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Questions for Achieving an Ambitious FTP Goal

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Questions for Achieving an Ambitious FTP Goal

Old 10-14-23, 06:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Hermes
Great discussion

I have been using trainers and rollers for 15 years preparing for races and events. Currently, I own a smart trainer.

Flashback: In 2007, I hired two Russian coaches that formerly ran the Belarus national team. They had a cycling gym with rollers that included support for the bike via the front fork. There was a belt drive from the rear roller to a resistant unit that had 4 clicks. There was no flywheel effect or any attempt to make these really dumb trainers to simulate road conditions.

We were expected to show up at the gym twice per week and ride the rollers and were given workouts - cadence, heart rate, number of clicks on the rollers and etc. I remember showing up and lamenting that it was beautiful outside. The coach says, all the Russians, Poles, Czech, German pros are on trainers. I responded that is because Minsk is still frozen.

He showed my a pic of two cyclists on a two man set of rollers riding side by side without the fork being held. He said he built a 4 man set of rollers but there was no pic. I was curious how two riders got started on rollers.

He told me how he had a junior who trained on rollers and he would take a towel and add resistance to the rear wheel to make it harder. The junior went to track nationals and won.

Flash forward: Most of the countries and cyclists outside Europe and USA do not have the money to buy smart trainers or power meters and they do not have good weather or perfect terrain. They improvise. But many of the best UCI pro tour riders come from these countries. Of course, once they are on a UCI pro team, they have access and finances to hire coaches and get whatever equipment they want.

I set a target event / race and train specifically. A flat time trial that has flat to rolling terrain with wind, I find to be the most difficult to ride and requires the ability to measure effort so that the most effort is applied on the hardest part of the course - climbing and headwind. And one has to be able to maximize speed on the easier downhill portion but not necessarily rest. I have found it takes a lot of practice to measure effort over a course with ones legs that results in a fast time. It is hard to put in effort on the flat, then more effort on the climb crest the climb and then keep power on during the downhill when it is so enticing to just ease up.

I get a workout plan for the week and I spend time figuring out where I am going to ride outside or indoors to accomplish the plan and on which bike - TT or road. Typically, I drive for the terrain I want. It is a hassle but part of the game.

I have found that there is no "perfect" workout, structure or interval. As cyclists, we have our individual genetics, muscle composition, stature and weight. What is in my control is weight and percent body fat. What matters is accomplishment of the goal. How motivated am I to accomplish the goal?
This is a great and subtle post.
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Old 10-15-23, 10:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Hermes
Great discussion

I have been using trainers and rollers for 15 years preparing for races and events. Currently, I own a smart trainer.

Flashback: In 2007, I hired two Russian coaches that formerly ran the Belarus national team. They had a cycling gym with rollers that included support for the bike via the front fork. There was a belt drive from the rear roller to a resistant unit that had 4 clicks. There was no flywheel effect or any attempt to make these really dumb trainers to simulate road conditions.

We were expected to show up at the gym twice per week and ride the rollers and were given workouts - cadence, heart rate, number of clicks on the rollers and etc. I remember showing up and lamenting that it was beautiful outside. The coach says, all the Russians, Poles, Czech, German pros are on trainers. I responded that is because Minsk is still frozen.

He showed my a pic of two cyclists on a two man set of rollers riding side by side without the fork being held. He said he built a 4 man set of rollers but there was no pic. I was curious how two riders got started on rollers.

He told me how he had a junior who trained on rollers and he would take a towel and add resistance to the rear wheel to make it harder. The junior went to track nationals and won.

Flash forward: Most of the countries and cyclists outside Europe and USA do not have the money to buy smart trainers or power meters and they do not have good weather or perfect terrain. They improvise. But many of the best UCI pro tour riders come from these countries. Of course, once they are on a UCI pro team, they have access and finances to hire coaches and get whatever equipment they want.

