Are you uploading workouts files to a fancy analytics app, looking at calculated training loads, observing the PMC, but still planning training using hours?
Bereda can help coaches (and self-coaches) transition from planning hours to planning training load. It’s the only ATP planning tool that can plan weekly hours and intensity in combination with training load and the PMC.
Training Load and the PMC have many benefits, but unless you’re very familiar with them, it can be difficult to figure out what the numbers really mean, especially when planning. Having intensity and hours gives context to training load, helping you figure out what’s required for the Fitness (CTL) targets you’re planning, and if they’re going to be feasible given an athlete’s training availability.
This post explains how to hone in on the best strategy for the season by reviewing what an athlete has done in the past to make more informed planning decisions.
Why Plan Training Load, not Hours?
When it comes to training, hours are a constraint. They shouldn’t be the target.
“How many hours do I have to train?” is a dangerous question. Just because an athlete has 10 hours available doesn’t mean they should be training 10 hours. Overtraining and undertraining are real dangers, and with that in mind, we know that there exists a “right” amount of training for every unique starting point.
Instead of measuring training based on hours, training load metrics look at both the hours AND intensity of a training session and give it score to represent how much training was done. Depending on the metric you’re using, an hour of training could be 100 points if it was maximal, and 50 points if it was more endurance pace.
Over time, there are two lines that show important trends in the training load data.
Fitness (CTL) – shown by the blue line, is the long-term trend in the training load data. It’s the Chronic Training Load, which loosely represents the athlete’s “fitness”. It increases when training is elevated from what’s been normal.
Form (TSB) – shown by the orange line, is the short-term effect of the training load on an athlete. It’s the Training Stress Balance and represents the athlete’s freshness or “form”. When training increases, Form (TSB) goes negative. A rest week is required to “come out of the hole”.
The main purpose of looking at training through this lens is to quantify fatigue and recovery, or the fundamental principle of training known as the overload principle. You can see in the image how Fitness (CTL) increases and decreases in cycles with an overall upward trend. This is progressive overload in action.
Hours alone cannot paint this picture. Planning out training loads will help you build plans that are properly progressive leading to peak performance when the athlete needs it.
Important planning numbers: Recommendations vs. Actual
There are a few numbers that are going to set the “goal posts” for the overall structure of an ATP. There are recommendations available for all of these numbers, however, it’s a good idea to get an idea of what numbers an athlete has actually hit in the past. What have they had success with? What’s pushed them too far? These numbers will be specific to them and their unique situation.
A good plan is progressive, even from one year to the next. So it’s important to get a good idea of what targets an athlete has achieved so we don’t create a plan that’s too big a change from what they’ve previously done, rather than just take a recommendation or guess.
Race Fitness (CTL): What’s the highest Fitness (CTL) value did the athlete hit last year? The year before? This might have happened right before their target event for the year, or a few weeks prior before they tapered. Planning for a 10 point increase in Race Fitness (CTL) from year to year would be a reasonable increase. A 20 point jump is getting ambitious.
Offseason Fitness (CTL): What Fitness (CTL) value had the athlete dropped to in the offseason? Historically, this value may be too low or too high, and you might not want to replicate it in your planning, but it’s important to review it. Check out this post on how to set up offseason training in Bereda to get the best start to the season’s build up.
Ramp Rates: People are most familiar with weekly ramp rates, but when planning a season we want to look at how Fitness (CTL) builds up over a longer period of time. What was the average ramp rate of the season’s entire 6-month build up? What was the steepest one month? These numbers will give you a reference for how quickly to build up to that Race Fitness (CTL) next season.
Hour limitations: This doesn’t get measured by looking at previous training, but is an important constraint to remember when planning. If you have an athlete with serious time constraints, read this post to make sure you build a plan that’s within their abilities. A mesocycle’s average hours are displayed by the number at the top of the bars.
Training Intensities: Overall training intensity changes throughout the year depending on what type of training an athlete is doing. To get the best intensity values in your plan, it’s best to review what an athlete has done in the past, looking at the averages of three or more weeks at a time. A mesocycle’s overall intensity is displayed by the number at the top of its graphic.
