55 year old, what build phase?

I am in a bit of a quandary and debating next steps which I’m hopeful of some informed insight from the TrainerRoad community?

Firstly I’d like a ftp bump prior to commencing the club ride. Historically medium volume has me digging a hole with my health so medium volume is out which leaves low volume with supplementary workouts. I was thinking a couple of z2 with possible swapping the Tuesday and Thursday 1 hour rides with 1.5.

Next is general, short or sustained power. I believe as we age our capacity for Vo2 diminishes. So am I better focusing on short power with two Vo2 max workouts against one Vo2 max in general build. I see this a mitigating the ageing process with the available tools.

My short term aim is not to get dropped on the Thursday night club ride ( mostly dropped on hilly routes) which are spicey but always enjoyable with a mid term aim to build on my fitness throughout the summer and start winter training 2023 with a higher ftp than last winter.

So last Spring through to September I dropped around 20 watts, two club rides and a longer ride on Sunday wasn’t enough to maintain my fitness when compared with structured training. Again any thoughts on next steps here please?

Thanks in advance

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FWIW… I bought a power meter at 54 and a half, near the end of my first season. Now at the beginning of my eighth season. The data is clear, I only get slower when dropping volume, no matter how much intensity. Slower and my power curve moves down. Increase volume, even if 80% is endurance riding, and I get faster and power curve moves up. There is more to the story, but those basic facts are aligned with the science I’ve looked at.

So I think your instinct of using LV with 2 days of endurance is a good one. Based on my pre-AT experience I’d drop LV down to 2 days, or with AT maybe I’d keep high-intensity PLs lower and simply not push on progression. I dunno, not using PLs or AT,

Regarding age and vo2max, my two high water vo2max benchmarks are Spring 2017 and early 2023 (now). Simplifying the story again, my vo2max is at the same high water mark now vs then. Now is built on ~8 hours/week with lots of endurance, versus then at 6.5 hours/week and a LOT of high intensity and inconsistency from injuries and teetering on edge of overreaching. At times I feel like the past 2 years have gone against what I thought I read in Friel’s Fast After 50, but its working. Not going to argue against my results.

When it gets hot in the summer I ride less and lose a little sustained power, more like 10 watts, but it quickly comes back after a month of more endurance riding. One thing for sure, my group rides are much harder than structured training unless I dial back the intensity, and I don’t see declines in fitness unless I can’t recover. Most of my all-time power PRs are from group riding or solo training just-before/during my prime group riding season.

Ultimately its all about you, your situation, and how you respond to training. My philosophy is to experiment and figure out what works and what doesn’t work. Then double down on what works until that plateaus and stops increasing performance.

Hope something I’ve written is helpful.


Low volume :+1:

If I were you, YMMV, usual caveats etc etc

Replace one of the three TR rides with a longish low-to-mid Z2 ride that you can progress based on duration.

Whichever remaining TR rides you choose to keep, progress one or both of them sensibly but ambitiously. Probably a fair bit faster than adaptive training suggests, at least at first. Hard days hard. Easy days easy. Ideally schedule your hard days 3 days apart and after a rest or recovery day.

Add as many other Z2 and or recovery rides as you can comfortably manage.


Old fast gizzard advice would be to fully customize your plan.

1 Session of Hard VO2max.
1 Session of Hard threshold, long SST or Suprathresold that mimics the hilly nature of your rides.
1 Long Ride at Z2 in all its forms, easy, normal, top of the zone. Aim for at least 3-4h
1 Short Z2 rice at least 1.5h. Moderate your intensity according to how u feel.

To add time extend the z2 days or add a 5th day. And don’t forget to add heavy weights.

To progress time in zone in the hard days start easy in time but hard in intensity. Don’t be afraid to do really short intervals, just make sure you keep upping the load. Start with 7-10 min of Tiz of hard VO2max.


I’m of the opposite opinion, based on results. Focus on increasing endurance riding at the expense of progressions. Increase your capacity to do work. Which will increase your recovery budget. A bigger recovery budget means you can go longer (below ftp) or harder (above ftp), and not blow up. Consistency for the win. Only then do event and other goals come into focus on how to organize 3 and 2 day mini blocks each week, to elicit specific adaptations. Literally more is more, and less is more. Know which is which.

Same. I hired a coach to help me navigate, and it’s distilled into that paragraph above.

Good luck and have fun!


