Wednesday, January 02, 2008

TSS for Running

I apologize for the long delay since my last post. Things have been hopping and something always seems to get in the way. Plus, I'm not always at liberty to discuss what's in the current work queue. Anyway, I'd like to share some of the new features inside the upcoming release of TrainingPeaks WKO+, especially those which pertain to running.

This past year I found myself battling the usual battles against my weight. And, being extremely time limited, I resigned myself to a running focus since I figured it was the "biggest bang for the buck" in that regard. It wasn't until the past few months that I actually started making some progress. I started off with zero fitness and decided to take a long term view of things. To that end, I started my program by simply walking on the treadmill everyday. After about six weeks, I began to incorporate short running intervals into my program. After another six weeks, I was spending more time running than walking! The reason for my conservativeness was that my starting weight had reached 278 lbs. Ouch. Since November I have managed to reduce that to 259 lbs.

Here's a Periodic chart showing my progress using normal metrics (Duration, Distance and Pace) over the past few weeks. It's nice in that it shows how I've been spending more time running and that my pace is getting quicker. Thus, I'm running a bit farther.

But, I run on a treadmill. And, I always set the incline to 1% or more. Surely, that's affecting my pace. Right? Plus, I'd like to be able to use the performance management chart in order to help me decide when to run hard, when to run long and when to just back off. Surely, those are important qualities. Not only that, but I'd like to know if my VO2max workouts are hard enough or too stressful. How do they compare with my long run?

In order to plot a run on the PMC, your training device needs to output Pace (well, speed). Optionally, it should output elevation as well. Well, no problem. I've got a Suunto T6 with a foot pod. So, I can get some good data from my treadmill workouts. With that data, WKO+ is now able to calculate "rTSS" or "Run Training Stress Score" (inside WKO+, you may also see it referred to as "TSS pace"). Basically, rTSS is similar to it's cycling counterpart in that it provides an accounting of the training dosage. Armed with rTSS, I can use the PMC to determine my Chronic and Acute training loads along with my Training Stress Balance.

Why use the PMC for running? Well, the short answer is that the PMC can help determine the best time to perform certain activities (such as particular workouts or races). Listen, it simply makes sense to perform high intensity workouts when you are fresh. And, higher intensity means shorter durations. If you extrapolate a little bit, you'll see that this means that your micro cycles should be increasing in TSS each day with the higher IF values performed while your TSB is relatively high. In simpler terms, go short and fast on Monday. Go long and slow on Sunday. And, everything in between should be following the proper slopes between. Well, that's my opinion anyway. Once your TSB hits the basement level, it's time to rest. And, you should rest well. For me, that means up to 3 days off!

Here's a similar looking chart that shows my weekly rTSS scores along with the related Intensity Factors. There's also a new item on the chart refered to as Normalized Graded Pace (NGP). NGP is pace adjusted for changes in grade.

So, from this chart, I can see that I am truly increasing my training load from week to week and that my average intensity is increasing as well. Additionally, I can quickly tell the difference in weekly paces adjusted for grade variations. OK, grade changes on the treadmill for me aren't that big of a deal. But, if I took it outside and ran up and down the hills in the neighborhood, I'd like to know that I was comparing apples to apples. This chart does that.

Finally, this brings us to the Performance Management Chart. Here, I can immediately tell whether or not I am improving as the "bests" are moving along to the right as I perform workouts. The TSB (gold line) clearly indicates when I'm fresh and when I'm fatigued. Seeing as I'm still in what many might consider the "Prep" or early-"Base" ATP phase of my training schedule, my intensity is still pretty low. But, since I'm running most of the time now, I'm interested in maximizing my training time. And, that means that I need to be performing higher intensity when I'm fresh which up until now I haven't been doing well at all. More importantly, being early season, my biggest concern is in building up my CTL. And, since running is rather injury prone, I want to make sure that I am increasing volume and intensity gradually.
More later....