Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Do work, Son!
I had to include a pic from one of my favorite shows from last year, Rob and Big, when I decided to write a post on that 4 letter word – work. Big Black had a recurrent catch phrase on the show – “Do work, Son!” that I thought was particularly relevant to this post. So there you go. This one’s for Rob and Big.
It can be tempting in this world of relative measures to lose sight of the absolutes. This is just as true in triathlon training as in any other field. Doing your best is great but in the world of competition, being the best is better.
I had an interesting question from one of the athletes that I work with that went along the lines of,
“Coach, I just had a look at Joe Blow’s performance manager chart from last year (Joe Blow is a top AG athlete). I almost put in the same amount of work as him. Our CTL #’s were almost identical but our performances were a world apart. What gives?”
And so, in one key sentence in the above passage lies the problem, “I almost put in the same amount of work..”. The problem is that TSS may be a measure of stress, but it is not a measure of work. CTL, ATL and all of the other metrics associated with TSS management are relative, rather than absolute measures related to each individual’s personal functional threshold pace or power. Just because you deposit a similar TSS workload to the pro of your choice doesn’t entitle you to withdraw a similar race result. No, if you want a similar result you need to compare apples and apples, i.e. absolute measures. Or, put another way – Do work, Son!
I could see that my explanation wasn’t entirely satisfying my athlete who was still of the mind set that 120 TSS/d for one guy is the same as 120 TSS/d for another. So, I pulled up the wko #’s of the other athlete in question and we looked at another number – kilojoules of work.
Athlete A experienced almost the same training stress (~5%) less than athlete B but experienced a performance that was ~35% slower than athlete B. Coincidentally, he did ~33% less work than athlete B. Hmmmm.
My point is not that Athlete A should have ‘sucked it up’ and done more work (irrespective of the fact that matching Athlete B’s workload would have probably take him an additional 5 hours a week, not to mention burying him in the process), but rather that, when comparing across athletes, the absolute work is ultimately more of a determinant to performance than the relative training stress.
Relative training stress for a given session may not change a whole lot over the course of an athlete’s development. However, total work will. A long ride of 250TSS (5hrs at an IF of 0.71) will represent a total workload of 2500kj to a newbie athlete with an FTP around 200, however this same session will represent a total work of over 3500kj for a top AGer. For this reason, when planning long term TSS, it is not always necessary to ‘up the ante’. Providing the athlete is improving, the ante will be uped quite naturally.
All of this is not to say that an increase in CTL should not occur from year to year. Because CTL is ‘carried over’, if the season is timed appropriately, a slow and steady increase in the athlete’s CTL over the course of their development should be noted. However, this is a function of appropriate recovery and consistency within the sport, rather than a conscious choice to increase training stress. Increasing training stress is, well, stressful and is not conducive to the long term, steady progression that those seeking to discover their potential in the sport should adhere to (for more on Long Term Athletic Development, check out my article on Xtri.com)
However, when you’re consistently seeing high TSS weeks and the frustration starts creeping in that you’re not ‘keeping up with the Joneses’, it is worth remembering that there is really only one number that counts and one way to the top (for a very long period of time) – Do work, Son!