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  • Writer's picturecoachmk

So Coach, what do you DO, anyway? Part 1: Outlier Screening

Coach MK, be honest. You never ever look at our runs in Training Peaks, do you?" Love this question.  It's a fun one, and a fair one.  I'm not going to get into #allthedetails right here, but I'm happy to give you an overview of how I use TP on a minute-to-minute basis.  Training Peaks is a PIA to use. It is slow, uses a ton of RAM and slows my computer's performance down.  I like to get in there as infrequently as possible and out as quickly as possible. I can only use it to its full extent when I am sitting in front of my computer, and remember I don't have a 9-5 so it's not like that happens for long periods each day.  I have to be smart about how I use my time.  I tend to go in the system two or three times per week for 2-3 hours at a time. 

The good news is that in between sessions, TP will send me all kinds of emails.  This is useful.  Let's talk about how.  

Gonna pick on Kyle, since his workouts just came through.  Kyle is training for the Imogene Pass Run.  No one except Kyle wants to be Kyle right now.  He has to count verts each day. He can do this because his V02 max is around 70.  Kyle is tired. 

Here is screenshot 1 from my Blackberry: 

I make all of the training plans, but I don't have every single one memorized.  So, the first thing I look at is the title of the workout.  "Strength and Power- Hill Workout A".  This is a hard workout and I know the A series is roughly 45 minutes long.  I also know that Kyle is tired and may choose to swap out today's hard effort for an easier effort.  If he did so, he wouldn't change the title of the workout so I have to go all Encyclopedia Brown on it. 

The next thing I look at is the TSS score.  An hour at 140 should generate a TSS score of 100.  An hour tempo run would generate something between 100-150, and track reps or really ridiculously hard workouts with limited breaks would generate a TSS close to 175. 

I would expect the TSS of Strength and Power Hill Workout A to be between 70-100.  For Kyle, since he's so strong I would expect his TSS to be on the lower end of the range.  For just about everyone else, this generates a lot of fatigue and I would expect a TSS on the higher end.  

Kyle's TSS is 78, which is in line with what I would expect.  

Here is screenshot #2

Kyle needed to get a certain number of verts (elevation gain) in this workout.  It looks like he did that.  Which means yep, he did the hard workout instead of the easy effort.  Which means Kyle is REALLY tired now.  

When Kyle's log comes through, I will see what he had to say about the workout but it probably won't be much, and it probably won't be overly articulate.  After all, this is a hard workout intended to build strength, there's nothing to say other than, "this was hard and I am tired."  (unless he's hurting, of course).  Nothing I see in here sets off alarm bells.  

In these moments, I'm not looking for perfection, I'm screening for outliers.  When I see outliers, I say something.  I ask what went wrong.  I say, "tell me about this workout".  I try not to scare you with my questions about WTF just happened when the numbers don't make sense at first glance.  These totally make sense to me, so I'm not going to say anything about them.

What would an alarm bell be?  a TSS of 100 and zero elevation gain.  That would scare me.  

At some point this week, usually on Thursday nights or Saturday mornings, I will get into TP and click each of these hard workouts individually.  When I do, I will tell you guys what I am looking for.  Stay tuned for Part 2 in this sure-to-be-a-bestseller series!

EDIT: One note to add to everything above

In Kyle's case yesterday, I look at the TSS in the first screen and see 78, which is in line, but the last two figures are the clues that let me know he did the harder workout.  Elevation (he got the # of verts I asked him to) and IF.   I forgot to mention the relationship between these figures. 

The TSS is how much stress that one workout put on your body, how demanding it was on a scale of 1-200.  IF is the Intensity Factor, or how intense your body considered that workout to be in relation to your current fitness level. 

Generally speaking, 1 hour at 140 generates a TSS of 100.  it also generates an IF, or Intensity Factor, of 1.0. For easy efforts the two figures are generally aligned.  (70 and .70, for example).  When they are not, this is a clue. 

For this 43-minute workout, Kyle's TSS was 78, but his IF was .98.  I would expect this to be slightly lower than TSS since Kyle is SO strong and has such a high VO2 max.  This is how I know that Kyle is tired and definitely needs a rest day today without needing to open his run or look at his charts.  When I do go in there later tonight, I will look at how he feels today, check his training logs and his HRV, and potentially adjust his workouts for the week if I think the need to scale back outweighs how freaked out he will be when he sees me reducing his workload.  Generally speaking, runners do NOT respond well to lowering the bar at any time for any reason.  

There you go, that's how I use all of the information in your daily emails.  It takes me way longer to explain what I'm looking at than to process and internalize it. 

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