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Old 08-20-12, 01:29 PM   #1
HMF
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What's your take on CTL, fitness, and progress?

I've been riding with power for about 21 mos now and the PMC chart is still something of a mystery to me. My current CTL is at 70 or so, and it just recently came crashing down from 91 after about 10 days off the bike due to an accident. This past weekend was my first big weekend back since that accident, and I went out for 70 miles on Saturday, and 68 on Sunday. Numerically, Saturday was harder; TSS = 217 vs 178 on Sunday. I rode with the same group of guys as usual, about 10 or so, pretty much all of them have been riding while I've been sitting around, and during the "spirited segments" myself and another rider ended up dropping the rest of the chase group, while our Cat 2 friend blasted up the road. Basically, I'm about where I was. The only difference I have noticed is that for the mileage and TSS, I'm more tired than I usually am. I had about the same feeling of fatigue that I usually get from going 100 miles and TSS of 270-300.

If I were to go by the numbers, a CTL of 70 was about where I was in December. So, what does that mean?

This season, the highest CTL I was able to get to was about 95, just before a taper. I did well in the race I was shooting for. But, in order to get to that point, I was slogging away at threshold intervals, tabatas, and v02max intervals, in varying order, week after week. Average TSS per week as about 700-750. I was tired all the time and had no life outside of training. I'm already competitive in the 3's, but if I advanced to Cat 2 and wanted to do more than just hang on at the back, would that necessitate the kind of training that would lead to CTL of 105 or higher? Some of you guys put down weeks of 1000+ TSS, which just blows my mind, because to get there I would have to do the kind of workout that requires some recovery time day after day with no recovery. I suppose at some point it's genetics, and you just have to look at what you can do and say "Yep, I am where I am", but I'm hoping there's something I'm missing. I'm hoping that progress is similar to LeMond's saying, "It doesn't get easier, you just get faster" only instead "CTL doesn't go higher, you just get fitter".

One of the reasons I got a power meter, THE reason for getting a power meter, is so I could train smarter. I guess what I'm really asking is, how does CTL drive your training, if at all?
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Old 08-20-12, 02:11 PM   #2
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where is your TSB when your CTL is 90? I certainly dont think you should train with a goal of raising your CTL.
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Old 08-20-12, 02:13 PM   #3
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First thing is I wouldn't compare your TSS to anyone else's; some people don't have their FTP set right, so TSS could look huge but it's actually not..

Back to your main question, about CTL. I think your TSB needs to also be taken in to account, so where was it each time you had the same CTL but felt better/worse?

Also I don't think a specific CTL can be equated with the demands of a category. Some guys probably put down 1000+ TSS weeks but are still stuck in cat 3/4, so there is also that.
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Old 08-20-12, 03:34 PM   #4
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These questions would probably be better answered on the wattage forums. Those guys go deep into things like this.

CTL is really just a starting point. It's a great estimation of your training load, your fitness, and your form. But it's still just an estimation. You can't ignore things like what your body will tell you. Also, some people's bodies will be able to handle a training plan formulated around CTL building better than others. Some people whether due to age, history, or genetics, just won't be able to handle the same CTL that other people can. One thing it does not take into consideration is the amount of experience and base you have. If you've been riding for one year your CTL max is likely to be considerably lower than if you've been riding for 15.

My experience is using CTL to base your training is a quick way to burn out. You have to really have some experience and know what you are doing if you are going to train this way. There are some great coaches, and plenty of self taught people out there that can utilize it fully. But I bet there are a lot more people out there that can get high CTLs, and get next to nothing in the form of real world results. I had a lot higher CTL when I was self coaching myself, and would have a super high positive TSB for races. I had some decent results. But now since I've been coached, I have a lower CTL but am considerably stronger and much more competitive in races.

There are still some things I don't truly think that TSS can calculate for daily rides. For example, I still feel like my 2hr 4x15min or 6x10min or 3x20min threshold rides (~150 TSS) during the week are considerably harder on the mind and body than the 4hr endurance rides on the weekend (~200 TSS). But, I've also done super super punchy 2hr rides or races all the way up to 200TSS (that's IF of 1.0), and hardly felt tired from them. It also does not take into account that I'm training after work during the week, which is stressing and tiring even before I get on the bike, and not used in the calculation.

And on top of all that, TSB can't be taken as an exact science either. In theory, the higher the TSB, the better it should be. But I can spike my TSB with some time off the bike, and not be able to perform for days. Personally, I've had much better results easing my TSB up, and actually dropping it slightly up to my goal races. Not sure why exactly, but I often perform at a much higher level with about -5 points from my TSB peak.