This has been my same goal for the last 3 years. I can now hang on a lot longer than I used to, but I still get dropped on the punchy climbs that last between 3-8 minutes. I used sustained build last year thinking a higher ftp would help, which it did for sure. However, I lacked the top end needed to stay with the smaller guys for the 2nd half of our hills. So this year I am going with either general build OR short power build. The more I think about it though I realize it probably does not matter which one. Do which one looks more interesting to you. I think this decision falls into the overthinking category.

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General build has anaerobic workouts which might even be better for us aging folks


In my experience, and at the same age as you, the issue isn’t necessarily what you are doing training wise it is the fact that as you get older you lose that punchy short sprint power. Age tends to turn you into a diesel. Some riders manage to hold onto more of that peaky punchy power but I’m not convinced it’s necessarily their training that allows them to do that I think it is their genetics.

If you can hang on over the first few climbs with the youngsters I find they have burnt enough matches that the diesel can keep with the group.


I agree. That’s why my first suggestion was removing one of the days of intensity and replacing it with a long Z2 ride. :man_shrugging:t2:

I’m 56 years old to add to this ageing discussion.

Like @WindWarrior I am currently at an all time high estimated VO2 max. The estimates were bumped up yesterday. I have a Lab VO2 max number from May 18 and based on fitness compared to then I’d say the estimates are definitely in the ball park. But even if they are out the trend is clear and it’s not in decline.

This is my 2023 volume averages. Ignore the monthly session average, February is only half way through. I’ve found that the fitness needle moved at 8 hours average a week a year ago.

My week looks a bit like this

Monday - recovery ride, Z1 no more than an hour
Tue - VO2 Max
Wed - Medium Z2
Thu - High intensity of some kind but not VO2 max. I’ll often use this day for longer duration high intensity intervals . It may instead be Z2 if I’m progressing some extra volume.
Fri - Rest day completely off the bike
Sat - The long Z2 ride
Sun - A shorter Z2 which may include some tempo efforts

Mon, Tue, Fri, Sat tend to be the regulars. Plus the mid week Z2 on Wed or Thu. The rest of the days vary depending what block I’m in, and what week of the block.

I tend to keep the single VO2 max there regardless of what phase I’m in. I found from experience that once a week is enough to maintain it, and if I’m also doing enough volume to even increase it, like now.


All, thank you again for sharing what works for you, it seems after various iterations with the plan builder I have a framework which leaves me flexibility based on how I’m feeling and overall fatigue.

As you can see I’m following the general consensus of two hard workouts a week supplemented by various intensities of endurance rides. I’ve used the medium volume polarised plan and added one extra endurance ride.

I’m looking forward to the next eight weeks and building my knowledge of what works for me personally. It’s more than likely I’ll migrate the 3 hour plus endurance rides to outside to make them sustainable from a personal perspective, although I will try and tighten the nut and stick to indoors as the focus and ability to target specific power is so much easier and so much more productive.


Looks good. I’m 60 and have found the polarized plan lengthens my TTE, especially in long gravel races. 90-120 minutes of Z2 especially at the upper end can be a powerful thing.


:+1: I’d swap Wed and Friday. Hard day after a rest day.


Like what you experienced, I found even though my volume would increase over the year from May to September my FTP would decline. For me I think the problem is my intensity is too much of it. Still learning how to ease off on the intensity when I bump volume. The volume helps for how I feel on longer rides but it doesnt seem to enable my FTP to stay. I still find I need intensity. I have noticed this over the last 3 to 4 years. I had a good year last year. The first year without a decline in FTP in September. I did hit my peak in October which is very unusual for me.

I am 62. I do a low volume TR plan with 2 days of intensity and 2 days of endurance. Trying to stay with AIFTP and TRs plans. I do sub workouts when I feel I need to. Last year I maintained a day of VO2, on Tuesday and just progressed it throughout the year. My Thursday would be another day of intensity but it would vary between sweet spot or threshold all depending on what plan I was on or modifying. My Tuesday and Thursdays are most of the time 75 minute workouts. I do use alternates a lot to get the timing to be what I want. I do every Tuesday and Thursday rides on the trainer. I find outside workouts just dont work for me. I maintain more consistent work inside. My other rides will be outside, weather permitting.

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is all-year VO2 Tuesday possible while cycling thru TR base/build/specialty? What happens when plan builder gives you SSB1? Alternates don’t apply here, right?

