Any physiological reason why threshold or VO2 should be hard to ride at if haven't done so for months?

Is this a mental thing or is there a genuine reason for why it feels so hard to ride at threshold or above for any length of time if you haven’t do so for a long time?

You always have a threshold, or a best power you could ride at for an hour surely? I see lot of people saying how hard they feel their first weeks of threshold or VO2 is and I’ve tested this earlier in the week myself. I wasn’t fresh necessarily but I said I’ll go and ride for 20 mins at threshold, but my legs and heart didn’t really want to stay there. I ended up doing over 80 minutes non-stop at sweet spot and felt like that wasn’t exactly stressful. Is there some reason why I (and I’m sure many others) find it hard to get the heart rate and legs going at threshold and above? Also tried a VO2 interval last week and just felt totally shut down. Really not used to it - not so much dying, but rather a feeling of being shutdown if that makes sense.

What’s the science say?

Well the main reason most people have difficulties w/riding at threshold is because they have their FTP set to high. Take a typical threshold workout of 2x20min@FTP (~40-70min power) as an example. If one cannot do this, then their FTP is too high.

I know! I know. The FTP is set from the “xxxx test”. Well, we are all still individuals w/varying physiologies. For several individuals w/the same FTP, the same workouts may very well feel different. That’s why we can manually adjust the %. That is why tempo, sweet spot, VO2 are given as ranges.

As for VO2, VO2 is hard. RPE 9 or 10. Your legs, heart, and/or lungs may individually scream at you or all scream at you simultaneously. One has to be willing to go there and stay there aka embrace the suck! If you are not rested physically or prepared mentally, you will not go to sucks-ville!

In your case, it sounds like maybe you are not so motivated at the moment. Ride easy. Ride w/out structure. Just go ride! or maybe you need a mental break :man_shrugging:


Maybe it’s a psychological phenomenon?

I know I spend about a decade and a half competing in another sport where the exact opposite belief was (colloquially?) held. In fact, a previously well trained individual that came back after a long layoff would be advised to take new maximal numbers in the SECOND week back. Maximal lifts recorded in the first few workouts back were referred to as ‘bustin the couch muscle cherry’ & folks would assume that level of performance would not again be achieved for several weeks. ‘Couch muscle’ was a thing some people really believed in…in other words legit coaches were sure if you took a muscle bioposy before and after those first few workouts you would be able to identify the ‘couch muscle’ strands. :rofl::rofl:

So, maybe I’ve been brainwashed, but for me my first VO2 workout after a layoff busts my couch muscle cherry. It feels GREAT! But only the first one! Can’t get back to that level of performance for a while.