Halting progression through plan when struggling with workouts (longer VO2 Max)

Currently following Sus. Power Build MV and am struggling with the longer Saturday VO2 Max sessions (6-8min) - other workouts in the plan are fine.

The pattern is fairly consistent, I can complete the first couple of intervals without backpedaling, but the second half of the workout is usually peppered with back pedals.

Should I repeat the “failed” workout the following Saturday in the hope that I can get further through it without backpedaling. Or should I just keep doing the planned Saturday longer VO2 Max workouts, accepting that I’ll have to backpedal a little during the latter half of the sessions.

In both scenarios, there will be progression, but which is the more effective?

Bit of background: FTP 337, training for last 6 years seriously (though riding for 10+), and focusing on TTs this season.

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You could try dropping the intensity by 1 or 2% but not much more than that.

Are you eating enough? Drinking enough? Cool enough? Comfortable enough?

As there’s only three saturdays as you describe in the plan I’ld just power through rather than going back to repeat. Do your best to finish. A brief back pedal wont be the end of the world.

You could also pause for maybe 30-60 seconds extra during the recovery valley which shouldn’t affect the workout too much either.

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Eating and drinking is fine, as are room conditions.

Think it’s more mental than anything else. I could hit and hold these powers fine (well, it’s all relative) outside with periods of standing.

You make a good point about there only being three Saturday VO2 Max sessions in total - will probably just complete the last one as best as I can and move on. Thanks!

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Do not repeat workouts. It’s not needed. Back pedals are not failures, just make sure they are brief 10-15 secs. You are still getting 99.99% value of that workout with a few back pedals sprinkled in, so don’t stress about that minor adjustment to the workout. Your training hasn’t derailed because you back pedaled, but rather it shows you’re on the razor’s edge pushing yourself which is forcing adaptation, so keep it up.

Prior to the start of next Saturday’s VO2 intervals, allow yourself 1 backpedal per interval. Then make a game of it. See if you can do the first interval with no backpedaling. Then the second interval know that you have a backpedal (should you need it), but can’t use it until the interval is at least halfway done. When you reach halfway, see how long you can hold off that backpedal (another minute, another 30 seconds), knowing you always have a banked backpedal. Try to push each interval in this same manner using the knowledge of a backpedal as a safety net. Lastly, if you get through the first few intervals without any backpedaling, you’ve earned a bonus backpedal for the last interval (should you need it). Then test yourself not to use the backpedal.

Basically you’re giving your mind an out when you’re deep in the pain. The backpedal is always there to comfort you, but your goal is to see how far you can hold off from using it. I’ve used this technique to great success coupled with repeating mantras to an almost hypnotic state.


Thanks, I like this approach and will give it a shot.

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Actually, you can drop far more than that and still be in VO2max range. Even dropping as much as 10% is still in VO2max range (assuming a 120% of FTP VO2max setting).

Here is a pic from my sheet showing the actual % of FTP with Workout Intensity adjustment ranges.

Keep in mind that VO2max is a range from 105-120%. More important, also remember that 120% is not an appropriate percentage for all riders.

The most important thing with VO2max work is to maintain an very high level of oxygen uptake. This is best done with manageable, but demanding intervals that can be completed at the prescribed duration.

Coach Chad covered this in his 2-part deep dive on VO2max (I need to find the episodes for reference). But the big takeaway for me was that the breathing and cardiovascular demands are more important to this training than the particular power level used.

As such, people should experiment, especially if they are unable to complete the VO2max intervals at the full duration. You lose more by bailing early than by decreasing power. You need to maintain high demand of you aerobic system, and hopefully complete the final intervals in the sets with significant breathing demands.

As to reduction amount, look at the prescribed duration of the work intervals, consider the impact of the Workout Intensity reduction based on my table and consider you history with VO2max work in the past.

I feel it’s s best to under-shoot the first couple of intervals if you have known issues. Then increase as you get into it and make sure you know how you are reacting. As long as you are finishing each interval, and the full set properly spent and breathing hard, I suspect that you are well into the range you need to be.

Be willing to push it up. But avoid the levels that have you not finishing full intervals and sets. The final 1/3 of each interval, and the final set are very important to the VO2max goal.


Thanks Chad.

I like the thinking behind the cardiovascular demand being the primary determiner (i.e., if it feels horrible and ventilation is high, I’m probably in the right “zone”).

May begin a bit lower next time and increase if possible.

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I believe that the op is talking about the Saturday workouts that put you at 108% of your ftp. I feel like if you drop the percentage down too much, your going to be doing threshold or sub threshold work. I could be wrong though.

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I’m in my 5th winter of doing TR plans and I’m experiencing something very similar. For me, its definitely 75% mental. I just can’t get motivated to do the same thing over and over and then I beat myself up for not hitting the plan as written and its a viscous downward spiral. After years of doing TR, its just getting harder and harder to stay consistently motivated knowing the plans are not actually tailored to me as an individual in any way other than power targets based on FTP. Plus, this has been a horrible winter where I’m at and I’ve gotten none of the normal outdoor weekend breaks this year.

A couple things I have tried which seem to be helping a bit on the mental front.

