TSB Syndrome

There was a time when training was all about chasing numbers. Any decent race result I had was all gravy. I remember tracking week to date and year to date totals for distance and time across all disciplines. The week to date number proved the figure to chase as my performance appeared to correlate with that number. Please, note I am not claiming any scientific integrity here. Soon I tweaked it so I could make it any period “to date” recognising that the training for some prior period was what contributed to performance. Before I knew it I had something quite complicated coded in to a spreadsheet that attempted to weight all previous trainings’ effect on today’s performance. Luckily I enjoyed the process of writing this spreadsheet as it was a fair bit of work.

Then someone, I can’t remember who, told me that it sounded like training stress. I did a little research and a whole new world of data opened up to me. The penny dropped. I’d been re-inventing the wheel but I’d really not done that good a job, what I had was a little more like a square.

That was the start of me tracking training stress balance (TSB). Initially it was in a spreadsheet using my own calculation, then in my own database and final I happened upon RaceDay Apollo. Finally I had a tool that I could calibrate and have a good sense of it’s predictive capacity. Last year I was reasonably meticulous with all my testing and ended up with an accurate model; for my final test it predicted my result within about 2% of my actual result.

Used correctly (a big proviso) such models allow a high level of control and feedback over how you are responding to the training you’re doing and whether it is appropriate for achieving your goals. It can provide great motivation to keep doing the work and a timely reminder if you’re training isn’t quite right. It also allows no hiding from your loss of fitness when you’re not training.

This brings me to where I am now. The year had started full of motivation to get out and train, to test and to progress. The weather conspired against me but I managed some excellent consistent swimming and a series of solid turbo sessions. Fitness was improving; I could see it in the graphs. Then just before my first calibration test my nephews visited and right on cue three days later I came down with a horrible cold. Sleepless nights due to coughing fits and the days just seeing my fitness ebb away in my training stress graph.

On a rising fitness curve I find my motivation is self-perpetuating however on a declining curve my loss of motivation seems to keep gathering momentum. It all reminded me of the Hubbert Curve.

It wasn’t anything quite so dramatic. I’d got myself another dose of what I call; TSB Syndrome.

The drop off in fitness I was seeing was so de-motivating it just lead to more lost fitness. Soon I couldn’t bear looking at the graph. To be honest it got to the point that there was little point. My “negative” graph had zeroed out, which I tried to take as a positive since it showed I had no lingering fatigue. Surely my return to form would be a breeze being so fresh. However, my form and “positive” graph looked pretty much arrow straight towards zero and that meant back to square one.

It’s at times like this I wonder about getting a coach. You want the data, it’s helpful, but as an athlete it can be much more productive to get all the data and use it but without actually having to look at it yourself. Being self coached this isn’t so easy.

What’s the cure? Firstly; back to basics. Just get out and do. Get the data but don’t sweat it. Having had nearly two weeks of zeros doing anything right now will help. With our first training camp coming up there is a focus and it gives me motivation. For camp, the key thing is bike fitness and past experience suggests that two weeks of solid riding will see a return to fitness.

After that’s been logged I can start looking at the data again.

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