My Adaptive Masters Training Plan

I wanted to share my N=1 training plan as a masters athlete. I’ve been tinkering with it for a while and I’m seeing really good results. With the quarantine, I’ve had more time for trial/error and to gauge progress than I normally would have. And to be clear, this plan is aimed at masters athletes, like me, who have different recovery needs than a 25 - 35 year old.

Some background on me:

– I’m 45 years old. Will be 46 in about a month
– I started “enthusiast” level riding about 9-10 years ago
– Started “training” 4-5 years ago.
– Started structured training about 2+ years ago
– After a year of working/struggling with TR plans (3-4 good weeks + 2-3 weeks of failing … rinse/repeat) I worked with a coach (Steve Neal) for about 9 months to great results.
– Stopped working with Steve last December due to life circumstances, and have been self training since January. (I have nothing but great things to say about Steve, by the way, and was going to start working with him again, but the family is belt-tightening due to the economic uncertainty of the pandemic and an elite coach doesn’t fit in to that right now)

What I really realized from the TR plans is that the TSS demands were geared much more to the higher end (Threshold, Vo2, Anaerobic) end of the spectrum, and I would fall into over-training fatigue and lose the ability to complete workouts for weeks at a time. Exacerbating the over-training issue was that I would over-test on the TR Ramp tests … the result being that, as a masters athlete, I take more time to recover from Vo2/Anaerobic … AND, my FTP was set too high, so it would hasten my descent into the hole. As an aside, I am a current TR subscriber, and love the product … I listen to the podcast religiously, but can’t follow the plans. Currently, I believe my TR FTP would be 310 - 315, however I am subscribing to 2 phased FTP test 1) a RAMP test with 3 min steps and applying .8 factor of 1 minute power, and 2) Verifying with an FTP60 ride a week later. As such, I am currently training off an FTP of 290.

I would say this approach is neither polarized, nor a threshold plan – more of a pyramidal approach. Also, it focuses on extending “time in zone” over increases in Watts. This, in effect, makes my high power more repeatable before making it higher – this has had a great effect on me. Last year, training off of a TR FTP of 303W, I was pack fodder. After making my power more repeatable at an FTP60 of 280W, I was on 2 podiums.

Sample week:

Monday: Off
Tuesday: Sweet Spot - 90mins or more. Work up to Tray Mountain and then Wright Peak in the 88% - 90% FTP range. If you’re feeling burned from a long weekend of riding, make this a tempo workout. Point of this day is to add as much volume as you can without burning yourself for the Vo2 work later in the week.
Wednesday: 60 - 90 minutes of Endurance like Baxter
Thursday: Vo2 Day –
***For two consecutive weeks I do lengthy efforts at 105% FTP. I started at 4x6 @ 105%, moved to 4x7 at 105% (i.e. Washington +4) and am currently working toward 4x8 @ 105% and will try to get to 5x8 @ 105% before dialing up FTP/Watts 2%-4% and then will likely go back to 4x6 or 4x7 before working back up the time in zone again.
***Every 3rd week I do a high end Vo2 workout - like 30/30s in Gendarme - or a variant.
***NOTE: For Vo2 workouts, DO NOT use ERG mode. For Gendarme, go as hard as you can for 30 seconds and recover. Same for the 105% intervals - use your internal governor. Go as hard as you can for 6/7/8 minutes and look at the average power at the end. Use RPE and Watt integrity to determine if you can start extending time in zone. I’m currently working down to 30/20s.
***Masters specific note: I take much longer to recover from ultra-high-end intervals like Gendarme, than I do from the 105% intervals. My 30/30 self-regulated power average is in the 385W - 400W range, which is approaching 140% of FTP. This is why I only do them every 3rd week.
Friday: Run - I take a 3-4 mile run every Friday. As a masters athlete, I can’t believe the benefits of running once a week. It changes my whole body – go listen to the Cycling Coach podcast on collagen.
Saturday and Sunday: 2-3 hour Z2 rides outside. Go longer if you can. Ride a bike and have fun. If I can’t get out I sub a 90-120 minute Tempo ride like Spruce Knob +3 and work up to Polar Bear

Execution Note: For my Sweet Spot and Tempo workouts, I ride in ERG mode at 60-70 RPM; 4 mins sitting, 1 min standing for the entirety of the interval. This is something my coach started me on, and I think it really increases muscular endurance. I don’t think it’s necessary, but I recommend it.

