Masters Off Season: What now?

Weird to be asking this in the middle of the TdF with both the Giro and Vuelta yet to come… So 2020, the training was just very unproductive for me. I could not gain any traction. FTP tanked and so did a few other metrics. I just gave it all up and rode my bike like a loon through August to hit some Strava challenge a mates egged me to do. FWIW both of them bailed out of it.

I was targeting for a PB assault on a climb here at the end of this month. Till the training fell apart. Having just done a massive Z2 block just now. I am having a rest week and then doing a mini VO2 max block and trying for the PB. That is just to see what happens. I am not that hopeful. It is more by way of an experiment in seeing where I really am ATM. I have another reference ride that will be a long SS drag that I will do the following week.

The real question is as a masters (52) what next? Wisdom has it that us masters should not take a break from riding during the off season as we lose too much fitness that way. I usually do lose 10% of my FTP if I take a break and then start the Base-Build-Specialty cycle again. That happen last winter. It never really came back up this year. So I was going to rotate back to SSB2 LV and commit to the strength training once this PB shot is done. Rinse and repeat until there is a glimmer of a season. I was also going to sub in one outdoor ride a month in excess of 3 hours… maybe tack on some progressive SSB blocks to them.

My question really is about the premise of Masters losing fitness so rapidly. Is there anything we can do to minimize the dip? Am I on the right track here or gunning for another unproductive season in 2021?

On a related note I am just a grand Fondo rider; I usually stick to the sustained power build and century pattern. (I live in flat lands so I have no hills, but have to ride them in the fondos). Is there any masters specific mods worth doing on plans? I did mess with the rest to work ratio but that didn’t help me at all this year and I think it may have been counter productive in my case.

[Edit: Loss rate was a typo 10% not 20%]

Joe Friel wrote a book called Fast After 50. One of the suggestions was doing one VO2 workout a week because that top end is lost quick. Short intervals like 60-90 seconds but used to no lose it.
Check the book out. I’m sure you’d find useful tips in it.


I read that one alright and that was part of the problem this year. The VO2max stuff that I need to be doing just didn’t seem to be as impactful as it once was. Year on year my average HR for the VO2max sessions has gone down faster than my max heart rate and I have almost stopped hitting the HR zones required. Even though I am pretty much gasping like a beached fish by the end.

Heart rate decreases as you get older. Have you been training with power? When continuing to train what happens with your power numbers?

Put away the power meter and find some things to ride for fun. If you road bike, go on some gravel or MTB rides. If you can, pick a few weekend destinations that have some new rides you can do.

I ride year round. Variety and “something to look forward to” - race, or just an epic ride with friends - are important to sustain motivation.

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Yeah using power to train alright, but I am looking at my broad HR metrics to gauge my response to the training. Even allowing for the decline in Max HR with age my VO2 Max response is dropping too quickly. I want to use this VO2 max block to explore the reason for that.

My power is down in general as the FTP has decayed but it has been at 120% or so of that FTP number so… I don’t really know what is going on there.

That’s pretty much my problem there in a nutshell this year… There weren’t any and still aren’t organised events. I can’t travel as the quarantine rules are in play. I just spent the last month blasting about the locale here exploring new routes and stuff which was a hoot but again all flat as a pancake. So I think that I have drained that one now too for a bit.

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I’m a few years behind you at 45yo, but what I’ve found works best for me is just keeping pretty active year round. No big breaks in training, but I will have breaks from structured bike training. Which some years might mean doing a period of totally unstructured bike training where I just ride as hard or as easy as I feel like doing on any given day. Or might mean a break from the bike and doing some running, hiking, gym work, swimming, etc. I also train most days, not always cycling, but something. Though am quite good at taking days off when I feel I need them. Find it much easier to maintain a constant pretty high level of fitness than to have big peaks and troughs.

Only once in the last decade have I had anything like a 20% drop in fitness, and that was a perfect storm of moving countries, having a load of work stress and travel, and getting sick.

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Sounds like where I used to live in Illinois. I feel your pain!

I moved to Colorado a few years ago. I’m lucky to have great riding out the door.

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Oops that was a typo it is usually 10% and almost invariable due to Xmas. Yeah I hear you on the active all year. I do, or at least did, commute by bike all year it ain’t really far enough and not particularly fun in the dark to extend it much.

