We’ve received so many great questions about TSS, or Training Stress Score, that we wanted to look at this popular metric from several angles. Most of today’s episode is devoted to those questions; and stay tuned for a future episode where we’ll take an even closer look at TSS. I must note there are many opinions about TSS. There isn’t a single answer as to its best use, or how effective it is for your overall planning. Some people might rely heavily on it, while others see it as a single tool, in a much larger toolbox, to be used sparingly. Today we’ll talk about Coach Connor’s experience and bias using TSS, both with himself and his athletes. We’ll delve into how he uses it in planning, how it informs certain parts of the season, and a few cautionary tales about when not to rely on this metric in your data analysis. Today, we’ll also field questions about the best textbooks and research sources on exercise physiology, and we’ll take a question from our voicemail about training at altitude. As always, find us on social media: our handle is @fasttalklabs. Sign up for our newsletter to get special announcements on new episodes, learn about Zwift rides with famous guests, and much more by visiting www.fasttalklabs.com. Also, please rate and review us on Apple podcasts: the more reviews we get, the easier it is for others to find us. And tell all your friends that we have our own channel now and we’ll no longer be heard on the VeloNews channel. Finally, as always, thanks again for all your questions and comments. Keep them coming! Write us at email@example.com or call 719-800-2112 and leave us a voicemail. Now, let’s make you fast!
- “Exercise Physiology” by Drs. Brooks, Fahey, and Baldwin (This one is for the true scientist, as it does go into great detail.)
- “Exercise Physiology: Nutrition, Energy, and Human Performance” by William McArdle (This is, perhaps, the gold standard.)
- “Exercise Physiology: Theory and Application to Fitness and Performance” by Powers and Howley
Chris Case 00:07
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of Fast Talk your source for the science of cycling performance. I’m your host Chris case. As always, I have to emphasize just how much we appreciate the questions you send us, since they often inform what we decide to cover in our episodes. Case in point, we’ve received so many great questions about TSS, or training stress score, that we wanted to look at this particular metric from several angles. Most of today’s episode is devoted to those questions. And stay tuned for a future episode where we’ll take an even closer look at TSS. I have to note there are many opinions about TSS, there isn’t a single answer as to its best use, or how effective it is for your overall planning. Some people might rely heavily on it, while others see it as a single tool and a much larger toolbox to be used sparingly. Today, we’ll talk about coach Connors experience and bias using TSS, both with himself and his athletes will delve into how he uses it in planning how it informs certain parts of the season. And I’ll share a few cautionary tales about when not to rely on this metric in your data analysis. And also Today, we’ll be fielding questions about the best textbooks and research sources on exercise physiology, and we’ll take a question from our voicemail about training at altitude. As always, find us on social media. Our handle is at real Fast Talk Labs. Sign up for our newsletter to get special announcements on new episodes, learn about swift rides with famous guests and much more by visiting Fast Talk Labs.com. Also, please rate and review us on Apple podcasts. The more reviews we get, the easier it is for others to find us and tell all your friends that we have our own channel now and will no longer be heard on the velonews channel. Finally, as always, thanks again for all your questions and comments, keep them coming, write us at Fast Talk at fast lab comm or call 719-800-2112 and leave us a voicemail. Now let’s make it fast.
Chris Case 02:22
Since today, we’re gonna try this theme of focusing on one particular aspect of exercise physiology, or at least a metric within that realm. TSS, I think it’s probably worth starting with a bit of a definition of what TSS is give some of your bias perhaps some some background on what that is how it’s calculated.
Trevor Connor 02:44
This is something that’s becoming pretty ubiquitous. I think if you use any training software at this point, you’re gonna see some version of TSS, they might have different names of IT training, stress score is trademarked by training peaks. And that concept was developed by Dr. Andy Coggan and hunter Allen, we definitely need to give our credit here. But pretty much you go on any training right now. And you’re going to hear people talking about TSS and CTL. It’s they’re just becoming very common terms, you have to first understand FTP, which is a simple one. FTP, by definition is the power that you can sustain for an hour, though even the software has moved a little bit away from that. So they have your one hour FTP, but sometimes, now that, for example, training peaks, they have also a fatigue score, which is how long you can sustain your FTP. If you look at my training peaks right now, it tells me what my FTP is, but says you can only sustain that for 32 minutes. So even that gets a little complex. But FTP is that threshold power, its original definition what you can sustain for an hour. TSS is based off of FTP, it’s just a number. So it’s not like power where you have watts at the end or heart rate where you have BPM. It’s just a number. There’s no no unit afterwards. a score of 100 is the equivalent of writing for an hour at your FTP. FTP is critical to TSS because there’s a multiplier, and it’s based on what percentage of your FTP you’re writing out. So everybody knows zones. Dr. Coggan created a zone model that’s based on percentages of FTP and each zone gets a multiplier so easier going. The smaller the multiplier, the harder you’re going, the bigger the multiplier so you can rack up if you could somehow ride well above FTP for extended periods of time you’d really rack up TSS if you’re riding in zone one just noodling along. You’re going to very slowly tick up your TSS,
Chris Case 05:01
so obviously, this number is an attempt to give a score a number to your ride so that you can compare in a way how hard one is to the other. But it seems like you know, because it’s based on a formula here, and it’s based on FTP, which is an estimate of things, that there are some, you know, it’s an attempt, but there are probably some shortcomings to it.
