Put myself in a hole (?) what's the plan now?

Hey everyone; I put myself a bit in a hole, and would definitely appreciate your opinions on how to get out of it :slight_smile:

Let me try to recap where I’m coming from:

  • been cycling since 3y-ish; last year (for the first time) started doing some structured training here and there, but my job schedule wasn’t really conducive to consistency.
  • while I don’t have a specific target event, this year I’d like to get stronger on the bike, with the goal of doing a race sometime towards the end of the season, and maybe compete next year.
  • hence, beginning this January, I scheduled Sweet Spot Base I and II, low volume (no issues with consistency), with the intent of adding the odd 2-3 hours long ride outside over the weekend (literally, did it 3 times between temperatures getting a bit nicer and when lockdown hit)
  • got in lockdown on March 10th: with the extra time available, I filled the last 2 weeks of SSP2 with the Tour of Watopia stages (Zwift racing: short and sharp, never too long; ~40 minutes and more or less “threshold” work)
  • after the end of SSP2 recovery week, hit Short Power Build (I know short power is a bit of my big area for improvement, hence…), but given the extra load I seemed to manage relatively decently, decided to give mid-volume a shot.
  • got through the first 3 weeks with increasing fatigue; sweet spot sessions were relatively good, but reading through my comments to the VO2Max rides, it seemed to get tougher, and tougher: by the end of week 3, I started having to skip intervals here and there
  • after the recovery week, the ramp test showed a slight FTP decrease (-1.5%): I thought it could be expected, having focused on VO2Max, but I am just not going through the sessions: had to reduce the intensity of the first (5-7%), and just could not finish the second and third (which was a SSP workout, I just didn’t have the legs).

To me, the correlation with the higher volume seems pretty clear. And it seems pretty clear that I am not recovering enough: even after a full day off, the legs are still really heavy, and as soon as I hit past FTP, 15 seconds are as much as I can really go through, let alone a 1.5h workout with repeats.

Now, I’m planning to go back to low-volume and see if that’s more manageable. Did an easy ride yesterday, I’m off the bike today and I’d do a ramp-test tomorrow, before hitting W2 of SPB low-volume (Williamson) on Wednesday. Is that too early? Should I be more conservative, and go for 2 full days off? Should I rather take a full active-recovery week, and kick-off next week?

Thanks for the advice :slight_smile:

Because you have no events that you are training for you have all the time in the world to build your fitness. With that in mind I would take an extra week of just riding your bike for fun. Very few, if any, hard efforts. Mostly just easy aerobic and tempo rides to give you a chance to recover both physically and psychologically.
It would be better to lose a week now then to realize in 6 weeks that you have wasted all of that because you were too deep in the hole.
Going forward, I would stick with low volume and then just add in a bunch of Z2 riding to fill in the remaining available ride time.

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You’ve give a pretty good description of your training but said nothing about your diet or recovery. Are you eating regularly and are you eating a balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables?

What about your sleep. How much do you get and are your sleep patterns regular? The body has to recover and rebuild.

It might be that you’ve got both of these points nailed but it has amazed me just how important they are to quality, effective and consistent training that ultimately, brings results.

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Very good point :slight_smile:

I’d describe my diet as relatively balanced: not huge in carbs (1-2 dish of pasta per week), but mostly composed of fresh vegetables and proteins (a rotation of meats and fish). The typical meal would be 200-250 grams of some type of meat and a large bowl of salad with some chopped tomatos. The odd time, a 100g of pasta (dry weight :P), and generally not followed by much else. Not a big sweet tooth, and I don’t tend to snack.
Alcohol intake is low: maybe a couple glasses of wine once a week (in the evening, when it happens, I know…) but I try to avoid the night before/after a hard workout. For the rest, it’s water or alcohol free beer (not regularly anyway).

I fuel my workouts (except shorter Z2 rides), either by doing them 2-2.5 hours after having got pasta for lunch, or by taking a bottle w/ carbs on the trainer.

Sleep is ok-ish (as usual, could be better :P): I generally do get ~7 hours of sleep (my target would be 7:30, but I’m often awake before the alarm) and for what’s worth, FitBits’ sleep analysis seems to indicate recovery is good (sleep score of 80+/100). I don’t get coffee past 3pm, so to avoid an effect when it’s time to go to bed.

