Massive drop in FTP after build phase

I’ve posted about my downward trajectory before :cry: but I’m really demoralised now. I just completed my second MV build phase, one week early actually, because I was so fatigued. Four weeks ago I had a big bump in FTP from 228 to 238, after the first build phase. I felt really strong and well, but pretty much from the first workout afterwards I struggled to hold my watts. There was probably only one workout in three week that I completed without modification. Had an early rest week, and just now did a ramp test which came out at 219. I anticipated it dipping by a few watts maybe, but 19 w is a lot… For a bit of an autopsy: early in the build block I had some personal problems which disrupted my sleep for a few weeks, and I also had my first AZ vaccine which affected me for a few days. But I’m sleeping well again now and my RHR has dropped to normal, and it’s not like I didn’t have any other stresses during training previously but I just got on with it and it was fine. A week ago we started rowing training again after lockdown, but that has all been Z2, so I just used those workouts as my recovery workouts. We did a 1k test last week which I also did surprisingly badly. So what’s going on and what do I do now? How could I have lost that much fitness inspite of training consistently?

Don’t worry, this is part of training and happens to a lot of people. The key is just to learn from it and adapt.

The FTP test is one day. It isn’t always an accurate reflection of your form. You could just have a bad day.

I’ve taken a look at your calendar and your compliance looks pretty good, but with a decline towards the end. It could be that FTP is set ever-so slightly too high, leading to a constant build-up of fatigue that doesn’t show itself until a few weeks in to the plan.

If I was you I would split the difference between your new and old FTPs and carry on doing what you’re doing.

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How are you measuring power or what kind of trainer are you using?

One problem with the ramp test, IMHO, is that when it gets hard you have no option to ease off, it is just quit and look at the result.
If you were doing a 20’ test you could ease off for even 30 seconds and then push again. All the work done up to that point is retained and your overall average doesn’t drop as much. In that way you get a result much closer to your target than the 219w you produced with the ramp test, even with a not totally sucessfull test.

Therefore I would take the advice from @onemanpeloton and go half way.

On the other hand, if you were part of the AT beta I would assume that the workouts would have been toned down for you as you were struggling. Maybe take that into account and select slightly easier versions for your plan.

I have a direct drive smart trainer (Elite Suito)

My compliance declined in the end because I really struggled with the workouts. I found the last block very hard. That’s also why I don’t think I just had a bad day - it’s been tough for weeks. You’re probably right about the last test coming in too high. I’ve previously double-checked the ramp with a 20’ test and I’m pretty sure that would have come in lower. I guess I can adjust the ftp by feel for the coming workouts. I go back to base anyway now, because the event I was training for isn’t happening.

I’d say you have the reasons right in your post.

Stress, inconsistent training, lack of sleep/recovery. I’d also wager that the previous bump to 238 may have been too much, meaning you were overreaching a bit for your workouts. And it sounds like you’re stressing about FTP too much and putting a lot of pressure on yourself to always have an increase. Don’t sweat it, get back to consistent training at the new (probably more accurate) FTP and you’ll be fine.

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I started with TR with an FTP of 5w/kg but nearly every ramp test I had my FTP went down. Some of it was because of stress about my job but once it fell to below values that I was holding for 40-55mins I started ignoring a ramp test and used a 20mins test instead. The 20mins test is harder to pace though and can be a hit or miss. Even though I am training at the same FTP I was using mid chemo last year. I do feel (and other results show it) that I am a more sustainably faster cyclist.
My take, if you’re improving other ways or just sustainably happy, I wouldn’t worry about it and roll on AT which will hopefully place less emphasis on tests.

It might be nothing to do with it but my decline also coincided with me using ERG. So I have done my last few work outs without it and my legs certainly feel better :thinking:

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That’s interesting. I started cycling training doing 20’ tests because it’s similar duration to a rowing test and I’m quite good at pacing, but the ramp and the 20’ came out the same a few times so I just went with the ramp because it’s easier. But I guess it’s worth doing both, because they do test slightly different things. I can’t wait to join AT. Sorry to read about your chemo but it sounds your training is going well!

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I’m going to bang my standard drum here… don’t do the ramp test.

Yes, it is a bit intimidating, but a true TTE test (45 mins to an hour) is a better test. It’s a hit to the ego - I went from 286 to 268 - but I cannot stress enough how much better my training is at that lower FTP.

I’d really recommend finding a flat loop on Zwift that will take you 7-9 minutes at your target wattage, and do 6-8 laps (work out how many after lap 1, just like a CX race).

You also learn about pacing, which I think is a useful skill for any serious cyclist.