Trevor Connor 05:32
It’s just like any other metric, especially when you start going multiple levels through metrics, it needs to be taken with a grain of salt, it’s useful, but you’ll hear coaches say this all the time, and Dr. Coggan even said this on the show 100 TSS is not 100 TSS, you always have to look at how was that TSS generated. So you might have two rides, where you get 100 TSS, but if one of them was a 40 k time trial, versus the other one was a three and a half hour ride and zone one, do both can be 100 one’s gonna kill you. One is not, and they’re going to work very different systems. So you have to be really careful about looking at that TSS score and just saying, I got a 200. Therefore, that improved my my training, my fitness X amount,
Chris Case 06:24
all TSS scores are not made the same, right? So they are devoid of the context of the ride itself, which is an extremely important piece of the puzzle that’s kind of missing from it,
Trevor Connor 06:35
right. And it’s important to point out even the creators of TSS have said this. And people need to be aware of this because I do see a lot of writer writers forget about that. And they really focus on the score and not how that score is being generated. And the biggest issue with this is there, you get it. And we’ll talk more about this answering these questions. But riders get into this mentality of it’s all about how much TSS I can generate in a week. So if I have less time, I’ll go harder, and I’ll end up with the same TSS score and everything’s fine. I’ll bring this up again. But whenever I hear an athlete talk that way, I always go. If the instructions say to bake a turkey at 250 degrees for six hours, you can’t then put the turkey in the oven for three hours at 500 degrees and expect to get the same thing, huh,
Chris Case 07:30
yeah, this will be two very different Thanksgiving dinners.
Trevor Connor 07:33
Chris Case 07:36
I’m not sure which I’d like better. I probably the first,
Trevor Connor 07:40
probably the first. second one’s probably going to be charged on the outside and still somewhat cold on the inside.
Chris Case 07:47
Yeah, neither of us are chefs, we should probably move on from this analogy. Shouldn’t whichever.
Trevor Connor 07:52
Well, in this analogy, no matter what I do, if I’m baking the turkey, the fire alarms going off.
Chris Case 07:59
Right, well, is it time to jump into some of these questions, then?
Yeah, let’s do it. Well, the
Chris Case 08:03
first question we had pertaining to TSS was this question from Peter malarkey, and it pertains to the TSS or the use of TSS in the context of weekly planning. So I’ll read it now. Here’s the topic I have been wrestling with. I’m looking to try a more polarized approach to my training this year. basically doing a hard polarized ride on Tuesdays, alternating between four by four minute video to efforts one week and a four by eight minute threshold or there abouts ride the next week, and riding as much zone to the rest of the week. I find using the PMC very helpful to handle TSS CTL ramp rates and look at freshness for racing. But as has been discussed, TSS doesn’t reflect the strain of long zone two rides. For example, I did a two and three quarter hour zone to ride yesterday and got a 91 TSS score, but was feeling more like a 120 level of tiredness. So his question is, since both Trevor and Dr. Seiler have said in a recent episode that they don’t rely on TSS, how do they plan? And I think first, for those who are unfamiliar with some of these acronyms in the piece here, PM, PMC and CTL. Trevor, what are those?
Trevor Connor 09:25
Yeah, good. So we also need to define these and we’ll probably have a couple of things over the course of this episode where we that we also need to define CTL is the next iteration. So we talked about you can’t understand TSS without understanding FTP. Well, you can’t understand CTL without understanding TSS, so CTL you will always see on a graph and that is your performance management chart or your PMC. And again, you’ll see different variations. We’re using the terminology that Dr. Coggan And hunter Allen came up with. And so these are the original terms. So CTL is chronic training load. And what it does is takes a 48 day running average of your TSS score, and I believe it’s it’s exponential. So more recent rides weigh a little more heavily than, than older rides to come up with basically a here’s, essentially think of CTL, as here is the sort of TSS daily TSS you’ve been averaging. So if your CTL is 100, it’s basically saying you are averaging out to about 100 100 TSS per week, which is pretty big, because if you think about a good heart interval workout for most people is going to be 100 to 150 TSS. And if you’re averaging 100 a day, that means you’re doing 700 TSS per week, it’s big, that’s hard. Most masters athletes, you’re going to see when they’re on top fitness, doing eight to 11 hours a week, you’re gonna probably see their CTL in the 7080, maybe 90 range, for your average kind of cat three to two, you’re gonna see 100 224 pros, you can see them get up to 150, hundred and 60, which is just insane. Again, very important to remember, this is all based on having an accurate FTP. And I used to, I used to just set my FTP at 325 to allow me to compare my level across years. So I would end up with CTL is up close to 200. Some years and much lower other years, that was actually not the way CTL was meant to be used. But I just felt, you know, if I win, I’m stronger, I’m able to ride higher percentage of FTP. If I set that FTP is at a solid 325. So I can see what yours I’m stronger. better way to use it is just that you need to make sure you’re constantly updating your FTP. And then what you’re going to see is generally you’re going to hit your peak fitness at about the same level and and athletes who are very experienced with this will talk about, I find him at my best when I’m right around, say 120 TSS, when I start hitting 130, I’m pushing overtraining. If I’m at 100, I know I’m not quite on fitness yet, which can be a useful metric. And I will say I have actually found this to be fairly accurate when you start using a long term like 48 day running average, I think it does get rid of some of the noise and you start getting quite a valuable metric. So I look at CTL a lot.
Chris Case 13:00
So back to Peters question here. He was mentioning that you and Dr. Seiler have said that you don’t rely on TSS so how do you plan I guess it seems like you, you don’t rely exclusively on TSS and CTL. But you definitely incorporate that into other metrics, as well as people’s feedback. Or if you’re dealing with yourself your own sensations, and experience. And that’s how you plan it. There’s some art and there’s some science and it’s it’s up to a good coach or a good athlete to figure out the best combination of all of these things.
