Help with my weird physiology

Hi there, I need some advice on how to adapt TR workouts…

I recently had a Physiology assessment at the Boardman performance centre in the UK (highly recommended) - they identified that I have the unusual capacity of being able to hold a high proportion of my VO2max for a long period of time - essentially my FTP is about 87% of my VO2 max power, where I believe around 80% is more normal. My 1 hour/FTP HR is also 90% of my max HR, which I believe is quite high too. I think this is giving me issues with VO2 max workouts as currently set up in TR as I am so close to my maximums at FTP that even 110% FTP blows me right through what I’m capable of sustaining for more than about 90 seconds. Basically almost any power level above FTP results in HR going out of control and legs blowing up. It’s not about gutting it out, I know VO2max workouts are supposed to be hard, it’s about bashing into limits where I end up involuntarily backing off as I am simply unable to pedal any more (as per the end of the ramp test).

Threshold and sweet spot workouts are not a problem so I am happy that my FTP is set about right, and I’ve done a recent ramp test to confirm this.

I’m trying to improve VO2Max and power at VO2max, so doing short power build at the moment, but I can’t successfully complete any intervals without knocking the intensity back to about 90%, and even then I will often really struggle with the longer intervals, longest I can really manage is 2 mins at this level. Know it’s about getting fitter and hopefully as I improve I will get further through them, but given my physiology is it logical to assume that I should be doing these intervals at 90% and at least getting close to completing them, or should I just bash on at 100% aand accept that I will keep blowing up?

Does anyone have any thoughts/advice?

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Try to use 90% of 5min max for vo2max workouts

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Hey there!

Since you have identified your VO2 max as a weakness you wish to improve, I would select VO2 max workouts that have a higher number of shorter intervals in them. These workouts have a similar training adaptation but will be easier for someone who struggles with VO2 max work.

For example, Bluebell has 3 sets of 6 one minute VO2 max intervals.

Charybdis, on the other hand, has 2 sets of 3 three minute VO2 max intervals.

Both workouts have 18 minutes at VO2 max and will have very similar training adaptations. However, if you can successfully complete Bluebell at 95-100%, you will get a lot more training value than doing Charybdis at 85-90%.

As you train consistently, your ability to ride at VO2 max will improve, and as it does, you can begin selecting workouts with longer VO2 max intervals :+1:


90% of 5 min max is pretty much 110% of FTP which is the intensity the OP said was unsustainable


His VO2max is 113% of his FTP (app. 5 min max power). 90% of 113% FTP= 1,02% FTP. This should be sustainable.

Everyone should be able to do 3min blocks @ 90% of his/her 5min max (!) power.


Thanks, that makes lots of sense.

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Not sure where you got vo2max at 113% of ftp - I certainly can’t do 113% for 5 minutes.
Guess what I’m discovering is that my physiology doesn’t always align with rules of thumb that apparently apply to “everybody”

You said 87% of VO2 max is your FTP. Therefore, VO2 max is 115% of your FTP (1/0.87).

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It was the 113% that confused me, agree with the 115% as a calculation. Either way though I can’t do it for 5 minutes!

I’ll do the shorter intervals as suggested for now as I think I stand a chance of actually completing those.

I think on one of the podcasts Chad mentioned that if you can get through the first few intervals, you can still gain adaptations in the ones where you start blowing up. Back pedal a few seconds to recover than jump back in at the prescribed watts. Fighting through with the short breaks will also drive improvement

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I think this is the unique case where performing VO2max intervals as a % of your FTP from the ramp test is leading you astray. I think the TR ramps test algorithms work very well in most cases, but perhaps not when FTP is such a high % of PO @ VO2max.

It would be beneficial for you to program these intervals based on your PO @ VO2max from your assessment vs. a % of your FTP. I think you’ll have to bump the workout down so that the intervals hit the PO you desire. This should maximize the adaptive processes as you’ll be maintaining the desired stimulus for longer over the entire training session. I don’t think this is a good scenario for back pedalling.

I think @Bryce offers some good thoughts as well. Those shorter duration VO2max efforts are great without the accumulation of fatiguing byproducts associated with working well above threshold for long periods of time (i.e., accumulation of hydrogen ion, etc.)

I’m not sure if there is a feature that lets you do the above without changing the entire workout. @chad @Nate_Pearson?