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retest after a few days

The irony of accepting a solid FTP bump is that you crush yourself with the next block of training and get demoralized… could easily happen to anyone

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There I was really thinking the only way is up. I’d persuaded myself that I was accessing so far untapped reserves of athleticism that I didn’t know I had.

And you will access those reserves and improve.

I don’t want to derail the thread here, but I think this is an absolute case study to show the flaws in the ramp test.

Here’s what happens:

  1. The initial ramp test gives you a slightly elevated FTP.
  2. The training based on that is hard and progressive, but it is not so hard you fail/get beaten up.
  3. As a result of the training in 2, you improve, so your next FTP test is higher.
  4. The next block of training is now genuinely brutal [sweet spot becomes threshold, over-unders become over-overs, etc], fatigue builds up, you start failing workouts.
  5. As a result of 4, FTP drops, often hard.
  6. You get demoralised.

Now there is an argument that the feedback loop in 1-5 will eventually put you back in the right place, and/or that you can solve this problem by manually adjusting your ramp result down. I also don’t know how/if adaptive training might address this issue. And there are people for whom the ramp test does work, tbf.

But what you describe seems to happen to a LOT of people, and it strikes me as SO easily avoided. Almost no-one [the odd high-level triathlete aside] overtests on a 45min+ TTE, and - as I learned the hard way - it is much better to nail a series of 20 workouts, even if those workouts are technically 5% too easy, than it is to get smashed in 3-4 weeks by workouts that really, you have no business attempting with any regularity.

If you think about it, 1x20 mins at threshold, for example, if your threshold is over-estimated, is potentially an absolute flat out, race pace effort. Then you need to do it again in 4 minutes? Repeat 3x a week…?? Hopefully you see where I’m going with this.

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Lots of good advice. Thanks @RecoveryRide. You say 45+, but FTP is best effort in an hour, so should I just try that? What about the classic 20’ test? I mean that’s pretty standard, isn’t it?

That’s a bit of a misconception: FTP is lactate threshold - I know it’s a proxy, guys, bear with me here. Lactate threshold is anything from 40-70 minutes, depending on genetics and training. If you go on triathlon forums, you’ll hear a lot of guys talking about TTE [time to exhaustion] increasing at the same FTP as a common training adaptation*. There’s nothing magical about exactly an hour. See Introduction to the Time To Exhaustion (TTE) Metric in WKO4 – TrainingPeaks Help Center

Purely personally, I think the 20 minute test is better than the ramp, but ultimately, if we’re looking to test lactate threshold/FTP/whatever, why not just test for it directly, rather than use an approximation that may or may not be accurate?

*- i.e. they can sustain, say 250w for 70 minutes rather than 60 [but can’t go over 250 for 6, if that makes sense]

Since this is the most recent thread about Ramp Test results, I’ll chip in with a situation that I’d like to hear your thoughts about: I’ve been training rather consistently for the past months working through a half Ironman mid-volume training plan; started with TR in November 2020.

FTP tested was 279. Went up to 296 late December and then to 311 mid-February. Then tested again this week because my calendar shifted somewhat because of races getting confirmed (still have to cross fingers for them to really take place) and I wanted to test.

The result of this week: 306. I know it’s only a small drop but like so many others here I feel a lot stronger than I did! Also my outside rides show that I am a lot stronger.

Am I expecting too much? Should I try a different fitness test?

Might be important to note that I bought a powermeter for outside workouts, so I’ve done multiple TR workouts outside. With good results, by the way.

Edit: the workouts have been easy for me to finish! So that’s what surprises me, perhaps.

I am not one to recommend changing FTP testing methods, I have stuck with the 20’ test for 5 years or more.
However the Kolie Moore / Empirical Cycling tests are pretty good and the progressive one can classify as a good workout as well as a TTE test. They can be seen in the workouts , search for ‘test’ ‘progressive’ or ‘Moore’

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Ok, thanks @RecoveryRide . I’ll give myself a few days rest and then I’ll try. 45’ is a lot, but I quite like the pacing challenge of longer efforts

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I think my only comment would be that outdoor workouts - for me at least - typically feel about 10% easier for the same power; 4x8 mins @ 107% FTP, with 2 min breaks, is just about doable outside - I’m 0/3 indoors on that (the closest I’ve got is 6 minutes into interval 4 before I had to ease off for 15-20 seconds).

Outdoor workouts being a bit easier seems quite common; there’s a load of threads on why this might be the case.

In any case, this might tie into your FTP result. That said, FTP is only 1 measure of fitness (and perhaps not even the most relevant for a lot of competitors).