I’m fairly new to cycling, almost 2years now. I have been riding 6 days a week or 9hrs a week since last December. I find my fitness has plateaued and I’m not sure what to do next. I’m currently taking a week of the bike and I was planning to come back and commit to a base 2 high volume sustained power build for 8 weeks and combine that with strength training. My questions: could I realistically increase my FTP from 280-300 at this point? In order to have my peak fitness in the summer months am I over doing it this early? What is the window of peak fitness and how often can I build it up, taper, race, rest and do it again? Could you suggest any plans and volume?
Difficult to answer all of that without knowing a bit more about what kind of training you’ve been doing during your 9 hours/week, and also what kind of races you want to do.
It’s unlikely you’ve hit your peak after 2 years so there’s almost certainly more growth to come. The low hanging fruit IMO are: structured training along the lines of the TR plans, consistency (not skipping workouts or taking chunks of time off), and paying attention to nutrition and recovery. If you’re not on top of any of those things then addressing that is the first place to start looking for more improvement.
If you’ve already picked the low hanging fruit and aren’t seeing further improvements, then maybe time to look at other options. One would be increasing volume by adding in a longer weekly ride, or adding in extended cooldowns to your existing plan. Another would be to change plans e.g. If you normally do SS base then go try traditional base instead. Another would be to try adding in some big blocks of training to get you out of the rut. E.g. Go do a training camp where you ride 20 hours in a week. Another would simply be bumping up your FTP by 5W manually on your existing plan and seeing if you can handle it.
Other thing is that progress isn’t always linear and it isn’t always reflected in your FTP. I’ve had periods where my FTP stagnates for a while and then I suddenly get a jump. I’ve also had periods where FTP stays the same but I’ve made big improvements in short power and/or in the length of time I can ride at FTP. And we haven’t even mentioned the weight side of the equation, which is another area for potential improvement if you’re doing races with hills.
This was the first year I started any sort of structured training using trainerroad. In Feb I did a high volume Century block and after that I believe I did another mid volume Century to take me into June when I stopped and just concentrated on riding as much as I could mostly outside with the odd interval session. I would alternate the intestines of my rides every other day, one day hard next day easy and I have done a least one 100km+ ride a week since March. May to Aug I felt at my best and after that I felt I leveled out and have slowly been regressing. The type of events I am looking to do next season are hilly road races in that 100-200km range. I could be wrong but I feel like I grabbed the low hanging stuff this past year and a half going from nothing to riding 6 days a week and losing 40lbs, the gains I have had over the last year and a half felt massive which makes this plateau even more noticeable. So now I want to reach for the next level in my training but do I start building now or is this more of a maintenance time until I get closer to the race season? And come summer or race season when do you use the speciality blocks and how often? I just don’t know the process.
Sounds like you’ve made huge progress, good work!
My best guess would be that May through August you were benefiting from a solid block of high quality indoor training (Feb through April) followed by some really high volumes in May and June. Since then your volume has dropped but it’s been mostly outdoor riding which generally gives you less bang for your buck than indoor riding. Hence a bit of a plateau/drop in fitness. Also possible that you over-reached a bit, those are some pretty big numbers for somebody who is newish to cycling, though I don’t think that’s the case as if it was you’d have been struggling through July/August, whereas you say that’s when you felt strong. Could be it’s just all gradually catching up with you and you could use a week or 2 of rest or easy riding.
So the takeaway for me is that you’ve been responding well to indoor training, and well to high volumes. As you hit winter and transition to doing more work on the trainer again, then if you keep the consistency up I’d therefore expect you to be in great shape for the spring.
In terms of how the blocks work, the vanilla approach is 12 weeks of base, 8 weeks of Build, 8 weeks of Specialty, culminating in your A race. Not set in stone though, obviously can be tailored to fit. E.g. if you had less than 28 weeks until your A race you might cut short Speciality. Or if you had more than 28 weeks you might do an extended Base (e.g. some Traditional Base followed by Sweet Spot), or do a Base then Build, then return to Base again. And obviously you can race along the way, you just do so with little to no taper and in the knowledge that you’re not peaking for that race. So I would view this time of year as the time to make sure you’re fully fresh, so take that week or 2 off/easy if you feel it’s beneficial, and then start building the foundation for next season. And Base period isn’t really about making big gains in FTP (you normally get some, particularly if you’re still fairly new to it), it’s about building the aerobic base that enables bigger gains later on.
Thank You @cartsman! I really appreciate the great info. Races I’m looking at are a 100km at the end of May and maybe 3 in June 170km, 150km and a 175km. So if my A race is the 150 in the middle I have roughly 32 weeks until that race and 28 weeks until my first race. How does this sound?
8 weeks traditional base
8 weeks Sweet Spot
3 weeks ?
8 weeks Specialty road climbing race block to get me in peak form
Where would you taper if at all?
now would you finish out the months of May, June and July just racing and outside riding? or after my A race do I go back to base or another plan to maintain the fitness I have hopefully built up?
You’ve skipped Build!
Would do an easy/rest week first of all, make sure any residual fatigue is flushed out and you’re raring to go.
Then a couple of weeks of Traditional Base.
Then 12 weeks of Sweet Spot. Followed by 8 weeks of Sustained Power Build. And finishing up with 8 weeks of Rolling Road race Specialty.
And maybe keep a week in hand because something nearly always disrupts training along the way (sickness, holiday, work, etc)
Got it! I’m going to give this a go. This is day 4 off the bike for me, the first time I’ve taken a week off since I started and I’m pacing around the house chomping at the bit! can’t wait to get back on. Thanks again for all the help!