New to structured training, question on FTP increases and recovery week

Hello & thanks for taking the time to read my post

I’m totally new to structured training and I have a couple questions if anyone fancies offering some advice. A quick bit about me: I’m 37, 178cm, 90kg with an FTP of 178. Casual mountain biker based in the UK, normally ride 1 or 2 times a week in the summer and once every couple weeks in the winter. 16 months ago our first child was born and since then i’ve packed on about 12kg, and it shows!! I’ve decided its time to get back on it so i’ve setup a turbo trainer in the shed (classy!) and set my sights on my third attempt at the South Downs Way in June 2020, a 100mile off road MTB route with about 3500m of climbing and a target of 12 hours (best I did was 14+ hours 2 years ago)

I’ve signed up to TR and started sweet spot base low volume plan. Did the ramp test and week 1 was good, challenging but all doable. Week 2 was a bit too easy, heart rate was not really getting above 130 (181 max) and after the sessions I wasn’t feeling like i’d worked hard so I’ve been slowly adjusting the intensity by 1% each time. I’m just finishing week 4 and today I am up to 111% and that’s feeling fine, not really challenging but an okay workout

So, to my two questions:

  1. Should I just retake the ramp test now, then finish week 4 and go into week 5 (recovery week) with a more accurate FTP or just wait the week and half as per plan builder and keep upping the intensity?

  2. Do I really need a recovery week? I don’t feel at all challenged so far. My preference is to finish week 4, do the ramp test then start sweet spot base 2 and skip the recover week entirely.

Would be great to hear some suggestions from more experienced riders as I really want to maximise my limited time.


If your new to structured training and with a FTP under 200W you will make gains quickly and as you say there isn’t enough volume in SSBLV if you have your FTP set to low. I would retest but still complete the rest of base 1 and then maybe test again and start base 2. It isn’t like you are desperately short of time and time in the saddle will benefit you. I would say up the volume but if you are really time crunched you can’t so it is imperative that the workouts are challenging come Base 2 or you won’t get the training stimulus…it all comes from the intensity in LV as there isn’t enough TSS otherwise. No you probably don’t need a recovery week if you haven’t been challenged - you’ll know if you do - I did SSBHV1/2 last year and was desperate for an easy week…this year I have done MV with extra endurance rides and once I finished Wright Peak -1 (3x30mins@90% - 266W) then I was very glad this week is easy! - good luck :grinning:

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I was the same situation and SSBLV I my hr barely touched z4. I have waited till the end and had a huge ftp gain, and then SSB2 was normal :slight_smile: I haven’t done recovery week because there was nothing to recovery from. So if you upping the intensity during SSB1 I would finish it at it gets and then properly retest at the start of SSB2. If you start with training, especially at the beginning it is very hard to pin your ftp perfectly, casue it is changing quite rapidly only thank to the fact that you so your workouts consistently. At least that was my case.

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Keep it simple. As you have just started, your Ramp Test may have been inaccurate for you.

So if you think things are definitely too easy, then just do a new Ramp Test and accept the new FTP result.

Then carry on with the rest of the workouts in your Plan. No need to start the plan from scratch again.

Then retest when the plan next calls for it etc…

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sounds like you can skip the recovery week; just be mindful that you did so, and don’t bury yourself if the next blog has you feeling super fatigued.

Good luck!


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Hey man,
Congrats on your new cub.
Welcome to the pain train. :wink:

Note: I am not a coach nor expert in anything here. Just an enthusiastic training geek. I will write in an affirmative tone, but this is just my understanding and opinion. Note that your goals and these comments reflect my actual training as well.

So, for reference, I’m 6’ 3”, 100kg (lean). My FTP tests at 290 and I have it set to 285 in trainer road. (It is 306 in Zwift). I have been on TR for 5 seasons. My FTP started at 190, with big gains in year one and two, and now very hard earned gains. I generally train at Low Volume, but I also Fatbike and ride Zwift races 2 extra days per week so my volume is more like Mid.

You have a lot of muscle mass on your frame, as do I. I will suggest that you probably have a lot of endurance strength in your legs (because we have a lot of slow-twitch fiber), limited lung capacity (oxygen delivery to your muscles), and limited high-intensity performance. (Without oxygen delivered to your muscles, they can’t perform super hard efforts, which are above your FTP value).

I think you will likely find the easy parts of the workout, very easy, and the hard parts, good hard work. General training theory likely says that you need to build your oxygen delivery system up, to better fuel your hard effort work. This means more Base Build work. (Like another 8 weeks would be good). No point in building 600 watt sprint legs if you only have 200 watt lungs and heart. This is achieved by training the heart to fill and pump more blood with each beat, which requires a good amount of low intensity training at Base Build levels.

