Understanding Your TRAC Score
By Mike Tuchscherer
We live in a smart age. Smart phones. Smart bombs. Even smart cars (yuck!). It’s about time our training system got smart too. When you think about it, this is really the mission of TRAC – smart training.
And boy, is it ever smart! When you perform your tests in the morning, it takes somewhere between 7 and 10 minutes to complete it. Using that data, TRAC can figure out how several systems in your body are functioning and it spits it out on a nice, smart report! Your TRAC Report is really what gives you insight on how you can react to your body. But when you’ve got smart tests, smart systems, and a smart report, do you have to be smart too? Well, maybe a little, but by the end of this article, you should be smart enough to get the bulk of your TRAC report.
Just to reiterate, it can take a few days before your report is populated and several days after that before TRAC “gets to know you” well enough for your report to be reliable. But just the same, the more you use it, the better it works.
When you first see your TRAC Report, you’ll get your snapshot. It is Body Stress, ANS Profile, CNS Profile, and Adaptive Reserves. Body Stress is a general measure of how training stress is affecting your body’s systems as a whole. We all know people who handle stress well and others who crack under pressure. Think of Body Stress as identifying which type of “person” your body is today. If Body Stress is low, it means your body is handling the stress well and your stressors are not bleeding over on to other systems. If Body Stress is high, this suggests that your body is not handling stress very well (a sign of overtraining).
ANS Profile is a measurement of your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). This can be very important, especially when paired with Body Stress. But first, allow me to explain what the ANS is. The Nervous System is broken up into two branches – Central and Peripheral. The ANS is part of the Peripheral Nervous System and it controls the automatic processes of the body such as hormones, breathing, heart rate, digestion, etc. The ANS is composed of two branches – the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS). Think of the SNS as the “fight or flight” branch. It controls excitability. Stimulation of the SNS nerves raise heart rate, shut down digestion, and prepare the body for activity. The PSNS branch has the opposite effect. Heart rate slows, digestion is enhanced, and the body prepares to rest.
The ANS Profile portion of TRAC tells us which side, if any, is dominating the other relative to our normal state. Now, to explain why ANS balance matters, it’s important to understand some things about overtraining. “Overtraining” is actually a very broad term. There are many ways to overtrain and many systems that can be overtrained. ANS gives us important clues as to which stressors are causing the overtraining.
In basic terms, you can think of SNS Overtraining as “Intensity Overtraining”. It takes a reduction in intensity to allow the ANS to go back into a balanced state, which alleviates the overtrained state and facilitates recovery. On the other hand, PSNS overtraining can be thought of as “Volume Overtraining” – requiring a reduction in volume to help facilitate recovery. That said, there is much, much more that goes into determining ANS balance than just what kind of training you have been doing. The foods you eat, even the conversations you have and the music you listen to affect your ANS balance. So the concepts of “Volume Overtraining” and so on are really just very broad concepts and the specific application can be much more… well… specific. In the end, the real value to ANS balance is in helping us determine the proper course of action to correct an over-stressed condition. If you get the treatment right, you’ll recover quickly. Get it wrong and you won’t.
CNS Profile is a very exciting parameter. It can tell you how your CNS is functioning and how ready it is for intensive activity, which is an important indicator for readiness. There is a lot that can be learned simply by observing your training (how much, how often, how heavy, etc) and looking at how it affects your CNS score. If you observe this well, you will begin to understand how to peak for contests and how training affects your body. However, CNS assessment comes with a caution. It isn’t a guarantee of performance. As I discussed in a CNS Support article, there are other mechanisms that determine readiness and they all need to function together to have a good performance. However, if CNS is poor, this is an indication that your training may not happen as you planned.
Adaptive Reserves is an estimation of how much energy your body has available for adaptation. This measurement allows you to see trends in your overall stress levels. Where this plays a more important role is in the next section – the graph.
The graph is just that – a line graph of your various TRAC assessments over the past 7 days. This feature allows you to easily spot trends in your scores and correct them before they manifest into a problem. The graph helps to impress upon you that the days are connected – training done on one day affects other days and sometimes it takes more than 8 or 10 hours of sleep to correct the problems. At the same time, when you have a severe stress day, do some light cardio work (heart rate between 120-140bpm for 15 minutes) and see the effect it has on your stress levels the following day!
To the right of your graph, you will see a section called Training Recommendations. This section compiles all the details of your TRAC report and makes a recommendation for how you should adjust your training based on the TRAC results. If the TRAC Report seems like a lot to digest, this section will save you because it will tell you what to do in plain english. If you measure High Stress, SNS Dominant, Average CNS, Average Adaptive reserves how will you adjust your training? The Training Recommendations section will give you simple “do this, don’t do this” instructions.
Near the bottom of the page, there is a section that includes Detailed Response Data. This gives you some additional information on how your tests went and how TRAC sees each parameter. Some metrics play a bigger role in your overall score than others. The purpose of this section is just to provide you a little more information on what is going on and which parameters may be “out of whack”.
HR1, 2, 3, and 4 come straight from your Orthostatic Test. D Index and M Index are also related to the orthostatic test. Reaction Time and Total Taps are fairly obvious as well. However, Variance and Pauses require some explanation.
Examination of our test results showed us that there is more to a tap test than simply how many times you can tap. The way you tap is also important. “Variance” examines how your tap speed varies throughout the test. “Pauses” measures the number of small (but significant) pauses you have during the tap test. Both play a significant role in determining the status of your CNS.
So there you have it, Smartypants. That should be enough to allow you to understand what TRAC is trying to tell you.
|About the Author
Mike Tuchscherer is the owner and head coach at RTS. He has been powerlifting since 2001 and since has traveled all over the world for competitions. In 2009, he was the first man from USA powerlifting to win a gold medal at the World Games – the highest possible achievement in powerlifting. He has coached over a dozen competitors at the world championships, a score of national champions, and multiple world record holders.