Nonfunctional Overreaching? Help!

Update: I took 10 days completely off the bike and exercise in general (other than one easy hike on Thanksgiving). This was quite the challenge as I’ve been really missing the bike!

I was planning to start SSB MV1 today with the ramp test to check in on how I was feeling after this 10 day break, and it did not go so well. I tested the lowest I ever have on a ramp test (174 FTP). All ramp tests before this (even those after breaks from the bike) have been between 195-210 FTP, so this feels like quite a drop. In fact, my first ramp test ever, prior to any training at all was 200 FTP. I’m fine training here if that’s what my FTP is now though. It’s just hard to fathom in being that low due to fitness loss given only 10 days of a break. So what I’m more wondering is if this much of a drop after a ten day break is normal just due to being off the bike, or does it mean I’m still fatigued and likely in that overtrained area needing more of a break than 10 days?

My thoughts on how to move forward are either:

  1. Take a longer break than the 10 days I have taken in order to allow my body to recover more if I am indeed overtrained still. If choosing this option, I’m still not sure how long.
  2. Start SSB MV1 at new FTP (174)
  3. Start SSB MV1 at old FTB (205 last month before I started to feel super fatigued) and adjust/lower if workouts feel harder than they should (i.e. sweetspot feeling like threshold).
  4. Keep riding regularly but stick with endurance rides for a while and low TSS weeks and see how a feel in another couple weeks.

This is getting pretty frustrating for me, so I appreciate any help and advice. Thanks!

How do you personally feel after those 10 days? Do you feel rested? Did you hop on the bike feeling like 10 days of rest was enough? Or did you hop on because you felt bad about missing 10 days of training?

@nickcs, I actually did feel rested. My sleep had improved as well over the break. I can’t say their wasn’t a mental piece of also just thinking ten days should be enough, but I wasn’t feeling fatigued in my general life anymore.

I am in the same place as yourself. I am just gonna start from my new number. The point is the direction it is heading in and not the number itself. As I can ride my bike all year round where I live, my plan is to just ride outdoor for the next four weeks to remind myself why I am doing this and avoid the holiday fouling up any plan. At the same time I am having the Doc check out some minor issues that may be dragging.

Then kick off a SSB2 LV with added and substituted zone 2 rides to bring up the weekly STL. and proceed to build from there… My plan from here is to keep all VO2Max on the trainer and everything else outdoors. No hills hereabouts you see.

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If you say you’re eating well with a normal diet, with enough calories and proper macros and still going down in performance after a rest week, it definitely wouldn’t be a bad idea to go see a doctor? How many calories are you eating per day? How many calories on workout days vs off days? What does your macro split looks like?

Spot on. Too many amateurs think that in order to get stronger then must throw more work into the mix, when in reality we could all be much better at recovery and the fact that we aren’t makes high volume plans a recipe for disaster. Most of us don’t ride bikes for a living and don’t have the resources (chef, massage, Normatecs, etc) at our disposable to manage huge amounts of volume and stress.

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After seeing gains in the gym with just 2-3 hard days a week, I’m trying the same on the bike this season. That means low-volume plan with 2-3 hard workouts a week, plus another 3 really easy (and longer) aerobic endurance rides (60% FTP) to make for 5-6 rides a week. So far so good, however I’ve only been cycling for 4 years

Ideally you’d start with just riding for a bit.

I think your last ramp test might well have been low because you’ve been off for 10 days. You’d probably tested a bit higher with some sort of ‘opener’ the day before.

However, working with a slighly low ftp for a couple of weeks might be just what you need, because it’ll make sure you’re not overdoing it. If you still feel good after 3 weeks, just re-test and you’ll very likely get a higher number.

Yeah, I think I’m eating enough, maybe even more than enough as I feel I have put on some weight but I’m not sure. I don’t weigh myself anymore or count calories or macros really. I eat intuitively based on body cues of hunger and satiety. With an eating disorder history, stressing too much about all of that is a bad idea for me. My guess is probably between 2000-2500 calories a day but I’m not sure. I eat mostly whole foods and am pretty good at having protein/carbs/fats at every meal. I try to eat a solid carb-dense meal 3ish hours before a trainer ride and, if I can’t, I have a gel or something right before. I usually always have a recovery drink right after with protein and carbs. I eat the same on days off just minus the pre/post/during workout foods and maybe with a tad less snacking just because I’m not as hungry. I might try a short sweet spot ride today and see how I feel. I’m wondering if yesterday was a fluke. If not, I might see a doctor and rest a bit more.

