Structured training feels more difficult?

First post here, brief history late 40’s male with a running background. Due to an injury last year started cycling to supplement fitness, started on dumb trainer/outside riding purchased smart trainer at the start of 2019 and began on Zwift. Started with structured training there, FTP builder etc. Did the Zwift “thing” group rides/races and really enjoyed it. Been using TR and Zwift concurrently for the past 6 weeks-ish, just finishing up the first round of the low volume SSB while keeping close eye on TSS.

The TR ramp test put my FTP about 10% lower than what Zwift had it which was fine and I rolled with it. My question/concern is the “feel” of the structured training (ERG mode) seems to be more difficult than if I was attempting to keep the same watts while doing a Zwift ride. Currently my only power meter is via the trainer so for now can’t make a comparison to outside riding. Looking at a group ride in Zwift vs a structured workout, the group rides seem to be easier to maintain wattage as well as my hr at that wattage does not quite mesh with that same wattage in a structured workout (it’s not far off however). I understand the wattage on these rides is an average and I’m getting breaks so to speak vs. having to maintain the wattage while in ERG mode which I’m certain adds an additional level of difficulty.

I’ve tried the small ring, big ring, power smoothing off/on etc. and it seems to not make a difference in ERG which I guess it shouldn’t. I’m not looking to make these workouts any easier, I’m just trying to understand why the feel is different and want to be certain I’m gaining the anticipated results from the structured training. I’ve been able to finish all of the workouts, unfortunately I have had to lower the percentage a tad on some of the workouts with the longer intervals towards the end of those intervals however at times my hr is reaching threshold or above which from what I’ve read maybe should not be the case for SST.

Being a complete noob at this, I’m sure some of this is just ignorance on my part. I hesitated posting this, but from what I can tell there are several valuable resources on this forum. I certainly appreciate any feedback, thanks a bunch…

The “why” is down to the fact that ERG (especially in TR) works to hold you close to the target power. Depending on the power variation you got within a free ride in Zwift (effectively like a ride outside), you likely were getting those mini-breaks that can make things feel easier for some riders.

ERG tends to keep you closer to that target power, and it kind of punishes you if you alter cadence like you might do in a free ride or resistance mode. ERG can be considered “tougher” in some ways, to some people, because of that.

Some riders get great results and actually prefer Resistance mode because they are in direct control of the whole power process. ERG shifts some of load on the trainer and app. But the rider in ERG is still responsible for holding cadence. This is the most important thing to focus on when riding in ERG. Ignore the power target and your values.

Pay attention only to your cadence and hold it as steady as you can. This gets the most from the app and ERG mode, and keeps the process from hunting around and altering resistance. When done this way, ERG is unrelenting and more demanding in a way. That may explain your feeling of it being harder, or at least different.

As long as you are getting close (within 5%?) to the target power for your intervals, you are getting the required stress to drive adaptations. The mode you choose to use for that is up to you. People line up on either side of the line, and some even do a mix of the two modes. Neither one is plainly superior to the other in all cases.

Opinions vary here, but the TR line is to essentially ignore HR. I find a mix of looking at and ignoring HR is useful. Others here really dig into HR deeply. Reasons and goals vary.

For your use, I recommend stepping back, looking at the intended stress from an given workout, see how it felt overall, and consider if you FTP is accurate. There are LOTS of threads discussing FTP and how close any of the tests get us. The reality is that any FTP test result should be considered once you roll into the following workouts. A slight bump up or down is common (and maybe expected?) for some cases.

Essentially, take any FTP test with a grain of salt and look at the actual training picture to see if you are on track or not. If not, adjust up or down a bit (=/- 2%?) and reevaluate.


Thank you so much for the detailed response Chad (I’m a Chad too). I’ve not tried resistance mode with the training only ERG so maybe I’ll give that a shot just to see how it feels. I like ERG in the sense you only have to worry about your cadence, one less thing to be concerned with. I have been doing well with keeping that consistent throughout the workouts so the up/down has not been an issue.

I have been keeping within 5%, 5% has probably been about the lowest I’ve dropped it, typically 2-3%. Being a competitor as I’m sure most of us are, I still get the sense I “failed” when having to lower it so knowing that will certainly help.

Again, thank you for the feedback, I’ll keep plugging away, still trying to determine what I want to do with this cycling thing. I think I’d like to keep building and then get into a few races in the real world for 2020. It’s opened up a whole new world for me.

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Considering that is a “new” thing for you, I think a downward adjustment in FTP is worthwhile, at lease initially. None of us likes the feeling of “failing” that comes from dropping intensity or stopping short of interval targets.

I think you will still get lots of gains (since you are so fresh with all of this) from a lower FTP and the more satisfactory feeling of “nailing” workouts at a lower level. I’d drop your FTP 3-5% for now, do a week or so of workouts and see how they go.

