How to train returning from illness

Apologies if there already is a topic on this, I didn’t know what to search for.

I am slowly coming back from long term illness (lyme disease and costochondritis). I had been training with FTP at the beginning of this year but have been off the bike since. I want to get back into training but think a slow return is best with easy rides and lots of recovery. Long story short I don’t think an FTP test (High intensity) is any good for me right now. Any recommendations forgetting back into training without FTP? Could I consider HR zone training? Any trainerroad training options for low and slow?


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If you really don’t want to test I would suggest taking your baseline FTP from back when you started training and then go with TB LV1. To ensure it’s not too much I would keep an eye on heart rate and make sure it’s stays well within Z2.

Though asking your Doc is likely the better choice than going with some online advice. Whatever you do, happy training.

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Have no idea how much you can or should push it coming back from something like that, definitely need your doctor’s input.

If you need to ease yourself back in gently then honestly I think simple RPE is the way to go. None of the TR plans seem like a good idea - most of them involve a good amount of intensity, the ones that work you at lower intensities make up for it with a lot of volume instead. Not sure HR zones are much help either, they’re likely to be significantly different to where you were at pre-illness.

If you want to use TR and power to train then I would just pick Z1-2 workouts from the library and manually adjust your FTP to a place where they feel comfortable. If it was me then initially I think I’d just ride though - either Zwift or local loops where I could bail out easily and head home if necessary. Have HR and power on in the background so I start to get an idea of where I’m at but let the ride length and intensity be guided entirely by feel. Get back to riding regularly and being able to do 1+ hours without burying yourself, then start gradually adding in a bit of tempo work to see how your body responds, then work your way up to the higher intensity stuff at which point you can think about doing an FTP test and getting back into structured training.


I was off my bike for 5weeks after a bowel/colon cancer op last year. During that time I did a lot of walking which gradually got longer and faster. The nurses had told me 6-8 weeks but I saw the doctor and he said I already should have been back on the bike, to see what I’d get back to post chemo. He didn’t have to tell me twice.

For the next couple of weeks I rode they way I felt which was thankfully stronger and during that time I got reading and discovered the best way to combat chemo is to hit it head on. Which gave me the motivation to start training again. Without a test I instantly dropped my FTP by 50w (I was going to amend that down if I felt it necessary but thankfully I didn’t) and I never tested again until post chemo but trained throughout.

It seems to have been the right approach as when I finally did an FTP test a month post chemo it was only 2w below what I’d been using (52w compared to pre) but I was I think 6kg lighter and a couple of months later the FTP was only down 18w compared to pre and my w/kg were greater.

My take testing isn’t everything and knowing your body and keeping active is more important.:+1:


I was off my bike for three weeks post surgery (6 small incisions in my belly), doing virtually nothing except lie around recovering. I’ve lost a lot of muscle, but the weakest link is my stomach. Can’t do full leg lifts from a hang and can’t do a full push up except from my knees rather than my feet. I’m working on that and it is getting stronger by the day.

I started back on the bike this past week and did Beech, Pettit and Whorl. Normally those are recovery, pre Ramp test workouts. First one I lasted only 40 minutes, but by yesterday I finished Whorl at 1:15 and felt pretty good. However, my HR is significantly higher than pre-surgery and is more indicative of a much more strenuous workout. If I were to guess, my power is down 15% minimum if not 20%, but it is coming back fast. I may do another week of Beech/Pettit/Whorl type workouts if the more strenuous plans are too much. I’m going to give Ebbetts a shot tomorrow, but starting with 25% knocked off the power and see how it goes. I plan on taking a ramp test in a few weeks.

Do what your body allows, however small or big that is. Any exercise is better than nothing. Best of luck in recovery!

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Thanks for the replies, this is really helpful. I know that consulting with a Dr. is incredibly important, in my case Lyme disease is so finnicky that the Dr. has basically just recommended I do what i’m up for. I’ve been told it could be good to push myself a little but not too much, which is a fine line to achieve.

I will start with a few weeks of the low intensity workouts with lowered power and see how I do.

I have been doing a few short low intensity outdoor rides and know I can keep going without a workout plan but I also know that being on a workout plan is really motivating even if the goals have changed a bit. Also, where I live, winter will come in soon so all my cycling will be indoors anyways.