Falling apart gracefully - tips and guidance for when things start to go wrong

Hi all,

So I’m in the final week of the build phase on MV plan builder having completed SSBMV1&2 (first experience of structured training), but I’m now struggling to complete workouts and think it might be best to knock it on the head a few workouts early and go back to base instead of moving on to specialty. What I want to know is, what’s the best way to do this whilst still developing? My thoughts are:

  • have a rest week/10 days until feeling suitably fresh/motivated
  • go again from base (probably low volume with some extra workouts added, maybe the odd Vo2max workout to keep it interesting)
  • come back stronger and more capable of dealing with the training load


  • should I target a certain weekly TSS to start from base relative to my current weekly TSS?
  • any tips from others with similar experiences?

Experience up to this point:
Base went okay - I completed every workout albeit with a lot of fatigue at later stages and FTP went from 340 to 375, but I’m struggling with the consistent higher intensity stuff in build. Missed a couple of workouts with an exam and Christmas so was a little on/off as a result of that, and now getting back into it for a few weeks my legs are completely shot.

Depending on where you are in the world right now, there might me little point in transitioning into a Specialty Plan. Personally, I don’t see many early events happening so going back to Base would be the sensible option.

I doubt that you’ll see the gains you saw the first time you did the Base Phase(s) but, the workouts will still offer a challenge as your FTP has increased.

Which MV Build were you doing? Seeing a 35 watt increase over the phases you’ve completed is going to make the work challenging. As this is your first experience of structured training, your body and I dare say mind are adapting. Looks like you’re adapting well, it has to be said!

Plans such as Sustained Power Build really can build up the fatigue. If you feel that your enthusiasm to get on the bike is slipping, you could always add in a couple of rest days, or a week, just to stretch the plan out.

Keep in mind that fuelling is key. That 35 watt increase will mean that your fuel consumption needs to increase too. Your body is doing more work.

If things feel like they’ve really gotten on top of you, don’t be afraid of knocking the Build phase down to Low Volume and add additional endurance workouts, if you feel able.

Good luck :+1:

Thanks for the helpful comments. I’m doing general build, I really found the frequency of higher intensity vo2max work getting to me, I suppose I’m just not used to it. The overreach is impacting my motivation for sure - previously i’d look forward to a hard workout as a challenge.

I somehow lost a few kgs over xmas despite eating non-stop so it also may be that my FTP has come down a bit making the workouts harder than they are supposed to be, although i maintain that fatigue is the primary issue.

You’re correct regarding the lack of events in the near term, so doing specialty would only be for the sake of proceeding with the plan builder plan. Sounds better to either go base to base or spread this build phase out a little as you suggest. I want to keep the odd vo2max workout so as not to lose it entirely. Any thoughts on how that might compare to moving to a lower volume build plan with some extra endurance thrown in? I think in either case i’ll go to lower volume and put in extra workouts to suit rather than struggling to complete MV as is, partly because I want to run a bit more again which i’ve not been able to do much of with the MV structure.

If you do decide to go the Low Vol route, depending on how you’re feeling, you could add an additional VO2 workout. I’m only thinking short/short intervals. One minute max. Most of the Low Vol Plans have you doing enough intensity so I would go sparingly. I’m currently experimenting with adding a 30 minute interval session after an hours endurance. That endurance ride doesn’t go above 70% FTP.

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It’s good that you’re thinking about taking steps now, rather than risk digging yourself a deeper hole. @Jonathan and the Youth Squad talked on the podcast last week about bumping up against your (current) limits being helpful - it sounds like this is maybe what has happened. Concurrently running together SSBMV 1&2, then General Build MV2 is a lot of good training and a 10% FTP increase is nothing to sniff at.

If I’m feeling ground down I usually try to stick with some Z2 riding for a week or so, then testing the legs with something like Acho. If the legs feel fine, I try something a little harder like Geiger, and keep repeating that process until I try some easier VO2 workouts like Bashful -1.

If I was you, I would then go back and try SSBMV 1 & 2 again to see if it feels better this time and you’re carrying less fatigue at the end of it. You’re unlikely to see another 10% FTP increase, and more work at 375w FTP should set you up better for the VO2 workouts. I, like you, find these very draining both physically and mentally, but when I have done a lot of good Sweet Spot work I find the VO2 workouts are what helps me get FTP increases without the risk of burnout.

Keep it up, you’ve made a great start! Also - as @PusherMan said, make sure you are fueling well, particularly for 90min workouts.

Update: I didn’t quite manage ‘graceful’ but am back up and running after some easy riding and time off. The combination of lockdown in the UK and time off with nothing to do over christmas resulted in me struggling on through a lot of fatigue and digging myself a bit of a hole.

I’ve since taken several days off completely, rested a lot and avoided high intensity workouts and I feel so much better for it. Did a ramp test this morning to restart with Low Volume SSB2. Unsurprisingly lost a bit of power (357w, although weight is down so w/kg still 4.5) but happy to be able to push some decent power without feeling like I’m completely wiped out.

I’m hoping Low Volume with added Z2 will be an effecting training stimulus without burning me out. If I feel particularly fresh a few weeks in I may add some more sweet spot but I’m not going to rush into that - it’s far too easy to add workouts in the first few weeks whilst very fresh only to pay for it in the back end of a block.

Thanks for all the advice, it was really helpful. I guess my mistake was underestimating the stress of Vo2max work having never done it in a structured way before. I could just about recover between workouts through SSBMV but with that high end work the fatigue accumulated much faster than I could deal with it.