Reviewing an Athlete’s History
Bereda has the ability to import your historical training load data from other apps through drag and dropping .csv files. This allows you to recreate and dissect an athlete’s PMC in Bereda to get insights for future plan building. So before getting started, read how to import past data into Bereda.
When reviewing an athlete’s data: start broad, then narrow. Break the training down into the big chunks, then get more and more specific, even getting down to 3-week mesocycles if they’re well defined.
We’ll review the data of our very own Dennis Cottreau, CEO of Bereda, from his 2014 and 2015 seasons.
The starting point:
- After importing and seeding the data with a Fitness (CTL) of 50, we have Dennis’s 2014 and 2015 seasons.
- Notice the toggle in the top right corner which zeroes the y-axis. We have it turned off.
- Add mesocycle divisions by hovering over a mesocycles’s name, then click SPLIT.
- Note: click to enlarge images.
- Start broad: the data That’s Dennis’s 2014 vs. 2014-2015 season.
- 2014: Dennis finished engineering school, trained hard and did his first pro races.
- 2015: Took a year to fully commit to training and race to see if he could “make it”.
- From 2014 to 2015 you can see how the average training load increased (551 to 733 per week). This resulted in an additional five hours per week, but at a slightly lower intensity as he focused on increased volume and building an aerobic base.
- Ramp rates are visible but they don’t mean too much broken down on a yearly basis.
- After his last race in August, Dennis “retired” from his amateur cycling career 😉
Zoomed in on 2014:
- Using the slider at the bottom of the screen, we zoom in on the 2014 season in order to dissect it for further insights.
The 2014 breakdown:
- After breaking it down, we see that 2014 started with a good section of indoor training through the winter semester at university. There was an extended and solid ramp (2.8) in Fitness (CTL) which happened through a mix of endurance rides and intervals sessions. That resulted in an overall intensity of 0.754 on 10 hours a week of training on average.
- Next up was a training camp in South Carolina over spring break. The structure of this 2-week mesocycle is similar to how Bereda builds a “Very Large” period of increased training. Dennis was pretty fatigued after that camp but recovered well from it.
- There was very high intensity during a short spring race period, during which Fitness (CTL) dropped slightly, allowing for fresh racing legs as indicated by a positive Form (TSB). Dennis raced very well during this period, chasing podiums in US collegiate races.
- Studying for and writing final exams caused a significant Fitness (CTL) drop.
- Named “Overtraining” for a reason, this is where things went wrong in 2014. After a big Fitness (CTL) drop while finishing school, Dennis did some “panic” training in May in preparation for his first pro races that June. He had done a big block of May training to great effect in previous years, but 2014 took it too far. He started the big block at only 65 CTL and wanted to get up to where he had raced well the year prior: 100 CTL. The difference was that the year before he started at 77, not 65. Thus, the ramp rate was in the danger zone: 7.0 for four weeks, you can see how dark the TSB is at the end of the three build weeks, and that includes a rest week to recover. In truth, Dennis wasn’t recovered, and after the pro races were over he was deeply fatigued and got sick.
- Dennis was able to recover and came back into a bit of form by late 2014, but then the season was over. The only upside to a lackluster end to 2014 was that Dennis was ready to get going right away for a big 2014-2015.
Panning over to 2014-2015:
- Using the date slider, we can move to the right and look at the 2014-2015 season.
Digging into 2014-2015:
- When we break down 2014-2015, we can start getting insights into what was a pretty successful year.
- It started with nine weeks of picture-perfect base training in the fall. You can see the three clearly defined three-week mesocycles, which ramp up consistently at an average of 1.6 points per week. Dennis was doing endurance rides outside and hitting the gym. The intensity came out at 0.67 for the nine-week period.
- As he transitioned to a mix of indoor interval training and outside endurance riding, the intensity increased to 0.704 but the training load stayed the same. As such, Fitness (CTL) was only maintained. Dennis would have liked to keep increasing through this period, but there was some inconsistency through this period as the outside conditions caused some missed sessions.
