How much volume?

It has not been very clear to me how much training volume I can tolerate before it starts to carry a toll on my speed. This summer changed all that.

I’ve been measuring my weekly training volume with two different meters: The length of actual sprint work (in seconds), and training stress score (TrainingPeaks). During the past few months I have begun to understand that first, there is a limit in how much hammering my body can take, and second, it is far less than I thought it to be.

Below I have attached graphs that illustrate the training stress score given by two applications, the TrainingPeaks.com and the new training analytics app WKO4. I will talk more about the new WKO4 in a later post. In short I think it is a clear upgrade to the old WKO+ and has new features I find particularly useful for track cyclist.

TSS and best performances

The first chart is a combination of few things. The green bars illustrate the development of my training stress score in WKO4 from mid April to date. Unfortunately this is not fully accurate presentation of TSS as there was several occasions I did not get any data from my efforts, either due to human error or problems with the head unit. At some point I realised my Garmin Edge 800 was somewhat sensitive to other power meters and amongst other things recalibrate the zero offset regardless the disabled functionality. Anyways, for additional reference I have attached a second graph which takes into account also manual entries of TSS score.

TrainingPeaks TSS

Back to the first chart. The yellow section is something I added manually to capture the underlying SPP program: Three times 3 weeks progressive loading and unloading week. That pattern comes more apparent in the small chart on the right. The last bit of information is in the small dots you see in the upper half of the chart. Those represent the five best performances (power) in different time frames during the four month period.

The interpretation then. The first interesting phenomenon happened the first week of June during the off-loading week. This was after my second intensification cycle. These power figures came from an indoor session on a trainer. I was hitting personal bests in all monitored time frames! I had one more cycle to go before I’d move my focus solely on speed! Seemed like everything was going just like planned.

Unfortunately that was not the case. The planned last cycle did not bring any further improvements, quite the contrary. The speed intensification section at the end of the cycle made things look even worse. I just dug myself deeper in a hole. My tapering for Nationals seemed to go well and I thought I was in shape. Yet the planned peak did not arrive until a week after nationals, when I broke my previous outdoors records. By the looks of those dots it seems things are getting better by the week. What happened in between and why did I fail to notice the trend before?

The summer here has been the crappiest ever. I did not get to ride outside ’till the week of June 8th, the start of my last three week period. I was so sick of riding on a trainer I tried to take advantage of every opportunity to ride outside. This meant training and racing in a fairly low 14-18C temperatures. Usually the low temperature was accompanied with wind. This was the case even for the Nationals Sprint Comp. I have tried avoiding cold weather riding the best I can, as it carries a toll on power output. It is just impossible to stay warm enough. Then speed drops because of the loss of power and due to higher air density. Needless to say what declining speed is to sprinter.

So basically what happened was I thought the lower performance I saw in between early June and early August was a result of bad weather. Furthermore, I knew the intensification of speed work could cause a temporary setback in performance and hence did not think there was a need to change the plan. How deep of a hole I had put myself did not become clear to me until the week after Nats.

I suppose it is false to say the work did not produce the expected result as clearly it did. The timing was the bigger problem. Furthermore, when being in the middle of it I never considered the volume to be that high. After all last summer I was running 15-30% more volume all summer, but I was also out from the gym because of the hernia! Still I would make a claim that my tolerance for high intensity work is lower, not because of the gym, but because of the increased intensity. I’m constantly training with bigger gears than last year. I’m also producing more power with them than last year with smaller ones.

It has become a custom of mine to list few points as key take aways. I will continue my preparations towards Master’s Worlds with these in mind:

  • It seems three 3+1 week cycles within the SPP is too much. My lifts are at such a level I can reach my max within two cycles, if the base building is done properly. This 7 week scheme is what Charlie Francis proposes and from now on I will stick to that.
  • The speed intensification after the last 3 week period should not last longer than a week and deserves an unloading week before start. I’m in the middle of trying this out. I will report the results later.
  • My tapering scheme worked fine. It produced a peak, although a week later than planned.
  • Less is more!!

I have 4 more weeks to Masters Worlds. I hope my interpretation of data and above assumptions are accurate. Time(s) will tell!

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