Everyone responds to training a bit differently, but when things go south, it’s worth looking at the most obvious problems first.

In your case, you’re doing a Mid Volume Build on top of a Low Volume Base, so your training is top heavy. So the simple answer, IMO, is not enough base training to support your current training load.

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The thing that sticks out to me here is “not huge in carbs”. When you start adding more and more volume to your training plan you are going to have to up the carb intake, not only to fuel the workout but also to recover from it. The big difference going from a low to a higher volume plan is that the workouts are stacked closer to eachother than before. So you no longer have days completely off the bike to replenish your muscles. I don’t know if you count your calories but I would maybe try to up your carbs while keeping your total calories the same and see if you feel any better.

I also like @team_bunty 's suggestion of going back to a mid volume base. This would give you an easier ramp into the higher volume and potentially let you catch your nutrition or other mistakes before they compound too quickly.

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So you didn’t do a recovery week, nor recovery days. You filled it with vo2 and threshold work. Is that right?

Then you went into build? Did I miss something?

You raise an interesting point, I did not consider that.

Would it be due to an overall difference in muscle endurance? Not having trained the body to tolerate higher volumes of “Z3”, that would then make higher volumes of VO2max harder to absorb?

A big part of the reasoning behind having a “big base” to support a lot of high intensity training in later phases is because all recovery is performed through aerobic pathways. And this is both on the scale of between intervals during a workout and between workouts. So having a well developed aerobic engine allows you to both do more work in any one day and to do more hard workouts in one week.

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Kind-of: yes, I did fill the last 2 weeks with VO2/threshold work (albeit shorter than a proper workout); looking back, no days fully off, you are right. But one of the days was a z1/2 ride, both weeks.
Then I did take the scheduled recovery week (no efforts any close to threshold); although with 5 z2 rides instead of the 3 planned for low-volume.
Then, went into build.

Speaking purely from recent personal experience, GET big into carbs. It is the easiest thing I’ve done in years where cycling is concerned and the difference is night and day.

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That makes a lot of sense.
This would mean though that going back to SSP, I could try to go for mid-volume with some chance of getting through it (or at least, clarifying that the issue is indeed in my ability to recover)?
My plan was (as you suggested earlier in the thread) to go back to SSP low-volume and fill the gaps with aerobic rides, either inside or outside (if possible, that would be nice!), and only go back trying mid-volume later this fall…

I did notice that too :smiley: . The issue, as usual is the sweet spot between losing weight and fueling: I started cycling to lose weight (successfully got through 15 of my 25kgs excess) and while I’m not obsessing over it, I am still trying to pay some attention to it, as I have at least another good 5-10kg of excess to shed…

I try to compensate for a lower intake during meals with carbs on the bike and recovery right after (I am taking a 500ml carbs shake right after SS+ workouts). Is it enough? Maybe that’s a contributing factor…

I think either option is good, it is kind of up to you. The LV with additional aerobic is a ‘safer’ option but I think MV SSB1 is an easy enough start that you should be able to handle it. Just pay attention to your recovery and I think either option is doable.

However, you mentioned in another reply that you are trying to lose weight (~10kg). If that is the case then I would go the LV+aerobic route so that you can more easily maintain a caloric deficit and still recover.

In the end its a matter of priorities. If weight loss is the current priority then I would go LV but if building fitness is then go MV. I don’t think either is better than the other but it’s just whichever lines up with your goals.

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I agree with what’s been said above. It sounds like a combination of just going “wahey this is great, so i’m going to do more and more” until you reach the end of your rope like now. Getting tired is a normal thing. Take a couple of days off and have an easy week. I recently got too much into the sunshine and sudden freedom from commuting 4 hours a day and just racked up about 5 straight weeks of heavy riding, on top of my usual run mileage and i reached a point that sounds like where you’re at now. So a couple of weeks ago i went right down to about 7 hours of pretty easy stuff and after that week i felt 10 years younger again and could hit it hard again. So - if your body is telling you to rest, then rest.

Also carbs: eat more carbs. Last week in 14 hours of riding and running i burned 10,000 calories. That’s a lot to replenish if you’re trying to do it all with healthy salads and lean meats. You’ve got to have the good, healthy diet for sure but you’ve also got to be aware that, like a race car, you need to put enough fuel in or you’ll sputter to a halt. Think of it like you might need to have a couple of extra meals a day just to keep up with what your legs are doing. My go-to is porridge oats. I’ll drop about 130g in a bowl with about 40g of seeds, pour a big splodge of honey on top, 400ml of full fat milk, leave for 15 minutes and you’ve got a decent breakfast and can go ride your bike, (while consuming appropriate amounts of carbs during the ride).

