Understanding common training terms


Hey Minions! I went for a ride with some friends and it was like they were speaking a different language...

Cycling, like many sports, has its own jargon and it can be quite difficult to decipher. You’ll hear a few different terms used in our workouts, training plans and while sipping a double ristretto at the cafe that might sound a bit buzzwordy. We use these terms not only because they make us sound smart, but because they have specific meanings when it comes to training. Understanding these will help you get more out of your training, and also allow you to hold your own when cornered at your next party by the local know-it-all sports physiologist.


TSS® stands for Training Stress Score and is a way of determining how much stress has been put on your body in a workout. It's particularly useful for gauging the amount of recovery you'll need after the session is over. A TSS score below 150 means you should recover within 24 hours. A TSS of more than 300 means it can take two or more days to recover.


IF stands for Intensity Factor®. It is a measure of how intense a workout is. Riding at your FTP for an hour would equal an IF of 1.0. For workouts, we assume hitting all power targets exactly to estimate the IF of the workout.


Power is the rate at which energy is used (energy over time) and is measured in watts. In cycling, energy is expressed in terms of work (such as how hard you have to work to ascend a climb). It’s a constant snapshot of your work rate at any given moment. It’s the building block from which all power-based training flows. One cool fact: A watt is a watt, whether on a bike or powering your home. So when Lotto-Belisol’s Andre Greipel unleashes 1,900 watts in a sprint, he could essentially power two houses at normal consumption level. Another comparison: 1 horsepower is 746 watts.

(source: Bicycling Magazine)


FTP stands for Functional Threshold Power and represents the highest average power you could maintain for one hour. If you don't know your FTP, you can find it by doing our Full Frontal video with a power meter or on virtual watts. For this app, FTP relates to power only so you won't be able to use cadence or heart rate to estimate FTP.


By default, we run all workouts on our apps at 100% of your FTP. When you raise or lower (say it isn't so!) the intensity of a workout, Effective FTP shows you the FTP we will use to calculate the revised workload.


LTHR stands for Lactate Threshold Heart Rate and is the point above which increased blood acidification occurs in your body. We use this number to set your HR zones. The Sufferfest Training System will estimate LTHR on the video Full Frontal. We use the formula provided by Coach Neal Henderson which is 98% of your average 20-minute heart rate during your Full Frontal Fitness Test.  This isn't the same as everyone else. However, Nealf has proven success using this method since they train Olympic cyclists, have coached two athletes that have broken the World Hour Record, and have helped athletes with Stage wins at the Tour de France.  


Normalized power (NP®)  is a metric that makes it possible to compare relative intensity between steady-state efforts and intervals. For example, the average power of a ride with short intense intervals and long rest periods will usually have a lower average power than a steady state tempo effort. The normalized power formula attempts to adjust for that. It is used in IF and TSS calculations.


This is low-intensity exercise. So low that it doesn’t even really feel like exercise. On the bike, it’s just really light spinning to get the legs moving. Why? Because it can help get rid of any lactic acid that’s still hanging around in your muscles and generally speed up recovery from hard efforts in the previous days. It also prevents your couch from getting too possessive of you.


This is the amount of time you can exercise without producing lactic acid (the stuff that hurts!) and having it build up in your muscles. This is the kind of riding you can do for hours and feel like you can keep going. You’re not going terribly fast, but you are putting in a bit of effort. This level of the training (also known as ‘endurance pace’) is commonly known as Zone 2 (whether we’re talking about power or heart rate) and is essential to building your general fitness base. In Sufferlandria, we call it ‘Slow and Boring,’ but at least it gives you a chance to have a look around.


PUSH! That steep hill where you struggle to turn over the pedals? That stiff headwind where you can barely make any progress? That big gear sprint up that false flat? These efforts require not so much speed, but brute strength. Strength Endurance is the ability to push very hard for a long time again and again. These sessions in the plan ask you to apply a consistent, heavy effort at a slow cadence. They ensure you activate every muscle in your legs with each pedal stroke. That, in turn, will get you through those tough moments on hills, winds and heavy sprints faster and in better shape than the competition.


More than likely, no matter where you live, you’re going to come up against a hill. And as anyone who has ever gone up a hill will tell you, the effort is certainly different than riding along the flats. Your cadence slows, you shift back on your seat, your back gets more engaged and you stand up from time to time. It’s important to train your ability to apply sustained power in this position and our climbing speed sessions are designed to do just that. They’re usually anywhere from 8 to 20 minutes and will have you pushing hard, shifting positions and generally slogging (with style, of course) your way to the top. They tend to be at or above threshold.


The defining moments in big races, sportives or fast group rides aren’t made during the steady, high-speed cruising. Rather, they’re made during brutal attacks, attempts to bridge gaps to breaks and efforts to hang onto a fast moving paceline that’s accelerating up a climb. These moments - where you’re hanging on by the skin of your teeth and begging your legs to just hold out for a few more moments - are known as Maximum Efforts. They use your anaerobic system and are the kind of effort you can sustain for no more than a minute or so. They take everything out of you and need quite a bit of time to recover from. Our maximum effort booster sessions will take you into these painful moments - it is, after all, the only way to help you get better at them. Not only will they help make you faster, but they’ll help you recover faster as well - all so you’re ready to go with the next attack!


Pushing big gears at a low cadence for a long time can make you stronger (it can also hurt your joints if you do it too much), but it can also make you sluggish and sap your muscles. Leg speed is essential to keeping your legs fresh and supple, and able to respond to changes in pace just by lifting your cadence by a few revolutions a minute. Our Leg Speed workouts will help you develop the ability to generate significant power at higher cadences, usually around 95-110 RPM at a sustained effort.


ANT+ is a wireless network technology. Many fitness devices communicate using ANT+. There is no ANT+ functionality on iOS devices so you must use a Wahoo ANT+ Key to connect to ANT+ devices.


TSS®, IF® & NP® are trademarks of Peaksware LLC. Learn more at www.trainingpeaks.com

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