Trevor Connor 13:38
So I would say the short short version of my answer is I started looking at CTL A long time ago and found it found it very valuable as an athlete as a coach. It’s actually only been recently that my Garmin gave me the option to see my TSS while I was writing. And I regret every day that I ever put that screen on my Garmin, I actually found it, it’s hurt my training, it hasn’t helped because I am a competitive athlete, I see a number I want to make a number bigger. And I think that’s a bad approach. And I look back at my best years training. And I look at my long endurance rides and when you look at my TSS score for those rides when I was doing them, right, they wasn’t very high. And I have a hard time now going out and doing an endurance ride and accepting the well I just did five hours on the bike and only got a TSS of 220 boy What a waste of time. And there is this desire to and now I need to go and go harder to drive that TSS up. But I know from experience, I was doing smarter training back then. I was going more by feel with my athletes. And so when I was coaching before all these metrics, and what what i what i really relied on I still mostly rely on is focusing on purpose. Every week I talk to my athletes. What is the purpose of this week? What are we trying to accomplish? How do you want to feel the same thing with the rides? What’s the purpose of this ride? What do you want to accomplish? And that’s far more important to me than say, I want this ride to hit a TSS of 200. Or whatever the TSS is. It’s much more did you accomplish the purpose of that ride? I’ve also from the pros that I know that’s much more how they approach the rides, and they really don’t care what TSS they got on that ride. So that’s what I would encourage Peter to do, is to really focus more on what am I trying to get out of this ride? What am I trying to get out of this week? What is this week about? Now when you’re talking about the week, again, TSS can be a little more helpful, a 300 TSS week versus a 700 TSS week versus a 1200. TSS week, no matter how you got there is going to be very different weeks that that 300 is probably gonna be relatively easy, that 700 is going to be hard that 1200 is going to have you in bed for the next couple days.
Chris Case 16:14
Anything else that would help Peter in his planning of his weeks in training.
Trevor Connor 16:20
So another thing that I used a lot with athletes, back before we had these metrics, and I still use I think is really important is having benchmarks. Don’t get too reliant on a number, even CTL and say, Oh, my CTL is x, therefore I’m at the best fitness of my life. It isn’t that simple. I think if you talk to Dr. Andy Coggan, he would say it’s not that simple. This is a guide. So using having some sort of benchmarks is critical. What I used to do was I had a set of time trials that I did in the in the winter, that would help me see where my fitness is. And then quite simply, I had test races that I would go to to see where my fitness is at. And no matter what my numbers were saying, if I’m in a race of the back of the field, barely hanging on, and I can’t jump across to moves. I know where my fitness is at. You can’t hide from that. And you can’t look at a number and say, Well, yeah, so I was getting popped in the races. But my number is this. So I’m on the best fitness of my life. It’s no, ultimately this comes down to performance. And one of the best examples I’ve personally had was 2007, which I will still say it was my best season ever. We had a series I was living Victoria at the time, we had a series of training races that we did every week, and in April. I had done two of those. So two weeks in a row, and got popped both weeks, and I had great numbers. My numbers were looking fantastic for me. But I was getting popped in the races. So I knew something was really off those training races showed me flaws in my fitness that the numbers were not showing. It allowed me to just tour the healer, despite being an absolute disaster was great training. And a month later, I was on the form of my life. And I don’t think I would have been there had I not had these real world benchmarks that you need to listen to. Right. Last thing I will bring up is just still being careful with all of these metrics, because CTL TSS, all these things ultimately are based on FTP. So what if you have your FTP wrong? then ultimately, all these metrics are wrong? Also, what a time trialing is not your strength. What if you are more that sprinter type with really big anaerobic power, but maybe not the best FTP in the world? Then again, the TSS, the CTL might not be representing you quite well. So it does need to be taken with a grain of salt.
Chris Case 19:07
Definitely, yeah, the fact that it’s based on an estimate. And if that estimate is wrong, it just leads to a cascade of of assumptions that can lead to a lot of poor information. I guess, if you put born poor data and you get poor data out, right, yep,
Trevor Connor 19:24
I’ll get to last summer, because I saw looking at TSS was making me go too hard on my Garmin not in my software, but on my Garmin I dropped my FTP a lot. Just so I could get these huge TSS is out of my rides and be happy with it and not trained.
Chris Case 19:44
Anyways, have you ever thought of just taking the TSS field off of your Garmin so you don’t see it anymore?
Trevor Connor 19:51
Okay, I’ve got a Garmin with 10 fields each. You know, I have to have every single metric possible on my Garmin All right, yeah,
that’s true. That was dumb question.
Trevor Connor 20:01
Even if I don’t use it, I just have to have it.
Chris Case 20:04
Alright, well, let’s move on to our next question. Again, this one pertains to TSS but is in line more with training the base season training this season as a whole and it comes from Devin Knickerbocker. And I’ll read his question now. I’m listening to Episode 90 right now on mixing things up in the bass season. It sounds like generally, although there are variations, the answer is to one, introduce intensity into your bass training without overdoing it. ie don’t do high intensity every day. To ensure that remaining days are just endurance even if those rides are not long. ie no three hour rides on the trainer, etc. And three, use cross training to your advantage, Eg weightlifting, running cross country skiing. My question is, what metrics do you use to plan all of this, in other words, hours will definitely not be useful, you’ll probably be training the same amount of hours each week, but the intensity balance will change. Similarly, TSS will only ever be so useful, right? Because your TSS might be lower in base then grow in season when the weather gets nice. Traditional planning was always growing TSS over the winter, then letting it drop as you switch to more specific training. Here it’s flipped. So building an annual training plan around target TSS wouldn’t make sense. So what do you use in your planning, gradually growing time at intensity, while also growing time in aerobic mode and let TSS chips fall as they may? As a coach? What tools do you use to plan ahead? And if you can’t use CTL? As a rough measure of your physical fitness?
