There are a thousand reasons a work out might be hard, assuming everything is about correct FTP is a red herring.
Since I started TR in mid April 2022, I’ve failed 6 workouts some where I couldn’t finish or some where I had to turn down the intensity and got a struggle survey.
The first was in August, Spanish Needle -3, I was working a lot (12 hr shifts as a nurse, including night shifts) and felt fatigued so put that in my struggle survey (poor sleep) but 3 days later I tested positive for Covid (1st time) so think that may have been a factor as well. The next was 11 days later, I stayed off the bike till symptoms resolved than started doing low intensity workouts and when I saw my HR wasn’t doing anything funky I tried Tyndall -5 to see if I could do something similar to Spanish Needle -3 but easier but I aborted 18 mins in as it felt like too much. Later in August and September I was able to successfully complete Anaerobic and VO2 Max workouts successfully.
My next failure was Beacon -3 in Oct 15th, didn’t have an excuse, it just felt too intense so thats what I put, I aborted at 53 mins instead of the 1h30m but did get some power PRs for the time I did hold on.
I failed again in November with Taylor -3, it was a stretch workout and I needed to lower the intensity to get through the last set of intervals and marked it as too intense.
In late December I got the flu and did Endurance workouts instead of the prescribed intensity work and didn’t fail anything.
On Jan 11th Trad Base LV gave me Chocurra as a breakthrough workout which I accomplished but as it bumped my SS level up from 3.1 to 5.7 I failed my next SS workout Eichorn +2 which was level 5.8, I turned down the intensity ~1/2 through the first 20 min interval but still got x88 Power PRs, marked it as too intense and felt it was due to accomplishing Chocurra as a breakthrough, bumping my SS PL too fast.
On Jan 27th my SS levels were dropped a bit after failing Eichorn +2 but I failed Steamboat +2 (4.4) after reducing intensity midway through the 4th interval. I said this was training fatigue and it bumped my next week’s SS workouts down to PL 2.7 and 2.8. I haven’t failed anything since.
On review, most of my failures seem to be related to sickness, fatigue or TR bumping up a PL faster than what I can handle.
I have unscheduled breaks often but I always finish the workouts. I accept this as part of training and I typically see some level of improvement when I revisit a similar or harder session later on in my program. I wouldn’t call it failure as I can’t possibly know what my upper limit is without testing it.
To me a ‘failing a workout’ is a TR / indoor training type of concept/attitude that I’ve never seen anywhere else. I’ve been riding/racing/training for 40ish years now. In the 80s or 90s or 00s, nobody ever asked if you failed a workout. The idea didn’t exist. If you were supposed to do some intervals and weren’t feeling it, the ride became an endurance or recovery ride. Not a failure. And you know it was because you were too fatigued to do the intervals.
You “fail” a computer generated workout because the computer doesn’t have your FTP correct or it doesn’t know your level of fatigue. And you blindly follow it’s advice. The computer also doesn’t know if you are a fast twitch type that can do VO2 at 120% or a slow twitch type that can only manage 108%.
My only epic failure was a 60 mile group ride that turned into a 120 mile ride. It was great until I hit the wall at mile 110 and had to limp home at 12mph barely able to turn the pedals. I called everybody I knew from a pay phone for a pickup but nobody answered the phone. And later I learned that most of the group, took a train home from mile 80!
Agree with a lot of this.
The only workouts I fail are the ones never started.
For those who really must know if they’ve done a good workout or not
I’d give two thumbs up except for a minor quibble on #5.
Failing to complete or skipping a single workout in weeks and weeks of completed workouts isn’t failing at training. It is recognising that sometimes there are factors outside your training that no AI can know about and the best decision can be to skip or stop a workout.
Failing at training is being inconsistent , or ill disciplined at the target of the session, or not taking enough recovery, or getting injured due to overuse and needing weeks off, or believing a plan is fixed and cannot be changed because of other stressors in your life.
Remember it is not the single “hero” workout that will deliver you to your destination but the accumulation of all those workouts you were able to absorb and recover from and go again a little bit stronger.
