Stuck and confused (low W/kg; 52 YO)

Hi all, I know that this question has been asked a million times, but I’m hoping that this wonderful community will share some insights. I’ve been riding outside (gravel and road) and inside (smart trainer) year-round for several years, and have been on TR for 16 months. There is no doubt that my stamina and I dare say in-ride fueling efficiency has gotten better in the last 16 months, but my FTP has barely budged. I’m 6’5’ 215 lbs and 52 yo. When I do the TR FTP test I go into a realm of response that I don’t usually see anywhere in my indoor training–gasping for air and feeling a vaguely unsettling cardio(?) feeling. My TR calculated FTP is usually about 230, but if i set if to 260, I can still complete the LVSSB and Sustained Build plans with additional supplemental outdoor rides to boost my weekly TSS.

2.7 W/kg after all this time seems less than stellar, but I’m not sure where I’m going to get another 100 Watts from. I feel like the TR indoor workouts are about as tough as they could be and still get through them, but am I just not pushing hard enough?

HTFU/lose weight is an acceptable answer if it’s just that simple. If that’s your advice, I would be grateful for suggestions on which areas to emphasize in my hardening up (endurance, VO2max, etc). Which plan(s) should I be gravitating towards? I’ve listened to many, many TR podcasts and still can’t excavate myself from this plateau.

Thank you,
Eric

Why would you do that? You will then be training in the incorrect zones.

  1. Try and get a FTP result you believe to be more accurate. Maybe try a longer form test, 2x 8m, 20 minute test or the Kolie Moore Protocol (FTP might be under if using the ramp test, can be particular true for older athlete’s as that ‘top end’ starts to decrease)

  2. Make sure your training is consistent

  3. Could try Mid Volume, if that is too much delete the lowest IF session from the plan each week

  4. Alternative to (3) you could add an extra session to LV plan

  5. Get more time in the saddle, nail your recovery.

FTP isn’t everything, I wouldn’t get hung up about it. You said your stamina has improved so something is going well.

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If you want to get your w/kg up the best tact is to lose weight. FWIW you’ve got 8inches, 7 years and 85lbs on me. That said if your stamina is up your getting fitter and if you’re happy you don’t need to change a thing. Good luck :+1:

Thank you so much for your help. For what it’s worth, I have done the 20 minute test several times and get around 260W. There is something about the above-threshold part of the TR ramp test that just kills me.
Eric

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Some people have a lesser developed VO2Max system and thus may struggle more than average with anything above threshhold. That may be part of your journey to develop that more so you’re seeing less of a discrepancy with your testing.

I think weight loss is definitely a factor in any w/kg calculation. There are very few 200+lbs riders that have a top end w/kg because the added weight doesn’t typically give you an equivalent boost in power. Typically you might have a higher FTP than someone lighter, but the weight quickly cancels that out. You are a really tall dude, so you are only going to be able to be so light, but it’s definitely something to consider.

If you are capable of completing the work at 260, then by all means do your workouts at 260 and if the 20 minute test works better for you, then you should use that every time.

The last thing I’ll say is that it takes time. The elite typically have years and years of a base that they have built their top end on. Building a base does not necessarily correlate to a higher FTP until that base is sufficient.

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Just my opinion, but different people respond best to different stimuli. I’m 66, just started riding spring of 2018 after about 10 yr off the bike, and have found that I get the biggest bump in FTP after a long block of zone 2 riding. YMMV

If you’re able to do 275 for 20 min then I would be pretty confident in saying that your FTP is higher than 230.

This to me says that you rarely (if ever) do any VO2 workouts. That feeling at the end of ramp test is usually the feeling of hitting VO2max and is similar to what you should feel during those workouts. If you rarely ever hit this state then I’m not surprised that the ramp test gives a much lower result than a more steady state FTP test.

Going forward I might stick with the longer form tests and with an FTP of ~260W but also take this as an indicator that your VO2/anaerobic system might be the thing that is limiting your progress.

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He is trying to show that he feels that his FTP is being calculated to low, and he may have a point, 30 watts (11%) on FTP, and doing workouts like Baird, shortoff (so 6 * 2 mintues at 130%), Donner would be 3*12 @ 106 to 110%, and not out of breath, he may have a point

Some (not all) of the ramp tests left me feeling horrible for hours. Those were the ones that underestimated my FTP. I can deal with a bad estimate due to poor pacing, but I can’t deal with a protocol that might leave me feeling awful for hours and inconsistent results. Ramp works for others but not well for me. So a year ago I stopped doing the ramp test and went back to 20-minute and longer tests. Easy decision.

Similar, my “bad” ramp tests were giving an estimate of say 195 but that was wrong. My own estimates based on experience were around 230. Half a decade older, almost a handful of inches shorter, and similar weight.

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So what are your goals?

If you are trying to lose weight and at the same time build strength then that’s two opposing goals. Chasing both will diminish the return on the
other goal.

Workouts are just one component of getting stronger, quality calories and rest are especially and equally as important as we age.

