Starting to train again after 3 years off the bike...where do I start?

Hi all TR !! Long time fan of your podcast and platform… Im looking for some training guidance, Ive been off the bike for the last few years with chronic fatigue. Im starting to do easy rides again, Im a very experienced cyclist of many years but I would like to get feedback on my approach to finding some basic fitness again as a 61 year old school roadie. At this point Im able to ride a couple times a week on the road. LSD rides are my basic approach, at a comfortable pace my HR is 145 and my breathing is comfortable and not noticeable. Im very aware of my intensity so Im climbing as easy as possible and avoiding climbing as much as possible to keep my HR down. Im monitoring my sleeping HR and its been steady at 60 bpm for the last couple months. Im feeling like a mere mortal with such numbers, ( ah to be young again with a sub 50 HR!!) I have noticed when my HR goes up over 160 when climbing the one short steep hill home, my HR does drops 20 beats in 30 seconds…Are there any other metics I might want to look at to see if I am progressing ? When will I know I can add a bit of intensity? The last time I saw my HR over 170 for a bit if time was the end of my riding for 3 years so Im very cautious …Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! You guys are the best, keep up the great work at TR !
Thanks again,
Kevin Hatt

I think this would be best directed toward a doctor of some kind. But I know even for them, chronic fatigue and overtraining can sometimes be more an art than a science.

I think what you’re doing is good. Avoid super steep climbs when you can, swap your gearing to as easy as you can so you can spin up any climbs you come across. I would take at least a month of the LSD to get back into the swing of things. Make sure you’re eating and sleeping enough (arguably more important than the riding part of the equation). Then if you feel good start adding one moderately intense day per week. Do that for a month and monitor if any chronic fatigue symptoms come back. And just slowly ramp back in.

HR response (how fast it climbs), HR recovery, and max HR can be good indicators for changing fatigue. But it is pretty individual and can change as you get more or less fit. So while I wouldn’t use it as the end-all-be-all for indicating fatigue. When paired with RPE, diet and sleep patterns, and general mood and stuff it can be a good extra measure to throw in.

But again, I would work closely with a doctor as you ramp back in.

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Haven’t been diagnosed with chronic fatigue but over the course of a couple years have seen my resting HR drop from mid 70s to 60bpm. Always hard to establish cause&effect, but I tend to believe that a high stress job and ‘going hard’ on workouts kept my body in fight mode. What changed - more endurance, fewer intervals, sleep has been slowly deteriorating over 2 years. What didn’t change - same job stress, same diet, same family/home life.

An example from September 2021 when I came back from some illness and a month off. 1. Used HR zones and didn’t bother estimating ftp as my HR zones haven’t changed since 2016. 2. Got back on bike and did some super easy riding, slowly increased volume for a couple weeks. 3. Basic training… a week with two days of ‘tempo intervals with a HR cap’ starting at 4 x 5-min(5-min recovery) for a week. 4. Next week 4x7-min(3) with a HR cap. 5. Next week a 4x8-min and an endurance with 5-sec sprint every 10-min. 6. Next week 5x10-min tempo and a 3x6-min with 5-sec burst every 2-min. 7. Next week 3x12-min with ending sprint and a 4x8-min(4-min recovery). All of those were tempo and I rode by power but monitored with a HR cap. 8. By this point my power-to-HR was almost back to pre-illness and time off, and the following week went back to normal base training with 3 interval days a week (2x20-min tempo, 4x8-min tempo, 3x8-min sweet spot). About 2 months later in Jan 2022 I hit a key long threshold benchmark not seen since March 2017.

Translating into TR speak, I’m guessing those are low PL tempo/SS workouts. The example above is a more classic base phase, coming back from some time off. After posting in your other thread, I wanted to give an example of what I meant by easier intervals that reduce recovery requirements yet still build fitness.

Since then its looked more like undulating periodization, always doing some high intensity but fewer intervals than what I generally see people doing on TR plans. About a year later (fall 2022) my RHR dropped significantly, about 2.5 years after switching to the more endurance approach - 60-80% endurance riding on a target that averages out to 8 hours/week for the year. Really feels like I’m healthier and stronger overall, and this year (3 months) I’ve set 2-min and 20-min all-time power PRs besting numbers from six years ago.

Hope that helps.

Thanks for your reply and sound advice. Knowing I’m on the right track in starting to train again is very helpful . It’s a funny thing, all the doctors I reached out to basically shrugged their shoulders on what to do. That’s probably the most frustrating aspect of CFS, nobody can tell you anything when all your test results are normal. I’ve read recently there was more research and funding going into CFS since Long Covid has affected so many.
Thanks again,

Easy, get on your bike, ride Z2, if your feeling tired, drop to Z1. I wouldn’t go near any intensity for a good 8 weeks. It really is that easy. Oh yes, and 80grams of carbs per hour if you can handle it. I find that getting those in ride carbs make the world of difference when it comes to recovery to make sure you don’t get the fatigue again.

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