Over training or under training?

Some things make me think I’m over training, others make me think I’m under training.

First some background: I’m 56, I was a competitive distance runner in high school and college. I.e. intervals are hardly new to me. I’m making a concerted effort to eat right and get plenty of sleep. My diet may still need improvement though, and try as I might, I often don’t sleep well. I’m not doing strength training at the moment.

I constantly feel like I’m not getting enough recovery. These days every ride gets graded “Very Hard”. I get through the rides for the first two weeks of the block, and then start to falter. By the time I get to the taper week, I struggle with the first two endurance rides. By the third endurance ride, I start to feel recovered again, and we start the cycle all over again. I rarely miss a workout (one in march, and a week in april when I was sick, a total of 4 missed rides in 6 months).

On the flip side, intervals.icu says I’m rarely in the “optimal training zone” where you gain fitness.

I don’t seem to be getting much stronger. I realize this is long game, but in 6 months, I’m only about 10 watts stronger then I started, though I do feel like I’m getting stronger now, and my cardiovascular system seems to recovery well after intervals (I’m in a build phase doing lots of V02 Max workouts).

From my running days, I feel like I should do less intensity, and more Z1 & Z2 mileage.

Yesterday’s postcast kinda reinforced that thinking. I feel like I can do two intense workouts a week (one fewer that I’m currently do), and add two days on Z1/Z2 rides (probably unstructured, outside rides) . Plan builder doesn’t seem to accommodate anything like that.


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Listen to your body / gut…it is telling you something.

(but I would stick to Z2 rides for training purposes…only do z1 for recovery rides)

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I’m 53, have recently finished SSBLV1 (plus some Z2) and am now in week 1 of SSBLV2 (also plus some Z2)

I’ve been averaging about 8 hours a week in the loading weeks, a 4 or 5 (gentle) in the recovery weeks.

My plan next is to jump into polarised - either a base block followed by a build block, or straight into a build block. I’m not especially time-crunched, and so two properly hard hard days and two longer days in Z2 will hopefully suit me just fine.

This is probably true for most people.

This sounds like you’re just getting buried by intensity to me. Try dropping one of the intense days and doing some more endurance riding. What did you do between your competitive running and now? If you’ve done very little then your endurance capabilities are probably low and you should focus on that for a bit. The aerobic machinery doesn’t just help you on long rides or while riding but it is also how you recover between workouts. So if you’re doing a ton of intensity on top of very little endurance capability you may not be recovering between workouts very well.

Also, as you age, your ability to handle intensity generally goes down, so take that into account.

Don’t put too much in that metric. It is purely based on TSS for your rides and the difference of your rolling averages for short and long term. TSS is primarily driven by time, so if you ride the same amount of time every week then you probably won’t see a large enough difference between those to get into that zone.

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Pretty sure there’s a study that says three intense workouts a week doesn’t confer additional benefits over two.


As a competitive runner in my teens and twenties, I don’t we did more then two intense workouts a week. But we did lots and lots of distance.

Lots of Z2 and 2 intensity days worked for me the best. Volume is for me currently only driver of adaptations and every time I have more time to increase volume I see improvements in fitness and overall feel on the bike. And this way my harder days can be even harder. So basically I would say more polarized but harder days include sst, ftp or vo2 max - depends on the phase. Recently I have had longer brake from training, and even if power numbers are coming up I definitely feel way worse in terms of capacity during harder workouts.

Given your description I would tone down intensity, add volume and this should help. And your CTL aka. “fitness” should come from volume, not intensity only.

I feel like my endurance capabilities are low. Most of last ten years have been fairly inactive. Before that a fair amount of rec riding. No structured training.

FWIW I’ve found laying down a strong base of endurance work has been crucial to long-term gains. I’m a handful of years older, only 6 years training, and targeting around 8 hours/week (average) of cycling.

That chart has a description below and a link to Joe Friel article that ends with

“So that’s it. I should also point out that the numerical ranges I’ve described here for each zone will work for most athletes, but there are many outliers for whom the zones are either too high or too low. Adjustments should be made based on experience. This is just another reason why having a smart coach is a good idea. He or she can manage all of this—and a lot more—taking the burden off of you.”

The other Science2Sport article had this to say:

“Athletes and coaches often make the mistake of over-interpreting this model as direct measures of the simplified terms they are defined as; fitness, fatigue and freshness. In reality, performance is extremely complex and there is currently no model, which may account for all possible factors contributing to human variance.”

The PMC and fitness/freshness/fatigue is a model. Paying attention over time can be helpful particularly if you are doing the 8-12 hours/week ‘time-crunched’ - as opposed to classic long-slow distance base that requires 12-20 hours/week. In this particular time-crunched approach (popularized ~15 years ago by CTS), you’ll be prioritizing endurance work and the plan has to ‘get creative’ on the intensity work. While the model can be tweaked, I haven’t done that. However it is interesting to observe trends. The model has generally worked well for me when using this time-crunched approach.

Agreed however if you take a true off-season, then start base at about 80% endurance riding, its easy to keep time relatively constant, make small tweaks to intervals over time, and slowly decrease endurance down to say 60% at the end of a 16-24 week base. This is where a good coach or off-the-shelf plan can help. I’ve seen good results from two different off-the-shelf plans that require 8-10 or 8-12 hours/week commitment. Its all structured work built around a progressive and periodized plan.

