Frequently failing workouts yet getting stronger

I’ve seen it asked many times before and I’ve asked it myself regarding failing workouts and the concerns and reasons around this. Should I/we be worried when we can’t complete workouts? I fail my fair share of workouts!!!

I’ve just completed SSBMV 1 & 2 and could not cope with the overs and unders, dialing most workouts down up to 5-10%. At the end of the SSB2 i was also struggling with the introduction of VO2 workouts. Even some Sweetspot workouts i wasn’t on form and suffering maybe more than i should have.

FTP set too high you may say…However, over the 2 plans my FTP has gone from 289 to 316 and i actually feel better on the bike, which im stoked about as i havent even started the build phase yet.

Now my biggest worry is the over and unders coming up. i was failing at 95-105% of 289w, how on earth am I gonna complete that at a much higher range?

I’m just gonna go to failure, then dial it down as required and suffer the rest of workout out. Safe in the knowledge i’m still growing/building and not actually failing in the long term.

So whilst this isn’t a question i just want to share my experience so far with others who fail workouts and some assurance you may not actually be failing, you’re just successfully pushing the body. If your ramp test results are not going in the right direction, some refinement is required. If not, keep going, keep failing, keep dialing down and keep completing workouts.


Yup - threshold and O/U’s are always on the limit for me, often needing to dial the last interval or 2 back 3-6%. And FTP is consistently rising and I’m stronger on the bike.

I do sometimes wonder about manually pulling FTP 5%, and seeing what that happens with the next block…

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I think it’s @IvyAudrain fault. In a year of TR had only dropped one interval that I just couldn’t get through until this week. I hear Ivy say on the podcast that if your not failing your not growing or something to that effect. Like if you’re not crashing you’re not learning. So Monday riding Spencer +2 and had to back pedal in several of the 3 minute intervals. Now VO2 is my weakness but, damn you Ivy!!! :crazy_face::crazy_face::crazy_face:


You may have increased fitness all the while even with an FTP that is a little bit too high. Instead of a sweet spot plan you’ve been doing a threshold training plan.

Do a Kolie Moore FTP test and see if you can do the 40 minutes of progression 1.


Haha, I’m yet to complete Spencer +2, i have to keep shortening those 3m mins to 2!!! but at least I know now that failure in an interval can still mean progress in the long run.

Personally I wouldn’t call a several / a couple backpedals a failure. Not directed entirely at you, but I get a vibe from some people here that not hitting a workout 100% as intended is a failure. It isn’t and its one of the few things about this forum that annoys me. Sure, there is a point where too many back pedals or extended rests or sitting out intervals defeats the purpose of the workout, but I wouldn’t consider it to be a failure if you meet most of the objective.

But I agree, If you’re pushing your limits, there are going to be times where you go over or hit your limit. I don’t consider that failure. Some coaches will, shockingly, prescribe workouts that they do not expect their athletes to complete. They want to see how far they can get through the workout and compare progression over several attempts at the workout.


I accept responsibility.
:pensive: :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


I also think it’s very hard to predict what type of workouts will cause someone to fail. Perhaps because of a Cx background, VO2 max/110%/short sharp stuff is arguably more straightforward for me than it is ‘meant’ to be, whereas long top end of sweetspot/threshold stuff absolutely ruins me and it’s a real struggle. My other half, who is a less regular trainer and less objectively ‘fit’ than I am can hang out at 90-94% FTP much longer than I can, but ask her to do repeated VO2 max intervals with short rests, and… well, it doesn’t end well!

With all that in mind, surely some failures are to be expected. As @Craig_G said, we’re not talking about crashing and burning here, more a backpedal for 10s here or scaling back the last few minutes 5% there. I’d say with a diverse athlete population I’d be surprised if that didn’t happen.

This ties into discussions about FTP testing, but that’s a slightly separate topic.


I always feel like I’m 1 vo2 workout behind in terms of progression. Meaning the one I’m supposed to to “today”, I’ll nearly get, but not nail it, But “last weeks” vo2 workout (that I also didn’t nail) would have been just fine repeated “today”. So even though it kinda feels like fails all the way, I’m failing UP, which actually is fine you just have to come to terms with it.

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even if you dont complete the workout younare still passing all those on the couch.

by that i.mean regular activity will.always yield some benefit to a point.

dont be hard on yourself , take the wins, younare doing great


Because, I think (and this is just my personal observation…) the exact definition of ‘compliance’ has not been offered by TrainerRoad, and we’re all left wondering “what is failure?”. Naturally, the coaches are going to say “failure is relative, and it’s a sliding scale, etc. etc.” – but the cold reality is that from the perspective of software designers, statisticians, and data analysts, there is most certainly some exact metric in TrainerRoad whereby they determine ‘compliance’. Otherwise, how would the coaches and developers be able to dial-back certain training plans and/or workouts?

