Understanding Your TrainingPeaks.com Structured Workout Plan

By Matt Fitzgerald and David Warden

The 80/20 Training Plans for triathletes and runners are the first major offerings to use the TrainingPeaks.com (TP.com) Structured Workout format, which makes correct workout execution easier than ever. This article will walk you through some simple steps to get the most out of your structured workout plan. 

Update Your TP.com Thresholds and Zones to Match Your 80/20 Thresholds and Zones

The advantages of the structured workout format begin within your TP.com training calendar, where your custom 80/20 intensity zones are displayed in the Workout Details instead of generic zone names. When your workout calls for Zone 2, for example, you will see a specific pace, power, or heart rate range in the Workout Details rather than merely seeing “Zone 2”—but only after you’ve completed the following steps. Please note the difference between the Workout Description and the Workout Details. The Workout Description is static and will always present the workout segment with the generic Zone 1, Zone 2, etc. Once you complete the steps below, The Workout Details will change to reflect your custom zones, and the generic Zone 1, Zone 2 will be replaced with your individual values for that workout segment. For example, if you have a workout that uses heart rate to measure intensity, the Workout Details would display your custom Zone 2 intensity for a segment, such as 130-145bpm, but the Workout Description would remain unchanged.

After reviewing the Intensity Guidelines for Running or Triathlon document, visit the 80/20 Zone Calculator and enter your thresholds in order to establish your zones.

With your 80/20 thresholds and zones now established, log in to TP.com and select your name in the upper right corner, then choose Settings, and then Zones. Note that the default TP.com zones are similar to but not the same as your 80/20 Zones. In order for your custom 80/20 Zones to display properly in TP.com, they must be modified to the 80/20 standard.

Enter your 80/20 thresholds and change both the names and values of the zones for each intensity metric you will be using in your plan (heart rate, power, and speed/pace), including the default intensity fields. Technically, you only have to modify the intensity types you will actually use. For example, if you have a Run Pace structured workout plan, you don’t have to modify the heart rate fields. However, modifying the zones for all intensity metrics is recommended, as this gives you the flexibility to use other metrics later on.

Figures 1, 2, and 3 below are examples of what your TP.com zones might look like before and after they are modified in the manner just described, based on an 7:00 per mile threshold pace.

Figure 1: Default TP.com zones (before)

Figure 2: 80/20 Zone Calculator run pace results

Figure 3: New TP.com 80/20 Zones (after)

This synchronization will allow the TP.com Workout Details to match the Workout Description and your custom 80/20 Zones.

Once you have completed these steps, you may have to log out of TP.com and then log back in to see the changes in the Workout Details. Also, if you use the TP.com smartphone or tablet app, you may have to repeat these steps separately within the app on your device in order to have the Workout Details match your 80/20 Zones there.

We also recommend while you are setting up your zones to uncheck the option “Automatically apply new threshold changes” at the of the TP.com Zones setup page. The thresholds discovered by TP.com are often inconsistent with the 80/20 zones.

Manually Exporting Your Structured Workout to Your Device

One of best features of the structured workout plans is the ability to export a workout to a device that then guides you through the workout step by step. Instead of having to remember details such as the number, length, and intensity of intervals, with this feature you simply do what your device tells you to do from the start of the warm-up to the end of the cool-down.

To export a workout, click on the workout in your TP.com calendar, then click on the button in the upper right, highlighted below.

The next step is to select the format you want the workout exported in. The options available to you will depend on the workout and structured plan type. After you’ve chosen a format, your web browser will download the structured workout file, which you will then export to your device per the instructions from TP.com and use during your workout.

Automatically Syncing Daily Workouts To Your Device

The TrainingPeaks Daily Workout Garmin Connect IQ App allows owners of certain compatible Garmin devices to download daily 80/20 plan workouts directly to their device wirelessly through their phone. If you do not own such a device, you can still manually export your 80/20 workouts to most other devices.

Structured Workout FAQ

Q: Why can’t I export swim workouts?

A: TP.com reports that this is a limitation on current swim devices and that a solution is coming. In the meantime, we have manually created 80/20 swim workouts for you to export and use on your device in our 80/20 Workout Library.

Q: Why does my Garmin device display a different zone range than the TP.com Workout Details or the 80/20 Zone Calculator?

A: Please unapply and reapply your plan with the same start/end date to ensure that you are on the most recent version of the plan.

Q: Can I export run workouts in more than just FIT format?

Yes. Power-based run workouts can be exported to ZWO, ERG, and MRC, as well as in FIT format. HR and Pace-based workouts can only be exported to FIT format.

Q: What if I want a structured plan combination not offered, such as Run Heart Rate and Bike Power?

A: We have a hack for that, but it takes some tweaking. See our document Creating a Custom Structured Workout Intensity Plan.

Q: Why does the Workout Details section sometimes list more than one zone, such as “Zone 4 – Zone 5”?

A: In order to avoid gaps between zones, TP.com requires the 80/20 zones to overlap. Therefore, occasionally the custom intensity values presented by TP.com in the Workout Details will span more than one zone. Note that the zone range values presented in the Workout Details are still precise, and you should use those range values as your primary target. However, if you are presented with more than one zone in the Workout Details, use the zones listed in the Workout Description or the guidelines below. Again, you can ignore the zones and focus on the actual intensity range values provided, which are accurate if you have followed the instructions in this document.

  • If presented with a span of two zones (i.e. Zone X – Zone 3) the higher of the two zones presented is the correct zone (in this example, Zone 3)
  • If presented with a span of three zones (i.e. Zone 1 – Zone X) the middle of the range of zones presented is the correct zone (in this example, Zone 2)

Q: The predicted CTL or predicted TSS in my HR-based plan seems really off. Why?

A: This is a known problem in TP.com for HR-based workouts. The auto-calculation for predicted CTL or TSS for HR-based workouts has two main issues. First, the predicted TSS value will only increase in units of 10. If you have one run that would should have a TSS of 41 and another run that should have a TSS of 49, TP.com will calculate both as a predicted TSS of 40. Second, for a given amount of planned workout time, and regardless of the planned intensity, TP.com uses a minimum value. For example, if there are two runs of 30 minutes, one performed at 75% of LTHR and the other performed at 90% of LTHR, both will have a predicted TSS of 40. Thus, TP.com systematically miscalculates predicted TSS and predicted CTL for HR-based structured workout plans.

This issue is limited to the predicted TSS and predicted CTL for HR-based plans only, and does not impact TSS or CTL for completed workouts, nor Pace or Power-based workouts. TP.com reports they are looking into the issue.