The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Chronic Training Load (CTL)

We examine the benefits of CTL, the negative attributes of this complex metric, as well as the ways in which it can take your training off track.

Chronic Training Load (CTL)

CTL. Chronic Training Load has rapidly gained in popularity among endurance athletes, but how well understood is this complex metric? Today we discuss the benefits of CTL, as well as the issues that can arise if too much stock is placed in this one number.

CTL can tell you the general level you’re at, and more importantly it can indicate trends in your training and help direct your training plan. But is this little acronym quickly replacing FTP as the metric of reference? Indeed, many people seem to think of it as an indication of how strong they are. But should they? Are there any dangers to doing so? As always, we start by taking a step back and defining how it is calculated and what assumptions and estimates it is based on.

Today, Trevor and I discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of CTL. Ultimately, we want to try and answer as many of the questions we’ve received about this metric as possible, and help illustrate why a focus on training principles, rather than any single number, is much more effective for creating adaptations and seeing gains.

As we always do on our summary episodes, we hear from a world-class group of coaches, scientists, and athletes, including Tim Cusick, Larry Warbasse, Joe Friel, Dr. Stephen Seiler, Dr. Iñigo San Millan, Kendra Wenzel and others.

Let’s make you fast!

References

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  • Caritá, R. A. C., Caputo, F., Greco, C. C., & Denadai, B. S. (2013). Aerobic fitness and amplitude of the exercise intensity domains during cycling. Revista Brasileira de Medicina Do Esporte, 19(4), 271–274. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1590/s1517-86922013000400009
  • Halson, S. L. (2014). Monitoring Training Load to Understand Fatigue in Athletes. Sports Medicine, 44(Suppl 2), 139–147. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-014-0253-z
  • Jobson, S. A., Passfield, L., Atkinson, G., Barton, G., & Scarf, P. (2009). The Analysis and Utilization of Cycling Training Data. Sports Medicine, 39(10), 833–844. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.2165/11317840-000000000-00000
  • Maunder, E., Plews, D. J., Wallis, G. A., Brick, M. J., Leigh, W. B., Chang, W., … Kilding, A. E. (2021). Temperate performance and metabolic adaptations following endurance training performed under environmental heat stress. Physiological Reports, 9(9), e14849. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.14814/phy2.14849
  • Passfield, L., Hopker, JG., Jobson, S., Friel, D., & Zabala, M. (2016). Knowledge is power: Issues of measuring training and performance in cycling. Journal of Sports Sciences, 35(14), 1–9. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2016.1215504
  • Sanders, D., Abt, G., Hesselink, M. K. C., Myers, T., & Akubat, I. (2017). Methods of Monitoring Training Load and Their Relationships to Changes in Fitness and Performance in Competitive Road Cyclists. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 12(5), 668–675. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1123/ijspp.2016-0454
  • Taha, T., & Thomas, S. G. (2003). Systems Modelling of the Relationship Between Training and Performance. Sports Medicine, 33(14), 1061–1073. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200333140-00003
  • Wallace, L. K., Slattery, K. M., Impellizzeri, F. M., & Coutts, A. J. (2014). Establishing the Criterion Validity and Reliability of Common Methods for Quantifying Training Load. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 28(8), 2330–2337. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000000416

Episode Transcript

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