CTL/ATL and stagnation

Discussion in 'Power Training' started by kmavm, Feb 8, 2007.

  1. kmavm

    kmavm New Member

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    So, I've been pretty quiet the last few months, though I've been lurking here. I've been riding relatively little of late, indulging a newfound interest in running. I've taken up the new sport for lots of reasons, not the least of which was a pretty major case of demotivation. Looking back about four months on this case of the "blahs", I think I've spotted a contributing mistake. I want to mention it here, since judging from all the SST/L4 threads, it might become a popular mistake.

    It's been widely observed that there's such a thing as training too much. Beyond a certain point, returns not only diminish, they become counter-productive: too much fatigue is piling up for the body to accomodate the stresses involved, and performances degrade. In the TSS paradigm, this point seems to be somewhere in the 100-150 TSS/d range for most riders.

    A non-obvious consequence of this, is that somewhere between the wide range of volumes that yield effective training, and this "breaking point" that leads to worse performance, there is a "stagnation region": a zone where your body is just barely able to recover from workout to workout, but unable to actually improve from workout to workout. This is just the intermediate value theorem in action: if you accept that training volume X produces useful adaptations, and training volume Y is counter-adaptive, then there is some value between X and Y where you're working pretty hard, but standing still.

    The approach that a lot of self-coached athletes are taking to TSTWKT/performance manager is basically a recipe for finding this point, and training there all the time. If the goal is to "ramp CTL as high as you can", but still be recovered enough to do your workouts, isn't this the very definition of stagnation? I spent about three months around 100-110 TSS/d in late summer/early autumn '06, and in retrospect, I was basically treading water that whole time. Four months later, doing about half the bike volume I was doing and replacing most of the rest of the volume with run training, I appear to still be in the same ("peak") shape I was in in October, with respect to FTP. I think I'd found my stagnation point; nervousness about "losing fitness" (which I equated with CTL) prevented me from backing off, and only an inability to continue meeting previous performance benchmarks prevented me from pushing even higher. So, I worked very, very hard to tread water for a long while, leading to frustration with the sport in general, and a desire to go buy a pair of running shoes.

    Am I alone here? Sound familiar to anybody else?

    You can play this little intermediate value theorem game with the left side of the "volume vs. performance" graph, too. I.e., there's some CTL below which detraining occurs, and in the border between this detraining region and the productive training region, there's a "maintenance region," in which the athlete is doing as little work as she can to stay in the shape they're currently in. I wonder how many athletes would have the discipline to really nail down where this maintenance region lies; I personally suspect it may be way lower than one might expect, perhaps in the region of 40-50 tss/d (though it will certainly vary between athletes). If the idea of finding as tiny training volume that produces no fitness change strikes you as wasted time or effort, than why are so many of us in such a rush to find an enormous training volume that produces no change in fitness?
     
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  2. NomadVW

    NomadVW New Member

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    I'm not trying to get no change in fitness. I know for me, I'm looking for the fastest improvement year round, from now until I get as close to my genetic potential as I can based on my schedule/time constraints. Assuming I'm reasonably distant from my genetic potential, I'd like to continue to improve as rapidly as possible. Therefore, I expect the highest training volume time allows at the correct mix of intensity will do that.

    I think the assumption is that the highest TSS/day - in correct volume/intensity mix - will yield the fastest improvement. I do however believe that "resetting" CTL doesn't necessarily mean you are completely detrained. Whether that means you taper to peak, or take a transition period between years.

    I also don't think that when I peak my CTL this year at the mid 130's or high 120's that necessarily means my overall fitness is capped. It simply means I can't add training load and as I near the genetic potential, results from training will not be so rapid.

    Here's hoping the distance between where I am now and my physical limts are still distant relatives. I like the pace of improvement I'm taking now.
     
  3. frenchyge

    frenchyge New Member

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    First of all, well thought and well said. :)

    Second, at this point I'm still building *into* what you call the maintenance area (40-50 TSS/d), but your comments were so interesting that I thought I'd throw a little fuel to the fire. I'd agree with you intermediate theory concepts, but consider that in the PMC model ATL represents 'fatigue' and CTL represents 'fitness'. So, as long as CTL is still rising, then that should indicate that fitness is still on the upswing for a significant period of time even though a rider may be maxed on the amount of ATL that their body can tolerate. I think your intermediate theory really applies to the slope of CTL, rather than the value itself, or possibly the delta between ATL and CTL. If that delta gets too small then CTL plateaus.

