What is training stress? If you follow Joe Friel and use TrainingPeaks, you are familiar with the term TSS or Training Stress Score. In the Glossary of Joe’s book The Power Meter Handbook, he defines TSS as the workload of a training session based on intensity and duration. As you build your Training Stress Score with workouts, you are also building your fitness level. At the same time, your workouts are also building fatigue. Finding this balance between building fitness and managing fatigue is the task of every athlete and coach.

Friel and others that deal with TSS have come up with a formula to give weight to different kinds of workouts. A 60 minute hard swim gives a different TSS than a 60 minute hard bike or a 60 minute hard run. Each of those sports offer a different training load and affect fitness in different ways. TSS attempts to create an apples to apples comparison platform so that an athlete and coach can create and monitor the efforts needed in all three sports to put an appropriate amount of training stress on the athlete by the end of the week.

But there is something missing from this concept and it goes back to the original question minus one word. What is stress? From a point of adaptation, does your body differentiate between training stress and life stress? You certainly can’t worry yourself to a 2 hour 1/2 marathon and your boss yelling at you at work won’t make you climb hills faster on the bike. But, can those things hinder how productive your workouts can be and is there a way that life can be a training enhancer.

I say yes.

When you are sick, overly busy, sleep deprived, time crunched, anxious, over indulging in food and drink or any number of other “classic” life stresses, I believe that there is totally an impact on training, athletic performance and recovery, with recovery being the key. I contend that life stress gets in the way of recovery which is the moment where your body peels away the layers of fatigue, repairs itself and becomes more fit. If this process is blocked in some way, because of everything else going on in your life, then somehow your Life Stress needs to have a negative TSS score assigned to it.

On the other hand, life activities can enhance training. I have on a number of occasions worn my heart rate monitor while mowing the lawn and shoveling snow. Digging in the garden, trimming the trees, laying pavers, racking leaves, helping a friend move and painting the walls in my house are all activities that make me sweat and work hard. Shouldn’t these things have a TSS score too?

Our body adapts and reacts to the stresses that we subject it to: training and life. Everything action that we do has an impact on how our bodies react. Keeping in mind all of the stresses that we experience and factoring all of them into the equation of building our fitness becomes the art of training that goes beyond the science of training.