Thanks for the solidarity! Your plan sounds like a great idea. The only thing is I don’t really feel the mental burnout and want to be on trainer… but it might be a good idea to continue taking it easy until after the holidays.

Not sure if I would class the plan as easy :sunglasses:

This morning did a two hour long way in. Will be off on business next two days. So 1 hr VO2 max on trainer for Saturday with a >3 hr ride on Sunday. All around LT1.

Using the time to recon new routes. The TSS should stack up but polarized. While the VO2 stuff will keep me from going too far off form for the base resume.

How did you get on @keulmer? Any update to your situation? I hope that you are feeling better!


So I took about about 10 days off at the end of November then got back into some more mild Z2 training (mostly endurance rides and 200-300 TSS per week) in December. Took about a week off during the holidays and got back into a mid volume plan in January with plan builder and reduced my FTP about 15 watts based on feel.

So far it’s been pretty good! I feel better than I did the past couple months on the bike. I’m not sure if it’s the break and reduced load or a few other changes I’ve made that’s helped.

The other changes I made were the following:

  • Upped sleep quantity to 8-9 hours per night
  • Increased carb intake and improved carb timing (making sure to have a carb dense meal 2-3 hours before rides)
  • Big recovery drink with 3:1 carb/protein ratio after EVERY ride
  • Started taking Vitamin D supplements
  • Generally try to worry less about training in general (that’s a tough one but it’s been getting better)

My heart rate has normalized mostly during intervals and I’m completing most all workouts (but still struggling on over-unders somewhat). I have an FTP test in a few weeks so we’ll see how that goes!


Other things to remember:

  1. Not all TSS is created equal, at least in my experience. So the same amount of TSS can wear you down differently depending on the mix of intensities within it.

  2. what’s your caffeine consumption like? I used to drink a lot of coffee, like 8 or 9 cups, and during that time i was finding that my power / hr ratio was way different at the end of the day vs the beginning. I also just felt like crap. I think what was happening is that even though i was well habituated to caffeine use, being constantly “activated” was draining my body battery. I cut down to two cups first thing in the morning and my afternoon / evening workouts have improved substantially. They feel hard (because i’m not using caffeine as an ergogenic aid) but the results are better (and my garmin stops thinking that i’m on death’s door whenever i do them) and my sleep is better.

  3. What’re your endurance rides like? I have found that when you are only working out a few times a week, it doesn’t really matter how hard you go. You can go pretty hard and still recover. But as soon as you start ramping up the total stress (either by volume or intensity) it becomes absolutely critical for your easy rides to truly be easy. If you start substituting what are essentially “medium” rides for “easy” rides, it’ll eventually at the very least start to impact the quality of your hard rides and at worst the wheels can fall off the bus.

I think that this is the reason why so many people have success using “polarized training.” it’s not because 80/20 is better or a magic formula or whatever. I think it’s rather that it’s easier for many people to implement sustainably because of the intense focus on keeping easy days easy. It’s just like, imagine two diets, both of which equally effective assuming adherence, but one is easier to adhere to than the other. For a lot of people, that’s the better diet, even though both are theoretically just as effective.

On endurance rides I use HR as well as power to make sure that the brakes are on. Just because your power numbers say you should be fat-burning that day (vs. glycogen) doesn’t mean that you are. Remember those zones are just math, they don’t actually know what’s going on inside.

  1. Related to the above, ramp tests (and other tests) can overstate FTP if you’re an anaerobic beast or a gas guzzling 12 cylinder (think 800 meter, 1600 meter or even 5K runner vs. marathoner). This is not a problem and it doesn’t mean your fitness is “worse” than you thought. It just means your fitness is different than you thought, if it’s true. it might mean that your threshold intervals hsould be less power, but it very well could mean that your VO2 max intervals should be MORE power :slight_smile:

Similarly, FTP (which is supposed to correlate to MLSS, right?) is only one marker. You could have an MLSS at around 200 watts, and the zones say that your switch between lipolysis and glycolisis should be at a certain percentage of that, but it might not actually be anywhere near that. In other words, your first lactate turnpoint could be lower than someone else’s, even if they have the same FTP. Meaning, certain endurance rides could be more taxing for you than for them, despite the power being the same and FTP being the same.

