FTP going nowhere

Hi all,

First off, thanks so much for this awesome resource. I just discovered the Trainerroad podcasts and have been listening to them almost nonstop!

I started cycling last May. 90% of my rides are on my commute, anywhere between 8-15 miles one way. When I first tested my FTP back in August my FTP was 227. I tested it about a month ago and I was 234, so in 8 months and cycling over 3,000 miles I only bumped my FTP by 7 watts.

My FTP tests were done indoor on the same trainer with the same power meter. The frustrating thing is that I kill myself on my commutes, my average power is usually around 220-230 at around 20 minutes with intensity factors over 1.10. Surely this should have bumped my FTP by more than 7 watts.

Some background about me: I’m 6’ and 220lbs, my other sports involve powerlifting and kickboxing. I don’t follow any structured workouts because my commutes are so short and, frankly, I don’t feel safe on the roads I have to travel on. If I do any sort of training it’s usually 30/30 sprints.

Sorry if this is a bit long, I’m just super frustrated that I can’t bump my FTP higher. Are some people just meant to not have a high FTP? If that’s the case, is there any point in competing in road races?

No way are you maxed out ftp wise.

However, if you want to get faster cycling you probably need to focus on cycling and cut back on the other sports. If you lifted only once a week, started making all you commute rides super easy and followed a mid volume plan i bet you would gain tons of watts.

Sadly cycling is a bit of a specialized sport and its hard to balance its demands with other sports.

1 Like

Thanks for the reply. Cycling is definitely a specialized sport, but I love it and I especially love how granular you can get with data; I think that’s a big reason why I’m so into it.

It actually all seems to hang pretty much together. You say most of your riding is in your commutes, where you average 220-230 W for 20 minutes. If that’s the majority of what you do, then it seems reasonable that your FTP would not be that much higher. It may sound simplistic, but we adapt to what we demand of ourselves; if your commutes demand efforts of around 230 W or so, then it would be pretty unusual for your body to develop capabilities much higher than that.

There have been some good discussions on the podcast of the challenges of incorporating bike commuting into training. Sorry I don’t have the episode number to point to right off, but a search of the forums might get you there.

Thanks! I’ll look for the episode.

Kickboxing could be used to boost VO2 I’m thinking. What about wearing a heart rate monitor and doing something like 5x 3minute intense rounds on the bag or ring. This is easy to progress on, just add more time or intervals as you get fitter. Or less recovery between rounds.

Then your other workout of the week could be a threshold workout, 2x 20min or 4x10, 2 x15… whatever you can handle. Lower the intensity on the commutes to stay fresh, except maybe one day do it at sweet spot.

Unless I’m missing something, this is your problem - TR is all about structured training. Unstructured has variable results, structured is more efficient and reliable means of performance gains.

Get yourself on a low vol sweet spot Base plan for six weeks and see how it plays out. :+1:

5 Likes

Cycling VO2max through kickboxing?

The key is Quality>Quantity. I second that some structured training will be a great starting point! Majority of everyone’s biggest FTP bumps is made during the Base phases (its purpose after all). Great foundation work that hovers close to your FTP, plus should be easy to incorporate into your commutes!

2 Likes

Works for running to cycling so he’ll likely still get some transferred benefit.

Here are links to segments in past episodes that discuss commuting from Episode 197 and from
Episode 184.

2 Likes

I went through the OP’s exact scenario…

For background, I am 44 y.o., 6’ tall and 173lbs (formerly 220 lbs.)

My cycling training consisted of 3-4 weekly commutes (35 minutes each way) and I would bury myself on them. Then on the weekends, I would take 1-2 long rides. I gradually ramped to this volume over 2 years. And for all of my efforts, my FTP plateaued at ~265 for 18 months. Never got lower than 261, and never got higher than 268.

Also, two winters ago I began the Maximum Overload lifting program - when I started, my FTP was 267. When I finished, my FTP was 264. (As and aside - I loved the program. Felt great. Didn’t make me any faster on the bike.)

After nearly 2 years of sitting in that 265 FTP range, I cut back on my commuting, and committed myself to structured training starting on September 1st of last year.

As a result, my current FTP = 302. I’m ramp testing soon and I expect that it is currently closer to 308 - 310.

Frustrating as it is – and I really, really miss my daily commutes – there is no substitute for structured training. As summer now approaches, I am not planning on sacrificing my outside rides on the weekend – which makes it all the more important that I get in my structure during the week.

I’m planning on doing 1-2 Vo2 workouts during the week. And on the weeks that I don’t feel I can handle the 2nd one, I’m going to substitute a 75-90 min sweetspot workout. Then also do 1-2 outside rides over the weekend, and keep going.