I don’t think I have failed any workouts since I started using Adaptive Training and progression levels. Before that when the workouts within a plan were fixed there were a few I always had a hard time with and I would fail from time to time. Good ole Mary Austin and Leconte got me several times over the years.
Eventually I learned to swap those workouts out and replace it with something that would progress me upward more gradually. Now with AT and progression levels TR does it all for me and at least for me works very well.
I’m in week 6 of SSB-Mid and I’ve failed one workout so far. My legs were really sore when I started and I wasn’t able to finish the last of five 9 minute sweet spot intervals. I still got +something on the workout.
I’ve had other workouts that were hard to finish but that is the only one I could not do.
After reading through this thread, my first thought is: maybe change the name to “how often do you overreach?”
But to the topic at hand…I have overreached a handful of times since using TR. I once chased an unreasonably high FTP, which was in 2018 before Adaptive training. Took awhile to bounce back from that.
I recently had a rough patch of workouts during a time when a close friend passed away. The mental stress took more of a toll than I would have ever realized…but TR didn’t lie.
At 52 years old, I don’t overreach much anymore, mainly because it involves a higher risk of injury. I usually adjust PLs of a recommended workout to follow a slower progression (whether it be sweet spot, or threshold…tempo and endurance I can progress quicker)
Anyhow, it’s my personal belief that TR still has an epidemic of overinflated FTPs. Not as many as before Adaptive training, but still lots of vanity FTPs, nevertheless.
Over 8 years of structured training, I think I’ve got less than 4 incomplete workouts. But, my philosophy (with my 50 year old knees and hips) is to work within the plan and within the workout structure. I save my ‘stretch’ efforts for actual outdoor mtb rides.
I believe there is some limited data floating around that shows using resistance and NOT erg mode during workouts allows you to stretch over intervals and work harder when you can, resulting in greater training stress and possibly greater gains. As an example, during neuromuscular targeted intervals (151%+ FTP) there really is no reason not to try to hit higher power, which many people can, which gives you more training stress and might help you build faster. If you have bad joints like me, you might just be happy to stay on target for the duration. But the gist is for sufficiently motivated and capable riders, not using erg mode generally will give you greater results
FWIW, Here’s my general approach to ensure training ‘succes’.
To be successful doing structured workouts and training you want to strive for the following:
Hit target power and cadence.
(adjust FTP slightly until it feels hard but right)
Complete the workouts.
(adjust intensity and duration, if you’re quitting interval, see #1.)
Stick to your plan.
(Move days around or choose variations if needed)
1.01. Start with an FTP Test
If you are using structured training, you MUST complete an FTP test to get a baseline target for the workouts to scale to your needs. You can’t simply use your buddy’s FTP as as starting point. And forget about what other people post regarding their FTP test. The value is a personal metric for you to use, not a comparison of your ability as rider. Even if we all used the same equipment and testing procedures, the values might be measured comparably, but how each of uses our strengths as a rider differs, so it’s not worth trying to best your friends’ FTP for the sake of bragging. (Save that for the opening spring rides as you crush them). 10-20 watts too high in FTP is enough to KILL you on any threshold workout. When you are ready to start a program, begin with an FTP test.
1.02. Start with the correct program.
Most online training software and any plans you get from a coach are going to have phases. Typically Base Build-Strength Build-Specialty. There are proven scientific reasons each plans progression is structured as it is. You may find that Base Build, typically the first phase, is not as hard as you think you should be working. If you are planning on a full winter of training, base build will be 6-8 weeks. THEN you start the hard stuff. Even a shorter plan will start out gradually. For most riders jumping right into specialty plans is not as effective overall as if you started with a base build, then a power build and then worked on a speciality. Even if those are condensed programs, 4 weeks each. Unless you have your own coach providing you with customized plans based on test and performance data, you probably want to stick to a progression that prepares you for hard work over time. This typically involves 8 weeks or more. The timeline in my opinion is 12 weeks minimum, with 24 weeks being the timeline for my personal goals this winter.
