Hitting a brick wall

I’m a new-ish cyclist. 50yo. Started in 2018 after 6 months of no exercise at all after a skiing injury and an Ilizarov frame. USo low base. Never done structured training before and was very unfit in my 20s and 30s.

Started plan builder last August in preparation for a 150 mile Gran Fondo across northern England in June 2021. I did a couple of century rides the summer before COVID. All going well and sticking to the plan religiously (low volume) until about a month ago, when a FTP bump (205 - 216 and then 221) coincided with entering a build phase.

I’ve really struggled. Just mange the VO2max work like Bashful and the over-under like Avalanche Spire, but it completely wipes me out for days and I cannot manage more than 2 sessions a week. The longer weekend rides at threshold (eg. Fish) are beyond me. Have also found I’ve suddenly got very low (something I’m prone to anyway).

Have decided to have a week off and concentrate on Yoga and some gentle exercise with kids (has coincided with a week off work).

Should I reduce FTP and carry on with build? Or sack it off and go back to the SSLV plans until my ride in June. Or do something else?

Cheers

Reduce FTP. Struggling with threshold and similar sessions, but being able to do the vo2max efforts means that your short-duration power is good and better than the 120% of FTP TR sets it at by default. IMO it is better to set FTP lower, and then increase intensity if you feel up for it for specific sessions. I’d drop FTP to 210W and see how you go. Having a week off first to reset is a good plan too.

I’d also suggest doing a longer outside ride over the weekend, even if you have to do it instead of the TR session. The weather is getting better, its more fun, and you’ll need to get your body used to a long day in the saddle for the C2C (assume thay’s what you’re planning?)

IMHO for a new cyclist in 50s, the TR build plans are simply too hard unless you have above average vo2max and other endurance experience.

This is the Internet and I’m not a coach, almost a decade older and only 5 years of cycling under my belt. Not sure what to tell you, however it is possible to prepare for a major event like that (I did something like it 2016).

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I think that there’s a growing consensus with regards to interval training. Two, maybe three hard sessions a week. The remainder is endurance work.

Why not skip the hard weekend workout and replace it with a 2+ hour endurance spin. Try and build that up to 3+ hours. Rides like these can have really positive effects on your mood, your mental health and your cycling performance. They’ll also enable you to get your nutrition plan sorted for your bigger events.

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In Joe Friel’s book “Fast after 50”, he recommends a maximum time in zone for VO2 max of 15 minutes for younger athletes (ie. nearer to 50 yo).

It’s an interesting read.

I currently miss the intervals at the end of workout that have more time in zone than I want.

The received wisdom also seems to be that training VO2 max is perfectly possible after 50, but it might take longer. So spreading the same number of workouts over a longer period may be required to get the benefits.

Unfortunately TR doesn’t have ‘masters’ plans that take any of this into account, so you have to alter everything manually.

Reduce the intensity of the workout, not ftp. And if the third workout still seems to be too much, swap in an endurance ride instead.

And I think this is especially hard for a new-ish rider. You are building a base far beyond the micro-cycles represented by a 4-6 week plan. I takes years in my opinion to build up the resiliency to handle the volume of these plans gracefully, but struggling isn’t an issue in my opinion. Just try to keep your awareness of how you are feeling and dial it back when you feel you need to. No plan or coach will be able to know exactly how you feel so you need to have an attunement to your own body and adjust accordingly.

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I hope you are doing a lot more saddle time than just following the LV plan. For 150 mile fondo ride, I think the priority is endurance and practicing fueling so you can complete the 150 miles comfortably without bonking and having a miserable day.

SS Base plus a lot of extra low intensity endurance riding might be a good plan. Consider an easy “rest” week every third or fourth week. By easy week, lower volume a little and don’t do any intervals until your legs feel fresh. Keep doing your easy endurance riding. The new TR polarized plans might be a good bet.

You might want to take a look at your sleep/rest/recovery and also nutrition.

Also, how much riding do you do outside of the TR program?

It sounds like you’ve made some really good progress.

I’m not quite your age but I know I don’t recover as fast as I used to.

I know the last time I went through power build it was pretty brutal. If you need more time to recover, maybe only cut back to 1 or 2 Vo2max sessions a week?

I think slightly lowering the intensity of the workout and then increasing it if you feel good is a good option.

I struggle and I turn 39!

OP - maybe step back and think of your ultimate goals here. It appears to be more about getting fit - using TR is awesome and will help you, but if you don’t want to get faster increase every strength and reduce your weaknesses - then struggling a workout is just unnecessary pain.

You are early in cycling - start to find out what you can do, what you can’t, and where you struggle. Don’t get beat up or mad about it, just take notes.

I’ve been doing advanced training for 10 years now, and I still mostly stick to the low volume plans. The medium volume is too much intensity for me. Chad has said this over and over in the podcast. Most people misinterpret the medium volume plan as being “medium difficulty”. This is false. It is VERY difficult, and he has said this many times. Stick to the low volume. Nail those workouts, and give yourself easy “fun” rides in-between. You’ll have a lot more fun and still get really fast.

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Hey, 35 and up is masters!

@doctorhammond I’ve bought a handful of training plans from different companies. My humble opinion is that Coach Chad made plans with pro level intervals. Intervals more appropriate for younger or more experienced riders. Some on this forum will tell you to htfu or change FTP. Both of those options are bad advice. And I’ll be clear, I think Coach Chad does a great job at progressively developing energy systems.

