The Performance Management Chart

Now that I can analyze and plot my workouts in detail, and I can estimate the Training Stress Score (TSS) of each ride, it is time to make use of all the statistics. It is nice to have numbers quantifying my trainings one-by-one, but how nice would it be to track my form and fitness during the season based on the volume and intensity of my rides. This is the concept behind creating the Performance Management Chart. I will write down (partly quote, or just rephrase) here the most basic things, but again, everything is based on the following two articles (take time to read them, they are very interesting):

What is the Performance Management Chart in TrainingPeaks WKO+?, by Hunter Allen
The scientific inspiration for the Performance Manager, by Andrew R. Coggan, Ph.D.

Andrew R. Coggan defines form as a combination of fitness and freshness (Form = Fitness + Freshness). You will have a really good day in the saddle when your fitness level is high, and when your fatigue level is low. Fitness is a response to training stress (or training load); the more you train the better you will be. Freshness is simply a result of rest. As TSS quantifies training load, knowing TSS values of workouts from the past enables us to determine the rider’s fitness in the present, and see how much training is needed in the future to raise this level higher.

The Performance Management Chart is based on Banister’s impulse-response model (see 2nd article for details), and we define the following components:

1) Chronic training load (CTL) provides a measure of how much an athlete has been training historically (chronically). It is calculated as an exponentially-weighted moving average of daily TSS values, with the default time constant set to 42 days. CTL can be viewed as analogous to the positive effect of training on performance in the impulse-response model. It is a relative indicator of changes in performance ability due to changes in fitness.

2) Acute training load (ATL) provides a measure of how much an athlete has been training recently (acutely). It is calculated as an exponentially-weighted moving average of daily TSS values, with the default time constant set to 7 days. ATL can be viewed as analogous to the negative effect of training on performance in the impulse-response model. It is a relative indicator of changes in performance ability due to fatigue.

3) Training stress balance (TSB) is the difference between CTL and ATL, i.e., TSB = CTL – ATL. TSB provides a measure of how much an athlete has been training recently, compared to how much they have been training historically. It can be viewed as an indicator of how fully-adapted an individual is to their recent training load, i.e., how “fresh” they are likely to be.

In the Performance Manager concept, an individual’s CTL determines their performance potential, but their TSB influences their ability to fully express that potential. Their actual performance at any point in time will therefore depend on both their CTL and their TSB, but determining how much emphasis to accord to each is now a matter of trial-and-error/experience, not science. (Really go and see more details in the original article.)

Some other interesting quotes before I tell you about my progress in the topic:

“The following approximate guidelines may prove useful when analyzing prior data: a TSB of less than ‑10 would usually not be accompanied by the feeling of very fresh legs, while a TSB of greater than +10 usually would be. A TSB of -10 to +10, then, might be considered neutral, i.e., the individual is unlikely to feel either particularly fatigued or particularly rested. The precise values, however, will depend not only on the individual but also the time constants used to calculate CTL and ATL, and therefore should not be applied too literally.”

“The optimal training load seems to lie at a CTL somewhere between 100 and 150 TSS/d. That is, individuals whose CTL is less than 100 TSS/d usually feel that they are undertraining, i.e., they recognize that they could tolerate a heavier training load, if only they had more time available to train and/or if other stresses in life (e.g., job, family) were minimized. (…) On the other hand, few, if any, athletes seem to be able to sustain a long-term average of >150 TSS/d.”

“In addition to the absolute magnitude of CTL, considerable insight into an individual’s training (and/or mistakes in training) can often be obtained by examining the pattern of change in CTL over time. Specifically, a long (e.g., 4-6 week) plateau in CTL during a time when a) the focus of training has not changed, and b) the athlete’s performance is constant is generally evidence of what might be termed training stagnation – that is, the individual may feel that they are training well, by being very consistent and repeatedly performing the same workouts, but in fact they are not training at all, but simply maintaining, because the overload principle is not being applied. On the other hand, attempting to increase CTL too rapidly, i.e., at a rate of >5-7 TSS/d/week for four or more weeks, is often a recipe for disaster, in that it appears to frequently lead to illness and/or other symptoms of overreaching/overtraining. Of course, since changes in CTL are driven by changes in ATL, this means that any sudden increase in the training load (e.g., training camp, stage race) must be followed by an appropriate period of reduced training/recovery, so as to avoid too great of an overload.”