Trevor Connor 21:47
What would you us? So we have partially answered a lot of this in that previous question. So I’m just going to expand on some of what we talked about. And I think what I’ll do is talk about he brought up hours versus TSS versus CTL in base. So why don’t we just take each of those and pull in what we just talked about and say what we think they mean? Yeah, I’ll start with ours. And I’m actually well, so first, I’m going to start with those three points that he brought up at the very beginning, in my opinion spot on grazie completely. So that was to introduce intensity into your base training without overdoing it. Ensure that remaining days or just endurance, and bring in a lot of cross training. I agree and in base cross training is fantastic. Where I disagree with you with Devin is on hours when you are in pure training mode. I don’t think ours are useless. And let me explain that. If you are taking a particular training approach, for example, if you are polarizing your training where a certain percentage is high intensity, most of your time is low intensity. There’s only two ways to increase training stress. And quick addendum here I said training stress not TSS. TSS is a metric for figuring out training stress, it is very important some way or another to monitor the amount of training stress you’re producing each week, because you need to produce enough stress to bring about adaptations. So I’m talking about training stress as a general concept right now. So if, for example, if you are polarizing, or if you are doing sweet SWAT training approach. Ultimately, the only way to increase your training stress is to increase that volume. Or you have to fundamentally change the approach you’re taking the training. So if you say I’m going to lock in at 10 hours per week, I want to increase my training stress. Only way to do that is to do more intensity or to change the type of intensity you’re doing. And then you have to ask the question, is this beneficial? So if you say more, here’s my approach, I’m polarized or I’m sweetspot or whatever approach you’re taking. And you say I need to up my training stress, you can only do that with volume going back to that that cooking the turkey analogy. We talked about temperature, we talked about volume or time how long you cook the turkey times a very important metric in this equation. So, the next question about using TSS, this is the danger of TSS is if you are trying to measure your bases and by TSS and you want to increase that training stress there is that giant temptation to say okay, I can increase volume, so I’m just going to do intensity every single ride and that’s when you get People in January who are hopping on zwift doing training races five days a week, because they get this giant TSS score for that week, and they think the training is going great. But you’re you’re forgetting about what is your approach? How are you training yourself what, and this is just the I’m just gonna rip myself apart approach and it’s not necessarily a better. Now again, a quick addendum, if you’re just training five hours a week, yeah, go and rip yourself apart because you’re doing a ton of recovery time, you’re not going to overtrain doing that. But if you’re trying to do anything above that, you need to think about what approach you’re using. And then yeah, volume is a very important part of that. And I watched the volume that my athletes are putting in in the winter very closely. So we address TSS, and this is where it gets to be a bit of an issue, because you can forget about your approach by focusing on TSS. But now I’m going to say something that’s a little bit contradictory, which is still looking at your weekly TSS can give some guidance, as long as you are using a, an approach and and being true to that approach. So if you’re being true to the approach, like the polarized approach, and you are doing a bigger weekly TSS than you were doing in January, but staying true to the approach, that means you’ve increased your training stress, and hopefully, you’re seeing further adaptations.
Chris Case 26:36
I think that one thing that’s clear as you describe TSS and CTL, and the different metrics here, and the other metrics that you’ve used in the past, is that there is no single metric that you can look at exclusively, all of these things are helpful in their own way helpful for a specific part of your training or in a perhaps some are more useful in a specific part of a season. But it’s really about the ability of the athlete himself or his or her coach, to take all of these data points, all of these metrics, synthesize it into an overview and an overall picture of where they are at the moment where they want to be in, in a week’s time, a month time, or in six months time. So it is complex, there’s a lot of stuff going on. And that’s something to bear in mind here is you’re not going to get all of this, if you’re new, you’re not going to get it right away. It does take some experience dealing with these things.
Trevor Connor 27:46
And that’s Yeah, as you said, the numbers can get very complex. The numbers can also get you away from just simply seeing where you’re at, with my athletes every week, at the end of the week. How are you feeling? How recovered are you? So if we had a week where I said, this is just a standard training week, I want you coming out of the week feeling pretty in balance, and we get to the end of that week. And the TSS was about where I expect the workouts are about what to expect. But they say I am dragging my feet, I could not get out of bed, I feel awful. Something’s off course. And the numbers aren’t always going to show that. So you need to keep that self awareness. And I adjust my athletes training plans more when I hear that, then when I look at a TSS or a CTL, or volume, or any of those metrics, because they aren’t really telling me where the athletes at as much as I woke up this morning, and I felt like I got hit by a bus.
Trevor Connor 28:52
you have to trust that and you can’t go well I feel like I got hit by a bus. But my TSS was only acts for last week. So therefore, I’m gonna ignore how I feel. doesn’t work that way. Right. Yep. Last thing I will say. Again, going back to the metrics is again CTL can be a good guide and you do want over the winter to see your CTL coming up. On the flip side, you don’t want to see it too high too early. So if I have an athlete there CTL is pushing 100 in January. Something’s off unless they’re a top Pro. But when I’m talking about a Masters athlete or recreational cyclist, if they’re hitting 100 CTL, middle of January, it means they’re probably going to be overtrained and needing a giant rest by the start of the season or sometime in April. So I like to see that CTL low beginning of January sometime in December. I Want to see it as low as 40 or 50, or even lower for athletes that peak out around 80 and then bring it up. And so if an athlete if I know an athlete, let’s say his hits their their best form, and their CTL is around 110, I want to finish the base season in that 90 100 ish range. And then top it off, and then you know, right before their big event, bring them up to that, that that 110 CTL. spend a little time there and then bring it down again.
