For context: I’ve been training 10-13 h / week for the 16 (gulp!) years, first rowing and since 2020 cycling. I started TR in Jan 2021. At one point during that spring, I hit an FTP of 235. It was before AI, and I got very fatigued and went back to rowing over the summer. Since then, my FTP hasn’t gone above 220. I’m 47 and I think peri-menopause might be starting to affect me. Looking over the past three years, I think this might actually be it - there are probably no more big gains to be had, +/- a few watts here and there.
So my question is for those of you who are also “highly trained”, as they say: what do you do to eke out marginal gains? And how do you manage the low-level frustration of training a lot to basically stay in the same place?
I’ve been training since 2015 (a lot of ‘junk’ miles before that) and I’m also 47 but a bloke. I cant recall at the moment exact dates and figures. I had a lot of motivation then and by 2017 I had just broken the 5w/kg barrier. Then wham I was like an old man overnight in 2018/ early 2019, I thought it was overtraining but it turned out to be bowel cancer. Once that was whipped out on April Fools Day (the only date I can really remember without looking up). Even during Chemo in 2019 I had the motivation to build my self up and once that was gone I had the motivation to push through the 5w/kg barrier again in early 2020. Then the other wee ‘c’ thing hit and I lost a bit of motivation and I sit somewhere around 4-4.3w/kg I am happy just to maintain that and don’t really bother about marginal gains. Its a TT position training number so I could maybe push it up in a road bike position and eke out some marginal gains that way but I’d only be fooling myself.
I’ll be 47 this year and been with TR for almost 5 years. I’ve gone from 193 FTP to 325 and usually hover around 4 w/kg. The biggest step for me was moving to HV plans but altering them. Sundays are always long z2 and Saturdays are typically longer MTB or less structured gravel lasting about 3 hours. It’s basically a version of polarized accumulating 10ish hours over winter indoors and 12-15 hours as weather improves to ride outside.
My advice, volume is king and add as much z2 as you can, while minimizing intensity inversely. Also, to support this obviously you need to fuel it. A frienenemy this year (also 47 and longtime TR user), is doing a massive volume experiment this year of regular 800-1000 tss weeks. So far he is seeing amazing results but the jury is still out if he crashes and burns later in the season.
Hm, well the thing is because of life stuff one long ride at the weekend is all I can do, so more volume just isn’t on the cards. I’m also permanently hovering on the edge of fatigue (and sometime I fall in the fatigue hole), so I’m not sure more would help. I have switched to polarised plans for this reason.
IMHO and YMMV, fatigue has been a result of too much intensity, NOT necessarily too much training. Also, for volume I’ve changed all my workouts to 2 hours during the week. Doing so would still allow you to do one long weekend ride, ideally 4-6 hours.
Interesting. What does your week look like? Mine is (currently): 1 VO2 max 60-75’, 1 threshold 75-90’, 2 weights sessions, one 100 km z2/3 ride on Sundays. On rare occasions, if I’m feeling fresh, I’ll do another 50 km on Saturday. I also ride audax, so about once a month I’l have one or two huge days.
Im in Specialty at the moment and have already raced 4 times this year with a race this weekend. So I’ve dropped all weight training until next winter. I’ve found weight training in season just tires me. I should probably do maintenance, but I just don’t feel like it so I don’t.
In Specialty I have Anaerobic on Tuesdays and Vo2 on Thursdays. Then basically all other days are z2 with Saturdays being whatever unstructured intensity I’m in the mood for. Also with so many races I generally have a race every 2-3 weeks on the weekends so it’s typically prep for that.
Makes sense. I’m training for a 4000 km bikepacking race in late July, so I want to keep doing weights for my core. But it’s definitely fatiguing and I will probably take it down to one session pw in a month. Strength training certainly hasn’t improved my cycling numbers, but I think the other health benefits make it worth it.
I’m 45, and having the same thoughts, maybe my hormones are starting to abandon me, heh. I also don’t seem to improve and have got weaker than a few years ago
The fatigue thing you mention is the only thing that springs out to me - it doesn’t sound like the volume of training should get you that tired. Maybe there’s something you can do with nutrition, rest, or relaxation?
I feel like fatigue is my main limiting factor. I often just don’t feel recovered from one session to the next. I just started counting protein again, so hopefully getting more protein will help. Sleep can be an issue, and I’m pretty sure that’s linked to hormones (or lack of them). Not too much I can do about that I guess.
It might also be worth getting some bloods done just to rule out any underlying deficiencies/imbalances if you haven’t already.
I had a similar issue a couple of years back- general fatigue, poor recovery, and a ~20W drop in FTP, none of which improved with more rest or training. Ended up being an iron deficiency (FWIW, I’m female but on the younger side) and symptoms quickly improved once I got those back into a normal range. May not be the case for you, but it’s a relatively quick/easy check for most people and being a female endurance athlete puts you in a slightly higher risk category for a few deficiencies- and if it is the case, nothing you do training-wise will make much of an impact.
I do weights for my core, bone density and general strength/injury prevention. I follow a programme that is periodised (hypertrophy → strength) and I do think it adds quite a lot of fatigue, especially now I’m doing lower reps with higher weights. I’ve been tweaking the number of sets hoping to keep it managable. I mentioned earlier in the thread that I’m training for NorthCape 4000 in late July and I really want to have a good core and balanced strength for that.
Periodisation: I just follow TR’s plans (just completed build) with its inbuilt periodisation and rest weeks, and yes I do take a break sometime in late summer or September.
Recovery days/weeks: no exercise/ recovery rides, based on how I feel
Eating/fuelling: My sense is it’s fine…? I have overnight oats + whey before my morning workouts, usually just water during (unless outside where I take 60g carbs/h) and then some kind of second breakfast after. I eat little meat and I do think I could improve my protein intake, so I’ve been focusing a bit more on that recently. At 70 kg (170 cm) I’m certainly not underweight. I’d like it to be a bit less, but I don’t really feel like restricting my diet.
Sleep: it’s ok, could be better, only it’s out of my control. I often wake up very early, and then that’s it, regardless of when I actually went to bed.
Fitness tests: I use the AI FTP as a general indicator, but mostly I look at multi-year data, like NP av per rides or what kinds of numbers I was hitting on similar workouts in the past.
So, as far as I can see, more protein is the only thing that I could really improve on. And dropping the weights sessions, but I don’t think that’s wise right now. Can you see anything?