Difficulty with Later Training Plans

I was hoping someone here might be able to chime in with some insight or advice. I’ve been using trainerroad for a few years now. I’ve noticed a consistent trend. I have no issues completing all workouts in Sweet spot base 1, but when progressing into sweet spot base 2, or any build plan, completion very quickly begins to be very suspect. I can’t quite pinpoint a particular type of workout that triggers this consistently…though I’d say the over-under workout tend to be the most consistent offenders. Is this normal? Are the build plans just supposed to be dramatically harder, with a high percentage of failed workouts? I don’t think this is quite a matter of just HTFU…on the over under workouts, for example…my heart rate is essentially maxed…I’m digging as deep to finish intervals as I do on a ramp test.

The funny thing is I have had consistent success with sweet spot base 1. Progression levels move up quickly…this past block completed all the 2 x 20’ blocks with no issue (tough, but not demoralizingly so), FTP increases consistently with the plan. I’m frankly wondering if maybe it is an age issue…and I should just stick with what works…sweet spot base 1 over and over, maybe subbing in a VO2 day when I progress to what would be the build phase.

A few details, if it matters…

6’, 185 lbs
290 FTP
44 yrs old
All mid volume
race mostly cyclocross…8-10 races a season
additional note…I also notice I tend to wear down later in the season, but this is a separate issue. I have issues with tough plans even early in the year.


is your ftp set with a ramp test? the ramp test can be a little overzealous, so if you test a bit high there your “over unders” are really FTP and above with no chance of recovery

if you are consistently failing workouts, something is up, whether it’s burnout, too much intensity, not enough recovery, etc

I don’t think it’s an ftp issue…I’ve had similar results with ramps tests and the FTP predictor thing.

It honesty feels like I just start losing fitness halfway through sweet spot base 2 every time. But yea I agree…something is off. Maybe sweet spot base 2 is just too much intensity for me.

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I’d guess that you’re overtraining (or under recovering as I prefer to think of it). You do fine in the early stages because you don’t have as much accumulated load/fatigue and start to fall apart as you move further into the plans

Try dropping to low volume for a season and see how that treats you.


I just finished SSB2MV. I added Monday and Friday recovery/endurance rides of 90 minutes at around 60%FTP, extended Tues/Thurs to 90 minutes, bumped up to 2-3hrs structured indoors or 3-5hr outdoor group rides on the weekends, and added strength training on Tues/Thurs evenings. I suppose that’s a fair amount of additional overall workload, and it certainly felt like it. I think the plan is pretty manageable otherwise but it’s still a fair amount of intensity. I think that’s just the trade-off of it being a time restricted base plan? You definitely need to take liberties in switching things up a bit to manage fatigue, and I think that’s totally OK but I’m certainly not a coach or anything. SSB2MV probably resembles something more akin to a traditional build period in that it’s an Anaerobic-esque V02 day, 2 Threshold days, and a Sweetspot day. It’s also 5 straight weeks of that, as opposed to 3 on - 1 off. That’s a lot! The build doesn’t let up either but the intervals definitely start hitting the top end more. How do you feel after the recovery week? Around week 3 I was totally ready for an easy week, and although pushing through was taxing, I definitely feel much stronger for it. If I have any advice it’d be to listen to your body and don’t be afraid to deviate and experiment a bit.

My body is an illiterate dumbass :joy:

I have idea what it is telling me at any time frankly. I hate that saying “listen to your body.” All my body tells me to do is drink beer, eat pizza, and watch Netflix. Listening to my body is horrible advice.


Hear ya, I spent 2 years reducing intensity, increasing hours per week, and learning to listen to my body. It worked.

Pre-AT my experience was similar, wrote about it here:

I’m about sixteen years older and knocking down 8-12 hours/week but its mostly endurance and some intervals 3 days a week. Hitting some of my best power and speed numbers ever. Seventh year cycling.


Hahaha! That’s totally fair. Mine says the same thing. But my brain knows all that stuff will make my body feel miserable and I should at least work hard and earn them first. Then afterwards, miraculously, my body wants all the healthy things to repair the damage I did. Repeat cycle.

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That just means that AI FTP prediction does it’s intended job which is predict how you would do on a ramp test. But it doesn’t mean you don’t overtest on the ramp test because you’re an above average anaerobic contributor.


Hmm ok fair enough. That said though…wouldnt crushing multiple 2 x 20’ sweet spot workouts without digging super deep, and then failing overunders a few weeks later be indicitive of something other than a botched ftp setting?

Not necessarily. If you are not super sensitive to these things then those 2x20 could be just low threshold intervals. But with over-unders, if you’re just a few watts off, you’re doing over-overs. Those are hard!

You could be really good at riding at threshold but the margins to get the desired recovery of the over-unders are incredibly tight.

Yes! As the name of the phase implies, build phase is meant to push up your FTP - it should feel harder than base phase. Specialty may or may not feel harder. And yes, over-unders are hard for everyone.

I’m sure the TR tips for each week will allude to this. But when I had a person besides me as a coach and we were approaching a hard week, they would inevitably give me a heads-up that THIS WEEK WILL BE HARD - and also would tell me to eat more - something I had no problem with :joy:

Assuming your life is relatively in balance, you are not dieting and your FTP is fairly accurate…. Don’t give up!

Prepare for your key workouts in these phases with intention - sleep well before/after, make sure you are fueling properly. Dial down your “off-plan” riding. And recognize that that last bit of each interval is going to feel really hard - but that’s where you will make improvements! Be mentally prepared - sometimes when you know ahead of time that it should be hard, you can get yourself through it. Feel very proud of each completed workout.


first, how many years have you been cycling?

