I was speaking with a trainee coach recently who has begun to write some training programs for an athlete; one of her first athletes other than herself she has taken on training. TSS, or training stress score, is a word that was brought up on a few occasions. For those not using training software, the TSS is a way of attributing a numerical value to the intensity and duration of a given workload. TSS is a great tool that can allow coaches and self-coached athletes to build a periodised plan taking into account an acute and chronic training load, building fitness before peaking into a race.
Yep it all makes excellent sports science-y sense and is great in theory, but in reality I don’t like it.
The application of training software and the robotic nature of TSS denies the human nature, and ‘life’ factor of people who ride and race bikes (in coach land we call them athletes!). While it may be more applicable and useful for professional athletes with training being their sole job, for many of us recovery is a luxury and training is a matter of fitting it in when we can.
For example, leading into Toowoomba National Series race a few weeks ago, I managed a solid 13hour week the week prior, followed by only 4hrs in the week lead-up to Saturday’s XCO race. Undoubtedly a very extreme de-load but hours on the bike only paint part of the picture; the week prior and week of the race I did over 25 hours of work overtime in meal breaks not granted and shift extensions. My life TSS was maxed out. It was amazing I had any form of legs at all during the race!
The past few weeks haven’t been nearly as crazy at work, however I have put together a 4 year old’s birthday party, hosted a women’s mountain bike ride day in addition to my work. Once again the life TSS cup runneth over, which has been evidenced by a back injury likely caused from lifting too many people at work and just being damn tired. With a key race coming up in only a few weeks, and an inability to perform my usual work duties (due to lifting), let alone fit in some important key rides, it’s the best I can do is work on my athlete’s programs, write blogs and do my rehab exercises while drinking too much coffee and trying to not go mad.
If you were to look at my TSS right now, it would pain a very different picture of an undertrained rider on beginner hours or a severely broken person, rather than someone who races in the elite category in national mountain bike and local road events.
The moral of the story? Be kind to yourself and be realistic with your riding and training. I know many ‘everyday’ people who train the house down as they have read stories about elite and professional athletes training 25hrs/week and believe to be good they have to do the same thing. The TSS of 25hrs/week training may be appropriate for someone with years in the sport who doesn’t have other life commitments, but just isn’t feasible for anyone with a job or family or other life commitments. Fatigue, injuries and mental health issues are just some of the problems that can arise from overtraining. Have a coffee, and keep TSS in perspective.