So now that I have all my rides processed with my python script (even the indoor ones, so really all cycling workouts), I only had to write a script which grabs the TSS values from every statistics file (then calculates daily values if there were more rides on a given day), calculates the ATL, CTL and TSB values for every day in the given period, and plots them (plus saves the data as a table). This was not too hard ;) There is even an option to change the default time constants in the parameter file (the same parameter file which is used by the workout analyzer and plotter script), and to define a start date and end date for the plotting in the command line. Then after giving the

>python plotgarmintcx_makePMC.py 20101201 20110920

command (where the dates are optional and only affect the plotting limits, while the calculations are always done using all the data), you have your Performance Management Chart plotted and all the data saved in an ASCII file too. Let’s see how the result (with some additional comments photoshopped over in red) looks like (click and it will be bigger)!

You can see that I came into the season with some residual CTL (in blue) from last year, but one 1 hour trainer session per week was not enough to keep that on a steady level… Then as the spring was exceptionally warm and sunny I had some quite good trainings in March and April raising my CTL from 20 TSS/d to 55 TSS/d, which then dropped because of no training and very low training load during my observing run. Then the four hard days of cycling on La Palma gave a huge amount of training load (ATL in magenta), my CTL jumped from 45 TSS/d to 68 TSS/d, but my TSB (in yellow) fell to -87 TSS/d, which is extremely low, if you keep riding there then the chances are high that you will get an injury… It also resembles well that I was extremely tired after that week… Then, only after two days of rest, with a still pretty negative TSB I rode my personal best on the standard Leuven-Mechelen-Leuven route. Probably I should have waited a bit more, because another 4 days later I did a ride where I easily had a better average speed on 62 kilometers than my personal best on 48 kilometers from 2010. I was extremely surprised about my performance on that day. It is not such a surprise anymore when you look at this plot. My CTL was still very high, and as I was resting a lot in the days before, my TSB became almost zero. This is the perfect combination (high CTL, zero or slightly positive TSB – remember, actual form is a combination of fitness and freshness) for record breaking rides (or races), this is an example of a sweet spot on the Performance Management Chart. Unluckily after this really good period I could not ride for almost three weeks (work, work, and weather…), which had a huge impact on my CTL (dropping all the way down to 43 TSS/d). From this point, I started a quite systematic and serious training, as I wanted to finish July with at least 1000 kilometers. You can see that my ATL is almost always above my CTL, which leads to the increase of CTL. Then I crashed into a car just days before I was about to climb the Mont Ventoux, which gave me some time to rest (and a bit if pain in my right knee, which is missing from this chart…), so again I had a high CTL and an ~zero TSB when I went to France. And I was again very surprised how easy the first ride felt there, especially after an accident. But now from this chart, it is not so surprising anymore. My TSB was still only -13 TSS/d when I climbed the Mont Ventoux, so it was close to optimal, but I could have done better with a bit less riding on the first two days in France. It was also the day of my highest CTL with 71.3 TSS/d this year (till now). Then during my observing run, it dropped again (to 57 TSS/d), so now I am working on getting it back up to the region where is should be :) Next year I want to be at 100 TSS/d at this time. At least. Especially if I am serious about my plans for the summer…

As a conclusion, I think it is a very nice visualization and an extremely useful tool for a cyclist!

3 thoughts on “The Performance Management Chart

  1. Carvalho BR

    i have a rear wheel with a powertap G3 – but on weekend races I use another wheel – so I miss the power data and my charts don’t show my real evolution.
    WKO+ and Strava Fitness/Freshness charts don’t allow me to manually input TSS and IF numbers.
    so would you be able to create a Windows application that accepts manual data inputs and would plot my own PMC chart ? or maybe an Excel sheet with the formulas/parameters, so I could feed the numbers and have my chart plotted.
    that would help me a lot.
    And congrats for your work and training!
    best regards,
    Carvalho (from Brazil)

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