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What trainer are you using? I had terrible problems with a Tacx Flux, hated ERG mode on it and went back to a “dumb” trainer after getting a refund. I’ve since bought a Tacx Neo2 and absolutely love ERG mode! I even use it for short 20 second interval workouts.

ps. I know it’s odd that I bought Tacx again but it was on sale and had pretty good reviews! :relaxed:


Understood, I will do that…

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Currently have a Wahoo Kickr Snap, 2018 model. I make certain to do a spindown before each use as well as check tire pressure. I have read good things about the Neo. I did think of upgrading to a direct drive, knowing what I know now wish I would have done that from the start.

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In general, Zwift overestimate.

  • A major component of estimating your FTP in the two time trail based tests in Zwift is ignored/down played which typically will overestimate. Also the straight adherence of 95% is a fallacy.
  • The MAP test, aka ramp, in Zwift is not appropriate for most people. There are three variants of that test and Zwift version is designed for “Elite Male”. The other two is for “Non-elite Male” and “Female”. Again, Zwift using the steepest step variant of the test, will typically overestimate your FTP. The two other version has a longer burn. The author of the MAP test has offered to “clarify” but Zwift seems to be ignoring. Again, the straight adherence of 75% is a fallacy.
  • There’s another variant of the ramp test not design by Zwift that out of left field. No idea if it’s any good. It’s a test administered with supervision (lab) so don’t know what else is included. It has a much longer step duration than the ramp test used in conjunction with blood draw and HR. It’s a super long burn compared to other established variant of MAP.
  • The in game FTP notification is the worst. Best just ignore it.

Like you, I just started on TR and haven’t done the TR’s test so cannot comment on it.

I had the same observation on the the resistance difference, TR vs Zwift, more resistance in TR?.

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Appreciate the feedback, just read through your post, not sure how I missed that, been combing this forum for the past few days. I’ll need to read through it again, lot of good information there.

I have only done 2 FTP’s tests in Zwift which were the 20 minute TT model. One at the very start and then one after the FTP builder. The current FTP that Zwift says that I have is from Zwift events where Zwift “detects an FTP increase” as you eluded to probably best to ignore it.

It’s interesting you have the same observation about the resistance and honestly I would have assumed ERG is ERG regardless of the application running it but that seems to not be the case.

Again, appreciate the feedback.

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Just a quick follow-up. Palisade was on the calendar yesterday and I tried both ERG and resistance mode for the intervals (used ERG for all the 6 minute recoveries). I didn’t reduce my FTP for this workout as I wanted to maintain consistency with the thought it might skew this “test”. The first interval was done in resistance mode, it took a little trial and error to get the percentage set properly however once set it worked well. Biggest issue I had which I’m sure is common when using resistance is keeping the wattage in check. What I tried to do was simply concentrate on cadence and keep the wattage always above the mark.

When using ERG mode for the second interval, there was a definite difference in the feel. I did have to reduce the intensity a few % during the final 2 minutes, it was tough.

The third interval I used resistance again, made it through the 9 minutes without having to reduce intensity and the wattage averaged above what was required. During the 1 minute valley, it felt more like a recovery, albeit slight. When using ERG, this was not the case.

Finished the remaining 2 intervals using resistance, majority averaging above the mark without having to reduce intensity.

My takeaway from this, not sure. I wouldn’t say resistance mode is easier, maybe more manageable is a better term. I definitely have to get better with keeping the wattage consistent if I continue to go this route, again I tried to stay above what was required. At times that meant a cadence quicker than I was comfortable with but possibly that could be a good thing? Additional concern is by not using ERG, I’m slighting myself?

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I was in your situation not so long ago. I started with zwift fall of last year and decided to go with trainer road when I realized zwift plans where getting me somewhere fast and then downright to hell even faster. I started at 120 FTP 30 days later zwift evaluated my FTP at 155 and 30 days later it went right down to 107.

It took me 2-3 RAMP test to finally nail one at what was the FTP I was able to sustain on zwift race. Though I could muster more power in races on zwift I also noticed my cadence WAS much lower than outside or than on TR.

I dont know if ERG is more difficult than resistance mode. I use it because it’s one less thing to manage. When I got to TB3 LV the first 2 weeks where hell. The third was a breeze. I realized that zwift and outside rides were all fun and games. But didn’t get me the fitness I wanted. So yes it’s harder but it made me a better cyclists all around. Now i haven’t done a full base-build specialty cycle yet. But the drills cadence, form and climbing are very useful.

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Thank you for the feedback, similar situations for sure.

If you’re riding in erg mode and you take mini breaks where you apply less pressure to the pedals, it’ll increase the resistance because it seems like you’re not reaching the power target. You’ll need to push even harder to overcome that resistance, increase your cadence comfortably, then wait for the trainer to reduce the resistance again. That can make erg mode feel more difficult.

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Understood, while in ERG I don’t take a mini-break so to speak, just try to maintain appropriate cadence.

Interesting. I did the TR Ramp Test and measured 228W. 3 weeks later did Zwift Ramp and got to the 300W for a minute and called it quits. It came back with 227W. Whats weird is i can hold high watts for a fairly long time but these ramp tests just kill me