Chris Case 30:33
Let’s, let’s move on to another question that pertains to TSS and this one has to do with the use of trainers. And it comes from Manuel de Mingas of Portugal. He says, I’m a 40 year old amateur, I began riding the bike in 2018. And haven’t stopped since. Because of the quarantine, we all began doing more hours on the trainer. And there is a stigma that doing a lot of hours on the trainer is bad for your health. I got to concur with with Manuel too many hours on the trainer bad for your mental health, especially, but I digress. He says on the other hand, due to my work schedule, I end up doing many hours on the trainer during the week. Some people say that one hour on the trainer corresponds to two hours on the road. Some say that you shouldn’t do more than an hour and a half on the trainer. Others say the limit is more like one and a quarter hours. So he has a couple questions for us. Can you match the time on the trainer to the time on the road? In other words, if you do two hours at 200 watts on the road or on the trainer, will you end up with the same TSS result? But is it really the same? Everybody says that on the trainer, you will get more training effect for the same time. Is this a myth? Or is this true? And his other question is, is there a limit to what you can do on a trainer before it starts doing more harm than good? every friend and bike route Guru has a magical number. Is there a number for the amount of hours that you can do on a trainer? Trevor? What do you think? Boy? That’s
Trevor Connor 32:10
a great question. It is a complex answer. But my first response is go back and check out Episode 60. Because that episode was quite literally written and designed to answer this question of the ins and outs of the trainer. And whether the trainer is the same as the road.
Chris Case 32:34
so short, the short answer there is no it isn’t correct.
Trevor Connor 32:37
It is not. And so what I’m actually what I quite literally grabbed my notes from that podcast and and just really short meme. So what I’m going to give you now is the five minutes summary of that episode, which is not going to do it justice. So if you’re really interested in this, if you’re not that interested, here’s the Five Minute Summary. Here we got a much more detailed, thorough answer. Go back check out that episode.
Chris Case 33:06
And if I’m not mistaken, that was with Kieran O’Grady, who has done some great research with one of in, in the UK. He’s Irish, but in the UK, he was doing some research on this very topic in a lab to test the differences between trainer time and on the road time and Karen’s now I believe he’s still with the world, a world tour team as their physiologist. So it was a great episode.
Trevor Connor 33:34
Yep. And we found him because I was desperately trying to find research that answered these questions. And there was surprisingly little research but I came up with a couple studies and lo and behold, his name was on everyone. So he is he is the expert here in my opinion. But let’s start with first of all, riding on a trainer is not the same as riding out on the road. The inertial properties are very different. So when you are on the road, you have the weight of your body and the weight of your bike generating inertia. So if you stop on a flat road, if you stop pedaling, you’re gonna carry for a long time. That is not true on a trainer, the nurses generated by a flywheel that flywheel is very small, so your inertia, you just don’t have the same inertia and your it’s going to come to a stop much quicker. So that actually changes the biomechanics of your pedal stroke. And again, I go and check out Karen’s research. He did some really fascinating research on this showing the ways in which the the pedal stroke changes. There’s this kind of going back to the question of whether an hour’s worth more or worth less on the trainer, you can make arguments both ways. You can make arguments that it’s worth more. Because when you do an hour on the trainer, you are pedaling that entire hour, you have to. So we’re if you’re out on the road, you’re going to have lots of times when you’re not pedaling. So out on the road, if you do an hour ride, you might be pedaling for 45 minutes, say, if you do an hour ride on the trainer, you’re probably pedaling for 59 minutes. So in that way, you’re getting more value for the buck out of the the hour on the trainer. The issue is, it’s different biomechanics, you are literally training a different pedal stroke. So if your goal is to race out on the road, you are training a pedal stroke that you’re not going to use out on the road. So in some ways, it’s not as valuable. Another way that you can argue that’s not as valuable that we brought up in that episode is they showed that rate of perceived exertion for a given wattage is higher on the trainer, and there is more of a mental load. So an hour on the trainer is going to essentially mentally drain you more than an hour out on the road. And well, you can say yeah, but that’s not physical, that’s mental. I always like to point out to my athletes that overtraining, particularly burnout, burnout is entirely mental. But this always starts mentally. So I have seen very dedicated athletes in the winter, say, I want to do 15 hours of training a week, I can’t get outside. So I’m gonna do 15 hours on the trainer. And I’ve seen a bunch of times that just mentally crushes people. First coach I ever worked with, he had me do that, because he was really big on it’s all metrics, we have to get accurate numbers. And when you’re out in the road, there’s all this little variability in the road called hills and risers and all that sort of stuff. And that messes up your numbers. So I want you training 15 hours a day, or a week on the trainer. And that was one of my worst seasons ever because I was burnt out by mid March.
Chris Case 37:21
miserable. That sounds so miserable. Yep.