I totally understand your frustration, but commit to a “build” plan for 8 weeks and I bet you’ll have a breakthrough.

Good luck :metal:

2 Likes

there’s a lot in this post, but since I’m a bike racer I’ll comment on your last sentence first: DEFINITELY RACE! DOn’t not race because of an FTP number; there’s so much more to it than that.

You can still make gains on 20m rides, but don’t just crush it each time; you may not be recovering enough to absorb the training, which will allow you to come back hitting it harder the next time.

Brendan - EVOQ.BIKE

4 Likes

This is a common rookie mistake you see all the time in every cycling forum. Commuting a short distance and destroying yourself every day will only get you so far. You will plateau very early and can just stay there–and yes, I also did this for years early on as well, putting in 10,000km years and then wondering why I’m not improving. Recovery is just as important as working hard. You can ride 100 miles a day every day but you won’t actually get any better if you’re not properly recovering.

Since you’re posting on a TrainerRoad forum… maybe look into structured indoor training. Otherwise, assuming that you’re commuting 10x (twice a work day) a week, I suggest just chilling out and not going hard AT ALL for 8/10 of these rides. Then pick two where you utterly smash it. Sometimes you have to take a step back in order to take a step forward.

1 Like

I don’t really understand why you can’t do more structure on your commutes? The roads are either safe enough to commute on, or they’re not. If you’re OK doing 220W, why not do intervals at 250W?

Agree with others that you need some structure. But this can absolutely be done with commuting. I got my FTP to 320W off the back of commuting 15 miles each way to work 4 days a week, plus a long ride at weekends, and 1 indoor trainer ride. I didn’t even have a power meter outdoors, used the indoor rides to calibrate power to HR/RPE. Then looked at the TR plans and adapted them as best I could into my commute. Not ideal as the ride got a lot of interruptions from things like traffic lights, busy spots where it wasn’t safe to go fast, etc. But having some kind of structure is better than no structure at all. And I had great volume - 10 rides and 12-14 hours per week. Can’t bike commute with my current job so nearly all my riding is structured now but FTP isn’t actually that much higher because I struggle to consistently match the volume I was doing back then.

2 Likes

Yes I think you need to allow some recovery time. Killing yourself on commutes every day is counterproductive. Plus you also are doing weight lifting. This results in a very high training stress score. Without recovery your muscles can actually weaken. So best to take it easy every three or four weeks. This will allow your body to incorporate the adaptation necessary to get stronger.

1 Like

Thank you. I haven’t followed any structured workouts because I don’t have time. I know it’s trite but between work, family, and other sports the only time I have on the bike is on my commutes.

That said, I’ll check out the base plans and see if I can’t get them into my schedule.

1 Like

Sensing a little bit of irony here… you are expressing this on the forum of a software product that is specifically designed to help make time-constrained cyclists faster as quickly as possible. :rofl:

In all seriousness, you can def make improvements by adding structure to your commute time as others have said, but you will probably plateau earlier than you like if you’re only riding 20 minutes/day. Sign up for a trial of TrainerRoad, squeeze in 3 sessions a week (even if they’re only 45 minutes) and see what happens. Alternatively, you could probably adapt a low volume plan to your daily commutes and add structure that way. :call_me_hand:t2:

1 Like

Thank you for your encouragement. I’ll be honest, I just want to go as fast as possible for as long as possible. I know I’m a sprinter by nature, but the purpose for having a higher FTP is more resiliency right?

In any case, I’ll look into incorporating a base program into my commutes. Unfortunately I can’t commit much time to indoor riding, given my schedule, but I’m sure I can make it work.

Not trite at all, just not ideal for bike training :slightly_smiling_face:

The TR approach (and others can correct me here) is around Sweet Spot being the optimum zone for training:

The Sweet Spot power zone, which we define as 84% to 95% of FTP, is not named by mistake. This type of work achieves more positive physiological adaptations due to its repeatability at such a particular balance of intensity and volume. Compared to training in other power zones, you can prompt more meaningful and sustainable adaptations by continually working in this particular balance.

I would target 84-95% of your 234 FTP. Not 100%.

Look at Geiger -5 and Tunnabora -5, these are 30min sweet spot sessions…the shortest available on TR.

If you look at the Outdoor Workouts thread, you can see how to sign up to see the outdoor versions of these workouts if they are available. I suspect they are longer than 30mins though.

I don’t know if your 20min commutes are twice, five or ten times a week, either way it’s a pretty low volume of training so I can’t be optimistic about gains…but you never know until you try, right? :wink:

A few potential ways to sneak in extra bike time might be to turn that 20min commute into a 45min diversion occasionally, or if you’re powerlifting in the gym, hop on a gym bike while you’re there.

Good luck :+1:

1 Like