Avoiding a Blowup/Burnout

I’m a 32 year old male who’s been using TR for a few years now. I just finished my second season of crit racing this past August. I am getting ready to start training for the 2024 season. Since my last race in August I have been riding 10-12 hours per week. About half of that time is spent in Zone 2 and the other half has been junk miles on my MTB, just going out and riding for fun with no structure or power targets.

Last year I did something similar and when I started up my training plan, I found that had way more time available to ride than time allotted for training by a Mid-Volume plan. I frequently extended my training rides from 1 hour to 1.5 or 2 and did my best to keep the workout levels consistent with what was originally assigned. I saw great progress and increased my FTP from around 290 to 300 from November through February. Unfortunately by the end of February I blew up spectacularly. I started failing workouts constantly, my FTP dropped down to 287, and I ended up starting the race season in March with worse fitness than I had back in November. The lesson I learned is that just because I have the time to do a longer training ride doesn’t mean that I should.

My plan for this year is to start with a low volume plan and add one day of Z2 riding on the weekend (I swear it’s actual Z2 not just riding at whatever pace and calling it Z2!). In December I plan to increase the volume to mid-volume. I guess what I am struggling with is whether or not I can actually expect to increase the length of some of these training rides without digging myself into a giant hole? When I listen to the podcast it sounds like I should be able to increase the length of the workouts as long as I keep the workout levels the same, but in practice, that didn’t work out so well. I think I can extend some of the workouts, but apparently not to the extent that I did last year. Has anyone else struggled with this? If I have 10-12 hours a week to train rather than just 6 or 7, am I really better off just sticking with the TR plan for 6-7 hours?

What does this mean? Are you adding endurance or something else? How much other life stress do you have going on, and what’s your recovery like?

I’m not sure about that but the more time you are going to ride, the easier you have to do the endurance miles.

Also, take regular rest/easy weeks even when you don’t feel like it otherwise the fatigue accumulate. Personally, I’ll hit the wall about 8 or 9 weeks into training without much of a break.

That isn’t the definition of “junk miles”….junk miles (which is pretty much a BS term anyway) refers to very low stimulus ride that, in theory, produce not adaptive responses.

I feel pretty confident that riding your MTB, even without it being structured, did not involve junk miles.

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Guess we all have different definitions of junk miles

Regardless…for the question at hand, try doing the workouts assigned instead of searching for longer alternates. If you have extra time do endurance, at a relatively low IF to start. Simpler than alternates and more consistent in the type of stress you’re adding to your body week over week

Sounds like you have a lot of time. MV plans seem viable but maybe run them as-is. The MTB rides are a bit of a monkey-wrench. Easy to say skip them, but I get that it’s fun and that’s important for motivation. Consider whether this means replacing 1 of the hard TR workouts for the week or stepping down to LV? Any extra time you have spend at a conservative z2 pace (0.55-0.65IF). Definitely ignore the TR endurance level for your extra, non-plan endurance rides. You don’t want these bonus rides making you tired. Choose lower IF the longer these rides are.

I’m reluctant to add, but 290 → 300 for 4 months of work (base+build?) seems a little lackluster. I would worry this is a sign you’re riding too hard overall, not recovering, stressed and/or getting sick. 290-300 is an ftp to be proud off, it’s just a 10W delta is nearly statistical noise.

Structured training ≠ maxing out your time budget to ride.

The trick is to figure out how much riding you can recover from given life stresses and say no to more riding/training when life deals you a bad hand. My rule of thumb for how much coffee I should drink is “half a cup less than I want to”. With training it is similar.

It is better to train 6–7 hours consistently than 10–12 hours and then crash-and-burn. You are still new to structured training. Find out what you have to optimize in your life so that you can endure more training. In my case the big one was sleep. If I don’t sleep enough for an extended period, I cannot recover.

Find out what your limiters for recovery are and optimize your life accordingly. The good news is that if you have 4–5 hours of time, it means you can spend those relaxing and/or sleeping.

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In line with what @OreoCookie alluded to too much stress for your experience. I’ll be more nebulous and not say whether it’s due to the MV HIIT or the added endurance riding. A little too much of one or the other can do it IME.

I like your plan to reduce HIIT and think it’s a sound adjustment if you really like to ride 12 hours/week. The more us average joes ride the more you need to reduce the intensity.

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Speaking from personal experience, the answer can be either: last season I had a lot of added stress, and I reduced the time I spend on endurance during the week from 90 minutes to 60 minutes. That did the trick. Another time I had to drop from MV+ to LV+. It isn’t easy to find out whether you can’t handle the volume, because you don’t allow yourself to recover even though you can handle the intensity or whether you have added too much intensity too quickly. You need to experiment to find out.

No matter which avenue you opt for, make sure to get enough sleep. Sleep makes a huge difference for recovery, especially if you get older.

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I think LV plans probably play nicer with significant volumes of added endurance than MV/HV, so if your prior experience was with the latter you may well find that sticking with LV and adding the extra time is more sustainable long-term. Whether or not that’s preferable to doing MV on lower weekly hours ultimately comes down to what you enjoy and what you feel would benefit you most- i I’d consider it more of a case of prioritizing what you find most important with regard to total volume versus more ‘structured’ time than an either/or question, and there’s more than one way to be successful in that regard.

One thing I would recommend in any case is increasing any extra riding gradually, rather than immediately filling in all your available time. Bump it up in smaller increments, give yourself time to adapt, and pay attention to how you feel- IMO that makes it way easier to dial in where the right balance is for you and pull it back before you get too deep into a hole compared to just doing as much as possible and hoping you don’t blow up a couple of months down the road.

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Great post.

I would add that you are more flexible with LV. Getting good routines ingrained is much more important than maximizing things on a short-term basis. Adding endurance rides without doing too much harm is easier and for most, the safer option.

Crazy how definitions change as well… Before the turn of the century we classified “junk miles” as what people now are advocating for in polarized training. :upside_down_face:

Adding in some extra volume is doable if it’s kept at low intensity. If your unstructured rides push much beyond Z2, that could certainly impact your ability to recover well enough to hit the power targets of your structured workouts.

We’d also advise thinking about your personal “minimum effective dose” when it comes to training. It can be easy to fall into the trap of seeing other athletes put in huge weeks of volume, but everyone is different – some athletes can tolerate that volume and recover from it much better than others can. Aiming for a training volume that works best for you should be the goal.

It could be worth trying the idea you laid out for this next season – starting with Low or Mid Volume and adding in some extra Z2 riding if you have the time. Be sure to consider how you’re feeling mentally and physically, though, as you progress through your plan. Just because you have 10-12 hours per week to train doesn’t necessarily mean that you should – especially if it leads to burnout.

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Honestly, I don’t feel that 12hr of endurance can burn someone out , but that’s me. Also, there’s no such a thing called junk miles. That is a very useless definition. Ride a bike is more than go outside with a workout in mind and always hit the numbers, power, cadence, etc. It must be fun, pleasant. If you enjoy riding your MTB, go for it. Forget about workouts. Sometimes the burnout came from one’s head…

In theory, you should be able to ride this, or even more, without accumulating fatigue. If you’re struggling with 12hr of endurance, focus in base endurance and forget about SST, Vo2, FTP, whatever. Just ride below your LT1 as much as you can recover and build your engine.

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I think my take is z2 isn’t easy enough for additional volume. Like many others I’ve subscribed to the low volume + z2 idea, but I think it should be low volume + z1. If you ride at 65% of threshold more than you should, you are going to eventually hate getting on the bike. I think you need a ride or two at 50%. I’d train as much as you have time for. Volume is key, but sounds like you need either better recovery or some easier days.