ironman

Tracking & Planning Your Life Stress Score (LSS)

TrainingPeaks allows athletes and coaches to track workouts and performance with a physiological stress metric known as Training Stress Score (TSS; a detailed explanation is here). In brief, TSS is a metric that takes into account the time and intensity of your workout relative to your threshold heart rate, power, or pace. For example, an easy 2K swim might yield 35 TSS. A 40K bike time trial or a 15K run at your race pace equates to about 100 TSS. A 20-mile all day hike with big elevation could be as high as 500 TSS. TSS is a useful data tool for short- and long-term planning, and the patterns it reveals can help both athletes and coaches make training and racing decisions.

But if TSS only cares about the duration of our workout and our threshold performance values, how do we account for the other stress in our lives when making decisions about how we train and race? The psychological strain that comes from a busy job, a hectic household, travel, or demands from school can all have huge impacts on our overall well-being. To account for mental stress in our overall training plans, I employ an original metric: Life Stress Score (LSS). The goal of LSS is to capture and anticipate stress that isn’t always physiological, but has an equally large impact on your physical training and race performance.

How does LSS work in practice? When an athlete is heading into a stressful work period, a major family event, or significant travel, we scale back the time and intensity of their workouts to free up mental and physical resources. For our student athletes preparing for final exams, we plan a recovery week with fewer sessions and less intensity, and delay longer workouts until after the tests are done. We keep physical activity at a maintenance level, or minimum effective dose, during this time, but we communicate with our athletes about which types of workouts will serve as academic performance enhancers (easy run with friends) and which will add to the stress (hill repeats at 6 am). This dialogue provides athletes with the physical and mental space they need to study and ace their engineering final. It’s a key part of our person first, athlete second approach at The Endurance Drive.

If you are training for a major endurance event (IRONMAN, IRONMAN 70.3, ultrarun, SwimRun, bike stage race), travel to the event can be another major LSS factor that drains athletes. Combine packing lists with coordinating time off with unfamiliar environments with inadequate sleep, and you run the risk of feeling much more frantic and stressed than usual. To feel both physically and mentally fresh on race day, you should plug in LSS, along with your TSS, into your race week plan. Scale back your workouts, don’t be overly ambitious about getting sessions in on days when you’re in transit, and do everything you can to stick to your routine. That, in combination with a close look at TrainingPeaks’ Training Score Balance, will help you arrive at the starting line at an appropriate level of mental and physical preparedness.

How much LSS you should assign to travel, work, school, or other stressful life events is more art than science. But by listening to your body during times of stress, you can begin to associate them with equivalent workouts. For example, after overnight air travel, I feel like I just ran a half marathon, which equates to around 150 (L)TSS. Figuring out what to pack and other logistics the day before a race might be 50 (L)TSS. Athletes tend to become attuned to their TSS scores for any given workout. You can use that same sense to think through your upcoming stressful events and input some LSS into your plan.

Stress is stress, whether physical or psychological. It all pulls from the same limited resources your body has. Your body hourglass has finite grains of sand each day, and every stressful event pulls sand at a greater rate through the funnel. When the top of the hourglass is empty, it’s empty. So sprinkle some LSS into your training plan for a 360-degree view of endurance event planning. We hope it helps you arrive at your big training weekends and race day physically and mentally prepared. -Jim

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IRONMAN Lake Placid Simulation Weekend

The Endurance Drive crew traveled to Lake Placid, NY, in early June for an IRONMAN simulation weekend to prepare for IM Lake Placid in July. The weekend included two loops on the bike course (112 miles) and one loop of the run course (13.1 miles) on Saturday, and the second loop of the run course (13.1 miles) on Sunday. Cool temperatures and thunderstorms in the forecast kept us from swimming in Mirror Lake, but we came out of the weekend with a ton of race knowledge and a fitness bump that will carry us through the next eight weeks of training. Here are some key takeaways from our simulation:

  • Have a plan going into any training weekend or race. This means that you know beforehand what bike watts and/or heart rate you will aim to sustain during your ride, and what pace and HR you know you can hold for 26.2 miles on the run. Don’t experiment with going harder in the first half of either leg -- you’ll certainly pay for it later.

  • Bike pacing is key. It’s important to focus on having a smooth and sustainable bike pace if you want to run strong off the bike. This means that the first 56 miles should feel like a walk (or bike) in the park. The two loop course at IRONMAN Lake Placid is advantageous in this regard; when you come back into town for the first time, you want to feel fresh.

  • Nutrition can derail your race in a matter of minutes. On the bike, you should be drinking a few sips every 10 minutes and eating a few bites every 20 minutes. Fuel early and often on the bike because it’s easier to take in calories and carbs there than on the run. Also: if you don’t want to end up doubled over on the roadside and losing the contents of your stomach, always take gels with water!

  • You can be familiar with a course without being familiar with a distance. If you drive an IRONMAN course or bike or run parts of it, that’s good, but the bike and run are whole different animals on the second loop than on the first.

  • IRONMAN Lake Placid in particular is a challenging course. The bulk of the hills are in the second half of the bike loop. Most people lament the climbs from Wilmington back to Lake Placid -- the climb up Whiteface, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears -- but the truth is that the hills start as soon as you finish the descent into Keene. Be prepared to spend a significant amount of time in and out of aero, fighting your way home.

  • IRONMAN is a mental game. Your mind will go to some dark places, especially during the second half of the bike and run. Develop some strategies on hand that will help you get out of those dark places -- high five someone else on the course, repeat a mantra, think about all of the movies you like, force yourself to smile. Know what will help you boost morale and hit your mental second wind. Force yourself into these dark places by participating going long.

  • IRONMAN is hard! Just because a lot of people sign up for these races doesn’t make them easy. The reality is that most people do not properly train, and end up in survival mode from late in the bike or early in the run to the finish. To truly race an IRONMAN, you must be super fit and super tough -- well beyond what you thought you were capable of and what you thought was necessary.

  • Despite the challenge, IRONMAN is extremely rewarding. There is something very special about sweaty hugs, Strava caption brainstorming sessions, and burgers and ice cream to celebrate shared endurance accomplishments. Just think how great it will feel when you can share this feeling with the thousands of other racers and your entire support network on race day.

After a little bit of much-needed R&R, we’re excited to jump into another eight weeks of training this week. Our simulation weekend taught us that IRONMAN will be a challenge -- but we love challenges, and we’re confident that this is one we want to tackle head-on. Lake Placid, get ready, because the Endurance Drive is coming back to town. -Katie and Jim

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