I set a target event / race and train specifically. A flat time trial that has flat to rolling terrain with wind, I find to be the most difficult to ride and requires the ability to measure effort so that the most effort is applied on the hardest part of the course - climbing and headwind. And one has to be able to maximize speed on the easier downhill portion but not necessarily rest. I have found it takes a lot of practice to measure effort over a course with ones legs that results in a fast time. It is hard to put in effort on the flat, then more effort on the climb crest the climb and then keep power on during the downhill when it is so enticing to just ease up.

I get a workout plan for the week and I spend time figuring out where I am going to ride outside or indoors to accomplish the plan and on which bike - TT or road. Typically, I drive for the terrain I want. It is a hassle but part of the game.

I have found that there is no "perfect" workout, structure or interval. As cyclists, we have our individual genetics, muscle composition, stature and weight. What is in my control is weight and percent body fat. What matters is accomplishment of the goal. How motivated am I to accomplish the goal?
Words of wisdom for all ages, preferences, and perspectives on training.
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Old 10-18-23, 07:22 AM
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Anecdotally, I have hopped on the road after 2 weeks on the trainer, and felt much more powerful on the bike than before I started the trainer sessions in earnest. Whether it's the precision or the increased volume that is making the difference I'm not sure, but it feels good regardless.
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Old 10-18-23, 04:21 PM
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There is a thread somewhere on the trainerroad forum about getting to 5w/kg. All the people that commented on that thread that they got to 5w/kg did it by losing weight.

The problem with all TR training plans other than the low volume is that you can easily over-train. I started a mid-volume plan in the fall of one year, and felt better than I had in years the following spring. And then things started going downhill. Younger people might not notice that easily, but for me it was pretty stark. They have basically admitted as much, but the case for using their software doesn't really hold up if you are only doing a workout twice a week. I would probably benefit from doing most of a mid-volume base plan now, but I'm mentally averse to doing their workouts at this point.
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Old 10-18-23, 06:09 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen
There is a thread somewhere on the trainerroad forum about getting to 5w/kg. All the people that commented on that thread that they got to 5w/kg did it by losing weight.

The problem with all TR training plans other than the low volume is that you can easily over-train. I started a mid-volume plan in the fall of one year, and felt better than I had in years the following spring. And then things started going downhill. Younger people might not notice that easily, but for me it was pretty stark. They have basically admitted as much, but the case for using their software doesn't really hold up if you are only doing a workout twice a week. I would probably benefit from doing most of a mid-volume base plan now, but I'm mentally averse to doing their workouts at this point.
For this reason I only tend to use structured plans in the build up to key events to boost my short term fitness. I havenít used TR plans, but I found Wahoo SYSTM plans sustainable once they tamed them down a bit from the original Sufferfest!

I think over-training is always a risk when following an ambitious, rigid plan. It took me a long time to realise that itís okay to miss a session or tame it down as necessary.
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Old 10-19-23, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen
There is a thread somewhere on the trainerroad forum about getting to 5w/kg. All the people that commented on that thread that they got to 5w/kg did it by losing weight.

The problem with all TR training plans other than the low volume is that you can easily over-train. I started a mid-volume plan in the fall of one year, and felt better than I had in years the following spring. And then things started going downhill. Younger people might not notice that easily, but for me it was pretty stark. They have basically admitted as much, but the case for using their software doesn't really hold up if you are only doing a workout twice a week. I would probably benefit from doing most of a mid-volume base plan now, but I'm mentally averse to doing their workouts at this point.
Relatedly, I am also losing weight. My weight dropped over the last 1.5 months from 140 lbs. to 134 lbs. I'm on the bike 5-6 days of the week on TR, so hopefully I'm getting my volume.
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Old 10-19-23, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by PeteHski
For this reason I only tend to use structured plans in the build up to key events to boost my short term fitness. I havenít used TR plans, but I found Wahoo SYSTM plans sustainable once they tamed them down a bit from the original Sufferfest!

