At a loss and losing motivation

I started cycling to work just over 3 years ago and got a more serious about it a couple of years ago, got an indoor trainer, started going out for long rides at the weekend, did my first century ride. Last year I decided to do the London Duathlon and followed a training plan from 220 magazine which helped me to get faster both on the bike and on my feet.

I enjoyed having plan to follow and, with winter approaching, I decided to get a smart trainer and start using TR, mainly because of the podcast, to have a proper structured training plan. Started on the SSB1 medium volume, first ramp test gave me 212 (3 w/kg) which I thought was ok as I’m not young and haven’t led a particularly healthy life. Two weeks in I got a chest infection and had to stop exercising for about 3 weeks. Start again, ramp test gives me 194, after a week or so the workouts feel too easy so I up the FTP to 210 and all seems good, workouts are hard but do-able. Finish the 6 weeks and start SSB2 medium volume, ramp test gives me 207. Pretty disappointed but thought maybe the intermittent fast (16/8) I had been following was maybe the reason. I stop the IF and crack on with next plan, worked hard, completed all the workouts, followed the rest days and easy last week. Ramp test gives me 201, depressed I try again, too soon I know, the next day and get a worse result. Decide to try the 20 minute test to see if any difference, waited 3 days and got….203.

I am struggling with motivation to keep following the plans as I don’t know what I am doing wrong and I am clearly not getting the results most folks seem to, has anyone else had this problem?

FWIW - it could be a million things but look at nutrition, rest and consider going back and restart at SSB LV2 and back fill, as needed.

If you’re not used to structured training, you’re gonna get your tail waxed at mid volume. It doesn’t look tough…but it is.

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Welcome to the TR community and congratulations on picking up the cycling & running habit later in life.

It is natural to benchmark ourselves against others but there are so many variables to make it a successful exercise to just look at random cyclists. For example, the guy posting that he picked up cycling last year and his FTP went from 180 to 360 in just one year! You should be able to match that! Of course he failed to mention that he was a division 1 cross-country runner. :slight_smile: I did the same thing when I started training a about 6 years ago from a decidedly non-endurance background.

Here a couple of things I’ve learned about endurance training from what has worked for me and from the podcasts

  1. Your endurance training history is very short. Endurance takes a long time develop.
  2. Endurance has multiple energy systems + a mental component that requires consistent training to develop.
  3. Training set-backs happen. Illness can really derail you.
  4. Nutrition and sleep are the foundations for training. Without them it s very hard to progress even with the best plan.
  5. IF, Keto and other nutrition strategies are hard to incorporate when you doing anything beyond MAF level workouts (see below). If I could only change one thing about how I approached my first couple of years of training it would be to eat my CARBS and not do keto.
  6. Using the MAF approach to endurance and easy days relative to sweet spot or above workouts does work for building your aerobic base and durability especially if you have short training history.
  7. Did I mention that eating carbs is magic.
  8. Fueling during workouts is very helpful.
  9. Try the Low volume plans and if they go well add in MAF volume to lift your TSS
  10. Strive for consistency in doing the workouts, sleeping and your nutrition, and be patient, the results will come.
  11. Strength training is important

We all have different responses to training and will improve at different rates. You will learn what works for you. You got this @Cwrob

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These are all incredibly valid points. Proper sleep and eating well can make a workout go from feeling like you’re going to die to feeling tough but doable. Also, vegan cyclist posted this video a little while back that has a very valid point to anyone who is looking to utilize any form of structured training.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymhnN2SbQdc

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213w --> 203w = ~5% drop.

Not the best scenario but also doesn’t tell the complete story.

For instance, I had a ~2.5% drop doing Base again after completing Build.
My FTP went down simply because my abilities I had been training were not represented all that well by doing the Ramp Test. I did another type of test which resulted in a +/- 0%. Still no change but I was definitely a much stronger rider in areas which aren’t really demonstrated in fitness tests.

I am also new to structured training/TR this year and the two biggest factors which have helped me improve are nutrition and rest. You will require proper quality and quantity of both if you want as much success as possible. When I was doing a lot of work in Build, I was also eating and sleeping a LOT more, but then I tried to do a VO2max workout this week without eating…total failure. I still haven’t learned!!

Another tip to help you through is to have a goal to motivate you to do all the hard work. “Getting the biggest FTP possible” isn’t going to do it. Make it specific and specific to you. As well, define your purpose for doing each and every workout (e.g. “This is going to increase my ability to tolerate ‘the burn’.” – over-unders).

With all that said, great thing is you can always stop and reset. Wipe the slate clean and start over. Sometimes even the best of cyclists have crappy seasons and terrible training.

Good luck!

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Thanks, I do struggle with sleep but have a, mainly, healthy whole food diet.
I had been loosely following a plan during the summer when I was exercising about 12-14 hours a week so the 5-6 hours of mid volume was not too taxing and I really enjoyed the hard efforts.

