Long term FTP graph, observations and where to now

Below is a graph of my FTP progress since starting with TrainerRoad. A few interesting things pop out from looking at it:

1 - Structured training really works! Saw ~40% improvement in a year.
2 - Every time I tried to just maintain an FTP level (using HIT Maintenance plans or Zwift), my FTP declined.
3 - For me, the ramp test method of FTP testing seems to report my FTP about ~10w lower than the 8/20 minute formats. I started using ramp testing in Oct/2018 and the whole curve has shifted down since. I actually think the ramp test is more realistic for me as I am somewhat “VO2Max challenged” and was very often having to cut workout intensities using the higher FTP results from 8/20 type testing.
4 - 3.4w/Kg (ramp test result) seems to be my ceiling for the amount of time/effort I’m willing to spend. I’m happy with that (62 years old, I don’t race, just want to stay fit and not hold up the club’s group rides).

My question is: What now (and for the next 20 years…)? Doing build after build is pretty painful when the result is no more net gain. Moving to the HIT-maintenance plan has always resulted in a reduced FTP. Would I be able to maintain my FTP going back to the base plans (i.e. less intensity but more volume) exclusively? My goal is not to build FTP further, but just maintain where I’m at for the long term.

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Just curious, are you only doing build plans? Not to say it is the right thing to do, but plan builder (with no race event) and what I have heard on the podcasts has you cycle back through SSBase I/II after the Build Specialty cycle.

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Do you ever take a post or mid-season rest? Perhaps you’re always in a state of deep fatigue. So many factors here, how well do you sleep, eat, etc? Are you recovering in order to let your body adapt?

It’s hard to tell because the graph doesn’t show everything in detail, but it doesn’t look like you take much rest it by the nature of how these plans are stacked one on top of another.

I would think that you could continually cycle through Sweet Spot Base 1 and 2 (essentially doing 1-2 Sweet Spot rides and 1 VO2 or Anaerobic ride per week) and maintain a nice FTP w/o going the HIIT route or slogging through Build (build is meant to build your FTP, not sustain it). Of course if you never progressively overload you’ll eventually plateau, but that sounds ok with you.

I started with the usual SSBaseI/II, followed by build, specialty, then started over with a couple more builds. Things flattened out (I was probably tired) so I went back to SSBaseI/II and HIT-maintenance (also dabbled with Zwift) and my FTP went down, down, down.

Got back on the build train and recovered my FTP somewhat, then did another HIT-maintenance and started to drop again…

I’m currently just about finished with the second of another two build plans and think I’ll take the suggestion you all made about cycling back around to SSBase to see if I can maintain my current FTP and give the legs a bit of a rest.

I haven’t taken a break in three years, but the plans themselves insert the easy recovery weeks which I thought should be all that was needed. I have read that the older you are the slower the ramps should be and the longer the recovery. Perhaps I will try assembling a custom “old-fart” version of one of the build plans and see if it is more productive for my 62 year old legs…

This flies in the face from what I’ve heard from every reputable coach, but hey, if you’re seeing gains with no time off then keep doing it. However, for some it doesn’t, and that’s why I was asking @dfreitas if he’s taking time off or not.

How does your body adapt if you’re not scheduling recovery blocks?

Possibly not. You might need a recovery month to de-stress and let your body absorb all of the training and riding that was doing that season.

Not saying you can’t cycle year round year over year. You’re already doing it, however, it’s not really working for you. You might be wise to take some time off the bike at the end of the season as well as really work on recovering well during training.

A break from cycling would probably be a good thing to allow some cross training. I’ve been pretty laser focused on biking which undoubtedly is neglecting other aspects of my fitness.

I just cringe at the thought of giving up gains but the chart shows it’s never more that 3-6 months to get most of it back again.

I don’t know your background so I can only speak for myself, but I carried a 325w FTP into November and took 25 days off the bike, let myself rest and recover. I lost fitness, and came back with an FTP of 280w. However, that number is back up to 295w after 4 weeks of SSBMV1. It comes back fast, and you do not lose that much fitness.

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A common refrain from athletes that plateau is, “I don’t need recovery like other people do.”

Also, I’ve heard, “Tapers are stupid ideas pushed by coaches who don’t know anything.”

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This graph is fascinating - thanks for taking the time to put it together and for sharing it here!

