Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Training Tools

In 1995 I tried using a power meter for the first time--an SRM the company loaned me for the summer while I was writing The Cyclist's Training Bible. It began to change the way I saw the process of training for bike racing and triathlon. Then in 1998 Tune, Inc. which created and sold the Power-Tap power meter gave me a prototype to use. I've been using them ever since and now require that everyone I coach also have a power meter. The heart rate monitor, while a useful tool in itself, is now an even a better tool. The combination of power and heart allows me to prescribe workouts and analyze their results in very precise ways. I don't know how I coached athletes before the power meter came along. I suppose it was all just guesswork although it seemed quite effective at the time.

Now something else has come down the pike that is once again modifying how I view and understand training -- WKO+ software (formerly known as Cycling Peaks). I started using it for myself and the athletes I coach last fall. Designed by Andy Coggan and Hunter Allen, this makes the power and heart rate tools even more effective. It took me a while to figure out, but once again I am beginning to see training in a slightly clearer way. Based on metrics called "Training Stress Score" (TSS) and "Intensity Factor" (IF) which are derived from power meter data, the software produces and updates daily how your training is going. (I won't go into the math of TSS, IF, etc here. Buy Coggan's and Allen's book, Training and Racing With a Power Meter for all the gory details.)

Let me give a small example of how my view of training is being refined and better defined because of WKO+.

Above is a screen shot of an athlete's "Performance Manager Chart" from WKO+. The red line represents fatigue, the blue line fitness and the black line form (race readiness). To paraphrase a basic concept from Andy Coggan, form = fitness - fatigue. This simply means that if you want to be race ready (rising black line) you need to first build fitness (rising blue line) by being very consistent with your training and then reduce fatigue (red) by allowing for rest. You can see this happening in the above chart. Fitness ratchets upward for several weeks as the athlete trains fairly consistently. Several times throughout this four-month snapshot fatigue is shed. You can see this as a drop in the red line. The athlete is resting by reducing training stress through less intensity, less frequency, less duration or some combination of these. As fatigue is reduced, form rises. The athlete is becoming race ready. Very simple to see.

But there are some less obvious nuances. For example, notice in circle "A" that fatigue drops and form rises. The athlete is becoming race ready. But also notice that fitness is dropping at the same time. Whenever training stress is reduced to eliminate fatigue, fitness also begins a slow decline. Basically, the same thing is happening with circle B--fatigue is down, form is up and fitness is dropping slightly. Even though form appears to be about the same level in both circles, notice that fitness drops more in circle A. In fact, the athlete reported not feeling very sharp at the form high point in A, but reported feeling quite strong at circle B's high form point. Obviously, because not as much fitness was lost.

So what does this mean? For years I have been tapering athletes in the Peak period by having them do a race effort workout every 72 hours with two active recovery days between. This has usually worked well. Circle B reflects that training method. Essentially, circle A had too many days of active recovery between the hard workouts. So because of the software now I can now see a representation of what I figured out many years ago and I can actually manage the day the athlete comes into high form. Pretty remarkable.

Stay tuned as I'm told there are even more remarkable features being designed for the software. It's becoming more fun all the time.

Labels: , , , ,


At March 12, 2007 2:45 AM , Blogger Morten Liebach said...

How do you use the Performance Manager Chart for Triathlon?

I've been assigning a TSS to all my swim, bike and run workouts and tracked them through the same PMC chart, but I'm not sure it's the right thing to do.

On the Wattage group the idea has been bounced around, but no consensus on how to do it.

What's your take?

At March 12, 2007 3:01 PM , Blogger blue squirrel said...

thanks for the insight. very helpful.

At March 12, 2007 8:14 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Morten--Yes, you can do that if you're good at estimating hourly TSS from effort. I've never tried it but and can see the potential for some problems. For ex,is the training stress of a 2-hour run equivalent to a 4 hour ride and a 1-hour swim? More? Less?--Joe

At March 21, 2007 11:32 AM , Blogger d2g said...

Hi Joe-- have appreciated your work for years. Started my own power training journey over the winter with a Tacx Fortius and noted immediate return on my investment in my ultra winter MTB race and training results. Spring is coming and we'll see if it's really true...

As for triathlon and TSS, I also use a SUUNTO T6; That tool helps give me fantastic running training, comparable I think to power on a bike. I suspect that at least for running, there should be a correlation between EPOC and TSS that could be exploited.

Swimming is harder because few HRMs work well in water.


At March 27, 2007 6:55 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

d2g--Sorry for the delay. Too much travel. While I haven't used EPOC I like the idea of quantifying intensity. There are several ways. For running nothing has really come to the top the way power has in cycling. I really expect to see some shoe company coming out with a 'power' measuring run shoe in the not-too-distant future.

At April 23, 2007 8:22 PM , Blogger Thomas said...

I have this thinking that approximately a century (100 miles not km) ride is roughly equilavent to a marathon because we're dealing with the fastest marathon being run in about a little over 2 hours and the fastest 100 miles is usually ridden in 4 hours. I also have this instinct that tells me that the physiological equilavent for the two is about right. I also remember Andy Coggan noting in his book that it's roughly 50-75 TSS for every hour of riding unless you're riding.

At July 12, 2007 10:33 AM , Blogger Andy Froncioni said...


I couldn't find the exact same 3 curves in WKO+.

First, how do I get to the Performance Manager?

The only similar tool I saw in WKO+ has only 2 curves. How do I get CTL, ATL, and TSB all on one graph.



At July 12, 2007 12:42 PM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

Andy--It's a bit detailed to explain in comments. I'll take a pass at it but if any confusion write to for help.
Open WKO+ to athlete's home page (all of the graphs are here). Go to the upper right hand corner of any graph where it says "options" and open the drop down menu. Select "Add a chart to this page" and then select "Performance Management Chart." That will open a new chart like the one posted in my blog. You must have a recent version of WKO+ for thgis to work. So if you don't see PM Chart as an option then you have an older version and need to get the more recent at

At July 13, 2007 6:50 AM , Blogger Andy Froncioni said...


Yup, that got it. Thanks so much. Keep up the amazing work!


At January 22, 2010 5:52 PM , Blogger Chiongster said...

Hi, Joel.Love ur blog.
I just wanna know as i ride most of the time indoor using powertap and from time to time i drink water/eat energy bar while pedalling. As expected the cadence and power would drop and this is reflected in WKO+. Will this "valley" of rest period will affect the final value of decoupling number and if so how can i eliminate the valley so i can get a true decoupling value.

Chiong from Brunei

At January 23, 2010 7:31 AM , Blogger Joe Friel said...

chiong--Decoupling will not be effected significantly by a _brief_ slow down.


Post a Comment

<< Home