I think over-training is always a risk when following an ambitious, rigid plan. It took me a long time to realise that itís okay to miss a session or tame it down as necessary.
This reminds me to try to stay cognizant of what it feels like to overtrain. The only time I remember feeling overtrained was when I was a pianist in my youth, which is very different. Any tips on what I should be on the lookout for, particularly as someone who's on the bike 5-6 days per week?
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Old 10-19-23, 01:13 PM
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I have only noticed it after I totally crashed and my ftp fell 10%. The pros apparently go by heart rate vs. power. So it would be worth tracking that. I imagine that golden cheetah probably has some usable metrics.

I avoid it by not training enough.
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Old 10-19-23, 01:16 PM
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Originally Posted by sir_crash_alot
This reminds me to try to stay cognizant of what it feels like to overtrain. The only time I remember feeling overtrained was when I was a pianist in my youth, which is very different. Any tips on what I should be on the lookout for, particularly as someone who's on the bike 5-6 days per week?
Reduced performance on the same course. Decreasing heart rate variability (HRV). Inability to get a good nightís sleep. Muscle soreness that doesnít seem to go away. Decreased motivation to do training rides. Average power divided by average heart rate going down.
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Old 10-20-23, 10:08 AM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
Reduced performance on the same course. Decreasing heart rate variability (HRV). Inability to get a good nightís sleep. Muscle soreness that doesnít seem to go away. Decreased motivation to do training rides. Average power divided by average heart rate going down.
The above are classic indicators of fatigue but in fact may be at best tertiary metrics. Humans consist of 6-7% of their body weight in blood. During prolonged daily exercise what is happing to blood metrics and blood volume? I used to get a blood work once per year and the doc would say you are good to go. Is that enough?

Today, I am doing blood metrics once per month and monitoring changes resulting from diet and exercise.
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Old 10-20-23, 03:25 PM
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Originally Posted by sir_crash_alot
This reminds me to try to stay cognizant of what it feels like to overtrain. The only time I remember feeling overtrained was when I was a pianist in my youth, which is very different. Any tips on what I should be on the lookout for, particularly as someone who's on the bike 5-6 days per week?
I think you just have to listen carefully to what your body is telling you. Itís tricky because fatigue is part and parcel of a training block. But when you get to the end of a hard block, make sure you allow enough recovery time before pushing on again. I presume you are using a TR adaptive plan, which should include periods of recovery.

Personally I only aim for peak fitness once or twice a year for my key target events. The rest of the time I try to maintain a consistent lower base fitness that I can sustain indefinitely.

I think there is a personal learning curve to establish what level you can sustain long term. If you over-estimate that level and keep pushing to maintain it then eventually you crash. That may be after 6 months, 12 months or even longer.

Tracking metrics like resting HR, HRV etc long term can be useful. I find that my resting HR correlates well with stress.
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Old 10-26-23, 08:35 AM
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In general and according to USA Cycling, one peaks after 6 months of training. If one keeps training with the idea of adding on, the result is lower performance. Of course, that is a big YMMV. I was at Worlds Track and talked with the British team's coach about how they did a road season and then got ready for a track season later in the year. They took a mid summer break. So it is feasible to get two peaks per year with a little cheating.

And the 6 month run up to a peak may contain rest weeks and other ways of setting up training blocks to achieve a goal.

My personal experience at Nationals and Track Worlds in 2010, was the I was peaking at Nationals in June and kept training and I was flat and down at Worlds in October. I needed to take July off. I would probably done better at Worlds.
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Old 10-26-23, 11:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Hermes
My personal experience at Nationals and Track Worlds in 2010, was the I was peaking at Nationals in June and kept training and I was flat and down at Worlds in October. I needed to take July off. I would probably done better at Worlds.
How can you tell when you are peaking? Is there some measure to look at, like leveling off of performance gains?

Garmin Connect spits out measures like "unproductive, improving, recovery, detraining", but they seem to be too random to be useful.
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Old 10-27-23, 06:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Hermes
In general and according to USA Cycling, one peaks after 6 months of training. If one keeps training with the idea of adding on, the result is lower performance. Of course, that is a big YMMV. I was at Worlds Track and talked with the British team's coach about how they did a road season and then got ready for a track season later in the year. They took a mid summer break. So it is feasible to get two peaks per year with a little cheating.