I’m 100% with you on doing intensity throughout the year, at our age its use it or lose it. Skip a strength workout during the week? Pay for it next week. Don’t ride for 4 days? Pay for it on the next couple of rides. Don’t do some above threshold work for a week? Pay for it next week. Use it or lose it.

My first plan was SSB1 HV and in retrospect it was a bad idea for two reasons, the biggest being that I did it a) Inside, and b) in Erg mode. Well, maybe one outside in week 3 or something. Basically 5 weeks of ZERO work above threshold… because inside+erg = no late ride sprints, no power surges to make a traffic light, no torque surge when the light turns from red to green, etc, etc. Traditional Base 1 and 2 are like that too, unless you do it outside or pay attention to the use it or lose it principle and add some high intensity. Makes the polarized plans look more interesting.

Well let me layout my typical year which helps to deal with how I handle my summer. I layout my plan for the year with TR Plan Builder. So my goal is normally a year away, typically a date in Sept. I can see where I will have trouble and then will adjust for recovery. This means I ensure I get extra weeks of just endurance. So it typically is as follows:

October to January- Take it easy period, do base, typically no or little vo2. SSBLV2 does have VO2
Feb to March- tends to be build in here…so VO2 on Tuesdays. Thursdays Threshold.
April-Tax season so mostly endurance, but will have sweetspot/threshold in first two weeks.
May to September- VO2 on Tuesdays. I will switch a workout to get my VO2 if it is not there.

So last year May to August, roughly 16 weeks, 12 Tuesdays of VO2 is what I did.
The previous year I declined over the summer and I felt it was the lack of my VO2 workouts that I had done in the previous year.

Dont think there is a perfect plan. Always need to tweak something.


There’s a study , don’t ask me to dig it out, I’m not a researcher and don’t have all this stuff meticulously bookmarked / favourited!

They had two populations and in the off season one population just did low intensity base miles, the other population did base miles but also included high intensity once a week. Without the study I can’t tell you if it was VO2 max, but it was at least threshold and above type intensity.

After this off season which I think was about 6-8 weeks both populations resumed with the same training. The group that hadn’t done any high intensity in that off season never caught up to the other group after another 16 weeks of training.

This tallies with my experience from when I used to drop the high intensity entirely for a few weeks each year. I wasn’t so much on a plateau as I would climb up a mountain one season, then in the off season return to the valley, then the next season spend my time getting back up a mountain of equal height.

The breakthrough came when I started keeping at least one high intensity a week, even in my off season / down period. I’d then resume training at a higher base, and get up a higher mountain the next season and so on. I’m now seeing how far this can take me, season after season.

This doesn’t mean you need to be doing structured stuff all the time. In fact in my off season I drop structured. What I do is have one ride a week where I say don’t place any limits, go hammer up that hill if you want, go chase down that fast rider ahead etc… I keep the rest in the easy domain, but I don’t structure them as such, just have discipline about intensity.

I’ve seen a chart somewhere that you lose gains 4 times as fast as you make them. Thus if you let fitness slide for a month, it’ll take you four months to recover it etc. That’s four months just getting back to where you were.


I’d likely make the following changes to @slowmart ’s weekly plan

Monday - 1 hour of Z2
Tue - VO2 max
Wed - 2 hour of Z2
Thu - Rest day
Fri - Threshold
Sat - Rest
Sun - Long Z2 day

Reasoning. I’ve found an hour of spinning the legs the day before a VO2 helps keep them loose and ready. I don’t find a medium Z2 session day after VO2 a problem, and loosens legs up. I like longer Threshold intervals to be on fresh legs as they work muscular endurance in my case. I like to be rested after that before a long Z2 outing.

The 1 and 2 hour Z2 are approximations but emphasis a week has short Z2, medium Z2, and long Z2. The hours of each changing depending on progression and hours available.

Slowmart I approve of your outline weekly content. It’s the kind of structure working for me. If you can be consistent I’m sure you’ll see progression. Increase the load progressively within the limits of your available time and I’m sure you’ll see results. Every fourth week I reduce volume to about 60% and number of high intensity intervals to about 50% (whilst maintaining intensity) of my peak week that block. It’s kept me injury free and healthy all this time. Don’t be afraid to skip a workout if you can feel a tight Achilles or calf or an upper respiratory infection developing. It’s often counterproductive to continue in those cases. If you get sick or injured then consistency is out the window.