Trevor Connor 37:25
Now, you will certainly things like zwift be cool, all these virtual training apps help. So I before when my athletes were either watching TV or staring at a brick wall, I would never have them do more than three hours inside. Now with these tools, I’m willing to give my athletes more insight I certainly would still never give an athlete a six hour ride on the trainer. That sounds absolutely brutal. We’ve talked about this a couple times. Now that if you’re going to do the try to get some volume on the trainer for that mental side, break it up, do two days, get two in the morning, two and a half in the afternoon or other way around and get that time that way it’s I don’t personally think it’s as good as going out and doing a five hour ride outside but this is the good old expression Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good enough. But if you’re using these tools, if you’re used to being on the trainer, you can do more time because it’s not going to be quite as mentally draining on you. Again, be aware that it changes the biomechanics so you need to get outside you do need to do some riding outside or second best get on the rollers and that’s at least going to help the balance component that isn’t helped when you’re on a trainer locked in. The last part to this answer I want to give is just my own experience. And I think back to my last year when I was racing full time which was 2013 we had a really lousy winter in Colorado that year and it was hard getting outside and I was doing things like driving down to the Colorado New Mexico border where there was less snow just to get some some rides in and I ended up having pretty bad start to that season because I couldn’t get good base work. But I just couldn’t get on the train or I couldn’t do more than an hour on the trainer. So it was an extreme frustration to me. Now getting I can do when I need to three four hour ride on swift and I can’t tell you how many times I sit there on swift and go I would not want to do this all the time. I would not want to be doing all my four hour rides on swift but boy I look back in 2013 and I really I really wish I had had swift then because those weeks when we had snow and I just couldn’t get outside, this would have been a godsend. And I would have done more time inside to make sure I was I was keeping my training consistent.
Chris Case 40:13
Alright, the next question comes from a yawn coo Shar, I believe that’s how you pronounce it. And it’s a really short, quick question about physiology resources. He asks, What book on physiology do you recommend for a young coach and student of Kinesiology? I’m fed up with encountering outdated publications that mentioned lactic acid. Trevor, I know you have some go to books and references that you probably want to recommend here.
Trevor Connor 40:42
I need to get in big trouble for this. But the first thing I do want to call out is just the kinesiology there was this trend about 1015 years ago, where a lot of these exercise science departments which tended to when they were formed, they were called the physical education or the P departments and that just had a bad
Chris Case 41:05
had a bad connotation because they were thinking of, Oh, that’s a gym gym coat. Right,
Trevor Connor 41:09
exactly. So they tried to come up with names that sounded more scientific. So a lot of these departments renamed This is particularly true up in Canada. They they renamed themselves to the Department of Kinesiology. kinesiology is the study of joint movement. At its purest definition, it is not the study of physiology. But it just sounds really cool. So I, I’m probably going to get a bunch of hate mail from from departments about this. But it is a bit of a misnomer, in my opinion. And I still personally prefer exercise science as the the name of these departments are exercise physiology.
Chris Case 41:52
Right. So yeah, let’s assume that he’s looking for some, some good resources for exercise physiology texts.
Trevor Connor 42:00
So I have three that I really like. I’ll list them, and then I’ll just get to a second question. He brought up the Is there a one? That’s that’s not outdated? And so let me give the names and then I’m gonna address that question. I would say, probably the, these are all somewhat in the gold standard area. But I would say, one, one of the true gold standards is Brooks Fe, he Baldwin, and it’s just called exercise physiology. And this is the exercise physiology book for the true scientist or biochemist. It goes deep into the weeds, you really need to know your biochemistry to fully appreciate the book. But it’s a fantastic one. The next one, which is I this might be the true gold standard, in my opinion, is McArdle. And that’s exercise physiology, nutrition, energy and human performance. It is a giant textbook. And it just covers everything I would say it’s remarkably comprehensive. The other one I would recommend, and this is the one that I recommend to people, if they’re trying to get their first exercise physiology textbooks is powers Holly. And that’s the exercise physiology theory and application to fitness and performance. So I think they’re all good textbooks, I have copies of all of them. And I do look back at them frequently. But let’s put it this way, I actually was fortunate enough to go to a presentation by Dr. Brooks. And he actually talked about writing his textbook, and made the point that this is 1000 page book, eight and a half by 11, actually, I think is a little, it wasn’t quite eight and a half by 11. But still, these are giant textbooks. By the time they are published, they are out of date.
Chris Case 44:01
Right? That’s just
Trevor Connor 44:02
the way it works. So you have to look at them more as these are good for initial learning. You know, I learned all the concepts of physiology of exercise science from these books, and still those concepts. Most of them are still relevant. I don’t look to those books for the details anymore. If you want to stay current with what’s going on with the science, you have to go the research. So I spend most of my time in actual research studies. And I use those books more as a reference just to go. Okay, I just read a study that made some references to how the the pulmonary vascular system works. And like having read about that in a couple years, I’ll quickly pull out McArdle and go and reread that section of the textbook just to give myself a bit of a refresher.
Chris Case 44:58
And otherwise, you’re probably Heading to PubMed, yet 10 times a day. All right, I live in PubMed. For those who don’t know, PubMed is, is that run by the federal government? Yes,
Trevor Connor 45:10
- So it is a bad.gov don’t type in pubmed.com
Chris Case 45:13
it is a one stop shop for all of the scientific literature that in any field not just exercise physiology, mind you this is this is universal. So go there put in search terms, you can find everything there, whether you’re able to read the articles or not in full is a matter of whether you have a subscription to some of these journals, or if they make them freely available. So it’s it’s still fascinating to comb through there.
Trevor Connor 45:42
And I would say the other one that’s rapidly becoming the most popular sources now. researchgate.