And the 6 month run up to a peak may contain rest weeks and other ways of setting up training blocks to achieve a goal.

My personal experience at Nationals and Track Worlds in 2010, was the I was peaking at Nationals in June and kept training and I was flat and down at Worlds in October. I needed to take July off. I would probably done better at Worlds.
This sounds about right. You can only keep building and building for so long before crashing out at some point and this is a trap that beginners can fall into because of the confidence they get from an initial steep improvement curve. I view "form" as a sinusoidal wave with peaks and troughs. From what I recall I think the TrainerRoad planner allows you to target multiple A,B and C events and will tailor your plan in order to peak at the right times. The more events you have in your plan, the more compromised your peaks will be for each event. It prioritises your training load toward your 'A' events.
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Old 10-28-23, 09:40 AM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
How can you tell when you are peaking? Is there some measure to look at, like leveling off of performance gains?

Garmin Connect spits out measures like "unproductive, improving, recovery, detraining", but they seem to be too random to be useful.
My training is old school meets new school. I end up closer to old school training.

I am going to say something that sounds elitist but not meant to be - just factual. To get into peak condition, one has to train with fast guys and use a coach that organizes the efforts. Then one needs an event / racing schedule that supports an A event / race. I have to race myself into shape. Nothing matches showing up for a race - road, crit, TT, hill climb or track and have to perform at peak. In a TT, I ride it like a rabid dog. I find it hard to get on the trainer or ride by myself and ride that hard. Why? My nature.

When I did the Low Key Hill Climb series in NorCal in the fall and raced up mountains each week, It set the stage for a great racing season. I let it all on the road in those climbs.

Another great way to get fast and break a plateaux is to go to an interval session run by a coach with a bunch of fast guys faster than you. First of all the goal will be set something you will probably not think possible. Then the action starts and one gets into the routine. Everyone is suffering and everyone is succeeding. Are you going to quit? This is too hard?? Hopefully, not.

How do racers race two races on Saturday and then two on Sunday and do well?

To your question, I think the modern metrics are interesting but not determinate. I think they are going to keep you from being the best you can be. I find the Garmin metrics humorous but silly and should be ignored. I know when I am peaking when I have done the training and raced a lot.

sir_crash_alot My advice to improve FTP to an elite level is to race a lot - TTs and Hill Climbs. Do as many as you can and find a group of guys faster than you and train with them. Organize your training into 3 week blocks and add a rest week to the fourth week - or not. But you need enough rest days within the training block to facilitate recovery. Diet is critical to recovery and blood metrics. Without a great diet, blood metrics may let you down. YMMV
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Old 11-14-23, 10:31 AM
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Thank you all. Just thought I'd share an update, because this thread has become almost a shared progress journal for me.
  • Trainerroad gives you two options for FTP, neither of which is the standard "20 minute all out effort" test. There are discrepancies though for me with those tests...
    • Ramp Test, 3 weeks ago: FTP = 206, which I told TrainerRoad to ignore because I refuse to go backwards (insert toxic masculinity grunts here).
    • AI Detected FTP: 2 weeks ago: FTP = 216, which I have stuck with since. FTP recalculation/test in the next 1-3 weeks, so we'll see.
  • As I make slower progress (noobie gains are basically done I believe), I'm starting to understand myself as a rider based on the workouts I crush, and the workouts that crush me.
    • Endurance: I do fine. My ass starts to hurt in the saddle.
    • Sweet Spot: I do well.
    • Threshold: I suck. These destroy me.
    • Anaerobic, Sprint: MOAR RESISTANCE i.e. these workouts I do great.
  • I'm not sure what that's saying about me as a rider, but it's at least telling me what my power curve looks like: it's pointy at the high power end, and feels like a bimodal distribution in practice.
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Old 11-22-23, 01:45 PM
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Not a very practical suggestion but move to higher elevation, around 12,000 feet and continue bicycling. If fact, buy a cheap heavier bicycle that provides resistance for free.
Human body has amazing capacity to adapt to the environment. Your lung capacity and endurance numbers will increase. 😉
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Old 11-22-23, 01:52 PM
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The fastest way to increase the power numbers (w/kg) is to reduce the BMI. If one has a BMI around 20-21, this option may not be valuable but with the BMI around 24 or larger, at least the power numbers can be readily improved in a year.
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Old 11-22-23, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Alan K
Not a very practical suggestion but move to higher elevation, around 12,000 feet and continue bicycling.
The data on altitude training aren't that encouraging. Altitude training certainly improves performance at altitude, but the improvements from altitude training when you get back to sea level are not impressive.
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Old 11-23-23, 09:40 AM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
The data on altitude training aren't that encouraging. Altitude training certainly improves performance at altitude, but the improvements from altitude training when you get back to sea level are not impressive.
Yes and no. Living and training for a long period of time at altitude adapts one to lower pressure and less oxygen. However, oxygen consumption is overall lower. Gong to sea level may result in improved performance for a couple of days but the oxygen consumption will be less than those who train at sea level.

