Hitting a brick wall at Build

Apologies if this is similar to other threads.

Background: Very new cyclist here. Bought a trainer in late December, screwed around on Zwift in January, then started TR - and really picked up the training start of March. I essentially went from Couch to TR. I used the plan builder, marked myself as beginner for everything, lower volume, etc. Missed maybe 1 or 2 workouts for all of Base.

Currently: I just got out of Base, and I feel like I’ve hit a brick wall. When I first started TR, my initial ramp was 177. Entering into Build Phase, my FTP is 233. Right now I’m seriously struggling to finish any workouts - my last workout on Monday, Bashful +2, I couldn’t make it past 21 minutes. Been addressing fuel/sleep/etc., but nothing seems to be sticking.

My thoughts/questions: I’m wondering if being a noob to cycling, prevented me from doing an appropriate ramp test at Base, which in turn, meant that I didn’t train at my maximal potential. I think when you’re emotionally unaccustomed to stress, you tap earlier, give up etc., and perhaps I did this on my first ramp? I can definitely tell you, having a good, natural cadence that was 85+ was not something I was even remotely considering on my first ramp test.

Assuming my thought on my Base ramp is true (which it may not be), did training on a 177 Base not prepare me enough for a 233 Build?

Moving forward: Do I manually lower my FTP and try to push through current Build? Or… now that I feel more comfortable biking and interval training in general, do I restart Base with a more accurate and updated FTP?

Right now, I’m taking the rest of the week off and starting back up on Monday - might do some light rides between now and then.

Thanks all for thoughts, and let me know if I can clarify better -

The issue seems to be your FTP jump, not the base->build transition. Which workouts have you been able to complete with the higher FTP? Which ones other than Bashful +2 have you failed?


Carpathian Peak - Finished

Spanish Needle -3 - Finished @ reduced intensity

Baird + 2 - Finished @ reduced intensity

Fang Mountain + 1 - Finished

Bashful + 2 - Failed

A lot of factors can weight in, I’m sure more experienced riders can help you.

From my experience, an key feature to complete workouts is a well ventilated room, using the famous lasko fan is key. Another thing is a good diet to fuel your workouts.

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I’m tempted to suggest that you do go back to base as that was a mighty jump in FTP.

For your two ‘reduced intensity’ rides, did you reduce by the same amount?

I’m also noting from your rides that you finished over under intervals, which leads me to believe that you might have a correctly targeted FTP. However, because you’re new to cycling and training you have not done high end efforts at this new FTP. You’re failing with your anerobic work.

The good news is that your anerobic system trains itself up quicker than the aerobic system. So, if you keep trying your best at these workouts you’ll be able to get more intervals completed. Another thing to keep in mind, is that of course it feels good to finish workouts, but you might be getting the training adaptation from these workouts by doing only a portion of the work.

Specifically for workouts like baseful +2. If you can’t finish the first set perfectly, hang out on the bike and ride through the recovery sections and try to do the next set. You can either skip ahead through the workout or get off the bike and do a light stretch while you’re app goes through the VO2 intervals. Then keep trying. I absolutely think that you would have gotten what you were looking for if you could have done a few more of those intervals.


Ok, so over-unders (Carpathian Peak, Fang Mountain) are feasible - this tells you your FTP is in the right ballpark. And VO2Max (Spanish Needle, Baird, Bashful) are hard if not impossible - this tells you that 120% of your FTP for VO2Max is too high.

As the commentary on VO2Max workouts indicate, the intensity of those is set assuming the proper level is 120% of FTP; but this is not carved in stone, and for some of us, that’s too high. The objective is to set the intensity high enough so that you can barely finish the sets, but not so high that you can’t, and not so low that you breeze through it. Don’t hesitate to drop 5% right at the start for those, and keep the option to either increase if too easy, or drop further if still impossible.


Also check out the podcast 2 before last in which coach Chad explains that the anaerobic/VO2 max power targets should be manipulated based on what you can actually get through within a margin of 5%, since the percentage is different for each person and is not a hard percentage above ftp.

So you could have the correct ftp but still currently not be able to finish those workouts above Threshold, in build. So lower the percentage for a few. It’s better to lower within the margin and complete than stop early.


You beat me to it… :slight_smile:


All - really appreciate the insights. Will sporadically respond to what’s been posted above.

As far as intensity drops go, I tried to drop intensity by smaller, single digit %s, and I felt no reprieve (again, this is just probably mental - but the outcome was not being able to continue until I dropped intensity by a considerable amount (see the workout links posted)).

That being said, I will definitely be more mindful about my intensity drops - when you’re in the thick of it, it’s easy to just mash the minus button and tell yourself it’s what was necessary, when in reality, it might’ve been overkill.

Moving forward - thought is to continue build with this advice in mind, and if I continue to hit my brick wall instead of pushing through it - perhaps reconsider Base at the updated FTP and go from there? I don’t have any events/races to hit, and as long as I’m training, I’m happy, so I don’t have any hesitations about engaging in a Plan restart.

Base wouldn’t hurt as I’m sure having a more mature base would help with the VO2 workouts, but given there seems to be a balance between endurance and VO2 max capabilities, continuing with build as it contains more VO2 work, might be more beneficial. If you can still hit the threshhold and over/unders, I wouldn’t lower your FTP, and for the VO2 work, I would suggest perhaps you don’t know yet how hard hard can be, so I would say push yourself, but it’s better to complete than to quit, so if you have to reduce the intensity as you have been doing.

