Digging Out of Hole - Feeling Hopeless

I’m a 31 year old male, 163lbs with a few years of Trainerroad under my belt and going into my 2nd season of racing, primarily criteriums. Back in November I started a mid-volume crit plan with a 290 watt FTP and saw some consistent results (for reference, I did the same plan last year and went from 265 - 291 by the end of the race season). By mid-February my FTP was up to 300. It felt great because breaking that 300w threshold has been a goal of mine for a while, and it also coincides with the 4w/kg mark! Getting up to 300 definitely took at toll, however, and by the time I got there, I was definitely feeling exhausted, and struggled to get through the last few Saturday threshold workouts of the block.

Once I finished that particular build block, I went down to sea-level for about 10 days for some planned time off the bike. I came back to where I live at about 6,000’ and, unsurprisingly, struggled with my assigned workouts for about 2 weeks until I was able to reacclimate again. Annoyingly, as soon as I started consistently passing workouts again, I headed straight back to sea-level for 5 more days off the bike. I came home to altitude, struggled to pass workouts again for another week, and then came down with what felt like a pretty mild chest-cold. Another week off the bike, and a quick weekend trip back to sea-level again, and now it’s the beginning of April. I’m desperately struggling to get through any assigned workouts. I am sure my FTP has gone down given all of the traveling and inconsistency over the last 6 weeks, and sure enough AI FTP has me down to 287.

I can’t say I’m surprised at the decline in FTP, but what worries me is that, two weeks after what felt like a mild cold, I can barely hold power above 200 watts for more than 5 -6 minutes at a time. As soon as I get above 200 watts I can feel my heart and lungs going into overdrive, and my legs aren’t clearing anything out at all. 225 watts today feels like what a threshold interval felt like 6 weeks ago. I get that my FTP went down 13 watts (although it feels like its down 100 watts) but I haven’t been able to complete anything other than endurance workouts in weeks. At this point it feels like I’m in a hole that I’m just not going to come out of, and the worst part is my first race of the season is supposed to be next week. At this point I’m taking it off my calendar. I think I need to ignore the assigned workouts for a while and just stick to Z2 until something changes. The weird thing is I feel totally fine off the bike, lifting weights, walking my dog, etc. but as soon as I start a moderate pace on the bike, I can feel the blow up creeping up on me.

If any of you have ever found yourself in a hole like this, I’d love to hear how you got out of it. This is wildly frustrating. I’ve never lost this much fitness so quickly and I honestly don’t think I’ve ever felt this weak in my life.

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My guess from what you’re describing is you’ve gotten worn down with travel/illness/exercise. For me, finding an extra hour of sleep each night for a few weeks works wonders.

Also, congrats on 4 w/kg! That’s a cool milestone. Perhaps consider what your new goals are now that you’ve hit it, albeit briefly. I’ve found that when I’m rested and have a clear, simple goal I have a surprising amount of energy to work with.


I’ve been down lots of holes.
Z2 HR is my tool to start laying some sort of foundation. You’ll find you can lay more and more power down within this HR and all of a sudden you’re back on it.


Yep, me too. And I’ve had mild chest colds linger for weeks because I was in such a hole. Yes, take it seriously, it’s not so hard to get out of if you do the right thing, eat right, enough carbs. A full week fully off the bike and mid zone 2 riding and wait for your body to tell you when it’s time to build on the intensity again. Wait for it to lead you. Good luck, it’s a crappy thing I know, I remember when I was about 19 having amazing form towards the end of March, 2 weeks out from the first race of the season, getting a bit of a chest cold, trying to keep at it and being mildly I’ll and sucking until at least June. But yes, a bit of break and Z2 and you should be fine.


Whenever I come back from time off the bike, I start with a one week of only z2 rides - done by feeling the effort. No hr, no power, just smooth and easy.

Next week, I usually start tracking my hr more closely and do a couple of short efforts mixed within some of the z2 rides. Z2 otherwise, more volume than the first week.

Third week, I try to do two “proper” workouts, although fairly easy ones. They may be something like 2x3 minutes at VO2max or 4x5 minutes at threshold. Done by rpe, not by power. Otherwise z2, higher volume than previous week.

Fourth week easy, fifth week full steam ahead with normal training.

So basically a four week “conditioning period” to get back to rolling.

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@Vpe After returning home from a conference I came down with something which didn’t knock me out completely, but caused my cycling to take a hit. I took a month break and then pretty much followed exactly what you said to get back into the swing of things, including watching HR. Worked like a charm.

Yeah man you’ve got dealt with a serious amount of life stress and illness, that can take some time.
Also most people will tell you that holding peak fitness is not something you can do for long. Having said that, you can probably go back and exceed your previous achievements, and it will be easier the second time around.

The old school advice would be to reduce 5-10% intensity to get the feel back, then go back slowly. So try an easy sweet spot workout with another 10% reduction, using the intensity adjusted on the bottom left. If it’s not right, adjust up/down as needed.
Retesting would be an alternative but if you’re unlucky you’ll still test at the same FTP and then struggle in the workouts after, so the way above is better.

For some reason I tried to start this season with sweet spot base and was just feeling like hell. I swapped it out for low volume traditional base and it’ s been great.

TR’s traditional base blocks are only 4 weeks long (shorter than all other base blocks, except sprint tri). Pick a nice, low volume traditional base, forget intensity, forget chasing a higher FTP, and just spend a month getting your “sea legs” back. Watch some TV or youtube and enjoy some good old fashion Z2 work.

Just my .02, but it has worked for me. I’m about to do my second low volume traditional base block before I head into Century specialty.


I can’t really speak to where your legs have gone. Maybe you had mild Covid or are just a bit run down. It could be any number of things so maybe just go easy for a little while.

With respect to feeling hopeless and frustrated - don’t be too hard on yourself. You are a super fit guy with great genes and/or a strong work ethic and have many seasons of riding and racing ahead of you. You won’t win or lose by racing at 287 vs 300 or 305.

If you’re worried, get checked out. But otherwise, you are on the right track: ride some Z2, walk the dog, lift the weights and file this away as an experience. No one has a perfect training season