Cadence Spirals During VO2 Intervals

My cadence spirals from 90ish to sub 40 during VO2 intervals such as Baird+1. I have tried decreasing the intensity to 95% and it still happens. Should I decrease the intensity until I am able to maintain a higher cadence and then slowly add back in intensity? or is there a better way to improve in this area?

I am a 65 year old recreational rider and this is my second year using TrainerRoad. I would like to increase my FTP to try and keep up with my 22 year old son. I just completed SSB1&2 LV and Sustained Power Build LV. Current FTP is 166.

  1. I think you are starting at too low of a cadence.

    • Per the Baird +1 workout notes: “Strive for a cadence of 100rpm or even a bit higher during each interval. But if fatigue forces a lack of control at these higher cadences, shoot for something closer to 90rpm and ride smoothly.”
    • As such, you are starting at the bottom of their recommendations, not the top.
    • What is your “normal” cadence in other workouts?
    • The nature of VO2 Max workouts is that they are hard work, and very taxing on the muscles. You really need to start at a higher than “normal” cadence. So whatever your default is, try starting around 10 rpm faster.
  2. As is discussed widely in the forum, not everyone has a VO2 max that makes 120% of FTP attainable for some (or even all) workouts.

    • You need to determine where your true workable range is for % of FTP in VO2 Max efforts.
    • You can try down scaling the workouts (assuming they are based on 120% of FTP) as low as 92% Intensity and still be in the VO2 Max training area. (see the list with your current 166w FTP as the base)
    • So try dropping to around 95% Intensity and see how you handle them. For VO2 work to be effective, you need to be breathing HARD at the end of each interval, to the point of very rapid frequency.
    • I sometimes hit a mild panic state where I wonder when and how I will recover. If I hit that a couple times in a set, but am still able to complete the intervals at a good cadence and power, I am likely on target.

So, get your cadence right first, then test what is a practical percentage for your body right now.


Thanks I will try this on my next VO2 workout.

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Outside of what @mcneese.chad offered are you riding in erg mode or resistance mode? I would imagine if erg mode and are starting w/a low cadence you will run into the ‘spiral of death’ or definitely working against yourself. I know personally when doing Vo2 max w/the longer intervals w/workouts like Nunburholme that I am able to keep my cadence higher on the earlier intervals (for me 95 -100), but as they progress my cadence drifts down to around 90. I’d suggest following the text that encourages you to lift your cadence 10-20 secs prior to interval starting, also push through a bit after the interval ends vs backing off right away as that also seems (at least for me) to help keep cadence ticking over.


Hi @daryllewis ,

Joe Friel is a well known coach and author, he wrote a book Fast After 50 when he was 70 years old. That book has a lot of great advice, here is something you should consider from a Joe Friel blog post:

“Take your time. Start with a very low-dose workout such as just a few 30-second intervals with plenty of recovery between them as suggested above. Do this no more than once a week. Once every nine days may be better. You decide- but be cautious to avoid injuries. Then gradually, and over the course of a few weeks, increase the durations of the five HIIT intervals to 45 seconds at zone 5 with 1-minute recoveries. A few weeks later bump it up to 1 minute on with 1 minute off done five times and so on. It may take months and months to get there but that’s OK. The longer it’s been since you last did such a workout, the longer you should take in getting back into it.”


If I were you, I’d take that advice and use this list of workouts as substitutions for the vo2 work in a TR plan:
30-sec intervals Taylor-3
40-sec intervals Stanislaus-4
50-sec intervals Thimble+1
1-min intervals Freel+1
1-min intervals Bluebell
1-min intervals Bashful
1.5-min intervals Baird+2
2-min intervals Mills

You’ve got 8 years on me, and I struggle with vo2 workouts. Sometimes I can do the Mills 2-min intervals at 100% intensity, but quite often I have to knock down intensity to as low as 92%. And if I don’t do vo2 workouts regularly, I have to restart with Bluebell and work my way back up to longer and longer intervals.

Good luck!


VO2 replacement suggestions are really helpful! Thank you.

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