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How much can you keep improving?

Old 05-27-20, 01:09 PM
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ZHVelo
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How much can you keep improving?

Does one see more than 50% of one's potential gains in the first 12 weeks? Various studies out there, some suggest there is a large variability in how people respond to training, other studies suggest with the correct training almost anyone can make gains. But I can't figure out how long one can improve. As in given a certain start date, there is a theoretic limit to where you can go from there. Does one already reach a large amount of that, say 50% after only 2-3 months?

What do you think from experience?
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Old 05-27-20, 01:38 PM
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I don't believe there is any way to determine a quantifiable amount of improvement in advance. Improvement has two parameters: the starting point and the ending point. Everyone is different as to their starting point so improvement would vary even if everyone had the same goal. For example, an athlete and a couch potato can both train for a marathon and be successful.. However, one may finish 1 1/2 hours ahead of the other. The couch potato may eventually run at the same time as the athlete but it will take more training. Thus, improvement can be defined as the difference between the starting and ending skills.

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Old 05-27-20, 02:18 PM
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6-8 years of consistent, highish-volume, structured training to reach full aerobic potential according to a rather famous Italian running coach.

Sounds about right in my experience.

How good you are at any point during those first 6-8 years is pretty personal and varied, and of course, very, very few actually do an appropriate workload for such a long time to actually see what their full potential is...

Long story short: you can very likely keep getting better as long as you're pushing your body to adapt.
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Old 05-27-20, 02:39 PM
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Originally Posted by rubiksoval View Post
6-8 years of consistent, highish-volume, structured training to reach full aerobic potential according to a rather famous Italian running coach.

Sounds about right in my experience.

How good you are at any point during those first 6-8 years is pretty personal and varied, and of course, very, very few actually do an appropriate workload for such a long time to actually see what their full potential is...

Long story short: you can very likely keep getting better as long as you're pushing your body to adapt.
Sorry, but I don't see it. As I said in my earlier post, the amount of time to reach a level depends on where you start. Two individuals may be able to someday run a mile in 4 minutes. However, the one who presently runs a mile in 4:10 will probably achieve it before the person running a mile in 5:00.
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Old 05-27-20, 02:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Tony P. View Post
Sorry, but I don't see it. As I said in my earlier post, the amount of time to reach a level depends on where you start. Two individuals may be able to someday run a mile in 4 minutes. However, the one who presently runs a mile in 4:10 will probably achieve it before the person running a mile in 5:00.
Nothing you said has anything to do with what I said; that being that neither runner is going to reach their full potential without years and years of structured training and development.

I didn't say anything about racing to a specific performance standard by a specific point other than it being very individual.
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Old 05-27-20, 03:56 PM
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Originally Posted by rubiksoval View Post
Nothing you said has anything to do with what I said; that being that neither runner is going to reach their full potential without years and years of structured training and development.

I didn't say anything about racing to a specific performance standard by a specific point other than it being very individual.
I agree with what you're saying here. But it's different from your earlier statement. Training, as you say, is "very individual". As such it's not possible to predict physical improvement in 6-8 years. For example, I'm 72 and it's not likely I can achieve substantial physical improvement 8 years from now no matter how hard I try.

My point is the same a 6-8 year projection is pure conjecture. That is, 100 out of 100 athletes may reach their potential in 6-8 years but that says nothing about the 101st.

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Old 05-27-20, 07:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Tony P. View Post
I agree with what you're saying here. But it's different from your earlier statement. Training, as you say, is "very individual". As such it's not possible to predict physical improvement in 6-8 years. For example, I'm 72 and it's not likely I can achieve substantial physical improvement 8 years from now no matter how hard I try.

My point is the same a 6-8 year projection is pure conjecture. That is, 100 out of 100 athletes may reach their potential in 6-8 years but that says nothing about the 101st.
You're 72 years old. Shouldn't you know better than to take a general post and try to apply it to your specific situation?

You're derailing the topic. This is irrelevant.

