Nov '20 - June '21: my FTP didn't raise, and I don't feel stronger than an year ago. I need tips

Hi all,
First of all: I’m not complaining, I’m just trying to reflect on what I did in the past months, if I could/should have done things a bit differently, and try to learn from this for the future.

Foreword: I live in the US for most of the year, where I consistently ride with a group 1-2 times a week, depending on season. Terrain is flats and rolling hills. Then in January and for the summer I move back “home,” where I ride with friends who are not as fast on flats/rolling hills (overall average is always lower), but terrain is mostly hills, medium and long (think between 5k and 15k, =/-), which is where I get my ass kicked.

My first season with TR (Jan '19-March '19) I completed Sweet Spot Base 1 and 2 (low volume). Once the weather got nice outside, I interrupted the plan. Results were very noticeable, even if the FTP bump was not massive.

My second season with TR (Nov '19 - March '20) I started again with Sweet Spot I, which I had to interrupt because when I’m home in January I don’t have a trainer. In February 2020 I continued straight from Sweet Spot II and continued onto Build (Granfondo if I recall correctly). Results were again quite noticeable, and the bump in FTP more than I expected. Since I could not go outside because of lockdowns, for a change I followed two build plans on Zwift until May, then moved outside. In July I traveled back home, and according to Strava I definitely was faster on hill segments.

This year (Nov '20 - Apr '21) I could do things without January interruption for the first time. After midweek rides stopped at the beginning of November I started with Sweet Spot 1 and 2: if only by a few watts, FTP wise I was improving (229->235). Overall I was hitting PRs and thought I was off to a great new season. During my december vacations I read Fitzgerald’s Endurance Diet and started applying its principles (although, my diet was already quite good to begin with). Then in January I noticed no improvements, but didn’t want to give it more importance than necessary. As I moved to general build, I realized I was struggling, and a feeling that improvements were stagnating, however I couldn’t see why: training, sleep and diet were all consistent and quite good. Still, I thought maybe it was just a phase, however, I didn’t move on to special phase, and went back to a new cycle of Sweet Spot 1 and 2, until April.

Long story short: I’m “home” and times on segments are similar/slower than last year. The general feeling when I hit the hills is that I don’t have the strength to push. I thought it would be simply related to short term fatigue, but it doesn’t seem to be the case.
I’m wondering: have I digged myself into a hole since January? However, I wouldn’t see why, as I’ve rest when I felt the need, and used the rest weeks of the plans as planned.
The only thing I didn’t do (but can it matter so much!?) is that, as a matter of fact, I didn’t take any 1-2 weeks break since August 2020 to date.

Any insight or tips?

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I don’t do this:

I ride 1-3 times a week with my son and I try to stay in Z2. I have been 100% consistent with the plan, have a pretty good diet and plenty of sleep. Work stress is low as I no longer commute.

My FTP gains are 209 (March) → 227 (April) → 241 (May) → 261 (June)

From your post our difference seems to be the rides outside the plan. I don’t know if that helps?

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This makes me think it could be two things. Either diet or fatigue.

You mention that you read The Endurance Diet and then implemented some changes in Dec/Jan, then you started noticing a plateau/decline. Are you sure that you didn’t start eating less as a result? Many times when people attempt to clean up their diet the continue eating the same volume of food (so they feel just as full) but they are eating less calories. How has your weight been since that change?

On the fatigue side, you mention that you haven’t taken a 1-2 week break in a while. I’m assuming you mean like a transition from summer/race season to the off season. I don’t think this is always 100% necessary for most people. It is for pros who race 90 days/year and travel all the time and ride 2 grand tours but for the average people its probably mostly for a mental reset than a physical one. But how have your regular recovery weeks been going? Do you actually decrease your volume and let yourself recover or do you get a bit sloppy and ride too much. Sometimes I find that when fatigue starts to slowly build it is because I don’t do weeks like “hard-hard-hard-easy” but it’s more like “hard-hard-hard-medium” because I get sloppy and just go ride around without discipline and go just a bit too hard. So I’m not emptying the fatigue bin before I try to start filling it again.