For a long race like you have identified as your goal (which I think is too much in your first season back btw, is there a 50km category?). you will need to build greater endurance capabilities; you want to have good steady, strong output (sub FTP 80-90%, for long durations with limited periods for recovery). So I would say an endurance oriented strength build would be your next target plan. (Maybe sustained build?). As an additional element here, I will suggest you need to build your normal cadence up toward 95rpm. (This took me 2 seasons of TR)

Next steps:

  1. Don’t worry about testing your FTP again. Just raise it +10 and do some more workouts. Easy intervals and workouts are going to be easy still. If the hard stuff feels a bit harder, but YOU COMPLETE ALL THE INTERVALS, keep going. Up the FTP until it feels harder, only a few watts at a time. IMO, failing to compete workouts is bad. You WANT to complete all the intervals and finish the workouts. Adjust FTP accordingly. (This is one reason my FTP is set slightly low). Test again at the next training plan test.

  2. Make sure to maintain your CONSISTENCY of training. Low volume is fine, but make sure to stick to it. If you only have 30 minutes to train one day, swap the workout to a short variation and do it! Consistency is key to muscle adaptation. The periodization of these plans is part of the magic. Rest weeks are there for a reason. (Trust the Chad). During recovery weeks where things feel too easy (possibly because your massive build gives you disproportionate endurance capabilities), you can swap the workout for a LONGER version of the same. Training stress is (generally) measured by intensity & duration. So increase the duration to get more workout. (Increasing the intensity might pull you out of the base build zone where you are building oxygen capacity). I would suggest you continue to base build, especially if you’re set on a 100km, 12hr race.

  3. Nutrition: No discussion on improved training is complete without talking about nutrition. The guide I use is listed below. It is written for a different set of training plans but contains all the information you need to properly fuel your body for intense exercise. Don’t try to change everything at once and don’t overthink things. You need carbs and protein. Try making a few sensible changes to improve your overall diet. This will pay big dividends. Pay attention to the section about losing weight; losing weight while effectively fueling the beast is a paradox but can be done by using wholistic view of inputs and outputs. Depending on your physiology, you will be able to drop a few kilos helping your power to weight ratio. (Watts/kg).

Good work getting started and making changes.
Happy to share my thoughts anytime.
Enjoy the ride.



It would be interesting to know a bit more about your setup. If your using virtual power or a wheel on trainer set up differences from when you tested could lead to subsequent workouts being 'easier for the ‘same’ level of effort.

Good luck with the SDW. Did the double (WInchester-Brighton-Winchester) a few years ago. Best advice was a good whistle and slick gate opening drills

Wow, so many responses and suggestions, what a great community, cheers all!

I’ll have a crack at the ramp test tomorrow night and post my new FTP. I’m a total data geek so I know retesting will give me lots of motivation to stick with the programme. If my FTP jumps a lot i’ll be more than a little daunted by the next block but I want to feel like I am really trying!

@jdman thanks for the info. Time is defo a factor, I work long hours and after getting home, helping get the little one to bed I can squeeze in an hour before or after dinner. I’ve also promised the wife I wont let it take over (i’m a bit all or nothing) so three workouts a week I can stick to, plus maybe a gym session or game of squash if i’m lucky. 3 * 30mins sounds awful, the only ‘hard’ workout so far was 2 * 20mins and even at my low ftp that was a mental challenge as much as physical

@Juarez Amazing impression of a coach and an expert, thanks for sharing and so much info!! Amazing to hear how far you’ve come and 290 is an awesome FTP. I think you’re being a little flattering when you say I have muscle mass on my frame, I think I can be honest and say there are many many kg’s of fat to spare. I see it as potential :rofl:

I actually live at the start of the route in Winchester, so I know the route well and I am comfortable pacing myself at all day pace if needs be, I just want to challenge myself and see what I can do. I’ve booked a local MTB race in March and a road Sportive in April and May to give me a couple milestones to aim for. I’m currently binge listening to the podcasts and they often reference consistency so point definitely taken there. Interesting you mention fueling too, initially i was cutting calories but i’ve been converted and now eating ahead of the sessions, recovery shake afterwards and making better choices. with an starting watts/kg of 1.9ish there is plenty of scope to move up!

@stevepetts372 I’m using a Wahoo Kickr Core so hopefully its producing consistent conditions. Interestingly, as its in the shed in the UK its bloody freezing I really notice how much easier I find riding in the cold as i’m well known for being the most sweaty person on any ride or in the gym. Amazing that you did the double, how did you find it and on what sort of bike? I’d absolutely love to try that but lets see how the fitness goes first as that’s a brutal undertaking!!! Kudos to you

Thanks again for all the feedback

I guess it would help if I posted the link to the nutrition guide eh?

Good hunting.

Also check out the EFR factsheets to learn more about,well everything.

I run into the same problem… I did an adjustment to the workout intensity today. One thing I do to add volume is to add 15 minutes of taku after each one hour workout. Add a recovery ride (taku on rest days except monday and add longer endurance (2hours +) ride on sunday once in a while. And this really made a difference.

Did the ramp test and jumped from 178 to 198. Pretty happy with that!!! Add in a little weight loss and I’ve moved from 1.9 watts per kilo to 2.2. Great result for month one.

Thanks for posting the resources, I’ll have a read

You need to make sure that you recalibrate once the trainer has warmed up. I typically calibrate at the start and then about 10-15 mins later/ after the warm up ‘intervals’