How many weeks of hard training are you able to handle before a rest week? How much rest did you need before you created a peak wattage for the year? The end of the season is when each of you should be going through a period of reflection and analysis of your previous year of data. Using a power meter and recording your data for every ride/race you have done this year, should allow you to go back and start seeing some patterns in your training and racing that will help you to make some better decisions for the coming 2022 season. This kind of post season analysis is something that I do with each of my clients and it’s a critical part of the coaching process as each of us wants to create even more success in the coming year.
The first chart you should look at when examining your season is the Training Stress Score vs. Intensity Factor chart as this chart will present you a rough idea of how much training stress you can handle vs. the need for a recovery week. Whether or not you had a coach, or followed a loose training plan, this chart will reveal your rough periodization of training for the year and that’s a great place to discover a few interesting patterns. Looking at Figure 1, this racer had a solid and steady build-up of TSS through the season culminating in June. From June to the end of the season, his ability to create TSS was reduced because of the need to recover from weekend races, some summer travel and then a slight injury. There are a couple of interesting things that we can learn from this chart: 1) He can handle between 3-4 weeks of hard training before needing a true rest week. If we look at the green bars in Figure 1 and notice how after every 3-4 weeks, there is a smaller bar indicating a reduced amount of TSS for that week, this means that he had a planned easier week or he ‘had’ to take an easier week because the previous 3-4 hard weeks. This observation should be noted as a key characteristic of this rider and therefore can be planned around and watched in the upcoming 2022 season. 2) Later in the season after he had created a solid foundation of fitness, he was able to handle some very big TSS weeks, but those big TSS weeks ‘cost’ a lot. In order to handle them, I, his coach, had to taper and rest him beforehand and then rest him afterward. Of course, those were key goals for him, so it wasn’t a mistake to do those easier weeks, but it’s important to note the ‘cost’ of big goals and take them into account for the following season.
The next chart that I use for the end of the season analysis is the now ubiquitous (for power meter users) ‘Performance Manager Chart’(PMC). This chart goes a level deeper than Figure 1, as it takes into account the accumulated training load and fatigue throughout the season, while displaying the riders ‘best’ efforts. This display of best efforts is where you want to begin correlating your chronic training load and your training stress balance(how fatigued or fresh you are). By reviewing your season and connecting the dots on your peak performances, correlating this with your TSB, then you can learn your optimal range for how fresh you need to be in order to create a peak performance. This is incredibly valuable knowledge for the coming season, as it allows you to plan your taper exactly for any race you might want to create a peak performance for, which means you will have the best chance for success on the day that you want it. The Performance Manager Chart not only helps you with your taper, it also helps to determine your optimal training load. By reviewing your season, you can see the height of your training load with the chronic training load line and correlate this to your peak of fitness as well, along with your review of your notes and power files from that time, as this will remind you how well you rode during that time. In figure 2, this athlete’s PMC illustrates perfectly the relationship between freshness, fitness and ‘form’. Every time the athlete had a peak 20 minute for the year, his training stress balance(TSB) was either close to balance or a positive number, with most of his bests occurring when his TSB was +5 to +12, so we can use that knowledge for the coming year in order to plan for the perfect taper. His maximal training load that he could sustain for 2-3 weeks this season was around 80 TSS/day for the CTL, which means that he basically averaged(at his maximum) 50 minutes of equivalent threshold training stress each day for 6 weeks in a row. This is a good amount for an amateur masters racer, with 12-15hours a week to train and while he was able to build up to that training load, he was not able to go above it nor was he able to sustain it for more than a couple of weeks. That knowledge gives me valuable information about how to plan out his training for the coming season, so that I can make sure to give him the correct build of fitness at the proper time.
By utilizing these two charts, as his coach, I can now plan his weekly training load with more precision, knowing that when he exceeds 800 TSS per week for more than 3 weeks, I should pay close attention to his fourth week and prepare for a rest week if warranted. I can also understand the bigger picture better as well, since now I know that when his CTL begins to reach 80 TSS/day, that means I should watch how negative his TSB is and for how long, since it is an upper limit of his ability to sustain that training load, and while it might not be at the end of a 3-4 week build cycle, I can ensure that he has proper rest, along with the right amount of taper in order to either peak for an event or prepare for another build cycle. A proper post season analysis of your power data can reveal some relationships that you might not have otherwise seen, and it’s critical that you understand the correlations between peak wattages and fatigue, so that you can be sure to create your peak watts on the day that you want. These charts, while they could seem intimidating are really pretty simple to master once you understand the basic concepts. I highly recommend that you read the chapter on “Performance Manager” in my and Dr. Coggan’s book, “Training and Racing with a Power Meter”, as this will provide a more in depth discussion of these topics and help you to create the best season ever in 2022!