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Old 05-27-20, 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Tony P. View Post
Sorry, but I don't see it. As I said in my earlier post, the amount of time to reach a level depends on where you start. Two individuals may be able to someday run a mile in 4 minutes. However, the one who presently runs a mile in 4:10 will probably achieve it before the person running a mile in 5:00.
No, no. He meant you reach your peak, whatever that is. Maybe that's a 10 minute mile. It matters in a way where you start. If you start at your peak, it's downhill from there. But for those untrained or only moderately trained, that 6-8 year span seems about right. There's another caveat: one also goes downhill with age. Obviously pros age out in their mid 30s no matter how they train. We see really good riders in the Under 23 group, and they've been training since they were kids. I started training in my early 50s and peaked at about 60, held it OK until about 63 and then it's been downhill ever since even though I've continued to train. My guess is that happens to pretty much everyone, no matter their age. Hence age groupers.

So your example is incorrect except for a tiny subset combining age and talent. If you can run a mile in 4:10 and you're over say 25, that's it. A person who runs a mile in 6:00 has a decent change of hitting 5:00, depending on age and training state and also of course, talent.
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Old 05-28-20, 12:22 AM
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Thanks for the replies, of course there is a lot of variability but interesting to see it can take up to 8 years to reach potential. Did that coach talk about how the curve of that improvement is? As in you gain 10% each month the first year then 5% in year 2 but come year 3 and gains are only incremental. Or does one hit incremental gains only pretty quickly?
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Old 05-28-20, 04:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
No, no. He meant you reach your peak, whatever that is. Maybe that's a 10 minute mile. It matters in a way where you start. If you start at your peak, it's downhill from there. But for those untrained or only moderately trained, that 6-8 year span seems about right. There's another caveat: one also goes downhill with age. Obviously pros age out in their mid 30s no matter how they train. We see really good riders in the Under 23 group, and they've been training since they were kids. I started training in my early 50s and peaked at about 60, held it OK until about 63 and then it's been downhill ever since even though I've continued to train. My guess is that happens to pretty much everyone, no matter their age. Hence age groupers.

So your example is incorrect except for a tiny subset combining age and talent. If you can run a mile in 4:10 and you're over say 25, that's it. A person who runs a mile in 6:00 has a decent change of hitting 5:00, depending on age and training state and also of course, talent.
I agree with what you're saying and most of everyone else, as well. But there is so much variability I don't believe it's analytically correct to predict. Sorry, but I don't believe you can say you would have peaked at about 50 if you started in your early 40s, or about 40 if you started in your early 30s, or about 30 if you started in your early 20s, or about 20 if you started in your early teens.
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Old 05-28-20, 06:38 AM
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it took me years, then I caught up to my age & started declining. can't imagine anyone giving the OP exact info for him personally
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Old 05-28-20, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
it took me years, then I caught up to my age & started declining. can't imagine anyone giving the OP exact info for him personally
Sure but maybe someone has some numbers from experience, e.g. 50% increase in first year then 30% then 10% then 5% then incremental til you hit your genetic limit after 6-8 years or something like that. Or maybe add a range around those.

Anyway the reason I asked is because on one hill I improved by 4 minutes in 11 weeks. And these were more or less from scratch, so the first 11 weeks of training. If I can improve another 4 minutes, I am in the top 10. Hence, if most people make most (i.e. >50%) of their gains in the first 3 months then that means I probably won't improve by another 4 minutes, but otherwise I have a shot.
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Old 05-28-20, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by ZHVelo View Post
Sure but maybe someone has some numbers from experience, e.g. 50% increase in first year then 30% then 10% then 5% then incremental til you hit your genetic limit after 6-8 years or something like that. Or maybe add a range around those.

Anyway the reason I asked is because on one hill I improved by 4 minutes in 11 weeks. And these were more or less from scratch, so the first 11 weeks of training. If I can improve another 4 minutes, I am in the top 10. Hence, if most people make most (i.e. >50%) of their gains in the first 3 months then that means I probably won't improve by another 4 minutes, but otherwise I have a shot.
I don't know. I'm sure it's a declining rate of improvement, though it's impossible to speculate on the rate of decline.
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Old 05-28-20, 10:28 AM
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Originally Posted by ZHVelo View Post
Sure but maybe someone has some numbers from experience, e.g. 50% increase in first year then 30% then 10% then 5% then incremental til you hit your genetic limit after 6-8 years or something like that. Or maybe add a range around those.Anyway the reason I asked is because on one hill I improved by 4 minutes in 11 weeks. And these were more or less from scratch, so the first 11 weeks of training. If I can improve another 4 minutes, I am in the top 10. Hence, if most people make most (i.e. >50%) of their gains in the first 3 months then that means I probably won't improve by another 4 minutes, but otherwise I have a shot.
ok, gotcha. don't think I can help ya, other than I used to have a hill on my commute that as killer. it took a while to conquer it. changed bikes & took more time to conquer it again, cuz the gearing was different. stayed consitent witht hat hill over time. left he job & occasioanlly I'd ride the route just for kicks. def. better when doing it regularly. lately been cruising paved rail trails so when I tried that old route just for kicks, that hill was mean & ugly. had to stop & catch my breath 1/2 way up. maybe I have a touch of the covid, or more likely, not used to big hills. use it, or lose it right?
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Old 05-28-20, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by ZHVelo View Post
Sure but maybe someone has some numbers from experience, e.g. 50% increase in first year then 30% then 10% then 5% then incremental til you hit your genetic limit after 6-8 years or something like that. Or maybe add a range around those.

