Improving Aerobic Fitness and FTP

This will be my third year racing crits (I’ve done a total of 10 races). My question deals with aerobic fitness and power and the relationship between the two. I feel as though my aerobic fitness is why I eventually get dropped every single race (super frustrating). I’m always gasping for air and my heart rate goes through the roof. My legs, though, feel okay. The same thing happens with FTP tests. I end up crapping out aerobically but my legs could keep going. I’m also terrible at climbing short, steep hills - again, because I feel like I’m dying.

I can ride alllllllllll day if my heart rate stays lower than 145-150.

So, should I be concentrating on improving my aerobic fitness? If so, what is the best way to do it? Do I just keep following the TrainerRoad plan and it will eventually happen? I’m doing low volume so should I add certain workouts to improve my fitness? Will FTP improve quicker if I’m getting aerobically fitter? Thanks for any insights!

If your legs feel good, try dropping your cadence, or getting out of the saddle. Change how you’re riding, because it will change how it feels to ride. If you’re feeling exhausted, focus on getting a good draft, and riding efficiently. Don’t spend energy you don’t have to.

If you’re HR is getting up near max, you’re putting out too much power to sustain the effort. To fix that, you need to improve fitness in one of many ways. Improve FTP so that same power is easier, increase your anaerobic work capacity, so you have a bigger “tank” to draw from, and/or improve your recharge rate, so you can recover and go again. Note that there’s a lot of overlap between these.

The simplest answer is generally to train to increase FTP, because it makes everything easier. If you know that you’ll still need to do a lot of hard surging type efforts, work towards a plan (crit or otherwise) that has a lot of those efforts in it.

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It really doesn’t sound like you need to improve your aerobic fitness, but rather, you need to improve your fitness for supra-threshold efforts. It is important to note that the fact that you are breathing hard does not mean you are in an aerobic zone. In fact, when you are in an aerobic zone you should not huffing and puffing. An aerobic zone is a zone that you could cruise at all day, provided you have enough food and water to keep your muscles fueled. This aerobic zone is what you describe as your heart rate being lower than 145-150. This zone will corespond to a power output that is lower than your Funtional Threshold Power, or FTP.

During a crit or a RAMP test though, you are at a power output above your FTP, and your body reacts differently. Based on the fact that this sometimes leads to getting dropped from the group, it is safe to say that your VO2 max and Anaerobic Capacity (the two supra-threshold power zones) are limiters for your Crit Racing.

Therefore, I would focus on these VO2 max and Anaerobic efforts in order to improve your performance in these areas.

The Short Power Build and the Crit Specialty plans are perfectly suited for you to work these energy systems and improve your performance on race day.

I hope this helps, feel free to reach out if you have any further questions!

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Thanks so much!