  1. I’m really trying to focus on completing workouts, even if I have to dial the intensity down to get to the end. Stopping a workout early is way harder on the mental front than getting the end at 90%, or even lower. Pay attention to the fact that the hard number targets in the workouts are really a function of the limits of the TR software in that it can not handle ranges or zones. Focus on the zone, not the watt number.
  2. Now and then I turn off erg mode which mentally gives me a feeling of being more in control
  3. At least once a week I try to give myself a near guaranteed chance at total success on a workout so I can get a mental “win.” This might mean dialing back intensity 5% off the bat, picking an alternative I know I can nail or doing a Zwift group ride instead of a structured workout
  4. I’ve found some other training related activities like core work or stretching that I am motivated to do and I’m trying hard to be nailing those.
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I recently found exactly the same issue in SPB MV

… i had never done the supra threshold (105-108%) sessions before and i blew up on the 1st session which rarely happens to me on TR.

I felt there was NO way i’d be able to extend the 6mins to 8mins within a week.

My approach was to reduce the intensity down. I started each interval the following week at 105% not 108% and then was able to nudge them upwards.

I think i ended up averaging around 107% - but simply starting easier made it far more doable.

I really was in the same boat and have luckily come out the other side having completed them but would not have been able to do so had i not reduced the % slightly.

I do also feel the mental aspect here is key. I had never really done this kind of workout for this % of FTP and duration … oddly after a few it got easier … i think also as i knew what to expect ‘hurt-wise’

anyway hope that helps!


That is likely. And in that context, any reduction would likely need to be less.

That is why I included a qualifier in my post. The sheet I have can be adjusted, and here is the result with 108% for the base.

With that case, you could drop up to 3% and still be at the 105% of FTP at the very bottom of VO2max.


Thanks - I’m a bit of a one hit wonder in terms of intervals. Power at VO2 max is 470W (recent lab test) and can hold a high % of this once, but it’s the repeat-ability I really struggle with.

Will dial it down a little and hopefully complete next time.

Super important to remember that VO2max is a physiological process – not a power target.
Even with all the sciencey stuff we have, the power target is still just a very general representation of what’s going on inside your bod.

I’d be more disposed to back-pedalling rather reducing intensity. A 15sec BP shouldn’t drop you too far out of the VO2 process but will allow you to continue in order to gain the most benefits. If that doesn’t work, then try a 1-2% reduced intensity but without back-pedalling.

As a mental option, you can always call these sessions ‘Threshold’ workout, as they are labelled as such in the TR catalogue. If, as you say, “other workouts in the plan are fine”, then these Threshold workouts shouldn’t be a problem for you either.

Your pVO2 is ~139%FTP (normal)…you can’t be expected to repeat that for 6-8 minutes! Most important thing with intervals is repeatability. And the plan you are in, SUSTAINED POWER Build, gives you an idea of what you are trying to build. More repeats are better than higher power. Focus on completing duration over completing power. Also, as other’s have said, pay attention to your RPE and HR; hard breathing/can’t talk and >90%HRmax is a good indication that you’re doing VO2 intervals correctly, regardless of the generic power target.


For a rider who’s power at VO2max was less than 120% of FTP I think that the bottom end of VO2max would probably scale with the top end, so the range would be 102.5% to 110%, for example.


I think this would be exceptionally rare. Unless terminology is being mixed?

Think that hits the nail on the head!

Really? 120% is at the middle of the bell curve.

Power at VO2max is very similar to 5 minute power - you can see the wide spread in the plot below.

This graph is a perfect illustration of why 120% doesn’t work for everyone.


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I think this thread is a reminder that it is important to read the complete workout instructions AND know your zones. Coach Chad actually does a decent job of explaining the goals for all the intervals/workouts but he has to pick a specific number for each target. If you read the instructions and know your zones, there is enough there to make educated adjustments.


I’m on week 2 of Century Specialty after finishing Sustained Power Build MV a couple weeks ago. I found those 108% FTP workouts in the first half of SusPB to be, as a group, the toughest in TR so far.

Good news is that they become 102% intervals in the back half of the plan and those aren’t as awful.

FWIW, TR classifies the 108% workouts as Threshold, not VO2max. So I’m not sure whether it’s worth worrying about staying in VO2max.

  • That’s not necessarily true, see the evidence below:
  1. Raymond +7:

    • Classified as “Threshold” under the name (which I find to be incorrect, based on the following info)
    • “Description” Clarifies 108% of FTP use.
    • “Goals” include direct reference to VO2max power.
  2. My Raymond +7 from last week:

    • My FTP for this workout was 240w at 108% interval work = 259w
    • Title for the first interval is “VO2 Max1”, and all others work intervals follow this trend.
    • I had trouble later in this workout and did a mix of adjustments to finish it out, and my VO2 work was far from ideal in those cases.

So, despite what I see as an incorrect labeling above (Under the workout name), this workout at 108% of FTP is VO2max per TR. This is also present in other workouts at the same power level, so it is not unique.

  1. And the final consideration is from Dr. Coggan himself, via the Power Training Zones for Cycling.

However, we also recognize that the zones are not discrete points of transition, and the relative accuracy of any FTP or relative physiological demands will vary the actual impact to each rider independently.

As such, 108% may not really be VO2max for some riders, just as the 120% may not be VO2max (or at least something that is repeatable as desired) for other riders.