I would probably look closer at your diet and make sure that you are actually eating as many calories as you think you are and then maybe take another rest week. And really be disciplined about that week. It might drop your fitness down coming out of it but in the long run it will help you build higher.

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Oh and one last thing… Make sure that your FTP results from your tests (I’m assuming you are using the TR ramp test) are actually accurate and achievable. For example, I am pretty strong anaerobically so the ramp test skews way high for me and gives me a results that is easily 5-10% too high. So that throughout SS base I am really doing closer to Threshold efforts as opposed to SS and then during SSBII I am doing like 103% FTP as opposed to the prescribed 98%. These extra %'s are achievable for a while but they just burn me out by the time I start the build phase.

To put my numbers to it. Last year I got a 334W FTP from the ramp test but a month later I couldn’t even hold 330W for 20 min. So my true FTP was probably actually closer to 310/315W and I had just been killing myself for months with an inflated number and it dug me into a pretty deep hole.


Thank you for replying - weight has been stable and I think I’m eating more. I hate breakfast and I’m an intermittent faster, but since January I have been having a midmorning breakfast with whole grains and a mid-afternoon snack. I cut on sweets, but I balanced with more whole wheat stuff (pancakes, etc.)

Re: taking it easy, I have followed the plans to the T, so I don’t think that’s the issue. Maybe lately I have been pushing harder with the hills and everything but this seems to be a long time issue.
The only other thing that comes to mind is sleep. Overall I have really good sleep, but since maybe February, because of a pet my sleeping has been decreasing, not always, not all the time, but not to the point where I think it could have damaged my recovery. I still get plenty of time to sleep, so I definitely have not sleep deprived.

What are these group rides like? Taxing at all, or not? Are these 5 hour group rides or 1hr cruisers?

Everyone will eventually plateau on SSB LV. You can only be so fast on 3-3.5hrs a week, that are basically all the same energy system.

Add more volume and/or switch up the stimuli.

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Hmm yeah, I missed that detail on first read. It is possible that you are simply hitting a point where you need to add more volume in order to improve. Even kicking that up to 5-6 hours would probably make a pretty large difference.

Another thing to think about is when in the rides these hill occur. Is it early in the ride when you are fresh or toward the end of these group rides? If its the beginning then I think the issue is more fatigue or diet but if it is at the end then I think that may point to a lack of depth in your fitness and you might need to bump up your volume.

Group rides on flats/rolling hills are definitely intense: Saturdays are usually 3 hrs / 80k / 30km/h avg and midweek rides are shorter but faster: 1.5 hrs / 45km / 32 km/h avg.

At home they are slower, but with much longer hills.

Re: volume, you may be right, I may reached a point where I need more/different stimuli to progress.

There is a good chance the “easy” gains have been made. At least at the volume you are at. If you can add volume, do it. It doesn’t need to be intensity. I would add more Z2 first before adding a bunch more TSS.

Another thing is, plateaus are normal. I would consider myself in a bit of one, but I have no concerns about it. Rome wasn’t built in a day and these physiological changes take time to cement themselves as your new baseline. I might shift my focus from FTP and start working through progressions using Workout levels. You can take the pressure off of always seeing that FTP go up and get better at threshold or sweetspot or even VO2Max. I would pick one and just focus on getting that as high as you can go mixing in some workouts of the others to keep them maintained.

It may also sound counter-intuitive, but you might try reducing your FTP. It could be you’ve over-tested and the workouts you are doing are smashing you. Perhaps you’ve detrained a bit since then or what, but making the workouts easier can sometimes give you room to relax a bit and grow. Particularly if you focus on progression levels vs. FTP.


Is it foolish of me to think that the lack of improvement on hills is related to lack of “strength?” I know TR plans don’t push much on cadence work, but I’m wondering if in my case that kind of training could make sense.

It’s certainly possible. I had always found applying the force required for climbing to be quite hard, but on the flat I could spin to win. I practiced cadence this year, and it definitely helped me learn how to muscle through climbs better. Plus it helps to break up those sweet spot intervals to do 2 minutes at different cadences until it ends (makes for pretty charts at the end too).