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

I am doing Mid Volume again this season. I have followed them for at least the 2 prior seasons and maybe more. I did mess around with Mid-High Volume blends a long time ago, and created more problems than I solved.

Edit to add: Not sure I mentioned it, but for reference: I am 46 yo, have been training actively since 2013, and riding seriously since the mid '90’s.

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I think that is a great summary. Well stated :smiley:

I’m 52 and can relate to the lack of improvement. I’ve been on TR for a few years now. I usually see about a 5% bump after base but usually nothing after build. I usually hit 3.4W/kg and there it stays. I’ve tried Low Vol and Mid Vol, 3 to 1 and 2 to 1 recovery weeks. I have generally found that for me the TR plans as laid out are just too much intensity. This year I’m riding more often (6 days a week), doing less intensity (only 2 TR interval sessions) and doing longer weekend endurance/tempo rides. I have seen a little bump in FTP but what I have really noticed is that muscular endurance has improved (I can hold 80% for way longer than I could 8 weeks ago). It’s still an experiment in process. As frustrating as it can be, ironically its probably what keeps me training. Its this quest to figure out what works for me. Unfortunately there isn’t a set answer that works for everyone and you will ultimately have to experiment and see what works for you.


Several thoughts other than those already mentioned.

How are you measuring improvement other than FTP? What is your HR telling you for similar workouts.
Perhaps the ramp test doesn’t work for you well. It doesn’t for me, therefore I use the 20’ minute test.

Einstein definied madness as repeating the same thing and expecting a different result. Try changing plans. Maybe a polarised model with some very intense efforts and lots of L2 riding (not Seiler L2). Or push the sweetspot more (I know build does that). Get yourself out of your comfort zone.


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In reference to the “kitchen sink ride”, check out this old article from Hunter Allen. It’s from 2013, but it’s still relevant.

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And if you are looking to a more visible example a workout inspired by the article, the original Disaster by Coach Chad, as well as the reduced Disaster -1 & Disaster -2 made by Cameron Somerson and me are worth a look.

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Yeah, I was going to post Disaster as a recommendation also, but I think I remember hearing @chad say on a somewhat recent podcast (maybe last fall) that he did not recommend that anyone complete Disaster. Although, if I remember correctly, I think it’s a workout that @Jonathan created. I could be wrong about that though. My memory ain’t the greatest (too many concussions).

Coach Chad made it (not Jonathan). He did it with the Kitchen Sink info from Hunter as inspiration, because he wanted to see what it would look like in a TR workout.

Yes, they said “no one should do it” but that taken out of context missed the real point they finally got to. They admit that you can do the workout, but you better look at it like an event and not something to just bounce into and out of.

That is exactly how we approach doing it, as an event like any other hard event or race. Prep before, including an appropriate taper, and plan on an easy return afterwards. Nothing overly special other than the main factor of 4+ hours on a trainer being notably different than outside.

Couple that with the fact that the -2 version is just over 2 hours and is actually a fine workout on it’s own. It is much more manageable than the full version and actually not as terrible as some would expect.

(steps off my Disaster soap box) :stuck_out_tongue:


The kitchen sink ride idea isn’t a bad one, I just think it’s a bad one for this particular athlete at this particular time. But that’s hard to know without further detail or insight. What I glean from his posts is he’s doing MV plans, six weeks of structured training and his testing is getting worse. He’s in his fifties. I’d bet he’s not recovering from the work he’s doing, and would benefit more from a schedule change allowing more recovery rather than throwing in even more work.

This reads more like a case of fatigue than a case of stagnation, IMO.


If folks are doing TR plans well, are relatively new to structured training, and are not improving somewhat then I would first look to the fatigue level and not getting the adaptations due to lack of recovery. If your results are not what you expect, and you think lack of recovery might be an issue then my goto mods are:

Change Base from 5:1 to 3:1
Change Build from 3:1 to 2:1.

If running MidVolume (seems most common) then follow the weekly notes and take the option to change Sunday into a long easier ride as opposed to what is generally a second weekend Sweetspot ride.

Particularly from >45 year old average weekend warriors, I think the Tues-Wed-Thurs-Sat-Sun plans can be too much while the LV plans seem not enough.

If you take MV and turn it into Tues VO2, Thurs SST, Saturday longer SST and then supplement with a nice 3-4 hour ER ride on Sunday that leaves you to get good recovery Mon + Wed + Fri. If you want to move the legs on those days then do a 45-60 min Recess.

For me, when I ran SSBMV 1+2 + Sustained Build, I saw good fitness improvements all the way through end of Build. Not dramatic FTP moves as I was already well trained coming into TR, but I felt those plans when run 3:1 and 2:1 were solid and got me to levels consistent with historic bests and I could feel myself riding better, recovering from harder efforts more rapidly, etc. That indicates the training was working even though my test FTP doesn’t move very much…

If coming in less well trained and less adapted to structured SST based training then with proper rest you really should see some meaureable FTP gains for a few cycles.

Finally, folks can only do so much with forums and emails. If really frustrated and convinced you are doing the training well, find a local good person to discuss with. Might be something going on that isn’t obvious in typing that could come out in conversation.

Note - I’m 53 and gains are harder and harder to come by. I’d love to find a magic plan but am starting to think more and more about staying at historic highs of 4 - 4.25 w/kg will be a big win.



Great post!

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Thanks for this, I’m seeing great advice. I’m 47, started TR in Oct. of last year, no previous structured training to speak of. Mid volume build has destroyed me, not so much physically but mentally. Yes, my legs & body are very tired but my drive to get fit is in the toilet. I’m at the point where I’m quitting workouts because I don’t want to push through the tougher workouts. This week, I nailed vo2 on Monday but Wednesday was threshold, got into the 2nd interval of 9 mins at 105% & ended up quitting. Not failing, I quit which is no buenos. Decided to take the rest of the week off from indoor work but will get out for some longer fairly mellow mtb rides this weekend. I’m going to push this TR week to next week & see how I feel. I’m definitely going to do 2:1 for my next build & maybe for my upcoming mtb marathon specialty. Looks like I’ll be studying what Plan Builder did around my races & plan the rest of my season “by hand”.

Thanks again for your contributions to this & other discussions, I feel like I’ve learned a fair bit from your informative posts.

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Very kind words - thank you.

To build upon this a bit more.

Structured training like the SSBMV 1+2 and Sustained or General builds is VERY hard. Physically and mentally. We all kind of gloss over this because nobody likes to appear weak and many of us are accustomed to how much it will hurt so we don’t think about it much.

In theory, the FTP tests makes the plans “doable” for everyone from new to training to old hat experienced. But there is a huge component to being ready to train, having the right mindset and then doing enough cycles, with the right metrics, to see the gains and finally feel good about the plan and yourself as an athlete.

In a prior life I was pro level at a skill sport. In skill sports the brain is your number one ally and number one enemy. There is a time to think and a time to shut it off. As an analytical “geek” I struggled with the “shut it off part”.

Point being that many of us tend to over think, over analyze and perhaps over expect in terms of results. No shame in saying things are tough mentally. In cycling we make it even harder with phrases like HTFU.

So back to basics:

47 is not old but is not young. Being new to this type of training you likely lack both the physical foundation and the mental foundation. That’s not so bad, we all start there. Let’s just modify the approach and our expectations.

What I would do, more or less:

First ask the question, “do I really want to train to improve my cycling”? If no, that is absolutely fine. If yes, let’s make a plan and stick to it. If we cannot stick to it then we modify after some period of trying hard. Iteration and adaptation is great.

Once we commit to training I like to set a plan for 6-8 weeks then 12-24 weeks. I also define what I want to achieve and what I expect to see. Increased FTP on a ramp test is only one metric. Do I feel better on my rides? Am I hanging better? Am I seeing numbers besides FTP increase? Can I just ride longer and stronger?

FTP is not always the answer.

For a new rider to structured training, I want them to have a quick success. A quick success could simply be finishing a plan like SSB1 LV or MV with high compliance. Meaning life happens but if we finish 90% or more of the rides without dying we are doing great.

Assuming I’ve read this correctly, lets see if we can get you on track for future success. A suggestion:

Take a week or two to decide of you want to do structured training. If yes, pick a day to start and add SSB LV 1 to your calendar. Don’t look out any further than that. Just say “Im going to do this plan”!!! Do make it 3:1 if you like.

SSB LV is essentially three days a week in the 85-95% zone then the last couple of weeks one over/under workout per week. It is a great plan. If you want more saddle time during the week add Recess on Wednesday for 45-60 min. I suggest taking Monday and Friday off for now.

On the weekends, if you can get out and mountain bike then go for it. Even mellow rides are going to have some VO2max and threshold efforts. And dirt is way harder than road so it will add whole body fatigue.

If you can get outside 1-3 hours on dirt Sat/Sun do it and don’t worry about the TR LV Saturday ride. If you can get outside one day then do some ER (Baxter is great) on the second day.

At the end of this block you’ll have done several things:

Mentally completed a plan - now you know you can do it.
Physically will have consistently ridden structure for 6-7 weeks.
Gotten a good foundation of 2X per week SST rides (Tues/Thurs) and solid rides with a mix of efforts on the mountain bike.

You’ll probably end up riding 6-7 hours a week. Which is fine. Sleep well, eat well, complete that block and then come back for another.

If all goes well, for block number 2 plan out another 6 weeks. Maybe take the Tues/Thurs workouts from SSTMV 2 and keep your weekends and other days the same. That plan would introduce some VO2 work (Tuesdays) and increase the SST/Threshold work on Thursdays. Wed optional as you feel.

At the end of this you’ll have 12 weeks of structure under your belt and should start feeling pretty good about training and your riding should be better. FTP increase, probably not too much. But you are setting the foundation and learning how to train. When you are ready for it, you go back and do SSB 1+2 MidVol, perhaps modifying the weekends for fun on the mountain bike. Then see where you are and give one of the builds a shot.

My bet is once you complete a couple blocks you’ll get the hang of it, feel really good bout your training, and most importantly see improvements outside when riding the bike. Which is really where the fun is.




I’m of the opinion that the low volume plans are better for us older riders because:

  • They give more time for recovery.
  • So there’s better chance of compliance, i.e. completing all the workouts.
  • This is better mentally than cutting workouts short.
  • If you feel fresh, physically and mentally you can do another workout or ride outside if the weather’s fine.

This is VERY true. I think a lot of people on this forum and using TR forget that they can also get A LOT of benefit from hiring a personal coach. This is something that the podcast frequently fails to discuss. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but I listened to an episode recently where a phenom of an athlete, who was training 19-20+ hours a week and handling workloads in excess of 800-900 TSS asked if he should follow a TR plan, OR hire a coach, OR just dabble in different disciplines to see what he liked best (I believe he was coming from a triathlete background). The podcast crew (as great as they are) never even mentioned the possibility of hiring a personal coach.

I’m a professional cycling coach, and I coach several guys that also use Trainer Road. I will frequently give them TR workouts in their training plan (the TR workout library is VAST). I also use TR myself. I just like the app and the ease of use. But I also do not believe that the TR library, training plans, Plan Builder, the podcast, and this forum can fill all the gaps that a professional cycling coach can fill. Even if you do not want to enter into a contract with a coach for personalized coaching, you can probably do a consultation with a cycling coach. I know that’s something that Peaks Coaching Group offers. I do not know if other coaching groups offer it, but I’m assuming that they do. Just something to consider.


Agree but this is a bit of a catch-22 in that the persons who can best use a consult likely don’t have ready access to a great person to consult with. It’s an unmet need for sure but not an easy one to fill.

For me, I have access to a couple top guys to bounce stuff off of. When appropriate I pay for time with them. But often they have questions for me so we just barter and have phone call or a coffee. It’s nice to have access to experts and very helpful for even experienced people to have extra eyeballs look at things.

I’m trying a ~10 hour/week plan from a Boulder coaching company and it was designed around riding outside. It’s closer to what I did in prep for a double century in 2017, and so far it’s going well. The TR plans have a lot of intensity, I’ve done TR SSB-1 high volume and for many cyclists there are too days of intervals to be sustainable. Even mid-volume seems designed for experienced cyclists and/or inside trainer work as it has 4 days of intervals. There is a twenty something CTS coach on YouTube (Dylan Johnson, DK200 top ten finisher) and his guidance on designing your own training revolves 2 hard days a week. So it’s not just an age thing, some coaches would rather see more zone2 work and fewer days of intervals in a mid volume plan.


Not that this is the only option, but it is one option.

The only reason I know about it is because I’m a PCG coach. If I wasn’t a coach for them, I would not even know that this was available. You basically just pay for a one-on-one phone conversation, and the coach can look at your Training Peaks files, or Trainer Road files, or whatever and make some recommendations about how to proceed. I suspect that other coaching groups also offer this option. But I’m not certain. Some of them may try to steer the athlete towards a monthly coaching contract. But I know that is not the intent of this program with PCG. The intent is to fill the gap for people who want/need more information, but do not want to commit to a personalized monthly coaching plan.


We have some great local coaches in our area. Another option is remote coaching like PCG, and I’ve discussed coaching options including one-time consults with Carmichael Training Systems, FasCat, and Velocious Cycling Adventures. If you just want monthly training plan adjustments, FasCat has an affordable subscription and you don’t have to lock into a long-term commitment.

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Thank you very much for the detailed response. I was able to complete base without much trouble. Actually, I did mid volume 1 & ended up doing high volume 1 right after it ( I had no problems with these & completed all but 1 or 2 workouts) Then I played with plan builder as it had just come out & ended up going into build mid volume. I went down to low volume which is where I’m at now. I think I’ll be able to complete it & move on to specialty. I have an Mtb endurance series I’ll be racing this summer & then Shenandoah 100 which I’d like to finish in 10 hours. I did it last year with training consisting of a bunch of riding totaling 7-14 hours/ week & finished in just under 11.5.

I’m feeling improvements on the bike the few times I’ve been outside this winter. Riding stronger for longer & feeling pretty good when I’m done. Inside, I’ve made huge improvements in vo2max efforts. The first workout I did, I could barely handle 1 minute but I’m up to 3 minutes now at 120% with a slightly higher ftp. I’ve got 2 weeks of build left then the specialty block. I really don’t think there is a better way for me to prep for the racing I’m going to & know that at my age, just riding my bike a lot isn’t going to cut it! Right now, I really just have to make up my mind that I’m going to this like I committed to doing, it’s going to hurt, won’t be much fun but will pay off in about 10 weeks for my first race of the year.

Thanks again for your advice, I really appreciate it!

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