- With a trip to California approaching, Dennis got a block of serious indoor training done in January. Intensity increased and he ramped up Fitness (CTL) at 3.4 points per week during that time. He decided to take an extra easy week before California to rid himself of any fatigue.
- In California, Dennis had no other commitments other than training. He was able to handle a ramp rate of 5.0 for an extended period of time because training, and more importantly resting, was a full-time job. While he was doing focused intervals or hard group riding every second day, he was also doing a TON of endurance and even coffee shop riding. That resulted in an overall intensity of only 0.66, which isn’t surprising. In conversations with professional road cyclists and their coaches, we’ve seen that intensities of 0.6 and even lower are common for athletes doing this type of training. There’s so much volume that the intensity gets diluted on a weekly basis.
- California training set Dennis up well for a two-month spring racing campaign. It started with a pro stage race in California and transitioned to a series of amateur races on the east coast before finishing with a couple more pro races. Event markers were added by clicking the “add events” icon in next to the IMPORT button.
- Dennis took an easy “transition” week before building up once again for a stint of racing at the end of the season.
- The late-season build was an average of 1.8 points per week, at an intensity of 0.69.
End of the story:
- In the last period of summer racing, Dennis produced his best ever power numbers, winning the local ‘B’ race and chasing podiums in the bigger ‘A’ races.
- But it was during this time that Dennis decided he had had enough bike racing and entered his “retirement” from amateur bike racing 😉
- The reason to do a big year was to see how good Dennis could get, how much he could improve. With a 25 watts gain on his threshold power that season, it’s clear that Dennis still had room to improve physiologically.
- Dennis always wondered what his next season would have looked like if he kept going, so we’ll use our learning from his 2014 and 2015 campaigns to retroactively build the plan for 2016.
Implementing our learnings in a plan for 2016
Earlier we listed some important numbers to look for when building a plan. Here’s what Dennis did in his previous season, and what he’d plan to do in his hypothetical 2016:
Race Fitness (CTL)
Past: Dennis peaked out at a Fitness (CTL) of 128 and did the bulk of his spring racing at 115.
Plan: Increasing his volume was important for 2015, but in 2016 further increase won’t make the difference when it comes to pro races. Dennis will target similar Fitness (CTL) numbers for 2016 but no more.
Offseason Fitness (CTL)
Past: Dennis dropped down to a Fitness (CTL) of 70 before starting his build up in 2015-2016.
Plan: 2015’s short offseason was a comfortable amount of unstructured training for Dennis and he was able to recharge for the year ahead. We’ll shoot for a similar value in 2016.
Past: Dennis’s 2014-2015 ramped very nicely except for the inconsistent period in early winter.
Plan: More of the same, especially focused on recreating a successful California build up, without the period of inconsistency.
Past: Wasn’t a limiter for Dennis in 2015
Plan: Hours might actually be slightly reduced because…
Past: Fairly low intensities throughout the year
Plan: Dennis would target slightly more intensity in 2016, specifically focusing on improving his short, anaerobic power for durations under 3 minutes.
With reference points from the previous years, and a plan for slight changes moving forward, Dennis is able to create his hypothetical plan for greatness in 2016:
This plan is much the same as the previous year. Dennis gets a month to recharge, dropping Fitness (CTL) to 75 before starting a fall training period which involves base training while the weather is nice, transitioning to indoor intervals with “Build” phases as the weather gets questionable, and a transition period where Fitness (CTL) drops when winter truly hits. This break allows Dennis to recharge once again before going to California to get the season started proper, and the structure from here on out is much the same as 2015.
This is currently a “sneak peek” at a feature to come, but we’re able to view the hypothetical plan for 2016 in the full context of Dennis’s previous training by adjusting the scroll bar:
We’re now looking at three seasons of training in one window, and if you look closely at the scroll bar at the bottom you’ll notice that we’re going to be able to plan multiple years into the future, a feature that many IRONMAN coaches have been requesting!
If you want more details on how we built Dennis’s “hypothetical” plan for 2016, check out this post (coming soon…).
Have a question about this post? Let us know what you think by clicking the chat icon in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.