Sharing the Apps I'm using for cycling & am I recovering or detraining?
Since documenting my training, I became excited to have more focus during my workouts. As usual I start new endeavors with a lot of energy and enthusiasm. I know that I am not near the strength I have been in the past, so I have been digging in on harder workouts and putting in time on the bike in hopes to expedite the process… despite me knowing the process of training requires recovery.
In hopes to increase my strength quickly, and after hearing the Vegan Cyclist on YouTube doing this, rather than simply doing an interval training on Zwift, I first did a 20km group race before starting my main evening workout. In the next workout, I did a PR (Personal Record) on Hilly Loop and then started my interval workout. Hilly Loop is a 9.1km lap in Watopia (the fictional world on Zwift to bike).
Zwift workouts are based on your FTP, I often find them to be accessible and easily finished with a bit of sweat… probably how a workout is supposed to feel. Instead, after these hard effort I really struggled to complete the workout. Often failing on the last interval, unable to finish that interval. What I found most interesting is usually my breathing and heart rate are the limiting factor but with these extra efforts before a workout, I am finding my quads are the weakest link. My left quad muscle especially.
This has led my apps to warn me that I need recovery. NOW! But a couple days later and I’m already in “detraining mode”. As I write this blog post, Garmin, for example, is telling me I am in detraining mode whereas last week I was in Productive… but only for a moment.
Risk of Injury
The risk of injury right now is building up too fast and injuring myself. However, my body has mostly felt energized, even working on two paintings late last week – which I haven’t had capacity to do the past few weeks. I am trying my best to do stretching and recovery movements, but I am often too tired after a workout, and often forget at other times while working on my art business or spending time with my son.
I thought I would share the tools I am currently using and some of the data I am seeing. Right now it feels all over the place… it would be lovely to streamline it, but finding out what I can do sustainably will take time.
Tools I’m Currently Using – Strava, Breakaway and Today’s Plan
Since Zwift Academy 2018, I joined the Today’s Plan band wagon. There are a lot of numbers -- which I love. I can pull up the power information from any ride and get the information I want. My favorite way to use it is to look at the average power of a known route. Increase it slightly, then try the route again with that increased power output as my goal.
The one time I used their workout program I saw noted improvement in my Threshold Power without burning out. So perhaps that is the next step on my training journey as I my self-guided training is already rocky.
My Load chart a couple of days ago said I was overworked at risk of illness, but now as I type this I am already fully recovered!
Load chart from Today's Plan
Abilities Chart from Today's Plan
Today’s Plan calculates recovery as the difference between CTL and ATL (Chronic Training Load vs. Acute Training Load). It is called TSBr and should be at 100% for fully recovered. Since my short term (acute) training was high compared to my long term (chronic) training load I needed to back off. On October 16th I was at 226% and Today’s Plan said anything over 150% is a risk of injury/illness. I noticed 226% was even higher than my big races & events in the past. Which triggered my mindful recovery and within 3 days that included 1 endurance ride I am already back to almost equivalent CTL and ATL.
I also love the Ability Graph in Today’s plan. Initially this was my favorite thing to look at. But now that I use Breakaway app I wonder if these are just segments of time on the power curve. Since they don’t give me values and tell me what to do… it is hard to improve them. BUT with Breakaway I am already working on specific abilities, for example my 3 min peak power, 5 min peak power and have done mini challenges for myself.
Figure 2 - Today's Plan Ability Graph. I love this as it compares abilities BUT I wish it had quantifiable numbers
I’ve been using Strava for a while. If it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen right? I also have a lot of cycling acquaintances on there that are nice to keep in touch with by liking their rides & runs.
Starting on this journey of this blog I started to pay for it again so I can start to look at the data.
Strava recently added more analysis tools, so I was keen to start looking at them since I want to focus on improvement. Their Fitness and Freshness chart seems similar to Today’s Plan Load Chart, and Garmin’s Training Load. It also shows, by resting on Oct 22nd and Oct 24th I already am recovered to ride today with a form of -1. It is time to do a workout tonight…
Figure 3 - Fitness and Freshness score from Strava
I do have a Garmin bike computer and watch, and I use Garmin Connect. My main use for Garmin is to use GPS to track my rides and runs and be able to see data in realtime. Hopefully through this blog I can start using more of its features. I noticed in July and August, at the end of my mountain bike rides, the Garmin often said my mountain bike rides were unproductive. OUCH! So, I am keen to better understand why it was suggesting this rather than be annoyed with the tool.
Figure 4 - Here Garmin has my high aerobic workouts I did earlier in the month, and it looks like I'm already in detraining mode as the gray bar denotes in the status chart. Blue is Recovery and Dark Gray is “Detraining”. Likewise in the 7-Day Training Load my black line is not within the green window!!
With this journey I started looking up cycling podcasts. The first one I listened to was interviewing someone from Breakaway. The tool immediately made sense to me and gamified training – specifically achieving new power goals. I love that it gives me insight to the power abilities of other 40-year-old women. The achievement levels are based on other women my age! I can now start understanding what I am capable of rather than consistently being 50W below my husband or always the first one to peter out on a ride and not really knowing if I can get better. Breakaway has warned me already I need recovery via messaging me on my phone, and after an endurance ride last Sunday (my first endurance ride since using the app) it congratulated me on doing a recovery ride. Prior to Sunday’s rides, all of my rides with Breakaway have been considered Intensity Rides. There are two types of rides (Intensity or Endurance).
However, their perspective of power data seems to mimic the Abilities Graph listed in Today’s Plan. One of the reasons I like Today’s Plan is it shows me my ability in 8 categories. I now believe these are just my peak powers in specific time lengths and not more insightful than I originally thought.
Screenshots from the Breakaway App
I mentioned earlier that I use Zwift for my indoor workouts. It is an indoor training system. Since starting to use it I have logged 10,159km on it and climbed 136,491m the total time I have spent biking on it is 17 days and 11 hours. So I have logged a lot of time Zwifting. I have used Todays Plan to connect to Zwift and upload workouts I can then follow. When I am done a Zwift it sends data to Today’s Plan, Garmin and Strava.
My takeaway from this is my intense start was good to jump-start my training. My ride on October 21 was an FTP test. I achieved a new Threshold Power of 213W by doing 224W average in the 20 minute test window. That was my peak 20 minute power ever! However, I couldn’t really move my pedals the next 2 rides. So, I need to be more methodical as I progress. I have paid for another month of Today’s Plan today and I used it to generate an indoor 6-week training program. I am now going to follow their 6 week FTP training to push this number higher. My idea is if I can get my FTP higher, I can then train at a higher level for my next program. This program will take me to Dec 5th, 2022.
Today's Plan 6 week FTP Training Program
I kept all the rides minimal except for the weekends. My partner, Brad, has a broken ankle from a mountain bike accident. So I will do my best to achieve these workouts but am mindful I need to make sure he and Walter are ok as a priority before I hop on the bike.
My hope is that this program will:
- keep me out of Detraining mode on my Garmin (the dreaded dark gray bar)
- keep my CTL/ATL growing in Today’s Plan
- build my fitness on Strava above 26
Since I am new to all ,these values and tracking them, I am not sure if there is a target number I can shoot for. So having a detailed process to follow will allow me to follow and see what can be built. Since I burned myself out over 3 weeks it will be fun to let a computer build me up over 6 weeks!
Video version of this content. Here is a video version of this post. Please let me know what you'd like to hear about in my training, I'd love to share it with you.