Markedly worse fitness after recovery week/period

Dear Trainerroad users

I know there have been similar topics/discussions, and i have read all of them. However i still think this is relevant because in theory, i don`t think what i am experiencing makes sense! Therefore i would really like to hear if someone has some interesting thoughts.

The issue is that every time i have had a recovery week or period my fitness seems to drop a lot.

  • Higher resting HR.
  • Lower HR variability.
  • Higher HR at the same power output at the bike. - This is the case all the way from Z1-Z2 to above threshold.
    Besides these measurements. I feel absolutely terrible. I am struggling with my breathing, even at submaximal intensities. And i generally just feel that i can`t recover as i normally do from a session.

I have experienced this lots of times. Right now i am starting a sustained power build after i did 5 weeks of sweet spot base high volume 2. Before that, i did 7 weeks of high volume "base" work. Lots of tempo efforts, and some weeks quite a lot of spiked efforts/over unders.

I haven`t had a day off the bike since the 24th August.
The last 12 weeks i have done 20-22 hours cycling per week. 2 of those hours is my recovery ride each Monday. - It is 2 hours of very easy Z1. (150w HR 115-120 bpm) Otherwise i have been working 6 times a week. + I have also done strength training 3 times a week during this 12 week period.

When i started the sweet spot base plan (6 weeks ago now) i just added extra volume so that i would hit around 20-22 hours per week. All the added volume has been easy z1-z2 riding. (most of it fasted, early morning ride)

Despite my high training volume i actually haven’t been used to doing so large amounts of sweet spot work. And definitely not for so many weeks in a row! So i was quite challengeing to start with.
I started the plan with my FTP setting at 325w. - However, i tried to hit 300w in as many intervals as i could.
First 2 weeks i could only do that half of the days, and half of the intervals. Third week i had some VERY rough days and i seriously doubted if i could complete the plan, and i expected that i had to drop the power a bit for the last 2,5 weeks.
Surprisingly the last 2 weeks i was flying. Did 300-315w in all intervals despite the higher volume of sweespot. I guess my FTP to start with might have been higher than 325w, or it certainly did become higher than that during the block.

After the block i was a bit in doubt what i should do in terms of the recovery week. I thought i might try the original recovery week there was in the plan, but just with some added volume. (given my normally higher volume)
So i did that, but i added some easy Z1-Z2. 14,5 hours that week as total volume, and i kept the intensity as low as it should.
Mid week i could start seeing my HR rise a bit during workouts at the same poweroutput, i still felt fatigued though. So i kept to the recovery week plan.

Now i am in the new week after the recovery week, and i just started the substained build high volume plan. But as mentioned i feel terrible, right now i would not be able to do the power that i did in the last week of the sweetspot plan.
I did a HIT session yesterday. 30/30 + 1x5 VO2 (for a total of 40) as a more gentle HIT session than the 7x5 all out there was in the build plan. Today my HR at 250w in andrews was just as high as 300-315w the last week in the sweespot plan. (probarly a loss of plasma volume, but still) Breathing and feeling is awful. Besides that i feel like i cant recover from the sessions, so now i actually feel like taking a recovery week just after a few hard days… Whereas i did´ent feel the need to take a recoery week after the bigh fifth week of the sweespot base plan.

But yeah i did the recovery because that was the logical thing to do, and i thought it was needed after those 5 weeks. (and in general after 12 weeks of building base, i have had 1 recovery week in the earlier 7 weeks of base, but still kept volume high 20h and some intensity)

Is there any sense in what i am experincing? Why do i feel like i lose shape so quickly?? Is this normal?
A few days with easy riding seems to be ok for me after a hard period. But more than that often makes things worse…
I am a bit unsure what to do going forward…

I really apreciate any thoughts!

All the best Malte

Sounds to me like some textbook overtraining. That’s probably more sweet spot work than a lot of pros do with that training volume and they definitely wouldn’t be doing nearly 10 hours of that fasted like you have. Many times you can push through a super hard training block, and even feel better at the end, but then once you have a chance to recover your body crashes.

