Whats Needed To Obtain TSS
In order to obtain TSS, you need a device that is able to record data that can be calculated by Trainingpeaks into a TSS value. These devices are power meters on the bike or a gps watch/ heart rate meter for the run. A company that I would fully endorse is Powertap power meters. I have been using their products for the past four years without a single issue in product or customer service. Power tap has a nice line of power meters ranging from wheels to pedals to cranks. This allows for the user to select a power meter that meets their needs for their riding or multiple bikes. With a gps watch or heart rate I have found the garmin line of products to be fantastic as well and have been using these for the past five years.
Testing to Set Up TSS
This will differ based on the coaches philosophy of how to best test, but essentially what you are looking for here is a threshold test to find your bodies 1 hour maximum output. Due to a 1 hour test being very tough both physically and mentally, many coaches shorten these efforts and take a % of the test as a result. A great test for power in my opinion is a 20 min max effort on the bike and taking 95% of that number as the athletes theoretical 1 hour threshold effort (FTP). An example would be a cyclist holding 300 watts for 20 minutes. This would turn into a 285 FTP. As for heart rate, I generally issue a 30 min max effort and take the last 20 minutes of the test and find the average heart rate. With heart rate not fluctuating as much at threshold, this is generally a strong indicator of what the athlete could hold for 1 hour.
The Actual TSS Number
TSS is set up to show 100 for a maximum 1 hour effort. You can go over 100 if you go longer than 1 hour, but understand that TSS is a function of intensity and duration.
Some common TSS values for efforts are:
1 hour at zone 2 base = 40-55 tss
1 hour at z3 tempo = 60-80 tss
1 hour at threshold = 100 tss
2 hours at z2 base = 80-90 tss
2 hours at tempo = 130-150 tss
2 hours with threshold work = 170-190 tss
Now, If you go over 100 tss and you haven’t been training for 1 hour, then in theory your FTP (threshold) is low and you should bump that up.
Utilizing TSS as An Athlete
As coaches, we know where an athlete should fall in the TSS range for certain race efforts such as 40km TT efforts, 80 mile road races, ironman triathlons, etc. So when we know what the race will require in terms of stress on the body, this is how we start to program in workouts. No longer are we required to prescribe workouts by speed or miles, but rather we can prescribe workouts that are much more meaningful to the race and specific to the demands. After all, speed and miles (intensity and duration) are what make up TSS anyways, but we can manipulate this number in ways to make training more effective/efficient. Let me show you a quick example.
Case Study: An Ironman athlete is required to ride around 240-270 tss on the bike. With Ironman performance being strongly tied to FTP on the bike, instead of only riding long slow miles for this athlete, we can start to program in workouts that builds their tss values in a workout such as
mixing in 6x20 minutes @ 85-90% FTP
riding low-mid z2 between efforts (10-15 minutes between efforts)
This workout will be close to 220-260 tss
Essentially, we are getting much more out of each workout and building the ironman athlete closer to their goal without always having to get out the door for 4-6 hour rides. As you get closer to competition you want to get more specific, but just because you are training for Ironman doesn’t mean you constantly need huge weeks. As long as total TSS for the week is where it should be, you are building in a proper manner and will be fit for the task.
Setting up Your Device to Show TSS
Thank you Garmin for this one. Garmin in their latest updates have included a TSS field to their data screens. Now instead of just having power, heart rate, speed, duration, etc on your garmin screen, you can also have TSS. This has been a game changer for my athletes as we now prescribe workouts with TSS values and specific approaches to each day. The athletes know what to do in terms of specifics and just ride until their TSS has been met for the day. Speed can be manipulated so easily based on wind, incline, drag, etc. By using TSS with specific approaches, we ensure that the athlete is putting enough stress on their body to make progress and isn’t training blindly with just miles or speed.
While it does take some time to set all of this up with devices needed, education of training approach, development of zones, and setting up your device… there isn’t any better way you can train for efficient and effective results. If you are able to get a power meter and a coach that can fully relay the message as to why you are training a specific way, there really is no going back to the old way of training. While I’m a purist in many facets and love the simplicity of riding a bike or going out for a jog, when you are serious about results and really targeting a season/event, this is without a doubt the best way to train in my opinion.
To listen in more depth about TSS and how we use this as coaches, Jeremy Brown of MindRight Multisport and I will be doing a google hangout Wednesday June 15th at 10 AM Est.
All Dalzell Coaching athletes are able to receive a discount on Powertap power meters through our partnership with them. Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions.