How to improve ... when NOT improving ... 53 male

Based on what I’ve read thus far, I’d say you’re in need of more recovery than the TR plans are offering. A kitchen sink ride is the last thing you need IMO.

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FTP is not the end all be all. It’s a convenient single measure off of which we can base our training zones. There are other ways to get there, but they will invariably involve more testing or more invasive testing. So don’t hang your hat on FTP, but these GCN pieces and others start with the assumption that you think FTP is everything… and no one should actually think that. Recognize it for what it is: valuable, but not invaluable.

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I’m starting to think I need to do LV build for my first build of the year, and then maybe graduate to MV for the second. Short Power is wrecking me at MV, as Sustained did last year, but I made it through GBMV as my second one last year.


Hey Craig …
That is a tough break! probably tougher b/c you know what it’s like to have some legit performance … the mental game seems to ultimately be the biggest challenge … accepting and being grateful no matter what … good luck

There are a lot of similar overtraining posts in this thread, so hopefully this isn’t too redundant. That said, I tend to think there are three viable options that you should consider. They are (in order of increasing difficulty for me to explain):

Change to low volume. Relatively easy to implement, just an across the board reduction

Change your rest week cycle. Slightly more complex to implement, but this is what @mcneese.chad was getting at with the change from three weeks on one week off to two weeks on one week off. You can do this by copying his plans or by dragging weeks around in the calendar. Not too bad, and honestly a really good way to experiment

Decrease intensity but maintain volume. One of the often overlooked ‘problems’ with the TR plans, particularly as relates to masters athletes, is that they often have three days of higher intensity work per week. This can lead to fatigue and burnout. I think more people, particularly those in your shoes who get a lot of satisfaction out of riding 5+ days a week, should consider the approach of decreasing intensity but maintaining volume. This is achieved in a number of ways, but most simply you can take a TR plan and replace one day of intensity each week with a similar, or longer, endurance ride. More complex, and as you learn your body better, you can start putting in higher intensity workouts to replace those suggested by TR, but only two per week.


I think it’s in one of the podcasts where it’s mentioned that for us older athletes (I’m 60) training can be as much about preventing the decline as it is about improving.

I started with TR about five years ago for a couple of years then suspended my account before starting again last October. Originally I used virtual power but now have a power meter, my FTP supposedly dropped from 258W to 241W but the figures aren’t really comparable - anyway I’ve clawed my way back to 253W with another ramp test tomorrow.

As above it’s just a figure on which to scale the effort needed for the workouts. Perhaps not 100% accurate in all cases - see the various threads about VO2 max efforts “killing” people - but with a bit of self-awareness you can adjust things yourself for those. It’s also possible that while your FTP might not improve you are actually improving in other areas, a sort of “levelling up” as it were where your weak spots aren’t quite so weak.

Also a common theme in threads is the amount of TR work you should do, indoor workouts are hard. It’s important to realise that rest and recovery is just as important as the workouts, you can’t have one without the other. As you get older those recoveries become ever more vital. I do the LV plans, this gives me the flexibility at the weekends to ride outside or do another workout if the weather’s bad. The MV & HV plans would be too much (for me) and I’d end up skipping workouts with the subsequent feeling of “failure”. The opposite of that is that I’m more likely to do and succeed at the workouts in the LV plan.

Sort of allied to the above are the concepts of Minimum Effective Volume and Maximum Recoverable Volume, i.e. the least amount of work needed to improve and the most amount of work you can recover from. As you get older MEV increases whilst MRV decreases. At some point in time MRV drops below MEV. At this point you can’t do enough work to improve because you can’t recover from it, essentially age enforced overtraining. In TR terms you could use TSS, for example: you might have a weekly TSS of 200 for MEV and 300 for MRV. So long as your weekly load adds up to between these values you should improve.


I know how you feel. 51 with a fairly consistent low volume block since Christmas and I just went from 195 to 184 in a ramp test this week. Very disappointing. I think there is a wider benefit I can feel when on the MTB each week with someone faster (and 10yrs younger) on a 7 mile loop, 1000ft off road climb but the figures don’t show it. I had a build week towards the end and it was indeed very hard. I calibrate my kickr snap each time and whilst the power may not be absolute it should be relative so change should still be seen. In the end i’m just going to plug away and hope for improvement. I am pretty sure I am not already at my top limit but cycling just doesn’t seem to respond like my running does. Background is marathons, iron man and bit of ultra (MdS) and always been bottom half at best!