To use altitude to ones training advantage, one must live high and train low. Tenerife in the Azores is an ideal venue and is where the UCI pros have their 3 week training camps to prepare for the grand tours. And sleeping too high is not better. The problem going to altitude, besides doing the training, is recovering with less oxygen after the training is over. Finally, not everyone benefits from altitude training. Genetics.

Last edited by Hermes; 11-28-23 at 05:43 PM.
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Old 11-23-23, 11:53 AM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
The data on altitude training aren't that encouraging. Altitude training certainly improves performance at altitude, but the improvements from altitude training when you get back to sea level are not impressive.
"Live high, train low."
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Old 11-23-23, 11:56 AM
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Genetics!
Yes, we do owe a lot to our ancestors… even without realizing it. 😉

I know someone who couldn’t swim underwater a full length of an Olympic size pool. He could swim 2 miles a day with a better pace than mine but just not under water for more than 30 seconds or so.
After giving it some thought, we had his blood cell count and size analyzed. And just as I had wondered, his RBCs were abnormal, smaller in size but more numerous in count - the system was trying to compensate for lower Oxygen carrying capacity. The next obvious thing for his doctor was to do a clinical test to confirm a difference in hemoglobin. But before they could finish their electrophoresis and only qualitatively acknowledge the difference, I had his and his parents hemoglobin gene sequenced - a single point mutation changing one amino acid was the culprit (different from commonly known sickle cell anemia).
We learned about the reason but there is absolutely no solution to fix the problem… at least not yet.
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Old 11-23-23, 12:19 PM
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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, 🦃🍁

Heading out to catch a few wild turkeys, our area is swarming with them! 😉
All natural, no antibiotics or hormones in them 😋
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Old 11-28-23, 09:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Alan K
Not a very practical suggestion but move to higher elevation, around 12,000 feet and continue bicycling. If fact, buy a cheap heavier bicycle that provides resistance for free.
Human body has amazing capacity to adapt to the environment. Your lung capacity and endurance numbers will increase. 😉
Interesting idea. Could I achieve similar things using a V02 altitude simulating mask? I have one and it is miserable.
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Old 11-28-23, 10:46 AM
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Originally Posted by sir_crash_alot
Interesting idea. Could I achieve similar things using a V02 altitude simulating mask? I have one and it is miserable.
The general idea is "live high, train low." That is, you train at low altitude to get maximal volume of work, but you sleep at high altitude for the adaptation. And, I believe the mechanism is that partial pressure of O2 at altitude is reduced, so the arterial O2 is reduced, and this is the adaptation you're looking for, not the lower pressure itself. That means that you could, if you wanted, reduce the O2 at "normal, sea-level" pressure sleeping in an "altitude tent." The altitude tent doesn't simulate the lower pressure (you'd have to sleep in a steel coffin, not a plastic tent, to withstand the change in pressure) it simulates the lower O2.
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