Most serious cyclists have realized the benefits of training with a power meter to improve cycling performance. But, if you are not using TrainingPeaks WKO+ to view and analyze performance data, then you may be missing out on a valuable tool to improve performance.
TrainingPeaks WKO+ enables the cyclist to view key workout data from each session including peak 20-minute power, intensity factor, normalized power and training stress score (TSS). Using WKO+’s Performance Manager tool, in combination with daily TSS, the aspiring cyclist is able to track long-term fitness and form.
How WKO+ Performance Manager Works
When each power file is uploaded into TrainingPeaks WKO+, the workout is assigned a training stress score (TSS) value. Training stress score for a workout is calculated relative to a cyclist’s average maximum sustainable power over a one-hour time trial, also known as functional threshold power (FTP). One hour at FTP is assigned a value of 100 TSS. Workout intensity and duration for each workout are factored in such a way as to provide a TSS value that represents a physiological value relative to one-hour at FTP.
So, for example, if a cyclist with an FTP of 265 rode for 1:15:00 at average power of 202 watts (low level tempo pace), WKO+ assigns a TSS value of 72.6, suggesting that the cyclist performed the physiological equivalent of 72.6% of a one hour-time trial. If the same cyclist road for 3 hours at an average of 195 watts (upper level endurance), then WKO+ assigns a TSS value of 167.6, the physiological equivalent of 1.67 one-hour time trials.
WKO+ records and weights the cumulative TSS result of each workout to determine both acute training load (ATL) and chronic training load (CTL), which is displayed in the Performance Manager. ATL is a 7-day weighted average of a cyclist’s TSS and provides a measure of short-term or acute training load. CTL, which uses a 42-day weighted average of TSS, provides a cyclist with a measure of long-term cycling fitness.
In the Performance Manager example above, the blue line represents CTL or the long-term fitness of a particular cyclist. From January – mid-March the fitness of this athlete, as measured by CTL was relatively constant at a value of 35 (representing an average of 35 TSS points per day). The pink line represents ATL, or the seven-day weighted TSS average of this athlete.
From January – mid-March, ATL fluctuates a little above and a little below the CTL based upon current workouts. The yellow line, which represents Training Stress Balance (TSB) and is an indicator of athlete fatigue – is the mirror image of the ATL line. When the yellow TSB line drops below the blue CTL line, the athlete is experiencing relative fatigue. When TSB is above the CTL line, the athlete is relatively fresh. Fitness (CTL) + Freshness (positive TSB) = Cycling Form.
During the winter period, the athlete was mostly doing inside, short duration workouts on the trainer. During this block of training, the cyclist did two 20-minute power tests to determine his functional threshold power and to set his FTP values within TrainingPeaks WKO+. The black line represents the 10-best 20-minute average power readings during that period of time, while the red line represents the 10-best normalized power readings (a matter for another article). On January 23, the athlete tested at 271 watts, giving him an FTP value of 257 watts. After several weeks of FTP-based training workouts, he retested on March 5 at 279 watts for 20-minutes, providing an FTP value of 265 watts. Even though fitness did not improve, per se, during this time period as measured by CTL, this athlete’s FTP did improve by almost 4% through focused FTP workouts provided by his cycling coach.
In late March, the athlete participated in a training camp that featured 7 days of long duration, low intensity (endurance or recovery) rides over an 8-day period. The ATL (pink line) provides a vivid graphic image of the significant increase in training load experienced by this cyclist. The CTL, too, rose by approximately 12 points from 34 to 46 during this same time period, while the TSB (representing athlete fatigue) plummeted.
To improve cycling performance, the training objective is to increase CTL gradually over a period of time (the build period) to achieve a high level of fitness prior to the athlete’s priority races. WKO+’s Performance Manager too provides a vivid demonstration of an athlete’s improvement in fitness through applied training. Prior to this cyclist’s A-priority races in the summer months, the athlete’s coach will reduce the acute training load to create athlete freshness. With a high level of fitness and fresh legs, this athlete will be ready to race when the time comes.
WKO+’s Performance Manager provides the tool for the athlete to measure improvements in cycling performance and to arrive at the start line on form and ready to compete.