How to Use Data to Make Better Training Decisions, with Tim Cusick

We explore how to use a training philosophy to design your program, then use metrics to guide how much, how often, and how difficult those workouts should be.

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Photo: Polina Rytova

Today we’re taking a good long look at training metrics. We’ve released previous episodes on how to use different numbers, what many of them mean, and how they’re calculated. Today, we tie it together into one package, with a master of data analytics, Tim Cusick, who is not only the product leader for TrainingPeaks’ WKO platform, but also an elite cycling coach of athletes including Amber Neben and Rebecca Rusch.

As Tim likes to say, if each ride you do is a single note, to get the most out of your training, you want to string those rides together in the most elegant way. That is, you want to make music. I love that analogy for the art of training and coaching.

To set the stage for our conversation, it’s helpful to understand that even a data aficionado like Tim fully understands that metrics are not the be-all-end-all—the power of numbers is in their ability to effectively inform the decision-making process. Athletes and coaches should use data to learn more about how best to train, but the data cannot be the solution unto itself.

It’s also helpful to define some terminology. Most of you will have heard of stress, or external load; then there’s strain, the internal load applied to a system; and finally TSS, or training stress score, which we will define and dissect. Likewise, you’re likely familiar with the PMC in TrainingPeaks. The performance management chart shows trends in your season. Finally, Tim often mentions the “content” of the work used to generate these different metrics. What he means by that is the composition of the training rides, whether they’re intense or easy, long or hard, and so forth.

To tie it all together, today’s episode is about utilizing a training philosophy to design the right type of workouts—the content—then using the metrics as a guide to inform how much, how often, and how difficult those rides should be. Voila, you’ve got some Mozart, hopefully. Maybe if you’re Trevor it is more like Celine Dion or Shania Twain. (They’re Canadian.)

On the program today, we also hear from a host of other prominent figures about how they use, or don’t use, all the metrics we have available today. Guests include physiologist Jared Berg, pro mountain biker Payson McElveen, the legend himself Ned Overend, WorldTour veteran Brent Bookwalter, and Xert creator Armando Mastracci.

Time to crunch some numbers, and fill out the all-important comments field.

Let’s make you fast!


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Episode Transcript

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