Anyway the reason I asked is because on one hill I improved by 4 minutes in 11 weeks. And these were more or less from scratch, so the first 11 weeks of training. If I can improve another 4 minutes, I am in the top 10. Hence, if most people make most (i.e. >50%) of their gains in the first 3 months then that means I probably won't improve by another 4 minutes, but otherwise I have a shot.
Where do you get this 50% in 12 weeks (or first year) figure you keep throwing around? How would it be measured?

That seems wildly optimistic at best, unless you quit your job to ride all day, and got a coach.
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Old 05-28-20, 10:48 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
Where do you get this 50% in 12 weeks (or first year) figure you keep throwing around? How would it be measured?

That seems wildly optimistic at best, unless you quit your job to ride all day, and got a coach.
As you say, how would it be measured? There are so many numbers, even if one had tracked them from Day 1, which I doubt ever happens. There's also endurance. That's easier to measure. How fast (ET) can you ride a particular double century? It took me from my 3rd to 6th year to get from 16.6 to 20 average in the saddle, and 16 hours to 12 on that double. No power or HR data, sorry. How would one measure that?

Back when I started, I didn't know anything except that more power and endurance were good. 3 years after I started, the year of the above now infamously slow STP double, I spent three rainy winter days/week at the gym. Besides weights, they had one of those old gym bikes with fixed resistance, power displayed in watts. I'd sit there and spend an hour at about 230 watts, 75 cadence. I improved by 5 watts over a month of that, and then did 186 watts for 2 solid hours. A kid came over once and asked, "Mister are you all right?" because I had a puddle of sweat on the floor all around the bike, was breathing hard, and probably red-faced. I said, "Yes, I'm OK," but of course I wasn't. I was as nuts as they come. Working on that, but nothing seems to help.

Of course the gym bike did help - I pulled the riders I was with on that first double for the last 100 miles. Riding 3 century+ rides in the 6 weeks before the double was good, too.

So that was my 3rd year. I spent my first summer trying to ride the 13 miles and 600' up to a local shopping mall and back, just to do it. I did make it, but couldn't believe how hard it was.

9 years after I started, I rode 153 miles and ~10,000' in 8:40 saddle time. That's as fast as I ever got, 59 y.o. What does it all mean?
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Old 05-28-20, 11:43 PM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
Where do you get this 50% in 12 weeks (or first year) figure you keep throwing around? How would it be measured?

That seems wildly optimistic at best, unless you quit your job to ride all day, and got a coach.
It is a hypothetical. Your current level is x your potential limit is y. After 3 months of training, how much ground between x and y have you covered. You make the most gains early on, but how much? Let's make it simple, assume x is 200W and y is 300W, where are you after 3 months, 6 months, 12 months.
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Old 05-29-20, 07:58 AM
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Originally Posted by ZHVelo View Post
It is a hypothetical. Your current level is x your potential limit is y. After 3 months of training, how much ground between x and y have you covered. You make the most gains early on, but how much? Let's make it simple, assume x is 200W and y is 300W, where are you after 3 months, 6 months, 12 months.
Without quantifying how you would train or measure, your numbers are absolutely meaningless. Some people -- probably most -- will take years to reach their peak.
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Old 05-29-20, 08:17 AM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
Without quantifying how you would train or measure, your numbers are absolutely meaningless. Some people -- probably most -- will take years to reach their peak.
Well that is already an answer. I am not looking for accurate answer, just trends. E.g. if a relative beginner manages and improvement of X watts in year 1, then the year 2 improvement would be around X/2 and in year 3 X/4 and so on.
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Old 05-29-20, 08:53 AM
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I've no idea.