Trevor Connor 45:50
So scientists can actually join researchgate themselves, and then make all of their research available. So that’s a that’s a fantastic place to go. So sometimes, if you go to PubMed, you might find a study that you you can’t access. But if you go to researchgate, you can Rick, you can find it, find on the that author’s actual section of researchgate and request it from the author and the they will give you access if they feel there’s good reason.
Chris Case 46:23
Well, let’s move on to our final question. In this one we’re going to take from our Google Voice mailbox. It comes from Eric Edgar. Let’s listen to him now.
Hi, guys. My name is Eric Edgar. I live in Durango, Colorado now. moved from Tulsa, Oklahoma about a year and a half ago. And my question has to do with altitude. And whether you would structure workouts, particularly interval workouts differently at altitude versus not at altitude. So would you have on on a five by five minute threshold workout that you normally say that you would have one minute rest periods in between? Would you instead have longer rest periods? If you were at altitude versus
Chris Case 47:23
thanks? Alright, Trevor, what do you think?
Trevor Connor 47:26
This is my apology. We are going to do an episode hopefully relatively soon on both training at altitude. And we are also doing an episode on the right length for recovery length and intervals. I need to refresh myself and all that science, I want to dig into that science. There is a huge body of research on altitude training. And it is quite complex. So everything I’m saying right now, I may very well contradict in those episodes. Once I have dug deeper into the research. I am not basing this on a whole lot of science, I am more talking as a coach and in particular, as an athlete who has lived and trained at sea level and limited and trained at altitude. So please accept my giant apology and qualifier
Chris Case 48:26
it wouldn’t be a episode of Fast Talk without a good old Canadian apology from Trevor anyways, so we got it in there.
Trevor Connor 48:35
A little bit of the science I will give you is what I was implying before which is our response to altitude is not simple. I certainly remember the the good old days of the 80s in the 90s where the belief was, oh, get up to Colorado do some altitude training for a week or two in the New Year destroy everybody in the races. Some people would go and do that. And they would come back and absolutely destroy other people go up to altitude and come back and their season was effectively completely off course and almost over. We all respond very differently to altitude. There is a what’s called a hypoxia inducible factor which regulates our h i f one which regulates most of our response to hypoxia. So being training at altitude, and I did actually write a paper on this for when I was doing my master’s degree and how Hei f one influences our response to hypoxia varies it varies from person to person and also varies over time. So you have an acute response and then you have a chronic response. Some people and I’m one of them are what are called altitude non responders. We Never really fully adapt. Other people seem to adapt or handle it really well. In 2011, Chad Haig joined Rio and he moved to Colorado at the end of March and not as went boy, his season is over. Because I had remembered in 2009, what had happened when I moved to Colorado in in January, and effectively destroyed my entire season. So I felt bad for him. And then somehow he just adapted pretty much right away and and was absolutely crushing it particularly at highest altitudes. And that whole season, I just noticed when he and I went for rides together, the higher we got the has just the stronger he seemed altitude just had no impact on him. So everybody is different. And there is no one answer. And it’s important to know how you in particular respond. So with that being said, in terms of the recovery, lengthen your intervals? Should you adjust them? That’s a really good question that I don’t have an answer for I, the best I can give you, you, you’ve talked about the example of, I think you said the five by five minute intervals. So we saw Yeah, five by five minute intervals. If you’re doing those and doing them with a one minute recovery, and you just aren’t ready to do the next interval, you might have to lengthen it, you always have to be able to do your interval work with quality. So if the recovery is not long enough to to hit sufficient quality on the next interval, do lengthen it. My personal approach, though, has been to try to stick with the interval prescriptions that I was doing at sea level, because one thing they have shown is some people move up to altitude. And well they get a good age, if one response, they don’t actually get stronger because they don’t train as hard at altitude. So I took the approach with myself of saying I need to force myself to try to train as hard as I did at sea level. Quick addendum there as well as my power rangers would change, my wattage was 2030 watts lower, so I would adjust my wattage, but I would stick mostly with the same heart rates mostly with the same prescriptions and try to force myself to do the same thing. at altitude. The one lesson I did learn was that there were certain intervals, I simply couldn’t do it at altitude, I used to love these two minutes on two minutes off intervals, I would go so hypoxic doing those intervals at altitude, I couldn’t get the reset. The other thing I noticed is you, you can really lose that top end at altitude, you kind of become this tank of a rider that can go long, hard, steady, but if somebody attacks, you just can’t respond. So I have found it increasingly important when I’m at altitude to do some short, really high intensity intervals to offset some of those effects. Chris, you’ve you’ve you’ve moved up here as well, what’s been your experience?
Chris Case 53:21
Well, you know, it’s been so long since I’ve lived for a period of time at sea level that I don’t even remember really. I do know, though, that and again, it’s individual. If I’m, you know, I’ve lived in Colorado now almost 20 years. So when I go back to where I grew up in Connecticut, or somewhere else at a lower elevation. So if I if I’m not in great shape in Colorado, and I go back to a place, that lower elevation, I don’t have that sensation that I’m in incredible shape. Whereas if I’m flying in Colorado, and then I go back to Connecticut say we’re where I grew up, it feels like I have two maybe three extra gears sometimes. So I don’t know what that says about training at altitude. And but it just it speaks to its variable within people in terms of how it affects your fitness. And certainly the the top end type stuff, you could train that exclusively in Colorado, but I don’t know that you’ll ever get to the level that you would if you trained it appropriately at you know, at at sea level in some ways. It just it’s not. It doesn’t work as well here, if at least for me. So yeah, and then, you know, after to go back to Eric’s situation a little bit. He’s been in Durango, which is you know, probably around The same elevation as Boulder. He’s been there for a year and a half. So at this point, he’s acclimated as much as he will. Would you say that? That’s correct, Trevor, he’s not going to get progressively more acclimated at this point. It
Trevor Connor 55:16
does depend on the person. So for example, with myself, and both times now that I’ve moved to Colorado, I’ve noticed this. My first year is the write off. I don’t fully adjust to the altitude until the over a year later.
