Mastering a race that you have been training for a long time is one of the most beautiful experiences in sport. Some are happy with it, others are curious. How fast can I become? What are my limits? How long can I keep it up? Training with key figures helps to control the training. Training with key performance indicators perfects your training.
Since the longer you train, the less progress you make, it is not only motivating to keep an eye on them, but also sensible. If you want to sound out your limits, you will always cross them again. Possible consequences are fatigue, overtraining or even injury. In order to avoid or at least minimize this, it helps to train with key performance indicators. These clearly show you your progress and help you to train more purposefully (more efficiently) and more safely.
This article will introduce you to the basics of key performance indicators. In the next few weeks we will introduce you to further useful key performance indicators on triworx-coaching.com.
In order to achieve something, you need a goal. So far, so banal. For most athletes, this is a certain race with a certain goal. If you know what you want to achieve, then you can also find out what you need to improve. Indicators help to document progress and give direct feedback if limits are exceeded or undercut.
However, I would like to emphasize one thing in advance: An athlete is a person. Only the key performance indicators will not bring you to your goal. The key to success is the meaningful combination of these objective data with your subjective feedback and feelings.
If you now know your goal, you can define key performance indicators, which you observe, analyse and derive decisions from in order to reach your goal as efficiently as possible. In this way you can plan your training in the long term and adapt it to current developments at short notice.
Software helps you to record your workouts and calculate key indicators. Of course you can also do this yourself on paper or Excel. The calculations are transparent. For most people, however, this is too time-consuming and the work can be done for us. I personally like trainingpeaks.com as a basis and for a deeper evaluation WKO5.
The advantage of the software is that you can collect and evaluate data from different sources (bike computer, running clock, smartphone apps, fitness tracker, scales, SpO2 knife, etc.) in one place fully automatically. Once uploaded, you can view the data directly. This is where you start with the key performance indicators and abbreviations such as TSS, IF, Pw:HR and so on.
What does this mean and how can you use these key performance indicators to measure progress and to exploit my full potential?
Training with key performance indicators
We mentioned it above. Training with key performance indicators perfects your training. But what are the basic indicators?
Functional Threshold is the performance that an athlete can maintain for a maximum of one hour without having to reduce due to fatigue during this time. The Functional Treshold can be specified in watts as FTP, in tempo (also FTp where p=pace) or heart rate (FTHR). These values have proven to be a standard that is easy to monitor for most athletes.
In order to get these values, the most accurate way is of course to do a test over an hour. However, as this is too demanding (both mentally and physically) for most athletes outside of competition, shorter testing procedures have become established.
By the way, it also helps to always look at two values at the same time, as this can also give indications of change. So always power and heart rate on the bike and speed / power and heart rate when running.
There is often criticism of this method, because it is of course not verifiable whether someone has really given everything about the hour and what significance this has on other distances. This criticism is also justified and only spiroergometry gives 100% certainty. This is a method used in performance diagnostics for respiratory gas analysis, which completely reveals the metabolic state. For most athletes, however, an FTP test in combination with a performance profile test is sufficient from my point of view, since these can be carried out more frequently (at least as long as money plays a role) and thus the course of the evaluation makes each time more accurate.
Normalized Power (NP) and Normalized Graded Pace (NGP)
Normalized Power (NP) is used for bike trainings sessions and represents the approximate constant wattage that would have been possible over the session. So what wattage I would have had to set my cruise control to to be as fast as I was. It also gives information about how much energy a session has cost, because unlike the average wattage it also includes the peaks. These peaks of course cost considerably more energy. So a cyclist in a crit race might have a low average wattage (AVG power) because he always rides in the back of the slipstream of the field. Nevertheless, he may have the same NP as the front riders, as he has to accelerate much harder after each corner to make up for the speed lost by braking at the end of the peloton. So he doesn’t save any energy at all there, he even makes his laps much less efficient. Knowledge about NP and AVG-Power enables a more efficient race design and calculation of the energy consumption. The information of course then flows into the nutrition strategy.
What NP is for cycling is Normalized Graded Pace (NGP) for running. NGP considers the gradients and estimates what this speed would have meant on a flat track. For me this figure is losing more and more importance, because more and more athletes run according to watt values and this is the much more objective figure, because external factors such as wind are also taken into account.
Intensity Factor (IF)
Since we know our Functional Treshold and can calculate what energy output we have produced (NP / NPG), we can also measure how intensive our session has been. IF is nothing else than the percentage given as decimal number (0-1) of the FTP. For example, if the IF is 0.75, you have completed the unit at 75% of your Functional Treshold. Very short units of course allow an IF >1, because you are able to do more than your FTP in less than an hour.
Depending on the length of your planned races, you can set a target value for the IF. For example in the IRONMAN it should be as constant as possible, where against a crit race many short peaks belong to.
Training Stress Score (TSS)
The Training Stress Score tells you how tiring a workout was and how long it will probably take you to recover from it.
The TSS gives a quantitative statement about the IF, because the TSS includes the duration of the workout. A workout with an IF of 0.8 over 30 minutes therefore has a smaller TSS than a workout with 2 hours at an IF of 0.8. Further indicators can then be derived from the TSS. But there will be more about this in a future article.
It is also important to note that a unit with a TSS of <150 usually has no effect on performance the next day. A workout between 150-300 TSS will cause some fatigue the next day and will not reduce performance on the second day after the unit. 300 - 450 TSS are still noticeable two days after the unit and everything > 450 has a performance reducing effect over several days.
These are just a few examples of how training with key performance indicators can perfect your training. We will show you further possibilities in the next blog.
Indicators help to measure performance, to design the training goal-oriented and to prevent fatigue. They are therefore an essential part of every training plan and every coaching. However, they only give a holistic picture when they are placed in the big context of training, work, family and all other social factors. Discussions and feedback make these indicators interpretable. Training with key performance indicators perfects your training.
Of course, there is much more to be said about each individual key performance indicator, but this would go beyond the scope of a basic article;-). That’s why I’d like to go into the details in another article if you’d like. If you don’t feel like dealing with it yourself, you can of course do so with us as well. How, you will find at triworx-coaching.com .
Good luck with your training,