I’ve been wanting to write a post like this for a while, and if you made it this far I hope you’ve found it helpful.

Last thing: If you try something like this, you’re only doing Vo2 once a week, the execution REALLY matters on that - don’t use a governor…go as high as you can as long as you can and repeat. I run TR off my Mac, and I literally drape a towel over the power numbers during Vo2 intervals so they don’t make me go harder or easier – I just ride based on feel.

Good luck :metal:

17 Likes

Thanks for posting. This year I’ve taken a pyramidal approach to base and also very happy with results compared to threshold/SS heavy base plans (TR SSB). Similar results although I’m not racing for podiums. I’m currently using a sweet spot base plan from FasCat and it has similar pyramidal distribution as an older CTS plan that I followed in 2016 (it came from Strava Premium), and another base plan I purchased on TP.

Example week:
Monday: off
Tuesday: 2 hour 3x15 sweet spot
Wednesday: 90 minute 3x12 tempo
Thursday: 90 minute zone2
Friday: off
Saturday: 3 hour “group ride” (with COVID I’m doing these solo with sweet spot work)
Sunday: 3 hour zone2

Thats the basic template. I’m adapting workouts, in particular on the weekend.

2 Likes

Hey wanted to check in and see how this plan is progressing and what kind of gains you have seen? Also can you link the collagen podcast you referenced? I can’t seem to find it

thanks,!

It went really well. I stayed with this program until early July. I wish I could give you a specific FTP number I hit, but I can’t. However on my Vo2 days, I was hitting about 107%-111% average on my 4x8 intervals…I even made it to executing 5x8 @ >105%. I really saw an improvement in my ability to hold power above 105% in that 4th/5th interval.

Based on every type of RPE, or personal experience metric, I was in flying form. According to a TR FTP ramp-test, I would have estimated my FTP at about 315 at the time, up from an all time TR high of 303. By extension, I would have estimated my FTP60 number to be somewhere +/- 300-305

However… I abandoned the plan about the second week of July due to my “A” event canceling (I was really holding out hope, but knew it would likely not happen).

Without a meaningful race on my calendar, I took the opportunity to address a nagging running injury in my calves through PT - it was an injury that only bothered me when I ran, but was fine when I cycled. However to keep the strain on my legs low through rehab, I dialed all my riding back to endurance or tempo…and at the end of September when I started increasing intensity on the bike again, I have had the expected top end FTP drop. My last ramp test was 297.

I am now doing a modified-for-masters high-volume sweet spot base program - so I’m leaving Vo2 on the sidelines for now. I’m happy to share my SS program if interested.

Whenever I have an important race on the calendar again that has a better than 80% chance of actually happening, I will return to this program when I’m 12 weeks out from race day. I really felt strong as hell. I can’t encourage all of you enough to not do your Vo2 work in ERG mode. You really can learn a lot about your fitness at self-selected power.

Here are a couple ways I might modify the original plan (from my original post)…

— Might move Vo2 work to Tuesday after a Monday off. Thought there is to try and come in to that workout with maximum freshness
— I would incorporate a rest week every 4th or 5th week. My long weekend rides in the summer are really done based on the weather, and there was one week that the 2-3 hour Z2 rides turned into back-to-back 4+ hour rides. This represented a big bump in TSS, and it caused me to dip into little bit of a hole which I really felt. After those ride, I should have known better and adjusted accordingly.
— I might scrap the Seiler-esque Vo2 progression which has a 4x6 —>5x6 —>4x7 —>5x7 —>4x8 —>5x8 progression. I may switch to 4x5 or 5x5 protocol, which will have a higher power execution, but shorter duration (the thinking here comes from the Kollie Moore thread). I would still mix in a 30/30 type workout every 3rd week just to keep really high end power touched up.

Last thing I will say in relation to all of this is that if, as a masters athlete, you’re going to move Vo2 work to once a week, you need to do EVERYTHING you can to protect the integrity of that workout’s execution. It needs to be treated like the centerpiece of every week.

Hope this is helpful🤘

6 Likes

Thanks, that does help. Sounds like you got expected gains from it. I can totally relate to the masters thing, I will be 52 next week. What does your SS plan look like? I am working on extending TIZ to 90 minutes for SS this base season.