The workouts are designed to hurt to trigger your body’s adaptation so you are not alone gasping for air and getting uncomfortable mental strength is built as you progress through the plans and with it your ability to suffer increases

You might want to consider a heart rate monitor so you can measure your exertion by another datum and watch your resting heart rate for any sign of overtraining.
The most important thing is not to lose focus and undo your hard work to date

The ramp test could be better described as a VO2Max test that is used to guestimate FTP. If v02max efforts are a weakness and long steady intervals (SS and threshold) are a strength, the ramp test can significantly understate FTP.

You might try a plan that focuses more on shorter, punchier efforts. I personally find structured v02max work unmanageable unless I’m highly motivated (training for something significant). When I can’t get motivated for those longer v02max intervals, I’ll cherry pick some workouts with shorter intervals to get some time at intensity. V02max work is just horrible, horrible stuff for me, but it sure takes my fitness to another level. It’s also very satisfying to complete a really intense v02max session.

You might also read “fast after 50” by friel. Cliff notes version - do more v02max work and lose body fat.

If

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Can’t really add anything that everybody else has already said, but I’m 50 and fall into the Ramp test sells me short camp, ok on long steady, ok on short sharp, but fall v02 stuff, usually do V02 at 116% not 120%

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Same here. 55yrs and I have my vo2max set to 115% for that very same reason :+1:

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Same again here. 53yrs, 77kg, 178cm. Ramp test at 200w and currently train indoor at 230w. Train VO2 at about 115%ish.

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I’m one of those people that the ramp test doesn’t really work for. I can do a 20min test (or a pair of 8 mins) and get 330W. But i’ve only done a ramp test once and it offered me 282W.

I know 330W is correct as it works exactly right for all the workouts and i can hold it for 40 odd minutes.

So if you are happy that 260W is your correct number then don’t blindly follow the ramp test. Maybe, like me you are a diesel.

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Thank you all for your advice. A lot of great suggestions here. It sounds like I’m in good company using a 20-minute test instead of the ramp. I’m just about to start a build cycle and will switch from Sustained to Short Power to get some more VO2max enjoyment. It didn’t come up, but some leg and core weight training probably wouldn’t hurt either. It would be nice to gain a few Watts, but as many have pointed out, the denominator in W/kg is still kg. When I’m out riding, many of the people who blow by me are seemingly some years older. There are a LOT of really fast 60 yo out there–I know it can be done.

One thing that would be very nice to see in the training plans is some indication of how hard a given ride should be, taking into account where it falls in the cycle. I understand that the perceived exertion would vary a lot for different riders depending on their strengths/nutrition/sleep/etc, but I’m always wondering if I worked too hard or not hard enough. This is particularly true in SSB, where I’m never clear if I should keep boosting the percentage until the 60-minute SS workouts become really tough. The podcast talks about being gutted after certain workouts, but that’s all I’ve gleaned so far.

Your 260 watt FTP is not bad at all. I started seriously training a couple of years ago and lost about 20 pounds. My FTP didn’t break records but I got a lot faster. I’m 54. I peaked around 250/260 last summer. With a new power meter I’m at 230 today (indoor FTP) but that was after a summer without group rides or a lot of intensity and moving states.

I’ll tell you something about those fast 60 year olds. They are the guys that could run a 5 minute mile in high school without training. They are the guys that have been endurance athletes for decades and have always been in shape.

You don’t mention your volume other than SSB LV. There comes a time when you need to up the volume and frequency. Two winters ago I got a 20 watt bump in FTP from just doing base miles and getting up to 13 hours per week. If you are just doing SSB LV, you will top out. Winter weight lifting and longer zone 2 rides will help enormously.

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@erussellmarsh sounds like you are on the correct path! It’s important to frame your original question…you said you’re FTP hadn’t budged but in reality it had improved & you said so yourself. What had not budged was your Maximum Aerobic Power…which is the highest 1 minute power from your ramp test. What you using as an FTP metric is 75% of Maximum Aerobic Power. Your actual sustained power for 1 hour DID go up materially…I’m certain of it. It’s just a much larger portion of your MAP now than when you started.

YOU DID IMPROVE. You just didn’t specifically measure that improvement. So, actually, allow yourself to celebrate that a little bit. You were just measuring MAP while you were training FTP. Now you’re going to train MAP a little bit & you are likely to see substantial progress.

I agree! Super good idea. Unlike what most will advise I like to do some heavy deadlifts AFTER VO2max work. For older athletes the hormone response from some heavy multi-joint compound movements provides substantial benefit. Plus, tired legs help act as a ‘governor’ on how heavy you lift…naturally helping prevent injury IMO.

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I would only do this if you have some decent experience in deadlifting first. Learning lifts like that fatigued is not a good idea and if you think that core strength may already be a limiter then you might get off the bike with a prematurely fatigued lower back which could make these more likely to cause injury.

But if you already have good deadlift form then I don’t see any issues with this and, as @Brennus said, the hormonal response of heavy multi-joint lifts can provide benefit beyond just the lift itself.

Edit: I should also add that I think almost every single person should be deadlifting (at least some variation or comparable movement) relatively heavy and consistently. The full body strength is super important for general health and has tons of carry over to regular life and can prevent stupid injuries. Plus being stronger is almost never a bad thing.

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^ This is the right way to look at it. Practically speaking, the ramp test is effectively measuring changes in vo2max (MAP). You need a better test to estimate FTP, preferably a 20-min or longer test.

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