I would take a longer recovery period and then consider taking two of the SS workouts from the plan and either make them both endurance, or make one tempo and the other endurance.

Why are you doing so much fasted training? Even coaches at the highest level of the sport say that they program that extremely sparingly to their athletes and it takes some very careful and close observations to make sure you don’t do too much.


I agree with @mwglow15.

In addition to that I would like to see/understand your historical CTL ramp in order to live at 22hrs/wk.

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Been doing 20hour + a week for years. I certainly dont agree that`s its overtrainng. But ofcourse you are entitled to your opinion, and so are you mwglow15. I weigh 60kg ot put w per kg into context, and hence the absolute fitness level. Best wishes Malte

That logic dosent make sense. Overtraining is always acompained by a decrease in performance. That the body would crash after already improving isent logical in any way. Any science that backs that up is very welcome! I have read an MSc in physiolgy just too clarify.

Best wishes Malte

Also to clarify i meant that most of the added volume was done early in the morning. EASY z1-z2. certainly not the sweespot. It was always done well fueled.

@Malte_Therkildsen first of all we should celebrate a little because it sounds like you really had some great adaptation in those last couple of weeks! Good job. High five. :raised_hand:

A few things to consider about your post-recovery fitness.

Thing the first: you had a big jump in TSS from the first two weeks of build to the last two weeks of build. If my reading comprehension is good…

So just add up the minutes you spent at sweet spot intensity during those first two weeks vs the minutes you spent at sweet spot intensity during those last two weeks. Without knowing your exact training, there has to be a LOT MORE training stress in those last two weeks.

Is it any surprise you need some additional time to digest what amounts to a large, non-continuous jump in your TSS curve?

Thing the second: Looks like you dropped volume down by about 35% during recovery week. High volume sweetspot base program would have dropped volume (expressed in hours of training) by about 22%. So you tapered a bit more than the plan otherwise would have you doing. That may or may not have made the difference?

If your recovery week workouts were still at the same frequency as you were doing on the work weeks I wouldn’t think it would make that much difference. Who knows though. Just something you might want to think about.

Thing the third: Looks like your plasma volume down regulates pretty quickly. Maybe it makes sense to do a couple opener workouts during your next recovery week. See if that helps maintain your fitness. Maybe those opener workouts could also help close the gap to more of a 22% reduction in total volume vs the 30%-35% that you did. Just something else to think about.


Awesome answer, and thanks a lot! :slight_smile:
Some great thoughts!

Good point that i probably dropped the volume too much, and i agree that some openers during the recovery might be a good idea.
Thats a great tip. It does really seem that my plasma volume down-regulates extremely quickly. Its like it responds to stress or lack thereof very very quikly.
A few days without intensity, or stress in terms of volume overload (such as lot of submaximal work) i see a huge difference in HR. But yeah it also goes the other way, a few days of a lot of stress it changes quickly again.
It`s interesting. Do you think there is a high individual component to how response in plasma volume is?

Re the TSS. Not a huge difference from the first 2 weeks to the last 2 weeks. 150tss in difference. Not sure if that is a little or a lot when the total TSS last 2 weeks were 1200 and 1256 TSS.

Interesting about workout frequenvy. Given that i ride 2 times a days most days during a training block, i guess its a huge change in frequency when i suddenly only ride once a day most days during a whole week!

All the best Malte

@Malte_Therkildsen - I find myself in a similar situation after every recovery week: lower efficiency (higher HR for given power) and higher RPE, especially the first few sessions. About a month ago I started working with a coach and asked about this. He basically said that when rested, your HR will respond faster and go higher while it does not feel like it is. And your muscles have lost tension, are more relaxed, which results in a higher RPE. So this is expected during the first week after a recovery week and will go back to what you are used to shortly after and you may see fitness improvements in the weeks after. So nothing to worry about, and apparently pretty normal, as per his own personal experience as a competitive cyclist and coach.

I don’t know if this is true or not, nor do I have any science to point to.

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