You may have seen a new widget appear on my blog in the last week; SportTracks Mobi.
I have been playing with a new feature which SportTracks launched last week Training Load. What is Training Load? Well put simply Training Load is a mathematical model to predict future performance. Put even simpler, how will what I did last week/Month/Training block impact my next race? I’ll caveat that a lot of what you see here was poached from three very well written posts on the SportTracks Blog;
- Training Load: Science, History and Application
- Predicting Fitness Performance with Training Load
- Reading the training load charts: Example scenarios
And with that said on with the show…clearly there is nothing simple about what I said above so let me provide you with two words and their definitions used here that you need to keep in mind and which will go some way to help your understanding;
- Effort (aka TRIMP "Training Impulse", (TRaining IMPulse)) Measuring the amount of effect a single workout has on your body
- Performance: Predicting performance changes over time from a series workouts.
Their system awards 2 points per minute, this means you max out at 120 per hour at maximal effort. As you would expect it’s unlikely you would be a maximal effort for an entire 60 minutes and so to calibrate a the score they use data generated by the technology that we laden our body with depending on what you have they use the following
- Heart Rate Monitor; scored based on your resting and maximum heart rate, and your zones.
- Power Meter; scored on power zones.
- GPS, scored on your speed/pace zones, adjusted for any hills you were running.
- Indoor endurance workouts or those without a GPS route; scored based on the average time in speed/pace zones.
- If entering a manual workout; scored using the perceived intensity of the workout.
The nice thing is that this scoring model and the algorithm can be applied to swim, bike, run, weights, caber tossing and golf…well maybe not golf!
That covers one side of the equation; Effort, you do stuff you do to get points! The flipside is Performance.
Performance is based on the assumption that workout has both a positive and negative effect. The positive effect is called "fitness" and the negative effect is called "fatigue". Fitness and fatigue are combined to provide "performance", a prediction of how well you will do in an endurance event such as a race. As we know you recover from a workout faster than you lose your fitness, this is why you taper two or three weeks before a big event; to minimize your fatigue while balancing maximizing your fitness. In the model both fatigue and fitness spike after a workout. Fatigue quickly drops off, while fitness drops off more slowly, creating a space of time where your fitness gains outweigh your fatigue, until both reach equilibrium again. This space represents your performance potential:
Performance = ( Fitness - Fatigue ) This is the basis for calculating your future Performance
So put another way your predicted performance is the positive balance of fitness over fatigue. Higher fitness and lower fatigue leads to maximum performance.
Now this is where I could diverge and go down a rabbit hole of how to create future workouts based on past performance indicators to improve future Training Load but I am going to save that, stay on the straight and narrow and focus on the visuals.
I uploaded my 2014 data into SportTrack and this is how my Training Load plots, just a reminder I was training for IMSG and had 9 weeks of training under my belt before crashing my bike on January 5th, this was followed by two weeks off. Another week of training riding and then the Tour of Sufferlandria the last week of January, first few days of February.
This is the Training Load mapped with the specific chronological events I mentioned above;
I followed up the folks at SportTracks regarding my graph and the fact that I am in the red at the start of January, this is due to the fact of my volume over my recovery is from a standing start and I had over 8 hours of training with some intensity including a FTP test with my new Stages Power Meter, if you were a beginner this is not how you would start. My crash is marked with the red “X”. You can see during my crash recovery, where I did nothing for 13 days that my fitness and fatigue are both decreasing. This is followed by four Sufferfest rides a day off and then the Tour of Sufferlandria which is obviously very high intensity across 10 days hence the spike in Fatigue! From there I started the TrainerRoad Advanced Build 1 plan which is 5 rides a week averaging 7.5 hours of training, supplemented this plan with longer or more challenging rides, but until this week still maintained two rest days per week. The decreasing lines to the right predict my Fatigue (red) and Fitness (green). The anticipated decrease in Load is represented as a number and assume no workouts for period of +1 week.
Here is the Performance mapping (again it’s a bit clumsy as it’s drawn by hand);
Again Performance is low at the start due to the lack of data. It increases during the Crash Recovery. Falls off during the Tour, not surprisingly due to the lack of recovery vs. the intensity. But the big gains have been since the start of February; a combination of following a well designed plan and regular days off have increased my Performance potential. Additionally it extrapolates it forward over time, to it’s apex shown by the red “X” again.
Neither graph show a 3 month gain which will not be reflected until the end of March.
So what can we learn from this? Here are some thoughts I have, remember I am not a coach but I have run, ridden and swam around the block a bit;
- Periodized training; it’s important to build you training in blocks, build for several weeks and then back off for a week, this allows you recover fully and realize the gains
- A rest day is that; just because yesterday was awesome enjoy the rest day, try to avoid junk miles, think of it as passive training
- Make you hard run, bike or swim hard and your easy run, bike or swim easy
- Try to avoid back-to-back hard sessions; sometimes a hard swim may follow a hard run ,it’s inevitable when you are have 3-4 of each a week but try to avoid back-to-back hard runs or bikes
- Remember that 10% rule…well that’s actually not a bad rule to follow
Here are a couple of graphs that show some mistakes;
As you can see this is actually pretty easy to follow, the UI folks at SportTracks have spent time thinking over the presentation and this is very easy and clear to follow, you can track it over multiple date points (all, year, 3 month, month and week…custom would be nice) my only real gripe is that you cannot see it on a daily basis in the week/month view some vertical axis would be nice.
Overall I really liked this feature. We spend a lot of time (and money) collecting data but do we actually do anything with it? Beyond comparing “segments” on the road or trail or looking at the heart rate data and wondering why it it was 20% higher and your pace 30 seconds slower than your were this time last week. Now there is now actually a means to qualify that qualitative and quantitative data and map it into the future in terms of both training and performance.
Training Load is live now. SportTracks is always open to feedback and to assist in developing more improvements for the future. To answer all of your questions about training load, workout plans, etc. they will be hosting a live chat on March 25th! Follow them on Twitter for all of the details.
SportTracks provided me with 6 months of Mobi subscription to do this review. While there are other sites that are free; (Training Peaks and Strava) to access their version of Training Load you need the a paid subscription which is $59 annually for Strava or $119 for Training Peaks vs. the $35 that Mobi costs. You can sign up for one month free trial to get you started and the mass importing of data is very simple…but that’s another review in and off itself.