Where are you getting that wisdom? Over the last year I’ve spoken with a handful or two of coaches and nobody recommended skipping the off-season. I (re)started road cycling at 54, and four years later am nearing the completion of a real cycling focused resistance training program (FasCat). The cycling portion doesn’t look anything like TR’s SSB. After this the plan calls for switching to base training.


Not suggesting skipping the off season. Just not stopping riding.

Yeah i dont think becoming totally idle is a good idea at any stage of life, but for over forties they say strength training defers the year on year decline.

Encouraged by TR I took on StrongLifts 5x5 last year, simple program to build strength for noobs like me and caters for the 40+

Do casual riding alongside.

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I like 5x5 alright. Simple enough to implement. I always start the squats too low each time.

Problem now is no gym.

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I feel you there. I’m not even a masters rider yet and am suuuuuper nervous about what this season’s lack of motivational goals will do for my long-term fitness. I know what has helped me is focusing on ‘fun’ rides, new routes or a new feature on a trail I haven’t ridden before, mixed with structured workouts to keep me engaged and sharp.
I started a new training block with less structured training than normal, but its still nice to be able to have the clearly defined workouts available, just at a lower capacity. Im just more relaxed about which days I assign them to, and it has helped me have time to fit in more weight training and fun rides!
Not the official TrainerRoad statement on off-seasons or anything (haha), just what is helping ME get through this year! :relaxed:


I think you would be better served by a cycling specific plan. I’m using FasCat 10-week resistance training plan and you can preview the plan by listening to a podcast episode. Mostly zone2 because if you are doing resistance training correctly your legs will be too tired to do much beyond z2, however later in the plan there is sprint training to begin teaching the new muscle to support cycling. Very happy with the plan.

Velocious has a resistance only plan: and on a related note I own the 26-week Masters Full Season Plan and it includes a functional strength plan.

ScientificTriathlon has one: and I bought it, good plan and lot of helpful information.

Back when I started four years ago, started out resistance training and/or functional strength training by using info in books from:

  • Coach Joe Friel (its covered in several of his books)
  • the 2006 book Base Building for Cyclists
  • Coach Chris Carmichael’s The Time Crunched Cyclist

TrainerRoad has been dropping hints on the podcast, and they might roll out a resistance plan but I wouldn’t/didn’t hold my breath.

I hear ya, but how can I do that stuff with no gym available? I have a squat rack and bar in the garage so I can do 5x5. Leg curls or any machine based exercises are a no go ATM.

Going to follow that up with the 18 weeks SST and see how it goes?

I did substitutions based on equipment available. The leg curls are focused on hamstrings, partly to balance out the quad work. Right now (power phase) my focus is:

  • goblet squats (kettlebell)
  • deadlifts (depending on phase either one or two kettlebells)
  • step-ups (dumbbells and for more weight the kettlebells)

And a pre-workout routine doing ~30 minutes of (mostly) glute activation. I proceeded the 10-week plan with kettlebell swings using this protocol. Just bought a balance board for transitioning to more functional work.

Yup. Had great results with an abridged version of that plan this past spring. Almost back to levels of my best season (2017). And power duration curve this spring exceeded prior two seasons, so everything appears to be aligning for a PB season in 2021.

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@simonicusfacilis same age. It’s tricky to give advise and absorb advise not really understanding each other. Not all 50+/30+/80+ yo’s are going to respond the same to x, y and z. For reference, I’m not anything special, but, can podium and mix it up regularly in SoCal and race series like Sea Otter and Tour of Americas Dairyland.

Not being pros or young we probably don’t ride enough to need a full 2-3 weeks off the bike (I realize you are talking about JRA). Some elite elite masters I know basically don’t work and probably need to but, as an average older joe who doesn’t ride huge miles or log insane tss etc…riding unstructured for a month +/- a few weeks won’t move the needle IME/O. Letting CTL dip and the mental break is an elixir of training. I ride when I feel like it for a month or so then start base with renewed vigor later in the fall. A few things over the decades still seem to bubble to the surface as things that do move the needle:

-Strength training in the fall (while more talked about recently) is wicked underrated especially as masters. No gym=plyometrics.

-I have always believed Z2 (while more talked about here recently) is underrated as well. When in doubt=Z2

-We all know about sleep and REM boosting T and the 1st part of sleep boosting GH. So get good at naps.

-Be lean.

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