I just hope the folks are right about the number of years as I still have some left then! Ha ha.

I think it's really dependent on your CTL over those years. If your CTL is one of low intensity group rides for 6 hours a week for 6 to 8 years......only so much has been gained.

If you're doing a lot of load in those 6 hours per week over 6 to 8 years, I think the answer may be different.

I'd say, IMO, I may reach my ceiling a lot earlier than others. I'm constrained to 5 to 8 hours per week. I typically use a good amount of intensity and steady state. I don't have time for 4 hour Z2 rides. I think this year may be "it" in terms of optimizing the engine on the time I have. Then it will just be skills and moving the fitness from one energy system to another depending on the races I want to do.

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Old 05-29-20, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by ZHVelo View Post
Well that is already an answer. I am not looking for accurate answer, just trends. E.g. if a relative beginner manages and improvement of X watts in year 1, then the year 2 improvement would be around X/2 and in year 3 X/4 and so on.
I'm curious -- are you coming at this from a weightlifting background? There's a lot of data and discussion in that field about how untrained people can gain LBM and raise their 1RMs and 5RMs quickly once they embark on a decent training program, and usually max out within a couple years without chemical help. Those metrics are at least somewhat easy to measure.
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Old 05-29-20, 09:32 AM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
I'm curious -- are you coming at this from a weightlifting background? There's a lot of data and discussion in that field about how untrained people can gain LBM and raise their 1RMs and 5RMs quickly once they embark on a decent training program, and usually max out within a couple years without chemical help. Those metrics are at least somewhat easy to measure.
That's an interesting comparison. Quick initial gains in strength training are from muscle fiber recruitment. Once you have full recruitment, it really slows down and the hard work begins. The younger powerlifters I've been watching at our gym haven't maxed out quickly. I've been watching them for years and they're still getting stronger but it's a slow process. I think that mirrors what we see in cycling. Quick gains at the neuromuscular level, but once you learn to pedal and breathe and get your blood volume up, it slows down. Heart muscle seems to grow the slowest and to lose mass the quickest, a very conservative muscle, that is if stroke volume is dependent on muscle volume. Seems that way to me from watching HR over the years.

Endurance seems to build the slowest. We see a lot of olders in ultra endurance sports, the last refuge of the aging athlete.
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Old 05-29-20, 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
That's an interesting comparison. Quick initial gains in strength training are from muscle fiber recruitment. Once you have full recruitment, it really slows down and the hard work begins. The younger powerlifters I've been watching at our gym haven't maxed out quickly. I've been watching them for years and they're still getting stronger but it's a slow process. I think that mirrors what we see in cycling. Quick gains at the neuromuscular level, but once you learn to pedal and breathe and get your blood volume up, it slows down. Heart muscle seems to grow the slowest and to lose mass the quickest, a very conservative muscle, that is if stroke volume is dependent on muscle volume. Seems that way to me from watching HR over the years.

Endurance seems to build the slowest. We see a lot of olders in ultra endurance sports, the last refuge of the aging athlete.
As soon as I posted it, I wondered if "max out" might have been an oversimplification. It might be more accurate to say that after a few years, progress is asymptotic, where it takes harder and smarter work to achieve smaller and smaller gains. And that's assuming bad luck doesn't strike in the form of injuries or illness or other life events that get in the way.
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Old 05-29-20, 10:33 AM
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Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
I'm curious -- are you coming at this from a weightlifting background? There's a lot of data and discussion in that field about how untrained people can gain LBM and raise their 1RMs and 5RMs quickly once they embark on a decent training program, and usually max out within a couple years without chemical help. Those metrics are at least somewhat easy to measure.
Yes actually, I did the 5x5 myself for some time. I still do the squat and deadlift part as I think that is relevant to cycling and overall body fitness and strength, but no longer the rows and presses. There it was definitely that I saw a lot of gains in the first 2 months and already then the speed of gains started to slow down.
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Old 05-29-20, 10:55 AM
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5x5 is good stuff. I need to get back into lifting.
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Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
Originally Posted by noglider
People in this forum are not typical.
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