"Risks" of training with an over-assessed FTP?

Listening to and reading discussions about polarized training, making your easy days easy / hard days hard, and holding FTP for a full hour has caused me to take a step back and consider my training. Preemptive disclaimer: I don’t know that all my thoughts on this subject are well formed into questions. This may be better approached as an opening for discussion rather than questions to directly answer.

Since starting structured training I’ve been more inclined to nudge the workout intensity up a few points whenever I feel like things are getting too easy rather than rigidly adhering to my most recent assessed estimate. Doing this has caused every ramp test I’ve ever taken to return a lower value than what I’m currently working at. So far I’ve chalked this up to my power/duration curve falling outside the standard, opting to continue from where I was (plus my ego isn’t inclined to accept that lower number).

But what if that ramp test is right? What if I’m not as strong as I think I am? Is it possible all my zones are off? Have I turned my endurance rides into tempo? Tempo into sweet spot? Are those VO2 max repeats hitting my anaerobic system more than intended? Should I take a hint from the thought of actually holding my FTP for an hour makes me laugh? Is everything I think I know a lie???

I’m being intentionally dramatic here, but it’s made me wonder what if any downstream impact this has on training. Is it possible I’d be getting better results from doing less work? At face value that sounds crazy, but there’s a reason we don’t go 100% every session.

Like I said up front, I don’t really expect clear answers to any of this but I am curious to hear anyone else’s thoughts or experience here. Also, while I don’t intend this to be directly about me, I figure the question about my own workout compliance will come up. You can be the judge - https://www.trainerroad.com/career/ryann/rides

Thanks all.

I looked back about six weeks… you’re not dialing yourworkouts up so much that you’re changing the intent of the workouts in my estimation; most of the IFs are 0.03 or less higher than they should be. If you’re finishing the workouts as scheduled (which it appears you generally are with just a couple of exceptions), and you’re consistently dialing up workouts, then your FTP is set too low.

Your FTP physiologically is what it is. It’s not hour power. If you had the training reference FTP number set inappropriately high, you’d know. If you’re following a training plan and completing the workouts, then it’s not too hard for you. TR’s plans have a way of letting you know when you’ve overassessed or have your FTP set too high. Based on my quick review, I don’t see any issues here, other than you probably aren’t assessing well via the ramp test and needed to raise your FTP so that you’re not just guessing all the time on how hard you want a workout to be.

It looks like you just raised it from 287 to 298. That’s a pretty hefty increase, but frankly in line with what your workout history is telling you. I was going to recommend a 3% bump up from your most recent training block, and you’ve done about 4%. I’d stick with that level and see how it goes as it appears to be more in line with what your actual functional threshold is.

You might consider trying the 20-min FTP test since you’re an Ironman athlete. It may be more appropriate to your training and strengths, and give you a more accurate training reference than the ramp test does.

As for the “risks”: burnout, first and foremost, where you can’t complete a plan or fail workouts consistently. Injury is possible if you don’t recover well enough and train too hard each time out. But I don’t think that’s what’s going on here.

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there is absolutely nothing wrong with using the ramp test as your starting point for interval zones. Whatever place you start with you will have to make adjustments. The Polarized model people take a few extreme examples of really bad Zone setting and say “see? the only solution is using an hour of power”

You’re already doing the most important thing no matter what test you use. which is you’re adjusting your intensity and FTP to get precise training zones.

If you can hold a number repeatedly for the prescribed amount of time. then thats a good power to work at.
What you’re looking for is when your power consistently fades in later intervals. and when it’s under challenging at the end.

In the discussions on polarized training, when they talk about unrealistic FTP, they do a few things that are misleading. 1) point at people taking their best all time FTP test instead of a recent test. 2) look at people that over test in 20 minute tests, or shorter tests like the Ramp tests, and then deduce (correctly) that in both those cases your “easy” days will be too hard. But then they incorrectly extrapolate that that means all your zones are going to be wrong, and therefore bad training, and that you have to use an hour of power.
The wrong training zone for endurance training is a problem because no matter what it will feel easy, and you can go too hard, build fatigue, and not hit your important intervals hard enough. This is a problem to be aware of.
But for all the other training zones, its self correcting. If you can go harder for an interval, try going harder and see if you crash and burn. Or if you feel like you have to go easier, be aware of that too.

can you complete the workouts? no? consistently? FTP too high. Can you complete the workouts? yes? can you increase the Intensity and still complete them? no? correct FTP. Can you increase the intensity? yes? what about on 20x2 of sweet spot? no? correct FTP.

