This is written assuming you are using a PC or Mac to view the program (which I recommend for anything detailed). The app interface on mobile devices is robust but may vary.
The main function and screen is a shared calendar between yourself and your coach. Your coach will enter workouts with specific structure and target effort levels (or power, or HR, or pace), and estimated time to finish. Note that I enter most bike and run workouts with time goals vs distance goals, and swim workouts with distance goals. The planned time field is just a guideline/estimate, most completed workouts will wind up a bit over or under this. Not to worry.
You, the athlete, can enter your completed workouts via a direct file upload with Garmin Connect autosync.
Trainingpeaks is also compatible with a bunch of other devices, you can read about how to sync them here.
You can enter the workout manually by clicking on the workout box, and entering the time/distance and any details about the session in the “post-activity comments”. These comments are very helpful whether or not you automatically uploaded the workout file, in order to get a view into your current mindset & physical condition.
You can also enter useful life/schedule issues by clicking the day and then adding any comments with the “Other” box. If you want to be sure your coach knows you’re going out of town, this is the best way to do so. You can email or text me the details but if you want to be 100% sure I remember to plan around life issues, enter this directly into Trainingpeaks.
In order to take advantage of the advanced analysis functions, you will need to have established one or more of the following zone fields under your Athlete Account Settings (found by clicking your name in the top right corner). Your coach should help establishing proper zones or paces. The order listed is the preferred order for calculating advanced metrics.
1) Bike functional threshold power OR lactate threshold HR OR threshold bike pace (MPH)
2) Run threshold HR or run threshold pace (min/mile)
3) Swim threshold pace min/100yd (what you could hold for 20-30 min continuous hard effort)
Strength workouts will not calculate a training stress score (TSS) unless you enter the time and a basic aerobic HR and have a reasonable default HR entered in your zones. I recommend you do so; as you know strength training is not a non-issue.
The TSS value is the building block of analysis. It gives a single workout score for how physiologically demanding that workout was. You can/should read about TSS and the other useful numbers that come out of each workout here.
You can view the TSS, intensity factor (IF) and normalized power (NP) in each workout file by clicking the box, then clicking Analyze, then view the power/HR/pace graphically; the map; and see your laps (if you have set your watch to laps) or manually taken splits; peak paces or power or HR for different time frames; and elevation gain. The workout box should also display an overall summary of time/distance/TSS, IF, and calorie expenditure. You need to have entered a weight for that to calculate at some point, Trainingpeaks will assume that has not changed.
Please take some time to explore this drill down so you understand where the data is generated. That being writ, these are all just numbers and remember to rely somewhat on self-assessment and awareness. Was the workout hard? Are you tired? Do you feel great? :) Knowing your body and state of mind is very helpful in the long term approach, and an argument can be made to ditch all the gadgets at times.
Inputting valid TSS for your training will lead to a useful performance management chart (PMC). This gives an overall assessment of your improved (or detrained) fitness.
This graphic and several others will display on the “Dashboard” tab. My setup, and by default yours, will include distance by week for the run and swim, duration by week for strength, bike, swim and run, duration by week for all, the PMC, and TSS by week for all. You can add any other chart you would like using the Charts Library which is found on the far left of the screen (3 bars).
If the trend of your chronic training load (CTL) is up, that means your fitness is improving. If it is down, you are detraining or losing fitness. There is a time and place for this and no one has a continual upward CTL. You actually want that to start heading downward as you taper for your key events.
It should look something like this. Note that the CTL is based on 42 days of training data, so if you are starting at 0 fitness or with 0 data, it will estimate a baseline fitness value. If you’re super fit but just haven’t recorded anything, we can adjust it upwards. The acute training load (ATL) is based on the last 7 days.
In this file, the blue line is CTL, the red line is ATL, and the yellow line is training stress balance (TSB), which is CTL – ATL, and basically indicates if you are rested or tired. You generally want it to be negative when training harder and positive when resting or tapering (or being a slug for the holidays). This one is mine, and the trend is down, because I have been taking it (relatively) easy!
The Annual Training Plan (ATP)
This is the seasonal overview. The Limiters on the right side of the screen are what you should be working on at that point in time. I recommend you generally ignore this unless you are self-coaching, as there is information overload going on over there.
They are based on the Period category, which is explained more in depth here.In summary:
Prepatory: getting ready to train harder/longer
Base: aerobic establishment, potentially max strength (resistance) phase, potential max volume phase
Build: more threshold/over threshold work; specific race pace work, potential max volume in early part
Peak/taper: drop volume to rest; maintain some intensity to stay sharp
The key points in the ATP are the period you are in, the approximate hours you can expect to train that week, any Event planned for that week, and the Details column. I use the details column to write key workouts for the week, so you have an idea of what to expect as your hard session.
Note that the lower your maximum volume is, the less applicable the structure of a traditional periodized approach applies. You may need to experiment with alternating high intensity training + steady training weeks or months, some form of reverse periodization, or find a repeatable week approach that works for you.
Also note that the period and hours are auto generated by Trainingpeaks, I may manually adjust these as we start and go along. I do my best to get some key workout details up in the 12-16 week prior to your key race period, if not more.
The Home Tab
This gives you a quick view of your PMC, lists events you have planned, upcoming workouts, and recent peak performances. I never visit this page but you may enjoy it.
The Goodbye line
Please take some time to read the links and files included. This article is about making the most of Trainingpeaks, and it's not comprehensive for all the functions. The links provide some actual how to train info. You may also benefit from visiting the One Step Beyond articles page here.
Marty Gaal, CSCS, is a USA Triathlon coach who lives in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Marty has been coaching endurance athletes since 2002. You can read more about OSB coaching services at www.osbmultisport.com.
One Step Beyond is the producer of the Powerstroke®: Speed through force and form freestyle technique DVD, intended to help new to intermediate triathlon swimmers become faster and more powerful in the water.