When deciding on plans, be realistic about how much time you have, taking into account how much time you really have during the week, family commitments, Christmas and other holidays. Don’t try to commit to a LONG series of plans (5 or 7 days a week) if you know you are heading away on vacation for a month in January. Block off your trip time as a rest week, and work backwards from blackout dates and plan accordingly. if you have 10 weeks available, do an 8-week plan so you have some to adjust if needed.
Also be realistic about the FREQUENCY of your workouts. I use LOW VOLUME (3 days a week) training plans exclusively because I like to spend Saturdays and Sundays outdoors XC skiing, snowboarding and fat biking all winter. If I don’t go out on the weekend, I may add extra rides to my program, but I really only want to workout 3 weeknights. The weekend activities end up counting as recovery workout days for me. If you plan a mid-volume program with 5 rides per week and you only complete 3-4 workouts a week, your 8-week plan becomes a +12-week plan which you may never complete. Also, you do not want to take a one or two week break in your plan; use a shorter condensed timeline. You WANT to complete the plan so you can re-test and move to the next progression plan based on results. Using a Low-Volume plan gives you some flexibility in moving workouts around in your calendar. (more below)
1.03. Cadence is Key
Without getting too deep into discussion, it’s important to understand that cadence is a key element to riding an ERG trainer as the resistance gets harder. You can do 2 things to generate power; push the pedals harder or spin the cranks faster. If you slow your cadence and mash pedals, your ERG trainer will increase resistance to make sure you are pushing at the target wattage. If you slow down your cadence, the trainer INCREASES resistance and you will probably slow down even more, potentially cycling you down to ZERO rpm. (This is called the Wahoo Spiral of Death)
The number one thing I tell new ERG riders is that you must keep a good cadence up during tough intervals. When I started TR my normal cadence was about 75rpm. That’s OK, but when the interval resistance is 310 watts (110% of my ftp) it requires a LOT of pedal mashing to maintain 310 watts. By comparison, spinning faster at 90rpm actually REDUCES the resistance of the trainer during the interval. Power is power though; it’s just coming from different muscle utilization and technique. Unless you are intentionally doing slow cadence work, strive for a cadence over 85 rpm. (TR often has cadence recommendations in the instruction text so read the screen!). If you shift to one easier gear in most conditions, you will see an increase in your cadence, but the trainer will also add resistance so you could end up spiralling down. Make sure you stay on top of your effort! If you frequently find yourself in the Spiral of Death, then adjust your FTP. (See below)
1.04. Don’t quit. Adjust
1.04.1. Reducing Intensity
If you accidentally start out with an inflated FTP, you may find yourself failing to complete the hard workouts. Even if your FTP test is accurate, it may take some time before you acclimatize to the expected work load. If you become discouraged because you are quitting workouts you may decide to skip workouts you think will be too hard to compete, and quickly lose interest. It is my belief that you MUST COMPLETE WORKOUTS in order to be successful. 50% of a workout is not complete, nor all that useful in the big picture of structure training plans. 100% of a workout completed at 85% of the target wattage is ANOTHER ONE DOWN and training stress logged.
With the idea of successfully completing workouts, training week, and 12-week plans, make adjustments towards success.
If you’re struggling with workout intensity, you can’t maintain good cadence, or can’t push the pedals on a threshold workout at 90% FTP, REDUCE the target wattage using override buttons DOWN -5 to -10% so you can finish successfully. If you feel like you are bonking and your heart is going to explode, and won’t be able to complete the total time, REDUCE the workout intensity down so you can finish. Quitting a workout at 70% after only 2 Intervals nets you almost nothing in structured training. You MUST finish the workouts. So tweak the workout intensity if that helps you get to full time.
If this happens on consecutive workouts, your FTP is probably too high. CHANGE YOUR FTP by lowering it -5 to -10 watts and try it again and see how it feels. 90% FTP intervals should feel HARD! You have to WORK to keep the cranks moving with good cadence. But you SHOULD be able to complete them most of the time.
