What is Training Stress Balance
Training Stress Balance is a metric used to monitor the fatigue of an endurance athlete. For many there is no explanation needed on why this is a good feature. However, for other athletes that are in the mindset of “more is more”, this may be the best tool we can use as a coach. This metric factors in acute training load (ATL) which is based on the athletes training stress score (TSS). If all of these acronyms are getting to be overwhelming, I wrote a blog last week on TSS which may be required reading for this blog. Essentially, as TSS builds day to day and therefore increases your acute training load, your training stress balance will go down (down is fatigue, up is freshness). So, as your acute training load (2 week average) continues to rise higher and higher, you will become more and more fatigued. This seems simple enough to understand, but keep in mind that many athletes don’t pay attention to this and therefore become overtrained or in some cases, undertrained.
Using Training Stress Balance
So how do you use this in an effective manner. I would urge that as coaches we use this on a day-to-day basis or at the least on a week-to-week schedule. If you use this correctly, you can understand where to put big training days and where you need to have an off-day or an easy z1 spin on the bike. You can start to see where you overload the body and where you need to adapt to that training with recovery. No longer is the generalized 3 weeks on, 1 week off needed… but rather you can schedule athletes with 24 days on with 5 recovery days mixed in and then a 3 day easy period to fully recover before going back into another build. Essentially what I’m saying with that last sentence is that you don’t have to be generalized in your training and you shouldn’t be. Generalized plans account for a perfect life balance and I will be the first to tell you that many people are constantly trying to find balance in their life which often requires training schedule changes. This metric allows you to customize your training to your life which may be the most powerful thing any athlete can do for future development.
The Actual Numbers
Based on the book by Hunter Allen and Dr. Andrew Coggan, they have looked at numerous athlete profiles and came up with specific numbers to shoot for during builds and during races. In my experiences, I have found that when building, athletes should range in scores from -5 to -35 when going through a block of training (negative numbers show fatigue). Anytime an athlete is going above -35 they are getting high in fatigue and this becomes a red flag to send the athlete into a recovery day or two. You can also use this as a coach in programming day-to-day by understanding that the higher the negative number, the more fatigue the athlete has. So, if you wanted to program in threshold workouts or speed days for athletes, you would never do that with a high negative TSB score. Rather, you would look in the week to see where the best place to put the speed work is so you can maximize the workout for the athlete without increasing their risk of an injury.
Beyond the monitoring to recover, TSB also allows you to maximize the taper going into any race. Because you can measure fatigue, you can see just how many days in advance an athlete needs to properly taper and maximize their fitness (form) going into their race. Again, no more generalized 10-14 day tapers… now your taper becomes specific to your travel days and training load that led up to it… 100% customized.
The main takeaway from this is that TSB may be the best tool for any coach or athlete looking to customize their plan. Generalized plans are good if you have a perfect balance in your life, but I have yet to see that in any person I’ve coached. Keeping balance in life is a key contributor to athletic success and this tool allows us to do that in a more efficient way. Beyond keeping the plan customized to your life and ensuring progress, this also gives us the ability to maximize training and tapers for your races. By using this tool, you can ensure that all of your hard work actually goes into the race vs showing up to the race overtrained or stale due to rest.
Jeremy Brown of MindRight Multisport and I will be having a live talk regarding TSB on Wednesday at 10AM EST.
If you have any further questions or comments, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org