Again, not a problem per se, just gotta be aware. use all the tools at your disposal, not just power. People are quick to toss away heart rate becuase it’s “subjective and affected by other factors” but isn’t that, in a way, the beauty of it?

Good luck! Hope you find yourself back on the track you want. In the meantime, go hiking, lift weights, play with a dog, etc., i.e. find other ways to be active and have fun. Sometimes a mental break is needed as much as a physical one.

Sorry for the long post.

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Keulmer, if you jump back in to doing what you used to do you are going to quickly find yourself back in the same place.

A few things jumped out at me.

You mentioned heart palpitations. I hope you had that worked up. You could have some kind of electrolyte deficiency affecting your heart.

It sounds like way too much intensity and not enough rest. You mentioned a TR plan plus HIIT sessions at a cycling gym. Most cyclists should be doing 1 or 2 days per week with intensity with the rest should be Zone 1/2 aerobic conditioning. Especially during the winter you can periodize that towards even less intensity.

I highly suggest you read the polarized training topics and start learning how to balance the intensity with Z1/2 aerobic work. Aerobic conditioning is the foundation of our sport. Harder is not better. Lots of sweet spot is for time crunched athletes. You aren’t time crunched. You can mix in some sweet as you get closer to race season so you experience race intensity but you shouldn’t need so much in the winter. I know this is antithetical to TR style plans but they mostly cater to time crunched people. I think though that even a TR high volume plan would have less intensity than you are doing when you factor in the cycle gym.

15 hours a week is elite level hours of training. If you look at elite training, most of it is the previously mentioned Z1/2 work. The reason is precisely what you are discovering - that the body can’t maintain 4,5,6 days of intensity week in and week out.

BTW, I was bumping up against the fatigue wall last year. A hard week would bury me and then I’d need an easy week. It was repeating over and over and I was no longer making progress. After learning about polarized training, I did 12 weeks of old school base miles @ 70% of HR max. I did one day of intensity on a Saturday group ride. By week 8 I was setting new PRs and I was on fire. The other thing I noticed that after the big base period, I was no longer so fatigued by hard weeks. My endurance increased enormously.

Good luck!

Yeah, that was pretty high and is something I’ve cut down drastically in the past two months so that might be contributing to me feeling much better these days too!

My endurance rides have been between 55-75 % FTP and felt pretty easy lately. A year ago I would say I found myself in that Z3 tempo zone too much. I’ve been better recently with making my hard rides hard and my easy rides easy. And thanks for all the feedback and thoughts! I did take that mental break a few weeks back and have been feeling much better over the past couple weeks.

I might have been unclear in what I originally wrote…the cycling gym and TR were at different times. I used to just do the cycling gym and then switched over to TR. But, A year ago, when at the cycling gym, I was do think I was falling into too much intensity (3-4 days per week) and I have since dialed that back quite a bit since this past summer.

I have been leaning more towards this recently with the mid volume plan and it’s been going quite well. I’ve also generally cut back my TSS and training time considerably, and I think the step back is helping my body recover much better. Thanks!

So i just listened to a podcast with an exercise physiologist and he described something that I think is pertinent here.

According to him, there are structural adaptations (e.g., capillary density, actual volume of your heart chambers) and biochemical adaptations (e.g., increase in blood volume, changes in particular cytokines or particular markers).

Structural adaptations take years to build and take a long time to go away. Conversely, for biochemical adaptations, which can be powerful, there’s a clock ticking on them from the moment they come. According to him, this is why you might feel so rad / strong when you’re on “race form” but it doesn’t last forever. You can only maintain these peak performances for just so long. The biochemical adaptations are basically your body going out of homeostasis and eventually it’s going to say “enough already” and let them go.

See if this resonates with you at all. Maybe that’s an explanation. Like, your SSB plan is building both of these, but you, relatively early in your training career, haven’t had the years and years to build up those structural adaptations. Rather it’s still in process. And when the biochemical adaptations clear out, you drop down to a place that feels pretty low.

Good news is you’ve got years to keep building this up. If this is true, maybe doing a block of traditional base to let your body completely reset (while preventing detraining) might be the answer. You certainly don’t want to get overtrained.