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If your not weight training I would dive into that. I backed off to a LV plan and added 2 strength days a week. Coming from not doing any strength work at all. Made a huge difference for me. I started to see my gains slow down and knew I needed to look elsewhere. After 3 months of consistent strength work I started seeing some big gains again. Especially at 5 minute power and time to exhaustion. I instituted 4 exercises and it’s all single leg work. Squats, RDL, lunge, reverse lunge. Started with no weight and moved up from there. My reps stay in the 6-10 range. When I can hit 10 I move up weight. Hope some of that helps. And for upper body I do some core, pull-ups, pushups, and military press.


Uh oh. First I’ve heard these two acronyms. Not sure I want to hear any more. But if I did, where would I look?

Like some others my FTP apparently went down a few percent when I changed from virtual power on a KK to a power meter and a smart trainer, but my time over distance numbers on identical outside rides prove I’m riding faster than I was – maybe just because smarter – even though in late 70’s my FTP is pretty static. Like OP I use TR because I feel better when I do.

I’ll take it. I’m just not in that much of a hurry to get to my Finish Line.

I first came across them on another cycling forum on a thread about training but if you search for “Minimum Effective Volume” then you’ll end up on weight lifting/body building sites but I suppose the concepts are the same.

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Hey there and welcome back.

I’m going to take this back to basics. To be improving, or failing to improve its one of two things;

  1. The stimulation;

Are you consistent?
Are you pushing yourself more than ever?
Are you demanding other, non-cycling, things from your body?

  1. The adaptation;

Are you eating enough for the training (and the right things)?
Are you sleeping enough?
Are non-training stresses affecting you?


riffing on JoeX’s stimulation / loading… On the load/stimulation side it can be very personal. About 6 years ago at roughly your age I started doing spin classes twice a week, and bought a mountain bike. Same height and back then was at 240 and while I’ve lost weight haven’t seen your weight since college. Quickly plateaued on 45 minute spin classes, so I started going to the gym at 5am and doing 75 minutes twice a week. That plus riding around town at least twice a week for 90 minutes starting seeing some fitness gains.

Next I sold mtn bike and bought a road bike. Stopped going to spin classes. Looking at 4 years of road biking data, all my best gains are during periods when training consistently at weekly volume of 450-600 TSS and time 6-9 hours/week. Joined a local bike club and have been doing at least one long ride a month, plus weekly Wed night rides from March to October that are flat but due to the wind are more like 60 minute climb.

Haven’t seen you comment much on the composition of each week, or if you’ve figured out your own personal stimulation / volume requirements. This isn’t all that helpful, but given my short time riding I’ve definitely seen improvements after each dedicated block of training. Maybe not too surprising, but I suspect part of it is due to the type of riding I’m doing. That said, sometimes gains are FTP, sometimes it is other things like repeatability of short power. And then fitness drops in the hot hot summers from reduced riding (family distractions and swimming). Over the past year I’ve been doing leg work in the gym, and to my delight am starting to see improvements. It hasn’t been easy balancing cycling with strength training, because I need more stimulation / volume to drive fitness on the bike. Going to sound like a broken record… Friel’s Fast After 50 book should be required reading in your late 40s or early 50s.

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Hi @EveryThirtyMins, I don’t know the answer but you’re not that different to me. 57 and been using TR for some time. I hover between 245 and 280 FTP depending on whether I’ve been too busy at work or with life to train. Doing a program gives a bit of a boost to FTP within that range but mainly it makes me feel better physically and mentally. Not sure if you have periods of not training but I do and I compare the training benefits to that rather than concentrating on the absolute gains.

Last year I did a solid build plan to work up to our club TT, felt reasonably good and got the same time as I did the year before when i felt totally unfit. However, I felt much happier going into it because I’d been riding more. I’m now more inclined to work towards happiness than form :slight_smile:

So maybe all these suggestions would help me too. I sort of feel as if I was more consistent/pushed more/went to the gym more/wasn’t so busy at work that I’d be flying. Maybe. But I’ll settle for happy.



My thoughts may be redundant, I did not read all the replies… anyways:

If you are not sure about your performance gains and you don’t have accurate power measurements: do an outdoor ride every few weeks, track it with Strava free (or whatever) and see if your perceived performance matches with the real-world performance. Try to pick a ride with climb(s) if available.