The thing you said that resonates with me:

…I wonder if I’m similar. I consistently find that I test higher on the 8min FTP Test than the Ramp Test. But then when I keep that higher FTP, I really struggle to complete all the workouts without backpedals 2-3 times per workout, and occasionally a reduction in intensity by 2-5%. If I stick with the ramp test (and a lower FTP) then this isn’t as much of an issue. I’d be interested to hear how others fare with the same thing.

Again - thanks for sharing. As for suggestions… my main question is: are you still loving doing these training plans on Trainer Road? Or have you become tired/bored of them? If so, might be time for spending some more time outdoors, totally changing it up, or using some different type of indoor training.

…though I did find your downward arrow from using Zwift particularly enlightening :wink:

Maybe I missed it, but what’s your training volume? If you did significantly less volume during maintenance and zwift, that could be a reason for the decline.

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I’ve always done the mid-volume plans, but you are right; the mid-volume “Specialty->Enthusiast->Maintenance” plan is only around 317 TSS vs 439 for the mid-volume General Build plan.

I was hoping the maintenance volume would be enough to maintain FTP, but in my case my FTP always dropped.

@PeterYock - I still very much like the TrainerRoad plans. I’ve used Zwift, FulGaz, and TrainerRoad and, by far, have gotten the most gains with TrainerRoad.

Zwift’s workout mode (at least when I used it in 2018) had an extremely clumsy user-interface, had limited ability to modify the workout order, intensity, and I just had a harder time concentrating on the workout demands during the ride. It was also buggy when using ERG mode, often not controlling the trainer resistance.

I liked FulGaz a lot for experiencing actual rides around the world, but found it pretty much impossible to maintain any structure to my workouts. It’s really no different than the problem we have with trying to train outdoors. It’s very hard to find a routes that will match the day’s cadence/power requirements for repeat intervals and to have a controlled rise of TSS over the weeks.

It’s kind of a perverse situation! I started on TrainerRoad to get stronger over the winter for my summertime outside rides but have actually started to prefer inside riding over outside riding… No kitting up, no sunscreen, no inclement weather, no-time-of-day-limits, no life-threatening-inattentive-texting drivers, and best of all - no headwind! :grinning:

Now when I do go on outside rides (500 miles outside vs 4500 “miles” indoor last year), it feels more like a special event every time. When I was training exclusively outdoors I was getting too familiar with all the local routes so I was getting a little bored.

I don’t find the TrainerRoad workouts boring when doing the hard interval workouts. I’m so preoccupied with first trying to survive the pushs, then soaking up the brief relief between pushes that the time flies by. On the long, more boring, endurance/recovery workouts I watch youTube videos to pass the time. I will admit that the two hour endurance rides on the trainer are too long. That’s a case where, hands down, outside is much more enjoyable.

I would then considering doing a time-to-exhaustion test where you ride at your current or what you think your FTP is for as long as possible. You want to know what your FTP is, go and ride at it as long as you can and you’ll find out. There’s no playing the “I’m VO2max challenged” game trying to sort out which test is best for you.

The thing with the ramp tests and shorter 8 and 20 min versions is that they are estimating your FTP based on a percentage of normalized power or highest 1-minute power you can achieve–they are not truly 100% accurate. I’m not saying a TTE (time to exhaustion) test is truly accurate either, you could have an off-day where you underperform, but what could be more accurate than trying to ride at your FTP for 45-60 min?

Some people throw out the excuse that they are stressful (not really, they are around 100TSS depending on how long you go) and take a lot of mental fortitude. However, this is the nature of training–it’s not meant to be mentally easy. Whether or not one test is more mentally challenging than the other is totally personal. I do like the idea of having a very reliable FTP figure though and for me the TTE test is well worth the 75 min investment.

I would take a look at this thread and decide for yourself if you want to try it. I did it yesterday and was pleasantly surprised at how mellow it was. The last 10 minutes were a struggle, but it overall it was a lot more friendly than the 8-minute tests I’ve taken. And it’s a great workout to boot.

What can I say @anthonylane ? You’re hardcore :slight_smile: Most of us aren’t up for a 45-60min ride at FTP without breaks - for me, that kind of effort is what I’m working up to for race day! It’s way beyond the scope of where I’m currently at in my base training. But kudos for giving it a go. I think if I did it, it’d take me a couple of weeks to recover.

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