They’re not sitting around a table and looking at one workout exclaiming “gee, it feels like too many people fail this one.” There’s surely a % of I.F. upon completion, duration completed, % of time in expected power zones, etc. etc. which are the hard metrics they use for analysis. (Hell, they could measure compliance as a function of I.F. within a block of TSS over 7 days with workouts performed before 7am on months that end with the letter “R”. Who knows?).

But, if they score a workout’s ‘compliance’ by anything other than an exact algorithm, I’d be stunned. In the spirit of Andrew Yang, I say MATH.

The question is… will that exact algorithm or definition of compliance be offered, or it is a proprietary trade secret of TR? I keep hoping it’ll come up on the Podcast, but in nearly 300 episodes, I think it has never been anything more than basically side-stepped.

I love TR, but in this point I am indeed calling out @chad , @Nate_Pearson, and @Jonathan. Even if they don’t give us the math, a wee bit more insight into the specifics of compliance would be helpful.

Congrats on the progress. That’s stellar stuff. Over unders at your new FTP sound tough if you’ve been struggling at current. Do you ever tune into your body and ‘feel’ different effort levels? I’m a tester, so getting used to what a 20’/60’/2h/4h effort is part of the sport. Maybe go on feel for the O/Us?

On one hand, my thoughts are that the exact details of their current compliance metrics don’t matter as that information doesn’t appear to be shared with the customer. In 16 month of TR and hundreds of workouts I’ve never seen one flagged as a failure or non-compliant when I went back to review it after completion. In most threads like this ‘failure’ is a label entirely applied by TR users and is distinct from any TR metric.

TR does provide some guidance, per this blog article:

On the other hand, being a cyclist for 15+years and training by power for most of that gives me a different perspective from new cyclists and cyclists who are new to power-based training. I know what power ranges to be in for a SS or Threshold workout to have the intended effects and don’t mind adjusting up/down and will pull the plug if I can’t stay in zone.

100% agree, and I have been using power for a pretty long time myself also.

My point was that TR builds plans and makes changes to IF based on what they see as ‘compliance’ – and they have disclosed as much during the podcast. It’s simply that they’ve not defined ‘compliance’ to the user population. (and it’s certainly within their domain to not disclose it)

They have talked about it on the podcast. There is indeed math they use for this internally for use in tweaking programming but they also said pretty explicitly it was among the things they considered trade secret and were not going to be making it public.

I have felt this same way as well a couple times and I ended up pushing the whole program out 1 week and repeating that week. I am not on any specific timeline so I dont care about the date I finish a cycle and it sure makes the rest of a hard build WAY more manageable by doing week 1 twice. It is sure motivating to nail a workout you crapped the bed on just a week earlier.

Compliance will also depend on what workouts were done in the days or even weeks before the workout being looked at. On the SSBLV plans Palisade appears in both LV1 & LV2, in the first it’s preceded by Carillon & Tallac, in the second by Bluebell & Jepson. Depending on your strengths/weaknesses you could be in a completely different state of fatigue in those situations.

The plans have definitely changed over the years, I think the one most people talk about is Mary Austin being replaced by the -1 version, but it doesn’t seem to have happened in the last year or so (on the Low Volume at least as I’m doing the exact same workouts as a year ago). Maybe there’s a level of compliance which they (TR) feel is acceptable. As above, not everyone will nail every workout every time, if they did then the workout is more than likely too easy and not providing training benefit.

To quote Chris Boardman about time trialling: Ask yourself the question - can I keep this level of effort up? If the answer is no, you are going too hard. If the answer is yes, you are going too easy. The answer should be maybe


Nice thread! I’m new to TR and new here, but I’ve experienced similar challenges getting through SS intervals. Only in my first go 'round with a TR plan, but so far I find myself having to knock down the last one or two by 10 percent. Can’t imagine doing SS for 10+ minute intervals! Hoping as I progress I’ll be able to get through a workout at 100! But you’ve given me hope that all is not lost. Thanks!

I’ve heard a few folks mention “compliance”. Is there a place we can go to and see our compliance with workouts or is this just something people suspect based on their workout history? Thanks.

Don’t be afraid to dial it back or lower your FTP. SS power is below FTP and FTP should technically be a power you could pedal for 60 minutes. If 10 minutes at SS is daunting then you are probably over your true FTP. 10 minutes even at FTP shouldn’t be that hard.

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