At the other extreme is when I did 3-5 hours/week, and that was 2 high intensity sessions/week in the gym plus an outside ride. That seemed about right mix.

Figuring out how to juggle the tradeoff between intensity and volume can be a challenge, particularly as you get older and the body requires more recovery.

I’m sure you know the answer. Be confident and trust your body, not some arbitrary algorithm.

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Maybe you should just start with a week off. If you are constantly tired and not recovering, maybe it’s time to rest?

Maybe a schedule like 2 weeks on / 1 week off would work better for you? By off, I mean a super easy recovery week without intervals.

That’s certainly my take away from my running days. I have no time schedule (and have no plans for any races or events). Just want to get fitter and enjoy the process. I could take the rest of 2022 and just build base. Right now I’m thinking two days of intense workouts 3 days apart. At least two days of endurance between them (quite possibly on the days right after the intense days).

I really like have a plan on the calendar, but I think I’ll probably adjust the workout on the calendar two drop one, and move another to get the two workouts with the spacing I want, and see “Train Now” for the endurance rides. Maybe I should just move to always doing “Train Now”.

Another approach would be the TR traditional base plans. I’ve always needed a little intensity, doing them outside was a big plus for me as I naturally got some intensity. Or you could do the traditional base plans and do a weekly group ride for intensity (or TrainNow). Perhaps do that and then try the experimental polarized plans. I’m basically a fan of TR’s traditional base, did it twice, and it was better when I added a little weekly intensity as that’s something my body needs.

I take a similar approach to what has been suggested. I limit myself to 2 hard workouts a week. I’ve been through a number of the plans now and just find it works best for me. I add a pile of Z1/2.

Also, as @WindWarrior suggests I’d vote for the traditional base plans. I find my legs just don’t recover from 3 workouts in SSB, by time I get to build and specialty they feel blocked or something and I start to struggle. I’ve done plenty of years of intervals and don’t find jumping from all endurance to threshold/VO2 workouts to be an issue.

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And how has this affected your progression?

2 intensity days and fill the rest with z2 endurance and a little z1 as required, sounds like a perfect training week to me.

Listen to what your body is saying. The long term and a sustainable progression that is enjoyable and motivating, as well as beneficial, is what we should be striving for. IMHO 3 interval sessions per week is not optimal longer term.

To make it work simply load a plan through Plan Builder and go into your calendar and delete 1 session per week, or if you plan to ignore the same session every week, eg skip Saturdays and do an outside z2 ride, then leave it there and simply skip it every week. It wont screw up your adaptive training of your progression.

Lots of other good comments from other people on other points. This stuck out to me as I found TR recovery weeks left me feeling stale. An approach that worked for me was to go even easier than TR schedules. Basically something like Lazy Mountain variants for a couple of days and then a ‘difficult’ ride like a Pettit -1. Now I feel refreshed at the end of a recovery week instead of stale and blocked.

Unless terrain in your area is super flat, doing a true z1 / active recovery ride is difficult. I do them on the trainer in erg mode to force me to behave myself. I did not like it at the beginning, but now enjoy it as a time to feel what its like to ride without beating myself up, catch up on Youtube, drink some coffee, etc.

For a pure FTP gain it’s difficult to tell at the moment, I’m just coming back to fitness after taking 3 months off.

Having said that my fitness is coming back extremely fast I’ve pulled back nearly 40 Watts (per FTP detection) in 7 weeks and have been pushing aggressively through my PLs - I’m pretty sure my FTP is still being underestimated. I’ve cut 4.5kg in that time as well.

I managed to add easy morning runs this week as well. I had to pull the plug early (first interval) on a VO2 effort on the Tuesday. But I still got my two hard sessions by just doing the Thursday and Sat hard workouts. I have tried adding runs in the past on 3 hard days - I completely exploded in the second week.

I just find I’m a good bit fresher, so can hit the hard days harder, and I’m able to add as much extra work as I want, as long as it’s easy. With the 3 intense days the line is a lot finer, I’m not particularly good a walking it. It might suit a more disciplined cyclist better though.

At 54 I feel like every platform, every algorithm to predict freshness or fitness etc…, every coach under 50-ish (especially former pros) design training for riders who are young and full of hormones. What worked for me at 44 doesn’t work now. What worked for me a 34 easily worked for me at 44. What worked at 24 worked at 34…Riding less and being fresh has been sort of a small revelation. I just don’t need to do the TSS I used to to get 99% of where I was. What’s not possible to do now is just age related. No amount of training will get that back.

Anyways, my point is I’m quite certain most of us 50+ go through a period where we can’t understand why training isn’t responding like our younger self. We tend to train like we used to or in some cases more not realizing we are not truly allowing the body to respond to the stimulus.

I’d recommend riding less volume and way less intensity.


Since I think I’m overtraining, I think I’ll get AI estimate for my FTP, and doing a ramp test too. If I’m really overtraining, then the AI estimate is based on workouts where I’m very fatigued. and I’d expect the ramp test to come out higher (providing I’m well rested for the test)

Note that with the current schedule of the workouts, I can’t really handle the FTP going up much (maybe not at all). But I’ll just need to adjust the schedule so I’m getting more rest between the intense workouts.