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What Is TSS in Cycling and Why is it Important?
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What Is TSS in Cycling and Why is it Important?

Isabel-Mayfield-health-reporter
Written by Isabel Mayfield | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on January 3, 2023
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4 min

Cycling is a form of exercise many people use to improve their cardiovascular health and shed unnecessary pounds, but creating a training plan for beginners can be tricky. Using your Training Stress Score (TSS) can help.

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When you begin any new form of exercise, it’s important that you increase your training load only as quickly as your muscles can match.

Taking on too much before your body is ready can kill your motivation to work out and leave you at a higher risk of overuse injuries, which can take months off the bike to heal.

Training Stress Score is something that many cyclists track for a better understanding of their workouts’ physical toll on them. It’s a useful tool for cyclists of all experience levels. 

Whether you’re new to cycling or have years of experience, keep reading to learn more about what Training Stress Score is, how you can calculate it, and what is a good TSS for your unique fitness level. 

What Is TSS in Cycling?

Training Stress Score (TSS) is a number that is calculated by combining your Normalized Power (NP), Intensity Factor Score (IF), and ride duration.

Having an understanding of your Training Stress Score will help you get a better idea of the amount of physiological stress created by one of your riding workouts so that you can better gauge the length of the rest periods needed for your body to recover fully.

How Is TSS Calculated?

The formula used to calculate your Training Stress Score (TSS) can be complicated. For that reason, many people turn to TSS calculators to help or use a power meter to do the tough calculations for them. 

However, understanding how to calculate your TSS on your own can help you reduce physical stress while riding since you’ll have a better idea of how to balance your relative intensity and duration during your training session. 

The formula that you can use to calculate your Training Stress Score goes as follows:

TSS = (seconds x NP x IF) ÷ (FTP x 3600) x 100

Or, spelled out:

Training Stress Score (TSS) = (# of seconds in a workout x Normalized Power (NP) x Intensity Factor (IF)) ÷ (Functional Threshold Power (FTP) x 3600) x 100

Normalized Power = calculates the physiological stress of a fluctuating cycling workout 

Intensity Factor = expresses how difficult your workout was according to your fitness level

Functional Threshold Power = represents the max amount of effort you can sustain for an hour

Score and Meaning of TSS

Each person’s Training Stress Score (TSS) will be completely different. This variance reflects a person’s current fitness level, as someone who is more physically unfit will likely accrue a significantly smaller score than a more experienced cyclist, even while doing the same workout.

A more intense ride, relative to a cyclist’s experience level, will result in a higher Training Stress Score for that rider. For someone whose body isn’t adapted to dealing with high levels of stress, this ride might take several days to recover from.

It’s important to be aware of the fact that the training load of a workout on the body shifts when you do the same workout consecutively for days in a row.

A workout with a Training Stress Score of 200 might not be overly stressful for the body on Monday, but if you do not give your body enough time to recover, the same workout – with the same Training Stress Score – will have a more detrimental effect on Friday.

Over time, as you continue to put your body under stress and give it ample recovery time, you will notice that your body will get used to dealing with stress. This is the best way to prevent cycling injuries

You will probably also notice that you recover more quickly from workouts and can take on higher-intensity rides without the same level of wear and tear on the body. 

How to Relieve Muscle Soreness and Recover FAST (4 Science-Based Tips)

What Is a Good TSS?

Technically, there is no good or bad Training Stress Score, and each score is relative to the training load the body can handle before becoming fatigued. 

As we discussed in the previous section, Training Stress Scores affect each person according to their unique fitness level and, more specifically, how well their body responds to stress.

It’s normal to think that following a training plan full of rides with high Training Stress Scores will increase a cyclist’s strength. In reality, doing too many high-intensity rides will continue to fatigue the body and, over time, can leave you at a higher risk of injury. 

Slowly increasing the Training Stress Score of your workouts and giving your body adequate amounts of rest, including lots of deep sleep in between intense training, is the best way to increase strength and boost performance

A Word From Our Coach

Many people take up cycling when trying to get in shape because it offers a variety of benefits, like improving cardiovascular health and being great for burning calories.

When you compare cycling vs. running for workout newbies, hopping on a bike is the clear winner, especially for people who are currently overweight.

If you’re a beginner or currently overweight, tracking your Training Stress Score and using it to create cycling training plans can help you create training plans that are appropriate for your fitness level.

Since too much stress, especially when your body isn’t used to it, is what leads to injuries, knowing how much stress a workout puts on your body will help you stay injury-free.

Noticing physiological improvements over time is another benefit that is made easier by tracking your Training Stress Score since you will have concrete numbers representing where you started and where you are now.

Bottom Line

Picking up a power meter that you can use to track your Training Stress Score is great for riders of all experience levels, especially beginners. 

Using your TSS to craft training plans that match your current fitness level is a great way for riders to strengthen the body slowly and sustainably, thus preventing overuse injuries in their future training. 

For people who can’t afford a power meter or anyone who prefers following a concrete workout plan, downloading a cycling app is the next best option.

Isabel-Mayfield-health-reporter
Written by
Isabel Mayfield is a certified yoga instructor with over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. She is passionate about self-improvement and loves to help people improve their sense of self-worth through education and support in meeting their fitness goals.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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