As well as FTP, how else should I judge my progress?

Hello,

I am quite new to structured training such as TrainerRoad. I do feel like it is having an effect. My leg muscles are certainly feeling it as I am now spending more time on the turbo and putting in proper efforts as currently per SSB 1 Mid Volume.

I notice that one of the key measurable metrics to help guide a progressive training stimulus is FTP.

i.e. we measure our FTP’s regularly, every 5 to 8 weeks etc and the training program intensities are modified, based off this FTP etc.

I know you have to base this progression on something and FTP is it here.

However, is this the best in all circumstances? What about the differences between sprinters, long distance athletes, mountain bikers, cyclo cross, Time Trialists etc.

I am aware that the later speciality phases may better target each of these activities differently, but is there a case to suggest even the earlier training should also be more specific and not be related to FTP.

Here is a GCN video that covers this in more detail and it certainly got me thinking. It is quite long (about 24 mins).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfGsUFw5PhE

Maybe you already have a view without watching the video and I would appreciate various thoughts on FTP and basing most of the training upon this measure.

This question is not meant to invalidate the TrainerRoad way as I know I am progressing and I recognise in myself that there is still a heck of a lot of progress available in my training.

But can it be speeded up even further?

Thanks,
Colin

Yes, it’s a good point and worth noting. The GCN video is a good illustration of the different physical demands that this sport requires. Cycling isn’t just one thing and training specificity can elicit different performance gains on the bike. That is exactly why there is such a deep workout library in TR and such diverse training plans.

That said, FTP is a pretty good marker of your overall cycling capabilities and it’s a tide that lifts all boats. Your 5 min power absolutely will be stronger in a 300 watt FTP rider compared to a 200 watt rider (all other things being equal). A lot of this has to do with what happens to you physiologically when you start working above FTP. Once you start generating lactate faster than your cells can clear it, performance starts to tank really quickly. Anyone who’s done VO2Max repeats knows this feeling well. So I think placing a high priority on FTP is beneficial for two main reasons:

  1. Work that is sub-threshold is allows for faster recovery. So a good understanding of where your FTP is means that you can maximize your training efficiency in the long term by doing as much work as possible without putting you in a dark place.
  2. Since a higher FTP will in general improve performance across the board, it makes sense to increase it as much as possible. Most TR users aren’t professional athletes who can focus 100% on training. As a result, I think the average TR user likely has FTP increases as the lowest hanging fruit of improvement. If we were all at 5-6 watts/kg with our FTP being 85% of our VO2Max, it would be different. For most of us, that’s just not the case.
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Along with your FTP you should know/have a power profile of 5 sec, 1 minute and 5 minute max power. With that data a fatigue profile or strength and limiters can be isolated and then trained. Not sure if TR can do all that which is why I still really think there is value in something like Training Peaks/WKO+.

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TR gives you a max power profile which includes 5 sec, 1 min, 5 min, and pretty much every possible time period you can care about. It’s under career -> personal records. You can also sort it by season, so that you can get the max effort you’ve given recently.

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@colinio Your questions are insightful for someone new to structured training and the GCN video does a good job at highlighting why FTP (and for that matter, any single data point) is not a great sole metric for your performance on the bike. [note: FTP’s primary purpose is for determining training zones, not for measuring performance]

Every endurance athlete (cyclists, swimmers, runners) have what is known as a power duration curve (PDC). It is a chart, usually plotted with power on the Y axis (for runners and swimmers it could be distance on the Y axis) and [the logarithmic of] time on the X axis. Based on the shape of your PDC curve, it will highlight whether you fall into 1 of 4 categories, known as phenotypes: sprinter, TT, climber, all-around. And then a coach will look at your curve to determine your “limiters” (i.e. where you need to improve) based on your goals and customize a training plan for you.

If you want a deeper understanding of your performance along the PDC, the world authority on cycling power metrics is Dr. Andrew Coggan. He is the developer of most metrics that TrainerRoad uses, such as Normalized Power (NP), Intensity Factor (IF) and Training Test Score (TSS), as well as more advanced metrics including ATL, CTL, TSB, pMax, mFTP and more recently, FRC, TTE, Stamina and iLevels, important to those of us who want a deeper understanding and want to truly maximize our workouts. It’s not a light read, but “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” by Hunter Allen and Dr. Andrew Coggan is the bible. And as @Landis mentions, the software tool that you would use along side of TrainerRoad to track and measure your results across all of these metrics is Training Peak’s WK04 (that is certified by Dr. Coggan to implement his metrics).