So for your endurance rides, (especially easy days that will be followed by hard interval days), be conservative. Absolutely nothing wrong with a .6 day, or .5, or .4. look at your heart rate, make sure its stable and you aren’t experiencing cardiac drift, which is a good sign you’re adding too much fatigue.
Then for longer endurance rides, again, try to figure out what power you can hold for 2+ hours without drift.

You’re power for intervals, whether you use a ramp test, or hour of power, will be different than the predicted range, because just like you said, our power curves are all subtly different. sometimes in big ways. Whats important is you refine your own knowledge of how your body performs, and train appropriately, no matter what test you use. And dont go too hard on easy days. keep them dead easy.

Personally i think the TR easy days are a little too hard, and i generally just cue up a free ride for those, so i can ride how i feel. usually hitting a .5 or .4 IF
Then for dedicated endurance days generally maintain a .6 - .72, depending again on how i’m feeling. If im flat, its psychologically very hard to stay at the high end of endurance for 3-5 hours. even if physiologically i could do it, and could probably do a hard set of sweet spot intervals.

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RyanN, both of the previous respondents make great points. I would simply emphasise a couple of things:

[1] On TR, the first purpose of the FTP tests is to scale your training to the workout design. So, a threshold workout for your is in this power range, a sweet spot workout is in this range, and so on. [There are other purposes, of course, including motivational ones, but this is the important one here.] So, if you can complete virtually all of the harder workouts at 100% intensity without killing yourself [test: could you just squeeze one more effort in?], then your FTP is about right. There will be occasional failures, even then.

[2] For VO2 max workouts, it appears that different riders can attain different levels of power relative to FTP. This has been discussed regularly here and in the podcasts. [Some workout notes also mention it.] So you may need to adjust intensity for such workouts.

Otherwise, TR scales threshold and sweet spot zones relative to your FTP, as estimated by your ability to complete the workouts [as noted in 1}.

[3] For endurance workouts, the situation is different. I notice that in TR, workouts in the endurance bucket have intervals that go up to 80% of FTP. This seems a bit high to me, so I always use heart rate as the guide for endurance rides and workouts: never go above 75% of HRmax and make sure that there is no drift. If your HR is drifting upwards over the course of a ride of 3 hours, say, then the pace/power is too high for you at the moment. Note, though, that with consistent endurance riding, the power you can sustain with HR < 75% HRmax will rise.

Hope all this helps.

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We need a sticky thread along the lines of “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My FTP”. Or just watch Dr Strangelove…and dub in “FTP” every time paranoid Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper mentions a man’s “essence”.

  1. You’re dealing with a biological system, small inaccuracies won’t have dramatic effects.

  2. The ramp protocol is good enough for most. If you really can’t sleep at night, do a one hour power session.

  3. Remember you shouldn’t be dying on the trainer every session. Feeling good is okay, feeling okay is good.

Or/and

  1. Fluorination of the water supply is a Communist plot to sap your FTP. Only drink rain water.

  2. Store your FTP in jars, that way they can’t steal it.

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Man, I started typing up specific thoughts and replies to individual points you all have made but stopped before I ended up with multiple pages of text. TONS of great insights and thoughts here. Sounds like I should stop worrying and keep on training. Except for part about commies stealing my FTP. I knew it all along!

Seriously though, thanks all.

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for sure, you can totally be overtraining and the long term effects are worse than anything in the short term. If the FTP makes you laugh when thinking about riding at it for an hour, it’s probably too high. compare it to your 1h NP and to a histogram chart of wattage; the ramp test is just one way to estimate the FTP.

lower FTP is better so you don’t overtrain; and don’t make the workouts too intense just because they don’t feel hard; work the easier aerobic side of things, because there’s way less fatigue to them and in the long term you’ll get stronger.

good luck