You may have noticed the letters TSS and a number next to the name of each session on the screen during class. Many of you ignore this and miss out on some important aspect of training with power.
TSS or training stress score is a scoring system developed in the US to monitor your training to ensure that you train hard enough but not so hard that you reach a state of fatigue. Without monitoring your training and re-testing your FTP periodically you run the risk of over-training and burning out, negating a lot of the training effort. On the other side of the coin you might not be pushing the boundaries enough and not allow yourself to reach your full potential.
So what does TSS mean in practice. In order to compete successfully in your next event, you need to determine what the demands of the race is or Chronic Training Load (CLT). CTL is the average TSS per day over a period of time or your current finesses level. The Cape Epic for example requires a CTL between 120-130TSS per day for that week whereas a one-day road race such as the Cycle Challenge (947) requires a TSS of about 90. The idea of a structured training plan is to work backwards from that value and build yourself up gradually by increasing 10TSS per week leading up to the event in order to prepare the body for the stress the event will place on your immune system. Your TSS and CTL will obviously be dependent on your goals for the event and will be vastly different for a sub 4 hour 947 versus a sub 2.5 hour. Visualise your goal, work backwards as to what is realistically achievable in terms of TSS, and then put it the quality focussed training sessions.
When one is training on a periodised or structured training plan you will go through different training blocks or macrocycles throughout the year. Each training phase has a certain goal that needs to be achieved before you move onto the next training phase. The training plan will consist of hard blocks with a high daily TSS load and these macrocycles are broken up by recovery weeks with a very low TSS load to allow the body to adapt to the training stimulus. For a good TSS score you don’t necessarily have to train for long hours, the quality or intensity factor (IF) of the session will also influence the TSS value.
The best way to track your data is to upload all your information to software such as Training Peaks (www.trainingpeaks.com), it is free and a great way to store all your training files as well as monitor your progress over time.
Each workout at CycleZone has a certain TSS score attached to it and if you are training with a heart rate monitor or power meter on your outdoor bike you will automatically receive a TSS for that session once you upload the file to Training Peaks.
Try to avoid guessing your FTP especially if you have been off the bike for a while. You need to know what your actual FTP is in order to achieve anything from our workouts. The data means nothing if you are playing a guessing game with yourself. The FTP test should be tracked throughout the year to not only monitor improvement but it also allows you to pick up on issues such as over training and it is an opportunity to discuss your training and make sure your goals are on track.
Nadine Visagie – Sport Scientist and CycleZone Coach