How should Traditional Base feel?

I took a FTP test 4 weeks ago at the beginning of Traditional Base 1 ( Traditional Base 2 started today). My ramp test FTP 4 weeks ago was 260 for a 3.28 W/kg. I finished all the workouts in Base 1 but at times they felt a bit challenging, maybe just mentally. I guess I thought they would feel easy since it’s all Zone 2 work. Even my rest week didn’t feel particularly restful.

I had a poor FTP test today starting Traditional Base 2, for plenty of legitimate reason (poor sleep, sick, unmotivated and stressful work day). I know I should have passed on doing the FTP test, and should probably just ignore my FTP score of 242 today.

But my poor FTP test today got me thinking. How is Traditional Base supposed to feel? Should it be easy? Is it supposed to still be challenging, but in a different way than sweet spot and high intensity intervals? Can I expect my FTP to drop coming off my XCO race season that ended Sep 29, 2018 when I was at peak fitness? Will doing Traditional Base at only Zone 2 (Zone 3 in Traditional base 2) effect my ability to reach anaerobic efforts required at the last minutes of the ramp test?

Hey MI-XC, I also had my ftp drop. In my case down 3% from 245 to 238 over the course of traditional base 1. That said, I didn’t complete all the workouts due to time constraints at both work and home (remodeling project didn’t finish on schedule):

At the end I switched to Sweet Spot Base 1 due to ongoing time constraints at work, and suffering from a sore rear end (ha ha, ‘butt’ true) on all those long indoor rides (no problems outside).

While ftp went down, there were a couple of changes that I didn’t see at first. After looking more closely, a couple of undeniable improvements were hiding in my data and workout notes:

  • I could do 90-120 minute sweet spot rides in SSB1-HV without on bike nutrition
  • my heart rate decreased compared to previous SSB1 efforts this past year (I repeated SSB1 several times due to some setbacks)

The first item I believe (without data to prove) is due to improved use of fat as a fuel source at higher intensities. The second items seems to point to improvements in aerobic endurance.

Regarding the ramp test, I do agree, it seems anaerobic work is favored at the end. And trad base 1 does not even attempt to keep the anaerobic system warm (in exchange for total focus on raising base aerobic fitness). To my eyes, it seems trad base 2 does add back some higher intensity efforts.

Given the aerobic improvements I’ve seen after trad base 1, it would have been interesting to do an 8 min or 20 min ftp test instead of the ramp test. My gut says it would have been a higher ftp. Instead of doing the longer 8/20 min test, I inserted a “threshold / over-under” week between trad base 1 and SSB1 in an attempt to warm up my top-end. The next ramp test a week later only bumped ftp from 238 to 240. And for the second time in a week, my lungs/HR gave up before my legs did. So instead of retesting with longer test, I parked my ego, accepted the 240, and proceeded to SSB1.

Hope that helps, I do believe there is benefit to improving “aerobic floor” (fat as fuel and higher power at LT1) by doing a traditional base and hope to do it next October (except outside, and not on the trainer).

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I am in week 2 of trad base 3 (low volume). When I started trad base 1 back in September I was coming off about 2 weeks of complete break from training and the 4 weeks before that had been unstructured outdoor rides for the most part. I’m a triathlete and have lots of time to base build so picked trad base for the relatively low intensity with the goal of working on my swimming and running while keeping the bike ticking over. I’m at a much lower w/kg (currently 2.35) and have seen about a 4% improvement from each 4 week block. I have also lost the “all inclusive in Mexico” weight that I put on.

Here’s how I’ve felt:
Trad Base 1: challenging because of the constant pedalling and the mind-numbing nature of the workouts; hardest part was finding something on netflix to keep me entertained.
Trad Base 2: at the beginning the tempo and sweet spot work just required more mental effort but no issues actually getting the workouts done. By the end of the 4 weeks it felt pretty natural.
Trad Base 3: only in week 2 but completed Hesperus (loooong and boring) without any endurance issues. Also completed Jefferson (threshold but long recoveries) without any problems. General feeling is rather positive as I’m back in the training groove and my goal of working on my swimming/running is going well.

If I remember I’ll report back after finishing this block.


I’m also working my way through Traditional Base now and have found it to be be harder than I thought it would be. I think the zone 2 workouts are as stressful as higher intensity workouts, just in a different way. Perhaps they don’t increase FTP as dramatically but they definitely build aerobic capacity. I suspect the Ramp Test protocol emphasizes muscular endurance over aerobic endurance.

I started phase 3 this week and had a good bump in FTP on the ramp test (from 223 to 240). The third phase increases the intensity over the first two phases. I was apprehensive about this morning’s workout of 3x12 minute Sweet Spot intervals but was able to finish them feeling strong.

I plan to finish this final phase and then start SSB. I believe the Zone 2 workouts are giving me a “deeper” aerobic fitness which will help me reap the benefits of the muscular endurance work to follow.


I’m in the recovery week between Traditional Base Mid Vol 2 and 3 and while it’s been nothing too taxing it’s by no means as ‘easy’ as I thought it was going to be!

The first few weeks weren’t the most interesting I found and I skipped the recovery week as I felt I didn’t need it (more of the same but less) and moved on to Part Two. That’s been a harder - rides of up to 3 hours at 0.73IF are no walk in the park. Add into that a few scattered intervals, something I haven’t done for a while now and I’d echo many of the feelings above - it feels harder than it should!

I’m not really expecting any significant changes in ability during these few months, more ticking over while on a swim and run training block like @Scheherazade before looking to start Sweet Spot Base in the New Year.

Thanks for the insight fellas. I’ll keep plunging along through Traditional Base. I’m doing Base, build, base, build, specialty headed towards my A race. There’s plenty of time to build fitness and a little dip coming off race season is to be expected I would assume.

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