Remember that the value of FTP is important for the software to scale workouts to your required stress level, but it does not report on maximum FTP, VO2, heart rate zones, or lactate thresholds and is not a complete measure of ability, fitness or heath. Even when you retest you may not see an increase in FTP, even though you FEEL like you are improving. You may actually see a decrease for any number of reasons. The gross improvements you do get may be other elements of your fitness and riding ability, such as higher sustained cadence, improved VO2 max and lower heart rate or better recovery. Don’t obsess over FTP. Do the tests when you need to and tweak the value if you have to.
1.04.2. Reducing Workout Duration
My personal goal is always to complete every workout, and complete my weekly scheduled workouts, ultimately completing everything inside my target plan. But, sometimes I don’t feel like 90 minutes on the trainer after getting home, so I switch the workout to a 1-hour version. Occasionally, if I think the workout looks like it will kill me because I am tired from my recent outdoor activities, I will change from a 5 interval workout to a 3 interval workout of equal intensity but shorter duration. My goal is to complete my day, my week, my months, close to the target plan. Listen to your body here. If you feel tired, you are tired. Swapping to a shorter workout can keep you on track.
One really great thing about Trainer Road is that many workouts have variations. Some variations are shorter duration workout of the same interval (like 5,4, & 3 x 90% FTP) Others are similar in the intended structure with lower FTP targets. These are labelled with the same name and a qualifying value such as CLARK -1, CLARK -2 etc… You can access them from the workout start page or find them in the master list and swap them into your calendar.
So, if you are tired after a full day of work and your workout looks psycho, choose a VARIATION, -1, -2, -3 that is shorter, possibly even with adjusted intensity. Use a time shortened workout variation rather than skip a day. Drop the target FTP a few watts and work through it, within reason.
1.04.3. Adjusting your week
Skipping workouts all together and re-scheduling them affects the total time of your program. I’ve seen a few friends over commit to Mid-Volume programs (5 days per week) and only make it 4 weeks through the entire plan due to the extended time frame. If you play outside on weekends or have other commitments that make it hard to stick to your planned workout days, I suggest using LOW VOLUE plans and adding additional workouts if you have the time.
And if (when) you become fatigued and are skipping workouts because you feel really tired, space them out more in the calendar. You don’t have to obsess about maintaining your schedule at the expense of life or being fatigued. A few days off will not kill your training. Just be aware that your total calendar days in your plan are stretching out.
(MTB coach and training enthusiasts trying to stay fast after 50)
I think since it’s base phase, nothing has been ridiculously hard lately, even though there have been moderate to hard (my rating) threshold, over unders and short 30/30 style VO2 intervals. I can’t remember a time when the workouts given by TR have ever been too hard. Definitely I have had to pick shorter workouts for time constraints, and there has been injury illness and vacation.
But build is around the corner so for sure I am expecting things to get more challenging. Ask me in a few weeks
I would fail workouts (unable to complete all the sets) when I was coached. Sometimes the workout was meant to be “failed”, and that was the stated intention.
I don’t classify workouts in a pass / fail paradigm. You’re either doing a workout that you’ve prescribed or you are not.
You might have a bad day, but at least you attempted to get the workout in.
Instead of just saying one has failed a workout, try to understand why you couldn’t hit the targets.
Hasn’t happened yet luckily, although some sessions have been super tough!
It happened from time to time. But now I buy nutritional supplements that were recommended to me to buy at Canadian Pharmacy by an acquaintance, and somehow I have more strength and a desire to train
Handful of times in my 4 years on TR. Almost always as a result of illness.
I stopped a VO2 max workout today, 3 mins into the warm up ……
I realised I hadn’t put my HR chest strap on. Went and got it and put it on, then started again from the beginning.
So you failed at failing (succeeded in the workout)?
“I have never failed to fail”
-Kurt Cobain Nirvana - You Know You're Right (LP Version) - YouTube