    Now, your points are something that occurred to me back in late summer/early fall when I was first able to manipulate a version of PMC. Looking back at last year, I built my CTL up to its peak value for the year by Apr 1, and then held that value all through the summer. IOW, my CTL was not continuing to rise, and I was merely 'treading water' for most of the competition period (and wasting a lot of energy doing so). This year I'm going to ramp up slower and later so that CTL continues to rise all the way to my target events. The result probably won't be a higher CTL peak, but will certainly mean I'm carrying less fatigue for a significant portion of the year. It remains to be seen how my performance will respond. :)
     
  4. BlueJersey

    BlueJersey New Member

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    I have the same issue last month. I came to realize that with the same time limit I have with training and the amount and intensity/volume I can load up, my CTL ramp rate wasn't increasing for more than 2 weeks. I have reached to a point that if I continue to do exclusively SST session, my CTL would not increase unless I can spend more days training. Recovery versus training freqency made that not possible. May be possible later in the season when my fitness improves.

    To solve this issue, since the weather in NYC is/was getting colder, I have began to block train for 3 days over 4 weeks at l4 and sometimes l5/l6 1 minutes on/off intervals. I was able to keep my TSS under 130 per session and be able to recover enough to finish off the block training, for 4 weeks. Sometimes I was even able do a double trainer session in a single day. I was able to increase my CTL. Obviously, there is a certain point in your SST you have to alter or increase your workout routine to see some gain.




     
  5. doctorSpoc

    doctorSpoc New Member

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    i'm wondering if the other posters really understood what you were saying...

    if CTL is really meant to rep fitness it is severly flawed... when the foot comes off the gas fitness stays around a lot longer than CTL does, as long as you say, a miminum level of workload is maintained. last fall with a 2mth, 40pt CTL down turn i still possessed some of my best fitness of the year and produced the 2nd highest power for a 2x20 than i've done all year.. and even after another 10pt drop FTP still on par with summertime values.. and i even agree with your assessment that it's about 40 TSS/d
     
  6. Alex Simmons

    Alex Simmons Member

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    It sounds like you're talking about form rather than fitness in the context these words are used in the PM concept.
     
  7. Roadie_scum

    Roadie_scum New Member

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    Respect. Love the use of the intermediate value theorem too (hope you formally proved that the functions are continuous :p )
     
  8. doctorSpoc

    doctorSpoc New Member

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    don't think so... did a giant taper in the summer resulting in an even higher TSB than the fall... how can "fitness" be halved... freshness be 2/3 and form be the same?

    think i'm just going to stick to looking at CTL for what it actually is chronic training load... surogate for fitness it is not...
     
  9. peterpen

    peterpen New Member

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    This makes a lot of sense to me as well. To take one example, during a rest week, my CTL may drop 5 - 8pts -is my fitness appreciably different? I think not.

    @kmavm - Very interesting post, thanks! One thing to contemplate is what exactly comprises fitness or being in shape *as it applies to you*? For me, it's more than FTP or max values for any specific duration (at least any duration that I'm willing/ find productive to test on a regular basis.) While it may be possible for me to maintain FTP with a significantly lower volume, I don't think I would be seeing some of the adaptations I desire given that my target events are 3+ hr road races and short stage races.

    *But* YMMV! :p As you have discovered, it is problematic to try and assign a number to how much training you can do while a) maintain fitness and more importantly b) maintain interest.
     
  10. frenchyge

    frenchyge New Member

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    What value would you place on tracking your chronic training load? Is it just a 'nice to know', or is there some (non-fitness) significance that you correlate with that piece of info?
     
  11. SolarEnergy

    SolarEnergy New Member

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    Good for you. Any plan in getting involved in duathlon or something?

    I've always thought that the mistake is to approach a training/racing season without any periodization-based direction or evolution.

    I've been keeping a Cat1 and a strong Cat3 on a 40tss/d diet since November. This stagnation point you're refering too, I see it as a huge cloud through which I want to cut later in the season. The same way a pilot gets ready to take his aircraft through a storm.

    Last thing I want as a coach, is to end up being stuck in this storm in Jan or Feb.

    "Two-dimentional" kind of training. People are looking for THE best Power/Duration combination to improve their respective core-fitness components. They're looking for the most powerful weapon, with no consideration as to when in the season this weapon should be used, and for how long.

    You're not alone. Careful yearly planning is where coaching begins in my opinion.

    Enjoy your season.
     
  12. normZurawski

    normZurawski New Member

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    I see fitness as a result of the load. I agree with those who don't like to name CTL as fitness. I think if you offset CTL by 10 (or 7?) days, then maybe you could call it fitness. Isn't fitness the body responding to load? And CTL by definition is load. So fitness would be an offshoot, not a direct measure.

