The function of form

I’ve gotten to where I don’t really analyze my ride data until I get the file with mark ups from my coach, Jim Cunningham, of the Greenville Cycling Center. He ends up doing a much better job of finding the various efforts. Plus, I like the anticipation of finding out what he is going to say about my execution and progress.

After Saturday’s ride he commented in the report: “Wow, MEGA epic TSS points at 345.5!” This is something he comments on regularly. It took me forever just to figure out what it meant! Time Sweating in Saddle? Actually, it means Training Stress Score. It is a fancy way of saying, “This is how hard you trained today.”

Let’s say you rode for 1 hour at your functional threshold – as fast as you could for that period – you would get 100 points. Or as Joe Friel puts it: TSS = (sec x NP x IF)/(FTP x 3600) x 100. In other words, to get your TSS for a given ride you multiply the amount of time you rode in seconds by your normalized power and the percentage of your FTP. You then divide that by the number arrived at during your FTP test times the number of seconds in an hour. Finally multiply it all by 100.

Got it?

That is why I use TrainingPeaks.com and WKO+ – not to mention a coach to explain it all! It is enough for me to know whether I have reached the desired TSS for that day. There have been several times where I haven’t, so to hear that I’ve exceeded the desired amount is good news.

Ultimately, TSS leads us to CTL and ATL. Your Chronic Training Load is the accumulated effects of the TSS over a given period. For me that period is 42 days. Your Acute Training Load is the shorter term effects of the TSS. For me I consider the last 7 days.

The balance of your fitness and rest during those times is your TSB – Training Stress Balance. That is what a racer is talking about when he says he is in “good form.” Hunter Allen gives this simple equation: Form = Fitness + Freshness. The goal of every racer is to reach their A race with the best combination of Fitness and Freshness.

According to Jim, my CTL is doing great. However, just because my body may be strong and able to put out power doesn’t mean I’m ready to go race. I’ve been exerting a lot to get that fitness and that has led to some tiredness. You could say the tools are there, but I’m too tired to use them. So, I am not on best form because Form does not equal Fitness + Tiredness.

I could take some time off and that would bring the Freshness back into the equation, but if I don’t keep training at a certain level I will lose my Fitness. Form does not equal Unfit + Fresh. It truly is a balancing act and the goal is to combine the stress of exertion with the healing effects of rest. If you time these things correctly, you can arrive at your A race with proper form — Form = Fitness + Freshness.

Thankfully, it is all science. With my Quarq CinQo powermeter, WKO+, and a knowledgable coach, I have all the tools to make this work. It is cool to watch the little blue line move across the Power Management Chart in WKO+. I watch it graph upward as Jim puts the hurt on me and then it drops – like this week when I am not on the bike as much. However, I know that next week it will start climbing up again. I also know that it will climb higher than last week. So the CTL continues to climb until my A race.

I’m still waiting to sight that mythical animal called the Taper. The Taper is the final combination of Exertion and Rest before the A race. Jim speaks of this time with great reverence (okay, I’m exagerating) because the plan says that after the Taper I will truly begin to experience the results of the work I have done since November. I feel like Jim is the scientist and I am the beaker. He keeps putting in a combination of efforts, rest, time, and instruction. The beaker is starting to put off smoke, but we won’t know for sure if the experiment is a success until we pour it out for the A race.

To be honest, I don’t know what to expect. For now I’m just having fun watching that little blue line continue to make its steady way up the chart. The function of form is to give the best opportunity for success possible. Then it is just up to me and the bike.