I think there is definitely a disconnect between what a hard sweetspot workout should be and what TR serves up. Progression levels for folks that are seriously trying to extend their “time to exhaustion” with sweetspot work, progress to 60 minutes, 75, minutes even 120 minutes straight, but even being able to do that doesn’t mean you can complete a given hard threshold workout. There is certainly more to this than FTP. Your durability and ability to extend intervals is as important or more, to me, than seeing FTP go up. And when FTP goes up relatively frequently, I tend to think it’s more of a fragile gain, then something you can really consider to be base. I’m 43, so I don’t think it’s age, but it could be that you need to invest in some aerobic base work, meaning reduced intensity, more of a focus on time to exhaustion, than trying to push that FTP number. I’d drop the days of intensity to two per week, focus on some longer intervals and z2 work and try to build a more sturdy base to then start to push your ceiling from. I think the more sturdy your base, the less you will fatigue when you do try to push your ceiling.

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My details currently:

6’1", 176 lbs
310 FTP
46 yrs old
All HIGH volume
I used to race mostly MTB but now I’ll mostly race gravel and a MTB 100, about 12-15 races a season.

What I do and recommend…

Make every Sunday’s workout a z2 at 2+ hours or as much time as you have and/or like.
Also, make sure all z2 days don’t feel like “work” and I encourage you to adjust intensity each time so it feels above noodling but below work (usually 60-70% FTP depending on fatigue). Let Saturdays’ workouts be dependent on your overall fatigue/stress. Sometimes that means as prescribed and other times it’s a reduced workout time or just z2 if I feel smashed.

Insert a mid season break of 1 week off the bike. For me, it’s always in late June following my MTB 100 (Lumberjack 100) over Father’s Day weekend. Then move into another Build and Specialty for the later part of the season.

So far there has been a lot of good comments. A lot for you to think about. I’m going to add my final feedback, and its based on listening to a lot of top coaches and physiologists on That Triathlon Show (ScientificTriathlon.com) and having a coach for 2+ years.

Middle aged athletes underestimate the amount of stress off the bike, and the impact of doing a lot of intervals. Many ‘weekend warriors’ training 6-10 hours/week would be well served to focus on spending more time building an aerobic base, and sprinkling intervals in.

FWIW I tried repeating SSB1 MV and that didn’t help. A little taller, a little heavier, and got my drivers license when you were born. When I had too much intensity in my plans the FTP was capped around 250. If you go with the current explanation from physiologists, all that intensity was invoking the fight response and my body was constantly in a state of stress (both on and off the bike). What actually moved the needle and pushed FTP up to 280 was doing a lot more conditioning work - endurance rides (zone2) - along with mixing up the interval work. Most weeks I’m always keeping something in the tank on every interval workout, always working on pacing shorter efforts from 1 to 10 minutes, and I keep getting stronger and stronger because that type of plan has some amount of ‘recovery’ built in (fewer intervals, more endurance). And I’m always ready to go out and do hard efforts. This type of plan is what worked for me before exploring more intensity (pre-AT TR plans), and what you see with many of the plans from coaching companies. Some people have a bigger recovery budget, and likely a bigger aerobic engine, and the TR plans are ideal. I’m not one of those people. And if you listen to coaches, most working athletes do not have a big enough recovery budget. I wish someone would have explained that to me instead of basically saying htfu and if MV is too much use LV’s shorter and generally higher intensity (=more strain / stress on nervous system) and add rides.

Hope that helps.


You’re Abe Froman…the sausage king of Chicago?

I think struggling in build plans used to be pretty common in TR plans before adaptive training. I struggled to complete the Olympic triathlon plan, after cruising through the base phase. Not sure if you’re using it or not.

I don’t think it is an age issue. It might be that you just need to cut back the intensity and/or rest more. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Also, my sense is that many people have workouts that are just harder for them than for others. I’m pretty good at grinding out long intervals close to my FTP, but I abhor anything at or above 120% of FTP. It’s not just a question of the workouts I’ve been doing or where I am in terms of progression levels. I just don’t do the high intensity stuff as well and I will plateau earlier than I do for other types of workouts.

I think this is spot on. Preparation and fueling, especially, are absolutely crucial. There have been many times that I’ve stared at a prescribed workout the night before and thought I would barely be able to do the intervals. Though they pushed me to my limit, the algorithm did indeed serve up something I was able to achieve, and part of that was the mental aspect of it, and the preparation. I think Chad echoed something similar on the podcast a couple weeks ago.

There’s one disconnect, because that’s not your body telling you that but rather your mind. This may help…

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From past experience, I know that when I start craving beer and pizza - that’s my fight or flight response - I’m on the verge of pushing a little too hard and it’s my body’s way of telling me I need a bit more recovery. So I make adjustments accordingly. It took a long time to let myself be OK with that but it has made a huge difference in sustainability.


Thanks for the tips. Yea I’m going into the 5th week of SSB2 right now, and can tell I’m wrecked. Even with decreasing progression levels, I’m not going to be able to get through threshold workouts anymore. In keeping with my pre-season goal of avoiding late season burnout…I’m just going to stop and take a rest week now, probably restart SSB1, and sub out a a week of intensity for zone 2, or easy sweet spot intervals moving…then maybe try SSB2 with a day less of intensity in there.

For what it’s worth…I dont think this is a case of not knowing what threshold feels like/not digging deep enough…I mean some of these over under workouts I have to get off the bike and take a knee after or during the second or third interval to avoid throwing up…

I also think I generally set myself up for success with these…large carb based breakfast 2-3 hrs before workout, 80-100g carbs/hr during workout.

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