But as you can tell from just the list of metrics, there is a steep learning curve to this material. What TrainerRoad has done is make training with power simple. You may not achieve what a highly knowledgeable private coach could do for you with a customized plan, but perhaps you will achieve 90-95% without having to spend the $, or if you are self coached, invest the amount of time it takes to fully understand it and implement a “better” program with the loss of time prior to understanding this.

My advice would be to pick a TR plan that makes sense to you and pending interest, learn on the side. If/when you get to the point that you have enough of an understanding of these metrics and your #s, you can begin customizing your sessions/plan.

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Coming back to your original question, I think the answer is yes your training could be sped up IF you were only interested in 1 specific thing. For example, if there was a Strava segment near your house which has a KOM time of 2 mins and you only cared about that and nothing else, you could train just for 2 min power. Raising your overall FTP would help you get faster on a 2 min climb, but it would also help you more broadly as a cyclist, which you could consider wasteful training time. You’d likely be better off just doing 2 min VO2Max intervals and nothing else with the sole goal of increasing power over 2 mins.

This is obviously a big if. I don’t know anything that is that narrow in their cycling goals. Most people want to generally be good all-around but have specific goals in mind, like being competitive in a Triathlon for example. And the TR plans are designed exactly this way, to efficiently develop general cycling strength but performance skewed to particular effort based needs.

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Another useful metric is W/kg. That will give you a good indication of your overall potential.

Say you weigh 65kg and have an FTP of 260, then you will be at 4w/kg. If you have an FTP of 300 but weigh 85kg then you will be at 3.76w/kg

On the flat the heavier rider will most likely be faster, but in most other scenarios that involve climbing then the lighter rider would have the advantage, even though they have less power.

That’s why sprinters never win the Tour de France! :slight_smile:

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Thinking beyond the PD curve but, that’s a start.

There are lots of ways to measure progress many of which have been mentioned above. FTP is the most common one for lost of reasons, some more valid than others.

It’s usually a good peg to hang the rest of your training on in a fairly basic way especially if you’re new to structured training. As you pick up more knowledge along the way you’ll become more aware of its limitations and how they apply to you as an individual.

One of the many ways I personally track progress is tracking power durations over time. I use Golden Cheetah for analysis and one of the charts I’ve created tracks my best power each week over different times.

This is my chart for Aerobic Normalised Power from after my last race last year in September - my best power (here displayed weekly) over 20m, 52m, 90m, 2h and 3h durations with trend lines. This mostly covers for me the TrainerRoad Traditional Base training programmes. I’ve got variations of the chart both for average power over the same durations and similar charts for anaerobic power for shorter durations. Having the trend lines sloping up is always a good thing and will be a marker of progress either positive or negative. One of the advantages of using software like this is that I can track progress over different periods of time, changing the chart to show different periods of time like the ‘seasons’ feature in the TrainerRoad power duration curve chart.

You don’t need to use other software to do this though, you can track these figures yourself in any format, a spreadsheet or just writing them down in a chart if you want. It can be as easy or as complicated as you need it to be.

Obviously all of those will have different goals and priorities but not to the exclusion of everything else. There are well documented training programmes of track sprinters and kilo riders completing lots of long distance aerobic training before focussing more on the specific demands of their event as it gets closer.

Conversely those who are targeting long distance races might be well served trying to increase short duration power before again becoming more specific towards the goal event.

Different riders will prioritise improvements in different durations dependent on their target events - what gets trained will improve the most - but for most cases if your FTP improves the likelihood is that your abilities at most durations will improve as well. How you judge your progress however doesn’t just have to be judged on FTP but it’s probably a pretty good marker.

Training can be optimised for the specifics of what you want to prioritise the most but probably not as quickly as any of us would like. Improvement for endurance sports is measured in months and years, not days and weeks.

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In addition to improving your PD curve, I’ll throw looking at deoxygenation/oxygenation rates, and your Hg to SMO2 relationship (the disassociation curve) when using a muscle oxygenation monitor.

I’ve done a couple of short interval sessions with the Humon (8 x :30 all out, then 4:30 recovery, and a VO2-focused fartlek ride of four ~ 11min loops of 4min hill, 4min recovery, 1min hill, 2min recovery). Looking at the SMO2 and Hg graphs, I can see that not only could I look for improvement in how much power I’m generating on the hard efforts, but also how quickly the SMO2 plunges down on 3-5min intervals, and :30-:60 ones.

