Not Too Much, Not Too Little, Just Right, The Goldilocks Approach To Training


As we train we accumulate stress, however, if we do this too quickly or accumulate too much then this can lead to overtraining, illness and injury. Training Peaks provides a means of measuring training stress by workout or time period and can provide insights into fatigue, form and fitness.

In Training Peaks, training stress score (TSS) is represented as longer term fatigue accumulation or Chronic Training Load (CTL) and shorter term fatigue accumulation or Acute Training Load (ATL). The balance between short and long term fatigue is referred to as Training Stress Balance (TSB). CTL, ATL and TSB are presented together in the Performance Management Chart (PMC). The PMC is an incredibly powerful tool for planning, monitoring and adjusting training however it’s not always that straight forward to understand.

In trying to better understand PMC it helps to think of stress as money, ATL as a current account and CTL as savings.

When we train we accumulate stress which is drawn from our current account or ATL. If we take out too much money too quickly then we leave ourselves financially exposed or from a training stress perspective, physiologically exposed. Therefore, we need to manage our short term training program in the same way we manage our current accounts, that is, not going overdrawn too often or too deeply. CTL represents our longer term financial position or fitness. The more we deposit and the less we take away the more our savings accumulate.

TSB represents a balance between our longer term financial health or fitness and our current financial position or level of fatigue/form. The more our current account is cash positive (TSB >0) the better able we are to manage a range of financial purchases. If we are cash negative (TSB <0) then purchases will weaken our current account. The more savings we have accumulated the better able we are to cover near term financial debits.

As with money we need to adopt a strategy to grow or build fitness so that it’s accumulation longer term affords more choice and flexibility in the near term. Therefore, training stress can be thought of in the same way as money in that we need to handle it with respect and plan carefully for its accumulation. We need to monitor it closely to ensure it is accumulating in line with our goals. It also pays to stay abreast of the latest strategies or opportunities that may deliver greater returns on our existing capital.

Each time we train we draw down on current account or ATL reserves. Are we spending our money wisely, are we drawing down too quickly, or are we increasing our longer term financial exposure by excessive spending in the short term? Our financial or fitness outlook will depend on time, our initial capital outlay, and the financial or fitness strategy we adopt.

As with financial investment, it pays to play the long game. Invest in smaller regular deposits or sessions and avoid expensive outlays that eat into both short and longer term financial reserves. Not too much training, not too little but just right. PMC will help you determine your Goldilocks training strategy.