Thanks for the great reply.
I am not looking at specifics but the general trend seems to be FTP gains from following the plans and while I don’t expect massive gains I really didn’t expect to go down.
I do most of what you recommend apart from get good sleep which I really struggle with and could be the main factor.
I feel that my endurance is fairly good, I find the sweet spot workouts the easiest. I am definitely not a fast twitch type.
I live for carbs, before, during and after exercise. I fuel all the workouts after the podcast with Amber. I now fast one day a week and will only do recovery rides on that day.
I do weight lifting and body weight exercises twice a week.
I am currently thinking to try the Olympic Triathlon medium volume build plan (3 rides per week) next and substitute zone 2 type workouts for the swim ones, hopefully that will have some kind of positive effect.
I really appreciate your reply, thanks

Sleep does seem to be my main problem here. I do eat well and I have watched VC’s vid, a wee bit of a fan of him. I do have discipline and will keep going, just a bit down with at the moment, thanks for the link though.

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I do feel stronger and fitter but this is definitely not reflected in the tests.
As I have said in other replies my sleep is not good, I have become pretty good at lying still with my eyes closed but this doesn’t have quite the same effect as actually sleeping…
I am not hugely focused on the FTP number itself, it is all relative and is never going to be that impressive, it’s just the feeling of putting in the work but getting no gains is what I have found demotivating. I use exercise to deal with my demons so there is purpose and determination there and I do ‘embrace’ the burn/pain/suffering but the reasoning behind the whole TR/smart trainer was to have a plan with measurable gains. I had worked out a pretty similar plan based on HR with a dumb trainer, sweet spot, threshold, etc. but could not tell if there was real improvement so had hoped for a little more than this.
Hopefully once the weather changes and I get out into the actual world I will feel a positive difference, it may just be that TR does not work for me? I will keep trying for a while though.
Thanks for the positivity.

Unless you are getting paid to ride professionally, there is nothing wrong with having some time off TR, do something different, go for a run, the pub, or spend the week watching movies after work and eating dessert after every dinner.

The hunger will come back, but I know when I lost mine, I started slowley doing some short interval sessions, I dropped my ftp so they challenge but dont mentally push me.

Good luck

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A few thoughts:

  1. Don’t worry so much about FTP.
  2. Switch to low volume and do more outside rides
  3. Pick up a new discipline - eg mtb, cyclocross, gravel
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As @DaveWh says, don’t worry too much about FTP. Mine has been pretty much the same over the last year, and I’ve got much fitter / faster. I just suck at testing, and mentally give up before I should.

I rate my progress based on my general fitness rather than just the FTP measure.

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You’re right, it’s too easy to get fixated on the small things. Went to the gym today and just ran then did some strength work. I also got a small number to like, 8.5% body fat, doh! Getting fixated again…
Thanks

Luckily the weather is turning and I will be able to commute by bike again this week to distract me and I. An just enjoy riding a bike in the real world.
Thanks

Thanks for that, glad to know I am not completely alone. I do feel fitter but falling into the trap in my head of believing the numbers.

I think this is where you should focus on: do I feel better or not? You are not making money from cycling, so it should not turn into a compulsion but something that you enjoy and gives you a break. While “cold, hard numbers” like your FTP and x-minute best power can be useful to track your progress, none answer why you are doing this. One of your main motivations seems to be to give yourself some balance in life (and sports is a great way to do this), so try to approach it from this perspective first.

Indoor training is a great way to get faster, but it is not meant to be a replacement for getting out on the road or trail, to socialize with other riders and to let your mind drift. And cycling should not detract from all the other duties and joys you have as a human being (e. g. friends and family).

Motivation and performance do not always shoot up, sometimes you have to listen to your mind and body and ease off the throttle. Moreover, at least in my experience, body, spirit and mind are closely linked: when my training goes well, I naturally crave healthy foods, and when I slack off a little, I would like to eat chocolate all the time. What has helped me get over these lumps is that I found a few people who I regularly ride with. That little bit of social pressure kicks me in my rear end and helps me show up for rides on the weekend. Instead of “just riding” we stop for a coffee and a sandwich somewhere.

Last weekend I spent 3 hours on some Japanese back roads, enjoying the scenery and not even listening to music. It was glorious, my first ride in a little more than a month (due to the flu, travels and another flu).

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Indeed.
I have decided to not ‘train’ for a week and just ride my bike. I will also to try to get on top of the sleeping thing. If I can’t sort that then I will always be on the back foot. I’m in a cycle of stress currently and using hard exercise only helps short term then becomes part of the problem. Have a few things to try, quitting refined sugars and cutting down, where I can, on simple carbs, trying to reset gut biome to help with seratonin/melatonin levels and I will reduce the volume on the next TR plan I start. Fingers crossed these all help, 3 hours on Japanese back roads sounds blissful right now.
Thanks

Don’t know how hard you train weightlifting but did this also a year combined with cycling.
Was way to taxing for my nervous system and had troubles sleeping. Also it was counterproductive for either weightlifting (deadlift/squatting/bench press) or cycling. Too much for my body and age.