Basically I just typed a couple paragraphs of my random thoughts on this matter. Sorry about the disorganization. Hope it sparks some other people's thoughts and helps the OP.
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Old 08-20-12, 04:28 PM   #5
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It also does not take into account that I'm training after work during the week, which is stressing and tiring even before I get on the bike, and not used in the calculation.
That's really important to remember. Just a guess but I suspectt that some of the large apparent difference in the CTL that different riders can handle is due to the amount of other stress in their lives, and how they deal with it. External (non-cycling) stress affects my performance and overall stress much more than I thought it would.
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Old 08-20-12, 04:46 PM   #6
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Some good thoughts here. There's no exact answer to any question relating to this topic, I'm sure, but it definitely helps to get other perspectives on it.

I lied, the high point I was referring to was 91. TSB around that weekend was around -20. Anything approaching -30 is when I start to snap over things like dirty dishes and the dog needing to be walked. But eventually, if you keep training, TSB will become Zero again as CTL catches up to ATL, no?

I've done some manual entries in GC of projected TSS for a given block or two, and it becomes apparent that doing workouts that result in a certain TSS per week will eventually lead to a plateau, obviously. Plateau's beg the question, "Now what?" - a question that's hard to answer when you can't simply ride more, or go harder
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Old 08-20-12, 04:58 PM   #7
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II guess what I'm really asking is, how does CTL drive your training, if at all?
It's an individual result and goal based on equating the three combined metrics with historical performance. Using it as a stand alone target is calling four tires a car and trying to drive across the country on them.

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Old 08-20-12, 05:03 PM   #8
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But eventually, if you keep training, TSB will become Zero again as CTL catches up to ATL, no?
No.
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Old 08-20-12, 05:54 PM   #9
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meh its just a number
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Old 08-20-12, 06:09 PM   #10
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I use TSB as a guideline to remind me when I should lay off a bit.
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Old 08-20-12, 06:40 PM   #11
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also, i've had days where my tsb has been -20-35 and ive felt great, and ive had days where its only like -5 and i feel like ****. I look at it as a cool toy which gives me an idea of my fitness and stress, but in the end if my legs hurt too much im resting, if i feel fine ill continue training!
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Old 08-20-12, 06:44 PM   #12
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I use TSB as a guideline to remind me when I should lay off a bit.
I used to really watch CTL and TSB, but now, not so much. CTL doesn't tell the whole story. For example, travel for me is a huge factor in my training and CTL would never tell me anything regarding that. Measuring and recording Heart Rate variability helps, and paired with a PMC can be a nice duo. I remember reading some Training Peak coach wrote an online article about TSB, and how you shouldn't have X number of days below -20, etc. But in general, before an 'A' event I want to see it trending up, past 0 in the days before it. But, again, no absolutes in this.
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Old 08-20-12, 06:59 PM   #13
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I used to really watch CTL and TSB, but now, not so much. CTL doesn't tell the whole story. For example, travel for me is a huge factor in my training and CTL would never tell me anything regarding that. Measuring and recording Heart Rate variability helps, and paired with a PMC can be a nice duo. I remember reading some Training Peak coach wrote an online article about TSB, and how you shouldn't have X number of days below -20, etc. But in general, before an 'A' event I want to see it trending up, past 0 in the days before it. But, again, no absolutes in this.
Nice. What device are you using for that? I've posted here before on how I think HRV and metabolomics will revolutionize exercise prescription.
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Old 08-20-12, 07:02 PM   #14
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Nice. What device are you using for that? I've posted here before on how I think HRV and metabolomics will revolutionize exercise prescription.
I think it's sorely ignored. I use the Ithlete App on the iphone (just an old 3G we had in a drawer). Plug in the dongle, measure in the AM for 45 secs, get your number, recover if needed.
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Old 08-20-12, 09:47 PM   #15
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meh its just a number
kid, it never is just a number. it's an ewang for gawdsake

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I think it's sorely ignored. I use the Ithlete App on the iphone (just an old 3G we had in a drawer). Plug in the dongle, measure in the AM for 45 secs, get your number, recover if needed.
what's your protocol? do you wear the belt during sleep? and do you measure it as you wake up, within a few minutes of waking up, or after you sat up? What about measurements when standing up?

i had thought about doing this as my only current use for the wahoo key is for the calibration of my quarq
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Old 08-21-12, 05:21 AM   #16
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what's your protocol? do you wear the belt during sleep? and do you measure it as you wake up, within a few minutes of waking up, or after you sat up? What about measurements when standing up?

i had thought about doing this as my only current use for the wahoo key is for the calibration of my quarq
When I wake up. I just keep the same routine when I'm tracking it. Get, up, go to bathroom, stand and measure.
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Old 08-21-12, 07:45 AM   #17
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so a standing HR measurement or sitting down after you already stood up and moved about a bit?
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Old 08-21-12, 11:41 AM   #18
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so a standing HR measurement or sitting down after you already stood up and moved about a bit?
I do standing. I tried it once laying down and it seemed to produce an abnormally high (good) number.
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