Can resilience and mental toughness be harmful to training?

Over the years the one thing I’ve consistantly been good at is giving up (not good). Whether that’s being dropped in a race or training ride or bailing out of a training interval early. I’ve then always reflected thought i could probably have kept going a bit longer.

So this winter I’ve been quite focused on not giving up, using music and experiences of hard rides to pump me up and keep me going and it’s working, however…

Today I did ‘Mount Goode’ (now called OMG, Oh Mount Goode) which pushed me to my limits. The 2nd 15 min interval at 99% saw my steady 90/95 cadence drop to below 70 for the last 5 mins and into the 50’s for the last 2 mins. I had to absolutely grind it out with everything i had.

The 3rd interval i was cooked before it started and ended up dropping the intensity 10%.

So was i right to grind it out? I’m thinking the intended adaptations are not being met when doing so and the impact on my legs for the next few workouts could be effected. I imagine the differnet ends of the cadence spectrum influence adatptations differently?

Should i have bailed (gave up) as i would have done last year and lowered the intensity with 5 mins to go???

Is it actually good to ease off sometimes in training??

There are so many factors here that this answer will be the inevitable “it depends”.

Mental toughness is great and can make a huge difference…but the building blocks underneath it need to be sound. If you’re fatigued, underfuelled, underhydrated etc etc then mental toughness will only get you so far and can definitely become detrimental.


To follow up the good advice from @onemanpeloton, there is a difference in “giving up” and knowing when the training benefit has been lost and you’re just adding on unproductive fatigue. Unfortunately in your instance you lost the intentions and benefits of the workout. Once you’ve lowered the intensity outside of the zone you’re supposed to be training, its best to just quit the workout so it doesn’t negatively affect future workouts. The same goes for cadence, once your cadence becomes unproductive/unrealistic (into the 50s in your case) there is no sense in continuing. Take a hard look at your training and your FTP. A too high FTP can sink a training plan as you cling to this number and make every workout a battle. This constant battle eventually destroys motivation and morale. Some workouts should be really hard, but the vast majority of your workouts should be at most tough but still doable.


Only you can determine if keeping at it is the right call but – real mental toughness also includes the ability to man up and quit when you should and to rest/recover when you should!


Partially agree with this. Continuing on, at unproductive cadence, wattage is useless, and I would agree with that. However, to just quit the workout is useless as well. For many of us, saddle time is scarce, so backing it down to 30 minutes of aerobic work and/or recovery has merits. It also would eliminate any feelings of failure. Regroup, recover, and live to fight another day. We have our good days and our bad. Make the bad OK.

One of the hardest things from a mental toughness perspective is keeping my easier rides/commutes easy enough to avoid adding fatigue and impacting the rest of the week’s sessions and then longer term progression.


I’m not a climber but like to spend time in the mountains, and doing long 30-150 minute climbs at 60-75rpm has only made me a lot stronger and delivered nice fitness increases. So depending on the health of your knees, grinding out that second interval may be a good thing or a bad thing.

With respect to @MI-XC comment on losing intent, I’m going to focus on the 3rd interval at 90% of original target. First off this is a threshold workout and Coggan’s threshold level is 91-105%. Also keep in mind your FTP isn’t fixed, its a range and can vary day-to-day. In addition we all have good days and bad days, due to stress, sleep, and fatigue.

The question “When to Stop Intervals” is discussed in the book Training and Racing with a Power Meter and they toss out the first two intervals. For 10-20 minute intervals, if the 3rd interval’s power drops roughly 5% then you probably have optimized the number of intervals and its time to stop and go home which means riding home in zone2 if you are doing an outside workout. HOWEVER the book is quite clear that it was with hesitation they give the guidelines (3-5% drop for 20-min, 4-6% for 10-min intervals).

The book and a coach would want you to go into that workout fresh, so the first two intervals are the baseline and then look at power drop-offs in subsequent intervals. It doesn’t sound like you went in fresh, and if you did, then my hunch would be either your FTP is set too high or these types of workouts are a weakness and you need to continue working on building muscular strength endurance.

Hope that helps, like @onemanpeloton stated the answer is ‘it depends’ and not crystal clear.

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If your cadence is dropping and you’re not intentionally dropping it, that’s usually a sign of bad fatigue. It takes time to learn to feel that for yourself, and how to differentiate between just being slightly fatigued to knowing when you are pushing past your boundaries. Sounds like you went a little too deep on that one

Sort of mirroring what @onemanpeloton and @MI-XC said, there’s definitely a difference between quitting a workout and adapting to a situation. If you’re simply quitting a workout because it feels too hard or what not, that’s one thing. If you find yourself absolutely thrashed and even small adaptations (lower cadence, slightly lower intensity say 1-3%) don’t help, then adapting your training to stop the workout and transition to some Z1-Z2 riding might be the right move.

Learning how to differentiate when to push through and when not to is a learned skill and is unique to each individual. Personally, as a runner, I had workouts where legs felt like lead but I kept on and finished the workout, knowing the fatigue was just part of the training load. I also had days where I had shin pain but convinced myself to be “tough” and do my 16-18 miles only to find out a week later that I had a stress fracture and was being stupid.

Resilience and mental toughness are not bad in themselves, but they do require you to look at the bigger picture.


Nothing much to add to the very knowledgeable posts above, but it’s perhaps helpful to set a cadence floor (unless you’re intentionally working on low cadence), and say that if you can’t stay on power and above say 80rpm, you’re cooked. I have come to the conclusion that when I’m killing myself in the <80 range, then unless it’s the last part of the last interval, it’s probable time to scale/ease off/go home/reassess my FTP.

For some reason this post really struck a chord with me. My initial thought was how could resilience and mental toughness be harmful to training, but after additional thought I think the concepts have different meaning to me or I have a different perspective and different priorities.

Is it mentally tough to dig deep to push through that 2nd interval and complete it? Maybe. Is it mentally tough to dial it back a little so one could better execute the entire workout? Maybe, from a different perspective. Is it mentally tough to dial it back so one could better execute the other workouts planned for the week or block or season? Also maybe, from yet another perspective. I think an argument could be made for each and it depends on one’s perspective and their overall goal or purpose.

If you felt like that 2nd interval was super important, your make or break moment, the real test of your mettle, then I think you were right to grind it out. If it wasn’t that moment for you, then I think it would have been better to do dial it back and do what you needed to execute the workout / week / training block as best as you could (assuming one of those is a higher priority.). Pick your battles, dig in and grind it out for those. But not every interval or situation can be that battle.

I would also challenge you to reevaluate the value judgements I think you are making (re: bailing / giving up.). Is it ‘giving up’ or ‘bailing’ to dial it back but have better overall execution of the workout or week? Maybe / maybe not. :slight_smile: I guess it depends on one’s perspective. :wink:

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I just posted this on another thread regarding the same thing…

Specific to something like max aerobic intervals there are some great coaches out there who say keep pushing (Tim Cusick). There is a world of difference between stress (watts) and strain (rpe even HR). If the stress goes down but the strain goes up or stays elevated you’re generating stimulus.