Dylan Johnson's "The Problem with TrainerRoad Training Plans": it's gonna be a busy day around here

Between 2 hour podcasts and 750+ posts forum threads the TR cult is all encompassing.

Escape while you still can …



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The premise of the video is sound: that high load plan doesn’t feel right, way too much load with no recovery in between.

That being said, the rest of the video doesn’t seem to connect to that premisse, instead it points people to a completely different training model, which baffled me.

As for the polarised training description, looking at a couple of studies isn’t enough for me to say that it is better than the other approach. In fact, no amount of studies would convince me of that, I’d much rather try it myself and see how I feel.

I also noticed on the video’s description a link to some training plans he’s selling on TrainingPeaks, which do follow what he describes. For this reason, the video should come with some sort of bias warning I think.

Disclaimers on my part:

  • I’m not a TrainerRoad user, just a fan of the podcast, which I really find useful;
  • I’ve been training with a coach for a few years now, using a more traditional training model (sweet spot, vo2max intervals, recovery rides, etc);
  • I’ve never heard about Dylan Johnson before.

Yes. And I will also add that no matter how simple we try and make training, ( like I tried to do here ) the FTP percentage is still only one variable, And it seems no matter how simple we want to make it, you still need to take into account at least a few other variables.

I dont mean to imply that just by lowering the percentage of an FTP test is the ONLY thing that needs done to better a riders training, there are other variables that would go along with it.

I still stand by ( my own ) opinion that a lot of riders are training with an unrealistic FTP.

Heres the kicker… Lets keep the FTP at 95%. But instead of training at a ( sweet spot ) style training plan, lets focus more on the polarized model.

Maybe that’s the difference.

In essence, sweet spot training will be fun, enjoyable and you’d get more time in zone if your sweet spot is calculated with a lower percentage of your 20 minute test.

Where, if you’re more interested in a polarized model, you can keep your FTP percentage at 95 percent but focus more on high end shorter efforts 3 to 8 min, and try and accumulate more time and reps there and compliment that time with lower end and recovery zone.

Well, good question, in my mind it is but it would be interesting to take a poll. Like you say, maybe TR data could help us understand better. Folks on the forum bring it up enough to raise an eyebrow in my opinion. A reputable, well known coach personally told me that he and his coaching circles all agree TR plans have too high training intensity distribution for long lasting safe progression.

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I’m pretty sure that’s at least 1/3 of the reason why TR’s workouts are written as they are.

If I am writing workouts for TR, it makes a lot of sense to program exactly as they currently are. Reasons:

  1. Boredom-prevention.
  2. Faster results than if they did “safer” plans with more low-intensity stuff.
  3. Time-efficient training. The big middle of the cycling market is working professionals without 2-4hr/d to sit on a bike. If fueling is optimal and sleep is optimal, I bet the TR programs are spot-on. I’d bet money it’s under-recovery via sup-optimal nutrition and sleep that is providing for the bulk of overreached or overtrained experiences of TR users.

Dylan (guy in vid) is just setting up a monster strawman, in my estimation. His market is probably more competitive younger folks with more time, or folks who have blown up on higher-intensity plans and he convinces them to go out and ride longer with great success. I could be totally wrong.

I have not heard the TR guys defend their approach to training programming, but I do know what gets folks like everyone on this forum to spend money on a program.

Results, asap.

Not solid, predictable, boring results 6-18 months from now, but results in 2-4 weeks, and then continued results every 4-6 weeks after that.

How do I know? Because I sell weight training plans and nutrition plans for living. My best-selling plans are the most aggressive and lowest training frequencies. They’re not optimal. It would be more optimal to do more long easy stuff. But that doesn’t sell or produce fast results.

If I say “this is the best approach long term” and it really IS, but I say “I also have an approach that is at least as or maybe more effective in the next 3 months but might be less effective over the long-term” guess which plan y’all are going to purchase.

Humans might pay lip service to the super long-term development plan, and a couple die-hard folks really will make that purchase but the dollars in the fitness industry say otherwise. People pay for quicker results, even if it doesn’t set them up as well for the future.

Moreover, the biggest drivers of sales in the fitness industry are testimonials. Which is more powerful?
“I put 30W on my FTP in 8 weeks!”
“I put 40W on my FTP in 40 weeks.”

They’re both the same person.

TR’s methods reap business-growth benefits of both testimonials. Higher intensities lead to faster results.

If they did more low-intensity stuff they’d only get:
“I put 15 W on my FTP in 15 weeks.”
“I put 44 W on my FTP in 40 weeks.”

And money would flow in for the first testimonial but just trickle in for the second set of testimonials. Promise you that.

this is all just a giant guess from my professional experience


Yes, creepy. At the same time I recognize it’s the most valuable part of the brand. For some reason ppl are emotionally attached to the brand and to the unremarkable characters of the podcast.


I’ve noticed that Coach Chad has a hard time staying motivated to follow a serious training regimen recently from his podcasts. Could that be because he is 48 years old and can’t deal with the number of days of intensity that his own plans call for? I’m 53 years old and can’t deal more than 2 days of intensity per week on an ongoing basis. I suspect most master’s athletes are in the same boat as me unless they are taking “cheater drugs” like testosterone.


DJ also only considers a 3 zone model, while Trainerroad adapts a 5 zone model. Feels like the nuances of intensity lie a bit in the gaps between 3 zones and 5 zones regarding what is hard and what isn’t.


I think Chad is just uninterested. Other than a specific competition that he sometimes can be motivated for, he doesn’t seem like he’s that into cycling any more. Which isn’t exactly a problem by itself.


This. I am so glad DJ went directly at TR and didn’t beat around the bush. He called out TR and pointed to the elephant in the room that I see in so many reoccurring themes on the podcast and forum. TR is not far off and their product is great. Maybe TR has put all their efforts into a future AI adaptive program so they haven’t revisited their existing plans.


You tend to get unmotivated when you’re burned out from the training.


I think this is correct. I am on LV plan and when I have time add in a Z2 ride (all on the trainer during Canadian winter). My compliance is 100% but that is with me working from home during Covid. Normally with travel, etc. it becomes a huge challenge to get in the workouts. I certainly don’t have 5 days a week or 10+ hours to train. While it may not be optimal, the LV plan, at least in my case does yield results and once I get outside in the summer will add more time on the weekends.


sounds like you know him well I guess.

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That’s an interesting take…I did notice that DJ had done plenty of videos in the past about how SS is not great and that polarized was the way. I noticed the exchange on the TR podcast, but never picked up on the fact it might have been a cloaked response to DJ. Good observations

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Last week Youtube made me sell my disc brake bike and now I have to go find a cycling coach. What will I have to do next week to keep up?


But he didn’t. To me it was very clear he was simply stressing not all Pro’s follow strict POL, and as others have suggested actual data from allot of Pro’s suggest more PYM structures.

But he also didn’t say “POL doesn’t work” in the slightest. The fact he’s simply highlighted success at the PRO level can look different to strict POL seems to have got many peoples backs up for some unknown reason.

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No, but I’ve been 48 before and recognize having to alter my training regimen because I couldn’t handle the same intensity I could as my younger self. Been there, done that.

My totally speculative theory is Chad is trapped in a “bad marriage” at TR as a minority owner. He wants to coach but Nate is hell bent on hiring programmers to work on the app. Chad is forced to suffer in silence reading science journals all day, longing for the human contact he had back in his spin studio days …


have you gone keto yet?