Progress isn’t always linear— and that’s not a bad thing. TrainerRoad successful athlete Jack Turnbull shares his journey through the ups and downs of his progression and how he’s adjusted his training to sustain a 4.8 power to weight ratio.

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Key Takeaways

  • Even if you’ve established fitness through unstructured base training, you should do a structured base plan to get the most out of your progression. 
  • Fueling your workouts with healthy, nutritious foods can help you lose weight without sacrificing the fuel necessary to power your workouts. 
  • If you feel like you might be overreaching, take time off the bike to rest and let your body recover. 
  • Progress isn’t always linear.

Getting Started With Cycling

Jack Turnbull had always enjoyed commuting by bike and would regularly ride to class, work, and the gym. Aside from commuting, Jack didn’t really see cycling as an athletic endeavor though. Jack was a soccer player, and for many years he spent most of his available training time playing matches and practicing with friends. At that point, cycling was just a nice way to commute from one place to the next.

Little by little, Jack gained more exposure to cycling as it continued to make appearances in his life. During his placement year in University, Jack worked in an office where most of his co-workers were avid road cyclists. Jack was still a big soccer player, but he was interested in the office hype, so he started getting into some recreational riding and with leisure rides on weekends for fun. Still, cycling was just casual, and Jack wasn’t too interested in training yet. It wasn’t until he started going to the gym, where he discovered indoor stationary trainers, that Jack clicked with cycling.

Discovering Indoor Training

At the start of 2019, Jack made a personal resolution to start going to the gym. He weighed eighty-five kilos at the time and wanted to lose some weight and get in better physical shape. To his own surprise, when he started frequenting the gym, Jack found himself continuously gravitating towards the stationary trainers instead of the weights or the gym equipment. Day after day, he would ride his bike to the gym, hop on the trainer, get a workout in, and then ride back home.

The power, the data, and the clear progress were what kept Jack returning to the gym bike time and time again. He really liked riding with power and enjoyed the efficiency of pedaling indoors. To his personal satisfaction, he also found that he was progressing quite a lot and losing weight at the same time. Over the next eight months, he lost five kilos and gradually raised his FTP from 275 watts to the low 300’s. This was something he hadn’t experienced when playing soccer, where he felt like he could play soccer for the rest of his life and never get better. Jack was making some real progress in his fitness, and that progress was really motivating.

Seeking Structure

Despite the success he was enjoying, Jack wasn’t sure the gym was the best long term solution. His membership was pretty expensive, and Jack was starting to feel like riding his bike to the gym; just to pay to ride on a stationary trainer wasn’t necessarily the most efficient use of time either. Jack wanted to maintain the momentum he was building, but he wanted a more cost-effective and time-efficient solution.

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So in September of 2019, he got a smart trainer and started researching indoor training platforms. He knew he liked the data aspect of indoor training, and he knew he needed structure to grow his fitness progressively, but he wasn’t really sure where to start or how he should train. It wasn’t before long that Jack found TrainerRoad and got started with a sweet spot base plan. 

Base Training and Weight Loss

When Jack took his first Ramp Test on TrainerRoad, his FTP was 313, and his power to weight ratio was 3.6 He had successfully raised his FTP, increased his strength, and established some pretty decent base fitness through unstructured riding, commuting, and spinning on the trainer. With that said, there was a lot of progress still to be made, and Jack got a big bump in FTP merely by adding structure to his training plan.

Jack got started with a Sweet Spot Base plan in October of that year, and through the Sweet Spot Base I and Sweet Spot Base II phases alone, Jack added thirty watts to his FTP. Jack couldn’t believe how much progress he had made in just three months of structured training. He continued to train and did the mid-volume Short Power Build plan and the Rolling Road Race Specialty plan.

In conjunction with the massive progress he saw in his FTP, Jack also continued to lose weight cycling. But unlike when he had started going to the gym, his weight loss goals had actually become a much lower priority. In fact, Jack shared that his weight loss was merely a byproduct of eating healthy and training often. He really didn’t focus on losing weight or maintaining a diet that would help him lose weight. Instead, he focused on making sure he was eating enough high-quality fuels to fuel his workouts and aid his recovery. The increased amount of work, paired with a healthy diet designed to fuel his training, helped him lose an additional fifteen pounds by October of 2020. Now weighing seventy-two kilos, Jack feels like he’s at a healthy weight he hopes to maintain.

Injury and Readjustment

With progress also came a few minor setbacks. One of the reasons Jack’s progression has been so successful is because he trains consistently and maintains a diligent training routine. Jack does his best to nail all his workouts and skip workouts as infrequently as possible. While this level of dedication has helped him reach incredible accomplishments, it’s also contributed to some frustration and even led Jack to train through an injury longer then he should have. 

In March of 2019, Jack had just achieved his highest FTP; 358 watts. With his current weight, this put him at 4.9 w/kg. Unfortunately, Jack was also struggling with an injury. Jack had experienced some mild knee pain when he played soccer, but this was much worse. The tendons behind his knees were hurting to the point where he couldn’t really ride. Jack kept trying to ride and push through the injury, but it only made the injury worse. After a doctor recommended Jack take two weeks completely away from physical activity, his FTP dropped by ten percent.

While the injury was by no means a positive experience, the time off the bike helped Jack reevaluate some of his training habits and realize that he may have been overreaching and training through some telltale signs of an injury. This helped Jack change his perspective on training and move towards maintaining a more sustainable approach to training. One where he could listen to his body’s response to the training load and adjust accordingly. 

Training Tip

  • It’s okay to skip a workout, opt for an easier solution, or take a day completely off when your body needs a break. The sustainable route is the best route. 

Progress Isn’t Always Linear

When reflecting on some of these learning curves, Jack remembers a particularly helpful bit of advice he got on the TrainerRoad forum. After a particularly tough workout that Jack couldn’t finish, he turned to the forum in hopes of seeing if anyone else had similar trouble with that workout. Instead, Jack got some really helpful advice. A fellow community member replied to Jack’s post and shared that it was okay for Jack to be struggling with some workouts here and there because “Progress isn’t always linear.” It’s normal to experience some ups and downs with your training and your power values because life and the human body have their own natural ups and downs too.

Finding Balance and Goals

Since his injury, Jack’s been able to readjust his routine and find a more sustainable approach to training that allows him to maintain his consistency and prevent over-reaching. His watts per kilogram remains a very impressive 4.8 w/kg, and overall, Jack feels like he’s a much more well-rounded and balanced athlete.

While Jack has only had the opportunity to test his fitness on the leaderboards of Strava this season, in 2021, he hopes to take this fitness out onto the road and crush some road races.

If you want to get in touch with Jack and ask him any questions you can reach him here on the TrainerRoad Forum: 4.8w/kg and 30lb Weight Loss with Jack Turnbull.

Tell us your story. Success isn’t always a race win. It can be life-changing health improvements, reaching a personal goal, or more. 

For more cycling training knowledge, listen to Ask a Cycling Coach — the only podcast dedicated to making you a faster cyclist. New episodes are released weekly.