Chris Case 55:33
Wow, that’s, that’s crazy. Yeah. Yep. I feel like yeah, you know, again, I haven’t been out of the state for a long enough period of time to really know. But I feel like a couple weeks a month at most, and I would be right back where I was.
Trevor Connor 55:54
One last thing to, to throw in here, because I think Durango is actually closer to 6000 feet, isn’t it? So while you’re looking that up, I am going to explain another really important piece of the physiology here. And let’s see if the 522 Yeah, so that’s actually a big difference. There is a very important curve, and you can look this up. And let’s see if I can pronounce this right. The oxy hemo dissociation curve, or is it the oxyhemoglobin dissociation curve? It is it is a mouthful. But basically, the gist of this curve is our response to altitude as you go to increasingly higher altitudes is not a straight line, I’m going to really simplify this on the x axis is altitude. And on the y axis is the the effect it has on you. I’m really trying not to go too deep into the details. But hemoglobin binds oxygen, it actually changes the the nature of that binding. So as you go to higher and higher altitude, it can bind oxygen better, or grabs it more strongly. The the issue being the when that blood getting gets to your muscle cells, it’s also harder for it to disassociate that, that oxygen to take it from the hemoglobin and pull it into the muscle cells interest. So again, I’m trying not to go too deep into the weeds. But the essence of this graph is the lower the graph, the more you are being impacted by altitude, let’s just leave it there. I should have just left it there from the start. So if you look at this graph, until you get to about I think it was right around 5200 feet above sea level, it’s pretty horizontal, it doesn’t have that much of an impact on you right around 50 to 100 feet. The graph just goes over a cliff, it starts plummeting quite rapidly. And then it hits a once you get to really high altitudes, it hits a point where it just levels off again, but that’s where you you actually just can’t survive at altitude for very long.
Chris Case 58:10
Trevor Connor 58:10
The thought that a lot of people have when they come down to do is they go Okay, I’m, I’ve been sitting in Boulder at 5000 feet, or think we’re about 5400 feet. Yeah. And you know, I’m gonna climb up to 6000 feet, that’s only another 800 feet or 600 feet. That’s not a big difference. Well, actually completely untrue. The difference, the the impact of going from 5000 to 6000 feet is as big on you as going from zero to 5000 feet. Yeah,
Chris Case 58:46
Trevor Connor 58:48
Right? So there’s a really popular race here in Colorado up in steamboat, and steamboat is I think, right around 6000 feet and this race goes up to like 7500 feet. And all of us who live right around 5000 feet complain that the altitude really hits us when we go to that race.
Chris Case 59:08
Sorry, I was distracted, because I was looking up the elevation of steamboat 67 into
Trevor Connor 59:15
There you go. So it and I, I love that race. But yeah, I really feel the altitude when I go to it. I just can’t put out the same power.
Chris Case 59:25
Well, it’s it’s clear, Trevor, that we need to do an entire episode on both of these things, again, let you do all the research on altitude and training at altitude. And you should also do all the research on the significance of rest periods between intervals. And let’s do both of those episodes soon.
Trevor Connor 59:45
Yes. And my last addendum here is I was describing the oxyhemoglobin dissociation curve by memory without having looked at it in a long time, man, so I’m sure we’re gonna get some boy you guys got that wrong. And the first thing I’m going to know is if for some reason I’ve remembered it, starting high and going low, but it’s actually the exact opposite. It’s it starts low and then goes high, we will definitely do that episode, I will fix all the mistakes I’m sure I just made. But the gist of what I was just explaining is pretty
Chris Case 1:00:19
accurate. If you type in OXYH e into Google, at least in my, on my browser oxyhemoglobin dissociation curve is the first thing that pops up. And there’s great tutorials and graphs, and you can totally nerd out. But yeah, let’s let’s make sure we brush up on our science and do a whole episode on it.
Trevor Connor 1:00:43
So I’m looking at those and when you adapt, you will see that curve move. So I’m actually looking at a really good version of it right now that shows the the different adaptations to altitude, it is a very complex curve. It’s a fascinating curve. And definitely worth taking a look at seeing our sort of our physiological response. But the key lesson of it that I just want to leave us with for this episode is you will see initially altitude increase in altitude actually has a very minimal impact. And then there is a point where the curve becomes quite steep and increase in altitude has much more dramatic impact on us. Absolutely.
Chris Case 1:01:29
Very good. Trevor, thank you. You did a lot of talking in this episode.
Trevor Connor 1:01:34
That’s what these q&a is about. I hope I carry some good answers. But we really appreciate this. I was Chris pulled these questions together and I was really kind of amazed and impressed with the the number of questions we’ve received in a very short period of time. So thank you to everybody for listening.
Chris Case 1:02:00
That was another episode of FASTA. As always, we love your feedback. Email us at Fast Talk at fast lab comm or call 719-800-2112 and leave us a voicemail. Subscribe to Fast Talk. Wherever you prefer to find your favorite podcasts. Be sure to leave us a rating and review. The thoughts and opinions expressed on past talk are those of the individuals for Trevor Connor Coach Trevor Connor. I’m Chris case. Thanks for listening.