Hi, newer rider (July '21) and I’ve been though a SS Base and Build in TR. Then, I switched to polarized for the next 8 weeks.
Question: My aerobic system seems to have a much deeper well than my legs. The max HR I’ve been able to achieve on the bike is 150 BPM during the last ramp test, which is pretty low for my age. I didn’t leave anything on the table in the ramp and got into the ramp death spiral.
Today, well fueled and with for me what seems to be optimal temperature for my body, clipping along at a Z2 HR of 129 avg. (<75% of max), I equaled my FTP from my last ramp test over an hour’s time for avg. watts and actually exceeded it by ~5% if I use Normalized Power. So I should have more in the tank if I could just push enough power to really work my HR, but the legs can’t keep up.
This (low HR, high max power) has been consistent for me since I’ve started training. What do I need to work on to make my legs keep up with my aerobic system and find a higher gear?
I could be way off base here because I am in no way a coach, but it seems to me that this means you lack the muscular endurance and perhaps the sheer strength. To me, that makes me think sweet spot and threshold training would be of benefit to you. Some squats and deadlifts would also be a good way to improve raw strength.
Struggling with the shorter, higher intensity and being much better at longer, lower intensity doesn’t scream a weakness in muscular endurance but the opposite. A few points that stand out to me though that change what my potential suggestion may be:
You mentioned this ride with good fuelling and optimal temperature, is this not being dialled for the ramp test causing premature failure?
The other is that you’re a relatively new cyclist, so gains will likely start off somewhat quickly so you will sometimes see old power records being broken suprisingly, so potentially if they’re separated by some time then it’s possible you’ve just gotten stronger. Also if you’re new to endurance sport (which is unknown) it’s possible you’ve not had to do significant exertion, so your body isn’t used to that kind of effort of a ramp test.
My suggestions would be as a newer rider you should follow a complete training plan to just become a better athlete. As I said above you’ll likely be seeing some quick gains and possibly see your current map power become your ftp.
I would also at some point do a bit of focus around your map power. I know for me when I’ve done a block without much intensity and after an extended rest, higher power feels very arrhytmitic and breathing unnecessarily high.
I’m new to endurance. My sport was football many years prior and I was pretty good once upon a time, but I haven’t worked out consistently for ~16 years.
Fueling and temperature: I was riding outside vs. inside yesterday. Temps were in the 55 degree F range and I’ve noticed that with cool temps. I perform better when I look back at the data as my body isn’t working as hard to cool itself down, I assume. Hard(er) to replicate indoors and I do tend to overheat on the trainer. I also went out later in the day than I usually do after a carb. focused breakfast, so coming to realize the early AM rides even after eating may not be setting me up for optimal performance.
So far, since starting TR my FTP went from 208 → 277. Every 6-8 weeks I’m seeing fairly large gains still.
But, throughout I can’t get into my high HR. My maxes have all been <=80%, even on tests to failure. So, hoping to find that next 10-12% and with it the additional power. While I’m seeing nice FTP improvements, I still don’t see HR and Power matched up, which seems like an untapped opportunity.
I don’t understand the root cause of the issue, as from what I’ve read it’s usually the opposite. Newer riders max out HR fairly quickly and this improves over time w/fitness.
Being new to endurance sport and only riding for 6mo, you can get away with doing anything while gaining fitness. Keep it simple. Not being able to achieve a high heart rate during a maximal effort (ramp test) suggests you are carrying a lot of chronic fatigue.
You also may just need to learn to push yourself harder (mentally) if you truly think it’s max but based on your knowledge of your HR, it seems too low.
I just finished Gold Hill (4.5), which has 3X4 V02 Max intervals w/3 min rest in between. TR keeps resetting my progression levels to close to 1.0 after each ramp test, so just getting back to the mid-4’s.
Max HR during the V02Max intervals was 135 BPM, but 133 - 134 was more normal.
I would say that’s uncomfortable for me indoors, but not an all-out max effort. However, at the end of each interval, my spin slows down from ~105 - 110 to 90-95. Eventually if I kept them up long enough I wouldn’t be able to hold a good cadence.
If I sort my activities by max HR in Strava, I get a maximum of 175 bpm in the last 5 years. My resting HR is 40-45 bpm, depending on a host of factors.
I have maxed out at 165 in a 20 minute test, and that is about the HR I get in 5 minute all out efforts, and I see that my HR is usually 10-15 bpm slower than most of my peers (both stronger and weaker people, around my age).
VO2Max intervals at 135 bpm strikes me as impossibly low.
So I think there are 3 possibilities here:
Flawed HR data, it is for some reason underreported by 15 bpm or so
There is indeed untapped potential, and you need to do some weight training to recruit more muscle fibers and thus be able to demand more of your cardiovascular system (seems logical in some way, but I also think unlikely).
You are an outlier, and operate about 30 bpm under what most other people report.
Trying to compare HR to other people isn’t going to be helpful.
Have you recorded HR while running or doing some other sport? Or is the 150bpm only the max you’ve seen while cycling the last 6 months?
FWIW my highest HR always comes from a hard 5-10 minute effort where I’m barely hanging on to the group and then I do a hard 10-15 second sprint. That is always 3-4bpm higher than ramp test. But that’s me, and you might not see the same.
It’s been a while since I trained, but ~16 years ago I spent 4 months riding and the highest I recorded at that time was 189 bpm. So, while I was a fair bit younger then and would expect to be able to achieve a higher HR, I wasn’t a genetic outlier.
There are no hills here. The closest thing is a highway overpass. The highest I’ve recorded since July '21 when biking is 150 bpm and that was 12/3 on a ramp test. I think there’s untapped potential. It “feels” physical, in that my legs can’t push harder or longer, but possibly mental too.
My thought was to train for the weakness. If that didn’t work, assume the issue was mental. I’m just not sure what training will be the most beneficial as it’s not something I can find information on how to best target and address.
HR is pretty individual, making it difficult to compare between people. That said the 189bpm is likely a better indication of what you might expect, and depending on age/health it has possibly dropped 5-10bpm (wild guess). So yeah, 150 is a lot lower that 170.
When training a LOT (relative to your ability to recover, so no numbers), it is possible to achieve functional overreaching. When that happens its common to see reduced HR. My max is 175 and there have been times when my caps out around 155 because of functional overreaching. Fixing that requires taking an easy week or two or more.
Beyond functional overreach its a mystery. Maybe you should go in for a physical with your primary care physician. Sorry I haven’t experienced what you’ve described, and haven’t read anything about it. No real thoughts other than overreach and telling your doctor.
Way back when I cycled very occasionally my max heart rate on a bike was 160, and that was fighting a stiff headwind like Flanders is wont to throw at you, for more than one hour. But I couldn’t for the life of me keep my HR below 180 in any run longer than 2 minutes… My max was 198.
10 years and an unfortunate addiction to road bikes later, I can hit any HR between 120 and 185 at will on the bike. Interestingly my max is still 195, but I hit that only once recently at the track in Ghent (when I was scared out of my mind😁). I normally hit 192 a few times a year, and generally tap out around 185-187 in normal workouts/races.
But heart rate is so individual, I am not sure there is any value is benchmarking with other people…
Get Faster with TrainerRoad
Sign up and download the app to start training. Available on iOS, Android, Windows and Mac devices.
Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast
This is the only podcast dedicated to making you a faster cyclist. Listen to the latest episode and more.
We Are Here to Help!
Browse hundreds of articles in our Support Center or contact our world-class support team to get back on track.