On a 3-5 min effort, a slow deoxygenation rate, and shallower dip in the SMO2 curve, for the same power as an effort a few weeks or months earlier, would show that more of the power is being generated aerobically; a steeper curve, with higher power, would show the ability to access more of the anaerobic system (also, steeper curves on succeeding intervals in one set would show more aerobic fatigue and a larger dependence on the anaerobic system, even though the power might be the same – conversely, no steepening of the downward curve would show increasing ability to repeat VO2 max efforts without dipping into the anaerobic bank).

On efforts under 1 minute, it would be all about steepening the deoxygenation curve – if that thing is diving down, you would be accessing more and more energy anaerobically, which is what you’d want to do on AC efforts.

For any duration of effort, looking at how quickly oxygenation rates come back up during the recoveries would tell you how/how not your body’s ability to recover and refuel the muscles is coming along – not something we always think about with the focus on watts, watts, watts.

It’s one more gizmo to yutz with and wear, but looking at how the power is being generated over the course of an interval set or fartlek ride, in addition to how much power is being generated, could tell you something about how your training is/is not developing the systems that you’re targeting.

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Many very useful replies thank you.

I do want to improve various aspects of my cycling ability this season, but my priority for 5 to 6 months from now is to be much stronger in my Time Trials. I have some very specific goals/times I want to reach on courses that I am now familiar with.

None are pan flat, but none are hilly. Most are mildly rolling at times or have long drags of a few miles with gradients between 2% and 4%. These are usually out and back courses, so you get the benefit of the slope but have to fight it on the way back or vice-versa etc.

As TrainerRoad uses FTP so heavily, I wanted to ensure I don’t lose heart if I only see modest FTP gains (despite hard training) over the coming months.

Hence I wanted to offer myself encouragement beforehand if I am disappointed in future tests yet “feel” stronger overall.

And also see if there are ways to ensure I make the most of my 5 to 6 hours a week training time in relation to my specific Time Trial goals.

Future seasons my see my focus on other things, but for the next year or three, completing faster Time Trials is my focus.

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Pick a plan, commit to sticking to it and you will see improvements. I’ve seen my TT performance improve hugely using TR plans as a base. One of the beauties of TR is you can let them worry about the details in the planning of sessions and leave you to focus on the bigger picture.

This is one of the reasons I track trends over time for different durations. There can sometimes be an over reliance on single tests to judge progress and there are a few threads on here about just that.

God forbid that you might just be having a bad day or that the power meter you use might have calibrated slightly differently, or respond differently to heat build up in your pain cave… or that you might just have had a exceptional day the last time you tested. Testing is all well and good, and usually useful, but if you follow a plan and then test at a lower number than you hope to see you (almost certainly) won’t have regressed as a rider overall.

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In the base phase I’ve just completed (“Olympic Triathlon Base”) my only focus was on becoming more comfortable in aero. I’ve completed the majority of every workout in aero, which I haven’t done in the past.

I’ve recently tested a few watts lower in my recent ramp test (all the drinking in Dec probably didn’t help!), but at the same time am way more comfortable in my aero position, so I’m happy. Hopefully I’ll get the watts back in the build/speciality plans I’ll be doing next, plus will have a better position on the bike for when I get to race season.

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At what distance? 25k, 40k, 100k?

There are enormous differences in the training focus, particularly as you move beyond Base phase. TrainerRoad Forum has many TTers who excel at the various distances. If I reworded your thread, it would read something like: "My A race is my FTP, what do you recommend I do to maximize it or speed up the progression to my specific FTP goal?

My suggestion is that you peruse other threads with TT dialogue and perhaps reach out individually if needed. And perhaps there are even threads specifically on TT (just use the search bar).

Thanks Bobmac,

My focus is on 10 mile TT and 25 mile (40K) TT.

My current best 10 mile TT is 21 min 17 secs (target = under 20 min 30 secs)

My current best 25 mile TT is 58 min 22 secs (target = under 56 mins)

I started TTing late last year and these times are from this season. I am still in my prime at 53 years of age :wink: cough…

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53, you’re a youngster! I’m 61 and if you want to see what we are capable of as we get older, take a look at this:
https://trainright.com/goal-setting-aging-older-athletes/

Somewhat coincidental, Your TT target events are very similar to what I am pursuing. I have a phenotype of a TTer (which generally means a somewhat flat PDC curve), but am targeting road events, that have power requirements somewhat inline with your target events. So I will give you my 2c, and as I mentioned earlier, there are some strong TTers on the Forum that may be able to give you better advice:

  1. Endurance/aerobic Base: Absolutely critical, particularly as you get into longer efforts (i.e. the 40k TT). It’s the ability to efficiently utilize glycogen and metabolize fat for long efforts. For you, I’d try to get a 2-3 endurance ride in every week (for me, its more like 3-6 that I mostly get when the weather cooperates).