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You seem to be managing the over/under workouts, but getting smoked by the super-threshold ones. As @rocourteau said, the latter doesn’t tell you much about your FTP, since repeatable super-threshold output can fall within a wide range of percentages of FTP.

There’s also a really good chance the threshold and over/under work at the new, much increased FTP is sapping you, making subsequent workouts all the more difficult.

Here’s two possible approaches:

  1. Keep your current FTP and repeat Sweet Spot Base II. This has a solid mix of work close to threshold and even a smattering of higher intensity. It’s a good way to lock in your new workload.

  2. Stay in build, but be prepared to make adjustments. I might start by approaching VO2 max intervals cautiously, staying well below the target power until/unless you prove to yourself that it’s repeatable. You could also temporarily dial down your threshold and over-under workouts by a few percentage points. They should be challenging, but if you’re at the ragged edge of your breathing or seriously doubting your ability to complete the workout, it’s likely your target is too high.

Good luck!


It should probably depend on your goals for the year. In the past I’ve found week 2 the hardest of the build program - I guess that’s my body adjusting to the new intensity. I’m at the end of my current SSB MVII this week and I expect that in two weeks I may be in the same boat as you - large FTP jumps from taking 9 months off.

My current thinking is if I can’t hold on I’ll re-plan - which most likely means going back to SSMVII again at the increased FTP.

Build is hard, and coming in with a strong base can really help. As mentioned above a lot can depend on various factors, in my own mind I think these are primary considerations:

  • age
  • how many years training
  • if you are anaerobically inclined and the ramp test over-estimates your FTP
  • level of aerobic base fitness
    (assuming doing workout well rested and you don’t have unusual levels of stress)

Some of us benefit from taking more time to develop a strong aerobic base. It can be hard to define a strong base, but when I’ve had it (2017 and 2020) then doing really hard build workouts becomes a lot easier. Sorry I don’t have any simple answers, just some things to consider.

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I’ve noticed that especially VO2 Max workouts I can over-heat even with the Lasko fan. Cooling is clutch especially with that kind of effort indoors.

OP, is there a safe place to do your VO2 max workouts outdoors? PM or not, there seems to be some opinions that you can do VO2 max without power since the goal is to increase HR and breathing rate for a period of time. I just started doing this and it helps me, the RPE is basically the same but I don’t feel like I’m dying when outside for some reason (cooling, moving). Just be sure to place a value on safety and the effectiveness of the workout moving it outside.

with vo2max workouts the goal is to reach a state of max oxygen consumption and hold it for a period of time, usually in smaller chunks of time measured 1-6 minutes. And then accumulate a relatively small number of minutes (vs sweet spot) over the entire workout… something like 10-24 minutes total depending on your level and fitness.

Without wearing a mask to measure oxygen consumption it is up to you to triangulate reaching that state. Ragged breathing is one clue you’ve reached it, mentally holding onto to sustain power is another clue, rising HR is yet another clue, and rate perceived exertion (RPE) of burning muscles and burning lungs is the final clue. Personally I find breathing and RPE to be the easiest, but others like HR and breathing, and others like … Just find what works for you!

Outdoors may offer more cooling depending on where you live.


TR plans are HARD. Not sure I would even recommend them to beginners! I see two solutions:

  • repeat base (up to several times), and/or
  • use an alternative FTP test (the Ramp Test will often overstate your threshold - this may not be a popular opinion in TR circles but it can be quite popular outside them ;)) and/or
  • do an alternative version of the workouts you find the hardest (i.e. a -1 version, or a -3 version if the plan says to do -1). This will help you finish the easier version AND the next workout (because you’ll be fresher).

Edit: you should be training in front of a BIG spinning fan! 100 watts minimum. If you don’t have one, get one and forget about my other recommendations.

You said you were struggling to finish any workouts. So while dialling down VO2 workouts is an option, it sounds like all the workouts are killing you.

On that basis, I’d suggest manually lowering FTP a little - start with 5w. Take off another 5w if necessary. You’ve made massive gains, which are commendable, and a few watts won’t change that. Doing this will make everything a little easier - meaning you don’t completely empty the tank on threshold, and you’re fresher for the VO2 work as well as it being easier.

If you have to, then skipping a VO2 interval here or there probably won’t make much difference to your progress, just make sure you’re still eliciting that VO2 response if you’re turning them down or making it easier some other way, and try to keep it as close to the intended format as you can.

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Besides everything said above, there’s also a psychological component. You said you went straight from the couch to training. This could mean that you are not used to suffering, or that you still have to calibrate your suffering perception. The same effort will be perceived quite differently if you are used to beating yourself down than if you are new to this. What seems like dying now may feel a bit more tolerable with some training history.
So the HTFU-component also comes into play.

How long can you hold 233?


For what its worth when I hit Bashful+2 I had to reduce the intensity. Don’t be too hard on yourself an IF 0.94 workout is no joke.

Stuff like that requires you to be pretty well rested both mentally and physically in my opinion. The stuff below 0.90 for 60 minutes I can be a bit fatigued and get through regularly but thats not the case for Bashful+2.

I am in the boat where I am finding through many VO2 sessions I may be more like a 115-117% FTP for 2-3 minutes kind of guy. 120% (or more) and I will need to reduce or stop early. Much better to get in 60-90 minutes at 115% ftp than 30 minutes at 120%.

The only other thing I would offer is that your 2 reduced intensity workouts were pretty big reductions. Is it possible to see that this is not going well and reduce earlier so that the reduction is not so big?