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I agree with this. I would take a week off, completely off for a few days, and then start with mid-Z1 spins, and then add 1 opener.

Then I would restart Low Volume Build.

When you fill, do NOT fill with Z4/VO2 work. That’s bad, unless you have the base for it, you will dig a hole.

If you decide to fill, fill with Z1. Absolute recovery rides. Z2 is too much for you, at this point in time. You need to give your body, and muscles, recovery.

If you want to get back to Base, that’s fine. But, I would do 4 weeks of build first.

Add volume, add long slow light volume. Start with 60-90 minutes of Z1. They may be “junk” miles, but they are activating parts of your metabolism. Fat burning, low enough load to give you recovery. Then stretch to 120 minutes of Z1. Then start to up intensity to high Z1/low Z2, etc.

The wrong thing to do is to fill with Zwift races. Also, when you feel too tired, you can skip the filler. It’s more important to recover. What you don’t want to skip, are the intervals.

Carbs, lots of folks add it, but I tend not to. I do lots of work in a fasted state, except for longer 90+ min VO2 sessions. I would take gels. But, you need to look at your load. Calories spent depend on your FTP as well. For me, I’m relatively weak. I hate to say it, but I am. Last week, I spent 12.5 hours training at 721 TSS, which came out to 6515 calories. A fair amount of that time was in Z2 (more than 60%, otherwise I’m dead).

Fuel your ride on the bike, but keep it clean, off the bike.

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I’d take a solid 3-4 days off and then do the rest of the week at easy intensity so that you fully recover.

I’m not sure you need more carbs. I think the biggest issue is that you are doing intensity in Zwift races plus the TR plan workouts with intensity. A more reasonable training plan is a maximum of 2 days per week with intensity with the rest being Z2 aerobic rides. Also, a rest week every 3rd or 4th week (max) seems to work well for most people. If you do more and more, you just keep digging the hole deeper and then you miss all the super compensation you get with rest between intense efforts and training blocks.

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You have a point for sure :slight_smile: the intention wasn’t really to “fill”, at that time, I was more thinking about figuring out what the higher load was like, and I tried to take the races relatively easy (you know how it goes thought, it’s never really “easy” anyway, when it’s a race…)

That said, do you think it can still be a factor? Since, I’ve gone through 2 different recovery weeks, and the initial weeks of SPB were not that bad, I wasn’t feeling too wrecked…

Yes, I do. What you did might be similar to what you would do in a bike camp. You made up for length/duration with intensity.

If your legs are sore, that’s a pretty good indicator, and I think it started with the added volume before the build.

this has completely lost me, and I went back to re-read. I first read it as failing the first 3 workouts of build. But now I see you did the first half, is that correct?

If so, it just sounds like the work took it’s toll on you. One thing to look at is your Power Duration curve and where the VO2 work hit you. It sounds like it’s a bit outside your PD curve (which is fine). You’ll just need more recovery.

I don’t think you mentioned your age, but if you’re older, as I am, I can’t do 3 consecutive weeks and need a 2 week on, 1 week recovery approach.

Are you filling the week during build as well?

Anyhow, if you did the first part of build, then you can go back to base and try again. But, I would probably just finish it out with lower compliance expectations. Recover and then hit some VO2 efforts (as in the plan) and see how that goes.

Yes. It wasn’t easy, I did feel I was getting tired (up to the point I was skipping intervals in the last 2 workouts), but I thought it was part of the game; it was also my first short power build, and I know short power is my biggest weakness, so getting barely through it wasn’t really surprising…

Very close, but inside. Not sure how well I could repeat “PR” power in a VO2max workout thought… With Sweet Spot, I’m not getting any close to PR numbers for every interval :slight_smile:

I am 36. Not the youngest, but I should still be recovering decently, from the literature I have red so far. Of course I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out I need more recovery than a 22yo…

No, not filling anything since I stepped into SPB. It really didn’t make sense :slight_smile:, that was obvious even to me :rofl:

Thanks for the suggestions!

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