen used. TSS is easy to calculate (if you have necessary software) and it is based on the direct measurement of generated power.

It is an estimator of training load; but some factors used are be moving targets (say FTP). I am a little troubled by the possibility that some athletes may lose the sujective ability to judge themselves and their needs relying on TSS. In defense of TSS, it is not meant to be a crutch, it is meant as an adjunct to training; but as with some new tools in our lives, increased strength in one area may mean atrophy in another (my view). I think PE and self knowledge (knowing your tendencies through experience) should be well developed. The supercomputer on our shoulders should not be replaced.

As I begin to follow TSS a bit I am seeing that an athlete may be able to manipulate TSS up or down through ride style. My ride in the Stagecoach Century last Saturday was 100 miles in 5:30 (NP 213 // TSS 341). The ride to Julian was 90 miles in 5:36 (NP 215 // TSS 353). Looks like Julian was more difficult? Both were tough rides but the Ocotillo ride took a huge chunk out of me that the data doesn't show. Why doesn't greater difficulty at the Stagecoach show up? You might say the VI was higher in Ocotillo (meaning greater power surges) but that's not true.

Ocotillo:
1st half (3:06 ride time) VI -- 1.05
2nd half (2:24 ride time) VI -- 1.13

Julian:
1st half (3:21 ride time) VI -- 1.09
2nd half (2:14 ride time) VI -- 1.31

The Ocotillo ride was far more flat/rolling and aero riding; the kind we do at an Ironman. Down and aero over flat to rolling terrain is tougher than riding hills while sitting up at similar (or slightly higher) intensity. I say this as an athlete who specializes in long, flat aero rides. That is my strength. Think of the difference for athletes who don't ride like that much. Ironman athletes are generally under trained in steady to mod-hard flat and aero riding.

That is worth re-reading: Ironman athletes are generally under trained in steady to mod-hard flat and aero riding. Again, this is no fault of the software. An astute athlete or coach will catch these things. However, I think many athletes use race day effort targets based on the type of training that is most fun and gives the highest power data (hills). The result is that race day effort targets are too high and the athlete runs the risk of (1) fueling issues and (2) less than best run. While this strategy gives the fastest bike split it may not be the way to the fastest finish time. As well, I think some athletes may make the mistake of 'chasing' TSS scores which might make completion of their basic week more difficult. I remain open minded and am having discussion with Phil Skiba about his Race Day Performance Predictor software which also measures training stress (swim, bike, run).

coach KP

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