    I know the common response is to say "form equals..." but this is a redefining of terms as we know them. We're all used to the expression "fitness" and it's been redefined for these conversations, which is why it's hard to accept because in a sense it's like saying you should now call sunshine the shadow. Sure there can be no shadow without sunshine but it doesn't mean they're the same thing.
     
  13. frenchyge

    frenchyge New Member

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    :confused: You mean there are times when the most powerful weapon should not be used?? What kind of non-sense is this? ;) :D
     
  14. doctorSpoc

    doctorSpoc New Member

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    i primarily use the performance manager to try to manage training "strain" rather than a tool to try to maximise training stress... looking at the slope and change in CTL durning a build phase lets me see at a glance how training load is trending and determine if i'm ramping up at an appropriate rate.. the graph makes these trends very obvious.. and i don't place much, if any value on the absolute value of CTL...

    very basically it lets me know how hard i have been working... but how hard i'm working does not necessarily equal how hard i could work = "fitness".. and as the OP stated adapation and "fitness" does vary directly (linearly) with training stress... in other words CTL is not a surrogate for "fitness".. don't get me wrong it's related to fitness but it's not fitness...
     
  15. kmavm

    kmavm New Member

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    It's funny, I think I just lack that "multisport gene"; I seem to really like riding my bike, and really like running, but for some reason mixing the two just sounds perverse to me. I should definitely give it a shot at some point, though.

    Full disclosure: not all of my interest in running comes from bike burnout. I'm going to be a first time dad any day now, and I don't anticipate having the sort of time required to do super-100 TSS/d (invariably more than 11-12hours per week, for me). It seems like it's possible to hold an equivalent level of running form on much less investment of time, though who knows. It's also been interesting getting a different "culture's" perspective on training. These runner guys train really hard.

    Interesting. I am currently of the opinion that some athletes demand more of the science of exercise physiology than it can give. Like economics, psychology, and even to some extent medicine, exercise physiology is a young field tackling an unimaginably complicated problem, and as such, doesn't have all the answers. In particular, the chronic effects of any given training/recovery regimen are practically unstudiable. It's easy to say what makes folks faster over the course of six weeks, or even six months, but even in principle I'm not sure a, e.g., a decade-long prospective study of serious athletes is possible. And what's a good "placebo" for training?

    Thus, as problematic as "folk wisdom" about training is, it is, alas, all we really have to go on. Yes, people do incredibly stupid things that they think will enhance their performance, and they're often wrong. But it seems like the most powerful long-term determiner of how close you can get to your genetic potential is consistency of training over a long span of time; in our real lives, where no researchers are forcing us to perform time trials on ergometers, this amounts to "sticking with it," and that complicates things. If lifting weights, or smoking cigarettes to open up your lungs on the climbs, or gaining 6 pounds in the winter, or whatever, makes you more likely to be able to train consistently and well during the next year, then, hey, it's performance-enhancing, even if first principles of our understanding of exercise physiology suggests it should not be.

    Thanks! So far so good...
     
  16. frenchyge

    frenchyge New Member

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    A 7-10 day offset from loading would probably relate to the TSB peak. I agree that the differences between 'fitness' and 'form' is probably not widely understood. We train, we hopefully go faster on the bike. I'm not sure if that's because of increased fitness or form (or both). :)

    4 hour group rides on Powercranks.
     
  17. shawndoggy

    shawndoggy New Member

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    Congrats man. Yeah, you are very smart to see this season as a non-starter. Your life is about to change in ways that nobody can explain and if adding a child to your marriage is anything like mine was, your MSS (marital stress score
    :) ) is about to go though the roof. Enjoy the ride. Even though it doesn't seem like it when you're scooping a load of poop out of a dirty diaper at 4:15 a.m., kids are the best investment of your time that you'll ever make.
     
  18. kmavm

    kmavm New Member

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    Where is Frank, anyway? Has he just decided to let us all continue wasting our time worrying about CTL and ATL, when we could instead be increasing our power by 40%?
     
  19. rr9876

    rr9876 New Member

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    I agree with you here. As far as I can tell, the most tangible definition for (cycling) fitness is the amount/degree of physiological adaptations your body has made that lead to you being more powerful on the bike. CTL represents the amount of stress that you have placed on your body in order to induce these adaptations. These two things are not the same.
     
  20. giannip

    giannip New Member

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    what does this say ? :D .....need some expert advice...
     
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