I have seen reasonable outdoor performance gains even in times when no FTP gains were rolling in… age 45.

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It’s an interesting point for me - I haven’t put in anything like that level of bike TSS since starting TR, particularly as I use triathlon plans. Maybe time for a bike focus block…

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20 minute test is too short for most people and only accommodates about 50% of the people. The other 50% can be over or underestimated. I generally use 45min super hard effort like a crit or TT. To estimate ftp. Those 20 min test can severely over estimate your ftp and training zones with jacks up training tress scores. I usually don’t believe an ftp increase happens, unless it’s duplicated. Meaning I don’t raise my ftp much from a single effort, often only half of it.
Then how tired, hydrated, or how well we eat the night before said test makes a difference. Go have ribs and fried okra and french fries the night before your TT tor ftp test and you will be way low. Have a low fat meal the night before and you will get a separate ftp. As we get older, in my opinion, ftp comes slower than it did when I was 35, and even harder to hang on to. But your workout of choice might also be the problem. And you need to identify if your physical strength or your fitness is holding you back, because they require different stimuli from a different set of workouts to get gains. And sometimes our bodies just need a change from what we have been doing.


Quite agree. I am 61, just starting third season of TTing. Struggled a bit this winter with TR until I realised I was trying to do too much. Cut back from MV to LV plus outside rides and extra sessions and it makes me feel much better… I prefer to cream sessions, rather than struggle and feel I am failing.


Here are some take aways ;

Context . Let’s assume the person is reasonably competent when it comes to setting up their trainer, average weight, average diet, 50 +, been riding two years or more and has done some either competitive / sportif / triathlon / for say 4 years … Works full time, family, stress, all moderate

• FTP scores on TR should be cautiously considered. FTP is not a complete picture towards your fitness. On any given day given many variables one may see improvement/loss of a small percent.

• The more you train the less gains over time when using a generalized training program. For example, I just follow TR and don’t really think at all about modifying it to target specific weaknesses.

• I personally can handle Sweet Spot Low / Medium / Volume w/o too much damage. I have improved being able to handle this after doing Sweet Spot for about 2 years. The first year was tough but now I can get through a block w/o quitting or dying throughout the later weeks. Focus on nutrition and recovery is important.

• I think after reading all this that it is a more accurate perspective to consider many variables to your fitness when thinking about improvement. While FTP is easy to judge my training, there are also, mental health, body composition, sleep, structure, personal time and feeling of accomplishment. These might be worth more than FTP scores.

• Evaluating oneself on only FTP is NOT a good approach. Ride outside, do Strava segments, compare against peers.

• There is a discrepancy between all the benefits of TR and a single FTP number. I wonder if TR could actually evolve their training stress to incorporate a more nuanced approach so we can more accurately structure our training.


If you don’t mind me asking, what vol plan are you following?

I was going to start a new post but saw this one so will just add my less thoughtful concern at the bottom of this thread. I am the same age as EveryThirtyMins and wonder if I’m also plateauing.

Today’s FTP test and it went down! Granted, it only decreased by 2 points but shouldn’t it be going up?

The test started week 5 of the General Build (Mid vol) training block which follows a SSB Mid vol block. I felt like I gave up too soon but I ALWAYS feel that way after the ramp tests. Admittedly, this past 4 weeks have been the hardest TR training to date. Poor sleep is part of the problem but it’s probably the training. I’m tired a lot and barely making it through some of the workouts . . . but okay on many. For the first time I decreased the intensity of 3 workouts 90%, two of which were on easy recovery days and the other mid-workout. I had to take one day off because I was under the weather.

For what its worth:

  • Second year doing TR workouts.

  • Some decent FTP jumps until now.

  • Need to do more strength training but am tired enough I did not want to increase my load so I could get through the TR workouts.

  • Its only been 4 weeks since the last FTP test.

  • Using a smart trainer.

  • 5,000 miles per year for 3 years now. Riding for 5 years.

EveryThirtyMins, hang in there. I’m combing through the responses on this post because there is a ton of good advice in here. Honestly, I’m afraid the advice for both of us might be more recovery so the low vol. Or, is it sacrilege to just o Lazy Mountain every Wed? I’m so stuck in the mileage game that its not something I want to do. The other Chad said the following (it was nice to hear that it’s the “real deal”) and that is probably the advice I should follow.