Thanks for reminding me of that- recall Chad saying that, guess the issue I have is I’m too far in the hole to finish later sets. Worth pondering a bit. Thanks for the comments.

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Great thoughts, thanks. I’ve been knocking down the intensity to try and find something manageable. Frustratingly I seem to have very little headroom between ftp and a power that I blow up with. However now I know what I’m struggling with I can target training to see if I can improve it. Planning a dual attack, firstly power at vo2max improvement via shorter vo2max intervals, and secondly straight vo2max improvement via aerobic engine/sweet spot type builds.
Fingers crossed!

Your VO2 max power is 15% higher than your FTP. The range coach Chad has referred to in various podcasts i think is 15-25%, so you are on the lower end of the range, but I don’t think this is highly unusual.

Curious - did they give any assessment / opinion on your muscle composition? Usually, your profile is associated with a higher fraction of type 1 (slow twitch) fibers, and less type 2 (fast twitch) fibers as the former are the ones that create less lactate, allowing you to ride at a higher fraction of VO2max without fatiguing. This is not a bad thing for a cyclist!

Like others have said, higher intensity workouts (VO2max, threshold) are a great way to build your higher end. And this usually can be done in a time effective way on the trainer.

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I would agree with @gdumanoir almost entirely. I also think that the ‘problem’ has a significant psychological aspect. One of the issues of any generic plan is that it relies on averages and bell curves to set parameters. This is no criticism of TR, currently they have no option but to do this and by the sound of many of the recent comments they are looking to make the TR experience and power targets more personal moving forwards with the big data they have.

However that can lead to the issues of ‘failing’ workouts that you ‘should’ be able to do. Conversely for some (weirdo’s :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:) they increase to VO2 Max intervals as they seem too achievable.

If you had a coach you may find that testing would be much more individual - do 5x5min intervals, as hard as you can, take the average of those and that’s your baseline 5 minute interval power. What percentage that is of your threshold isn’t relevant but gives you markers for your performance that are achievable for you and can be worked on.

I think that’s a reasonable way to look at it but it might also be worth looking at the longer intervals at 105%ish. There’s plenty to choose from in the Sustained Power Build and the 40K Speciality Plan for example. You might find that these types of intervals fit your physiology better that the 120-125% intervals.

I think I probably share many of your physiological characteristics. Looking at my HR data from last year my average HR for a 25 mile TT was around 89-90% of my max HR and my HR for the 50 mile TT’s I rode was at essentially the same HR as the 25’s. I really struggle with the VO2 Max intervals as set as well but can quite happily ride long intervals at sweet spot or threshold. My solution has been to use my abilities as a diesel engine and focus on longer distance racing where I can often put time into those who can handily beat me over shorter distances!

Find the levels of interval you are able to complete, and work on making that number higher or those intervals longer, regardless of looking at what you ‘should’ be able to achieve. It doesn’t matter what those numbers compared to others if they are going up.

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They didn’t specifically assess muscle types but highlighted that I’m more suited to sprinting than longer endurance so I’d equate that to fast twitch. Fits with what you’re describing too. Also explains why I can cope better at high powers if I knock cadence right down and therefore switch on more raw power fast twitch.

Thanks for the thoughts.

Many thanks for your thoughts, makes perfect sense. Guess it’s a characteristic of being a bit unusual!

I’m now trying to figure out how to use my physiology to my advantage. Boardman recommendation is my best events are either short high intensity and punchy like crits, and cross or if I can raise my vo2max a bit I’d be well suited to steady high intensity efforts like TT.

Onwards and upwards!

Give them all a go and see what you enjoy!

This (and some of the links) might be worth a read. It largely agrees with @DaveWh’s comment

I almost certainly fall into the low responder catagory which potentially might fit you too I can handle plenty of volume, recover well and have a low ability to create lactate. I did a running lactate test a few years ago and hit 4mmols of lactate at 95% of my max heart rate. This is reflected in all my race performances - my marathon PB predicts a 5k time that I’m almost a minute off being able to achieve and I’m significantly better at 100mile TT’s than 10mile TT’s in a similar way. I reckon I don’t own a single fast twitch fibre! Like you I also tend toward lower cadences as well.

This as well might help inform how to get your own ‘best bang for your buck’ training plan and how you might get tailor your training to suit your physiology around how some people respond to differing training stimuli more than others.

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Interesting reading - lots to think about. Many thanks.

I had similar issues with v02 workout - whole thread here with lots of advice

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