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Stress is Strain: Pt. 1 - External Load (pace and power)

In this Stress is Strain series, I'm talking about the different ways we can measure and look at TRAINING stress. Keep in mind, stress and strain from daily life will have a direct impact on some of these metrics. Never discount what is going on in the "real world" and how it affects your training. That's where using the TrainingPeaks comments is super beneficial for your Paragon Training coaches. Reading those comments, we can better understand what you are dealing with on a daily basis (remember the article, "How to Have the Best Relationship with Your Coach"?)

External Load is Stress

This week, I am talking about the first of three categories of stress as strain in training: external load (pace and power).

Pace and Power

These are the numbers that give us fancy charts and graphs in TrainingPeaks. Your CTL and TSS are calculated based on what percentage of threshold you swam, biked, or ran at. When your triathlon, cycling, or running coach writes your workouts, we write them for a specific pace or power. These are EXTERNAL measurements of work, because it doesn't tell us much about what's going on internally. All we know is that you ran 9:00 minutes per mile for 45 minutes. Or you rode at 150 watts for an hour. The nice thing about these numbers is that they make it easy to align to training zones, and they are absolutes. 9:00 minutes per mile is 9:00 minutes per mile, regardless of how you feel. Power is power. It doesn't have opinions, emotions, or any feelings. It just is. This gives us a non-biased look at your OUTPUT when training or racing.

Cycling Coaching Power Profile

Ultimately, a race is going to be determined by an output metric. If you want to qualify for the Boston marathon, we know you need to run "X" pace to do so. If you want to ride 3:00 hours for an IM 70.3, we can use Best Bike Split and calculate the "X" power you need to do so. Then we train to meet those demands.

No "Good" or "Bad" Pace or Power

One important takeaway I want you all to have from this realization is that, as coaches, we also analyze these data in a non-emotional way. There is no "good" or "bad" pace or power. When we look at a workout, we look at what output we prescribed for you, then assess whether you achieved it and maybe how you achieved it. We're not mad if you don't hit the number, but we do want to know why and bring it to your attention. 

Cycling Coaching Power Profile

One metric I've been looking at a lot more with my triathletes lately is simply how much time they spend not pedaling during a long ride. If you have a 3:00 hour but your cadence and power metrics show you spent 35 minutes at 0-15 RPM and 38 minutes at less than 50 watts, was it really a 3:00 hour ride?!?! We all coast some during rides, but learning to keep "tension on the chain" is a skill that helps you drive the bike and minimize speed loss.

In the next two topics, we'll look more at the internal workings going on that result in these output metrics.

Keep training hard, friends.

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