New to TR - Trying to get over addiction to tempo work and my focus on TSS

I just signed up for TR, have been listening to the podcasts, and I’m trying to shape/pick a training plan. I do some road racing and shorter MTB, but my priority is marathon MTB and I’m getting into gravel racing as well. I’m 50 and my FTP is 286 based on my ramp test and I weight about 165 lbs. Primary goal is to push FTP up over 300 and also increase my ability to better recover from short surges in races. I’m registered for Leadville 2020 and I’m also doing the Leadville stage race in July this year as a preview, so I’m hoping to do a couple build blocks between now and July for the Leadville stage race.

I’ve been training with power for over 10 years, mostly “semi-structured” and my typical approach is:
Base - run as many Kj’s through my legs as possible for a few months, heavy focus on tempo work. That’s typically 800-1200 TSS per week with a long 350-450 TSS ride every Saturday 5+ hours. 2-3 rest days per week and easy week every 4th week or so. I don’t do any focused rides under tempo pace and I get to a point where normalized power is 80-85%+ of FTP for 5 hours on saturday rides and I’m tired, but not wrecked afterwards.

Build - work in FTP intervals on tues/thurs. This is where I’m pretty vanilla with long intervals right at threshold or maybe slightly below. For saturday ride, part of it is a group ride, so I just try to get as much time at or over threshold as possible (usually 70-90 minutes total). Any other days I’m riding, I’m still doing tempo work just to generate TSS without much stress. After a couple months of that, I’ll switch from FTP work to Vo2 max stuff on Tues/Thurs and I’m still really basic without much variety.

Right or wrong, I feel like my approach to base fitness works for me, but I’d really like to build my FTP up and I’m hoping the variety and different TR workouts will help me in the build phase.

So, I’m looking at the high volume 8 week sustained power build plan and I’m 100% on board with the Tuesday/Thursday workouts. What I’m struggling with is the idea of dropping my long Saturday ride in favor of a much shorter interval session and I also can’t wrap my head around the Wed/Fri “easy” days at under 65% of FTP. So, for the easy days, would it be OK to make those tempo days (more like 80%) as long as I can hit the numbers on my Tues/Thurs intervals? If endurance pace is better for the easy days, why?

I understand that weekly TSS will typically drop a bit when adding in hard intervals, but I’m afraid of losing fitness going from 900 TSS weeks to 600 TSS weeks for the standard TR plans. For the kind of racing I’m focused on, being able to hold decent power for 5-9 hours is critical and I don’t want to lose any of my endurance if possible.

So, I really want to try to incorporate Tues/Thurs intervals from the TR plans into my past training approach and keep the TSS up a bit, but I’m wondering if I’d be better off doing the TR plan as-is and try to let go of my old approach. Any thoughts/guidance?

The first thing I’ll gently say is, come back when you’ve completed some of the Tuesday and Thursday workouts from Sustained Power Build and if you still feel the same way about doing a tempo ride in between them. They’re not to be taken lightly.

As for Saturdays, your group ride may often feel hard, but just bear in mind that randomly going over threshold where possible is unlikely to trigger the physiological adaptations of a carefully-designed interval session that takes you into the “very dark orange” and back out, again and again, until you’ve stacked up an amazing number of minutes nearly at your vo2 max.

As the guys here are fond of saying, “not all TSS is created equal”. You can very much do less TSS and get fitter. However, if you wanted to still get some more miles in outdoors, my recommendation would be to replace the Sunday workouts with an long endurance/tempo outdoor ride.

Thanks for feedback. Yeah, I guess we’ll see how things go. I’m just in the first week (did my ramp test last Thursday) and the Tues/Thurs workouts this week felt really good, I couldn’t ride Wednesday, so I was really fresh for tonight and was able to close out the workout with 30 minutes of tempo. I’ll see how I’m responding a few weeks in and adjust from there.

I’m going to try to keep my long Saturday ride and see how things go. I’ll try to get in some structured FTP work (I have an hour+ solo ride to get to the group ride) and then I can get some smaller blocks where where the group has fast sections and climbs. I also sometimes bring my XC MTB on these group rides when it’s a flat route, so I’m just grinding it out all day. You’d be surprised how much it smooths out the power compared to using a road bike where you are sitting in the pack. Normalized power is only ~20-30 watts higher than riding my road bike, but average power is much higher. It’s almost like riding the trainer with very little coasting. Really great training for long MTB or gravel races.

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So, the idea behind the easy rides, is multi layered.

  1. allows you to be fresher for the hard tuesday/thursday rides, and get a really strong stimulus.
  2. your body responds really well to low endurance training <.65 and high intensity training
  3. when you push a moderate amount of stress each day, it leads to fatigue and overtraining.

imho, the third interval session on saturday isn’t necessary, especially if you haven’t been doing 2 hard vo2/threshhold intervals each week for months / years consistently. You get the vast majority of of adaptation from 1-2 interval sessions, and that third session is for when you’re already adapted to it and need to figure out a way of adding on more stress.

Especially if your focus is longer races, short vo2 efforts at 120% have a much higher RPE, but dont have an aerobic benefit over 5 and 8 minute efforts, so you could swap the saturday ride for the tuesday ride (assuming thats your 120% day). which would leave you free to do either a sweet spot, tempo, or endurance ride saturday and sunday.

I really wanted to argue against tempo intervals, but if you’re races are <12 hours, that does put you in a range of being able to hold tempo for a really long time, so it’d be worthwhile to still do a tempo ride each week, keeping that race specificity training. But i think it’d be beneficial to at have those endurance rides wednesday, friday (maybe even sunday too), so you can get the most benefit from your tuesday thursday intervals, and if you’re still fresh on saturday, push up the duration / number of intervals, at tempo or sweet spot, or endurance.

And dont feel locked into the proscribed durations on the endurance rides, if you feel good, make the 60 minutes endurance into 90, 90 into 120. If you feel flat, cut them down to 30 or 60 so you can hit the intervals hard the next day.

But have faith in the low intensity ride :stuck_out_tongue:
My ftp has gone up from 296 in november, to now 345. doing all endurance except for 1-2 hard sessions each week.