  2. Muscular Endurance: Sweet Spot work in the SSB program is incredibly important and very helpful. It (88-94% of FTP) is literally the foundation for the Threshold work you will do in SSB II. When you mention about “speeding things up”, if you have the training base coming into TR or can ramp your weekly TSS and recover, then there are certain things you can do. For example, I exchanged Galena (3 x 20mins) for for Galena+4 (4x 20). Numerous other examples. But the reason I know I could handle it, was because of knowing and using the metrics I mentioned earlier (ATL, CTL and TSB). Without such tools, I could put myself in debt and perhaps have a setback. And the benefits of this are significant. For example, last week on our cycling team’s group ride, the first climb was a 3mi 8% grade normally taking 24-25mins. I was +20W compared to prior to SSB and it was my fastest 20min all year excluding my 20min FTP tests and WITHOUT going anaerobic to do so.

  3. Over/Unders: Huge value to you (and me). The ability to train yourself to go over (build excess lactic acid) and clear is extremely helpful, particularly for a TTer who is operating at his/her edge. And similar to above, knowing my #s I increased McAdie (5x9mins O/Us) to McAdie+Extra (6x12, my own adjustment to the workout). But again, you need the base fitness and need a deeper understanding of what your body can handle. And this is why just following the TR Plan works for most.

  4. Threshold efforts: SSBII introduces VO2 Max and Threshold efforts (at least the SSB MVII that I am currently doing). It builds upon the 1, 2, and 3 above. To show you the power of the approach, today I did Kaweah (5x10min threshold from 96-99% FTP). With a slight increase to 100% in the last interval from the prescribed 96%, my NP for the 90minute effort, including the warmup and rest intervals, was equal to my 90min hill TT from 1.5 years ago. Since my “A” race next June is the 90min hill TT (technically its a mass start race up the hill, but quickly it turns into a TT as the field spreads out) so I’m roughly running about 2-3 months ahead of schedule.

I think the bottom line summary from my perspective is this:

By following the TR plan as prescribed you will achieve 90-95% of your potential for a pretty inexpensive investment. To achieve 100%, you need a private coach to tailor your workouts exactly to your physiology and training experience or the knowledge I have only begun to describe.

“Speeding up” can come taking on additional load, but only if you have the training base to absorb it. Otherwise, you run the risk of being in debt and not being able to achieve the benefits of subsequent workouts. Of course, “speeding up” can also come from narrowing your goals as @JulianM describes above, for example solely focus on the 10k TT, but it comes at the cost of not building a strong base for other goals, such as the 40K TT. Again, I’d suggest seeking out the advice of other TTers.

Good luck!!!

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Bobmac,

Thank you ever so much for your detailed reply and excellent words of encouragement.

It was such a good reply and well thought out one that I don’t quite know how to respond, apart from saying a big thank you for the time and effort you took to reply.

Sometimes when I give good replies myself to various questions on forums, I may reread what I said months later and think, omg, that was such a good and useful reply I wrote, I should use that advice myself. In other words, things I often say to others acts as a reminder to myself :slight_smile:

So I hope you reread these useful comments of yours again one day and also re-inspire yourself.

So thank you once again.

Colin

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  • How swole your legs look. When you struggle to fit into your trousers you’re making serious leg gains
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I also look at my recovery in between intervals as well as rides. It tells me a lot about how my body is responding to the stress and if I think it can handle more.
I just came off of a 3 day back to back V02 Max workouts *Agassiz, San Joachin +5 and Wynne +1) and still felt good the day after. No way was I there last winter. I didn’t intend to do three V0s Max workouts back to back but was waiting for my new plan to start and figured Id play around and go with what my body tells me it feels capable of. As a diabetic I have had to learn the hard way to listen to the feedback my body gives because I can ride myself into a depleted and immune compromised state if I don’t.
In fact one of my goals this year is to listen to my body more and stare at my stem less.
Good luck!

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I haven’t masters “track” stand… I’ll progress once I can do it! Ha

Depend on what you do, I like racing crits… I’m putting alot of emphasis this year working on bike stability, tight cornering, and overall handling. It will not make you faster in term of power, but it will shaved time in cornering and such!