Ok, so what to do if you want to stick with TR plans? My personal belief is you should do as many intervals as possible. And for vo2max/anaerobic work, because those efforts are not tied to FTP (unlike sweet spot and threshold workouts), adjust intensity to push yourself to the breaking point on each vo2max interval as Coach Chad says the in the workout description.

In other words, don’t judge yourself as failing workouts. Get an accurate estimate of your FTP. Do the work you can. Get faster.

Having used plans from other coaches, I think going that route is also a very good approach in particular if you can’t help but judge yourself based on completion of each workout.

Again I’m not a coach, just some random guy on the Internet.

Hope that helps.

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Thanks everyone for the replies. Some good advice there and makes me feel less of a failure for not being able to carry on with the plan in the same way I was before. Some specific responses to comments below but I really do appreciate everyone’s thoughts.

@splash - yes. C2C. I did it 2y ago but had a major mechanical issue at exactly 100 miles (to the metre) and had to stop. Last years was cancelled…

@AJS914 - weather and COVID has hampered longer rides up until now though I’ve got a few in: but yes. Longer rides are featuring heavily in my training from now until late June.

@bbarrera - yeah. The build seems very very intense. I’ve managed most of the work so far but it seems I don’t have the experience and trained physiology at the moment to get through it. Like you say: perhaps more for the pro or experienced club rider? I haven’t heard Coach Chad’s thoughts on this so will look them up in the podcast.

I think the comments about age are really helpful. It’s hard because I’ve never really been fit before and so don’t really know what I should expect of my body. I spent most of my 20s and early 30s drinking and working too hard. But I clearly need to accept I cannot just go and blast and recover like I occasionally did before. I think the cumulative fatigue of many months on the turbo has slowly taken its toll and I perhaps should have gone easier sooner. Like many (all?) medics I have an exaggerated competitive streak / type A personality!

So I think I’m going to enjoy the rest of my week with the kids, then get back to it but drop the intensity a few notches and retest as usual. Also if I don’t feel like it, not beat myself up. And ride more at weekend with the club on the social ride.

Hopefully that’ll carry me across the Lakes, the Dales and the North Yorkshire Moors before midnight on 26th June.

Thanks again, Chris.

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Hey Chris you got this, just work hard and recover as needed. More volume is better. On the podcast I’ve not heard much on the topic, but there is/was an older blog post where Coach Chad stated masters plans were being worked on. But Adaptive Training appears to be the priority, and I can understand why TR prioritized this over a masters plan (but its still needed IMHO). There are several masters threads on the forum, here is one: Plan builder for masters [Feature Request] you might want to scan for ideas.

This. Was going to suggest finding a good club but sounds like you’re already in one. Cycling with other people is one of the best ways of dealing with feeling low IMO. Always put enjoying your cycling above optimising your cycling, in the long run that’s what’s going to lead to the better consistency and volume over months and years that builds fitness. And will have you still out there enjoying your riding at 60, 70, hopefully 80…

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Stick to what you can handle. I would think that 2 hard sessions per week would generate enough stimulus. Supplement them with longer, easier rides.

In the context of this thread, having an appropriate and achievable plan is more important at setting up an athlete for success. I don’t know about you, but TR’s build made me feel like a loser even though prior to TR I was able to build a higher level of fitness by coaching myself using fundamentals. Don’t underestimate the psychology of failing workout after workout.

Which comes back to my point about training plans for non-elite new riders. TR is teeing up Adaptive Training as part of the solution to this issue, but when that will be generally available and how much that will close the gap are still open questions.

Think we’re coming from the same place. I totally get the psychology of failing workouts. Hence why I always make sure that I’m regularly doing group rides which can’t be “failed” and which remind me why I enjoy cycling (watching a yellow line tracing over blue boxes wasn’t what first attracted me to the sport!).

So in the context of the OP yes I would fully agree with the advice above to dial FTP down a bit until he can complete workouts. But I would also stop doing workouts like Fish at the weekends and go for a long club ride instead. Ideally a ride where you can get a decent amount of sustained work at ~SS-Threshold so you’re getting a similar training stimulus to Fish. E.g. a flat ride in a small group where you can do some long turns on the front. Or a hilly ride where you can do the climbs at ~threshold and then regroup at the top or on the descent. Way more enjoyable IMO than a solo structured workout, and if your ~threshold effort turns out to be 10W lower than your TR estimated FTP then you don’t feel like you’ve “failed” - you’ve still done your turn or got to the top of the hill!

@doctorhammond some great advice ^^ from @simonicusfacilis

I’d second, third or even fourth the club ride element. That will get you hopefully some good long rides in at varying intensities. Over the last few years I’ve stuck to LV and mixed it with club rides. I’d swap out rides/workouts depending on feel. I’m 55.

The workouts have helped me no doubt but the much longer club rides including the coast and back have been invaluable from a mental perspective of long days in the saddle… fuelling and so on.

Also done a couple of C2Cs and if yours is the coast to coast in a day I’ve not done that one yet (and it finishes around the corner from my mums) but still plan to. :grin:
Was going to do the Reivers Way off road next (thanks Covid)

Think it’s all complementary… But you have to enjoy it and when you look at the trainer and think “nah” or it’s sunny - head outside. I don’t think you can really have junk miles in preparing for something like that.

And to make it relevant I once tried a build phase and it really really messed me up. I won’t say never but I don’t think I’ll try that again in a hurry. I see the TR side as keeping me at a level there or there abouts.