Up she goes! Consistent Training and CTL Scores

You know me, I spend just as much time recording my training data as I do actually training. By the time I upload it to Garmin Connect, Strava and Triblogs and import it into Rubitrack, I’ve barely got time to actually analyse it! I also have to add it to my excel training diary that Pete my coach provides me with and I like to keep a record of my Training Stress Balance on my PMC chart that I have from Jon.

To be honest, t doesn’t really take long to do as most of it happens automatically via Wi-Fi whenever my Garmin watch comes within Wi-Fi signal distance with my iMac but I do usually need to add a few notes to most workouts. It does seem silly recording it all in so many places but as I have said before in my training diary reviews and¬†software reviews¬†there isn’t one that does it all (yet) so each has its strengths and weaknesses which mean I use each offering for different things.

  • Garmin Connect provides a nice ‘at a glance diary’ and handles the swim metrics best.
  • Strava is great for keeping track of PB’s and progress over a particular course and for ‘virtual competition’
  • Triblogs has the best planning feature of them all
  • Rubitrack brings it all together into an offline offering

There are plenty of others out there too and my turbo trainer sessions are recorded within TrainerRoad as well. All this is well and good and provides useful data on each workout but sometimes seeing the whole picture is what you want. For this I tend to use my Training Stress Balance chart (It’s actually a PMC spreadsheet, although I can never remember what PMC stands for!)

In order to use it I diligently enter the amount of time I spend training each day and my average heart rate for those workouts. From that the spreadsheet uses its formulae to work out the Intensity Factor (IF) based on my Lactate Threshold Heart Rate for each workout and calculates the Training Stress Score (TSS) for the day. It then works out a rolling average for both Acute Training Load (based on a my training over the past 7 days) and Chronic Training Load (based on my training over the past 28 days). All of this is then brought together via yet more formulae as a figure for my Training Stress Balance (TSB) which essentially shows how fatigued / rested I am. As with all of these things, the numbers themselves don’t really matter, what does matter is comparing them over time and tracking my progress.

I’m quite pleased with the look of my graphs so far this year though:

My PMC Chart so far in 2013

My PMC Chart so far in 2013

The green line is my ATL (short term training load). The blue line is my CTL (long term training load), the red line is my Training Stress Balance. As you can see, things have been fairly consistent training wise so far. I’ve been keeping the short term training load fairly high which has resulted in a gradual but constant increase in my CTL. This means I’m doing lots of training and in theory my fitness level should be increasing. At this time of year I like to keep an eye on my CTL scores and try to keep pushing them higher and higher. I’ve managed to do this so far without dipping too deeply into fatigue though so there should be no risk of over-training setting in.

All I need to do now is keep this up, fend of injuries and illness (the injuries are already starting to show their ugly little faces though) and then taper properly for races. The taper should see the green ATL line drop the blue CTL line level off whilst the red TSB line rises sharply. If all this happens I should be as fit as I can be and well rested ready to race at my best.

9 Responses

  1. Avatar forComment Author Alan says:

    Of course, I could just do less training, do some work and therefore earn some money so that I could buy a set of new wheels…. The end results may be very similar!!


  2. Avatar forComment Author mum says:

    Which would you enjoy most though Al? Lucky you have an understanding wife, or may be she enjoys the peace when you are out training

  3. Avatar forComment Author Keith says:

    Hi, I’m recording my tss daily but I’m not sure how to write the formula for ctl and atl.
    I’ve read it’s an exponentially weighted average.
    Can you help me at all?
    Great blog by the way.

    • Avatar forComment Author Alan Cole says:

      Hi Keith,
      Let me see, not sure I can remember off the top of my head as I now use Training Peaks to calculate such things automatically for me but I think it is something like this:

      The default Time Constant for CTL is 42 days whereas for ATL it is 7 days
      Using those numbers you can work out your CTL and ATL.

      Today’s CTL = Yesterday’s CTL + (Today’s TSS – Yesterday’s CTL)/Time Constant

      Today’s ATL = Yesterday’s ATL + (Today’s TSS – Yesterday’s ATL)/Time Constant

      You can then work out your training stress balance (TSB)

      Today’s TSB = Yesterday’s CTL – Yesterday’s ATL

      Hope that helps.

  4. Avatar forComment Author Keith says:

    Thanks for that al.
    I understand the equation but I’m not sure about the time constant.
    I assume it’s not just the number 7, . Is it the average TSS for the last 7 days , if so then my results hardly alter each day which doesn’t seem right.

    • Avatar forComment Author Alan Cole says:

      Yep, it’s just the number – 7 for ATL, 42 for CTL. If you are training consistently then they won’t alter a huge amount each day – That’s partly the point as it smooths out the training load over the course of 7 or 42 days.


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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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