Threshold riding for beginners

Introduction:

I decided to write this post because there is a lot of beginner cyclists that are new to training, afraid of threshold riding and they can find it helpful. The intention of this post is not bragging, because despite the gains (spoiler alert!) I know that my other parts of being a cyclist are “crap” (FRC is on the level with 5-years old girl, my sprint is non-existent etc. So this is only a snapshot of the bigger picture) I am not an athlete by any means, 35 years old guy that is running a business and not doing anything special (no diet, no other sports or impressive athletic background - I always sucked at endurance sports, especially running). My training consists only of TR indoor workouts, no outdoor rides currently.

This is my personal experience and does not have to apply to everybody.

Background:

After doing SSB1 LV and SSB2 LV I went to Sustained Build. Jan 11, 2020, was my first day with a longer threshold (Galena +1) and I was destroyed by this workout! My HR went to 186 bpm during the last interval (my max is 190 bpm). This was a signal that something is wrong. The simple solution of the problem was adding proper cooling (blower-style fan (Stanley blower as Lasko fans are not available in my region), I was training without any fan). (Tip 1: Cooling is the most important part of Threshold workouts - when my cooling is off my HR can be up and TTE lower significantly!)

I have never had any problems with VO2 max workouts but SS and Threshold were a lot harder in comparison. So I knew that I have to work on that. After some other workouts, on Feb 08, 2020, I have decided to give Kolie Moore’s test a try, as I suspected that my FTP can be a little overestimated by Ramp Test. This was the longest threshold ride I have ever done by far, but what is interesting after the test I was way fresher than after Ramp test, and the recovery was faster (Tip 2: Shorter test does not mean it is easier to recover from). I started to be Kolie Moore’s podcast listener and what was interesting, he mentions that the Threshold should not be very taxing (it sounded very abstract, as we all know that threshold workouts along with O/U are the hardest, meanest invention of evil!). Believing that my FTP was properly set-up I have done three more weeks of workouts from SPB (VO2 max, O/U and Suprathreshold so basically normal SPB Build - they were VERY hard and I was tired as hell all the time). In the middle of March, I have started proper threshold progression.

Training:

The premise of the plan was doing 3x threshold a week + 1 2h Z2 ride to up the TSS and CTL a little bit (at this time my CTL was 39, so normal LV CTL). I have created custom workouts in the workout creator for this progression, that I have full control over the time, intensity etc.

Week Workout 1 Workout2 Workout 3
1 FTP Test
2 4x15@100% 3x20 O/U 2x30@97%
3 1x60@95% 3x20 O/U Gibraltar +2
4 Z2 FTP Test Ramp test
5 4x15@100% 3x20 O/U 3x20@97%
6 3x20@97% 2x30@97% 2x40@97%
7 3x20@97% FTP Test 3x20@97%

Some statistics after this block of training:

  • FTP - up 11% .
  • 5-minute power - up by 15%W since last ramp test
  • TTE - increased by 20 minutes.
  • VO2 max - 10% up (in L/min) (WKO estimation from PDC)

The most important conclusion is: threshold riding is not as hard as people think - if your FTP is set correctly! Doing threshold workouts @97% of your FTP was putting a lot less stress for me than SPB and these workouts were a lot easier to recover from. I had to have up the volume to do this workout so I ended on MV TSS levels (450-500 TSS/wk, 6-7h weekly, 4000-5000 kJ/week)

Summary and conclusions:

  1. Cooling - the most important part of every threshold workouts done indoors - this is real game-changer.
  2. Fuelling - I always do 60-80g of carbs + second bottle with electrolytes.
  3. Recovery - Threshold workouts are quite hard to stack them together, but 1 day of recovery between them is enough. The recovery was never a problem.
  4. My stamina, TTE and aerobic engine improved a lot (every one of these workouts has TiS in WKO 10 for anaerobic and 6-7 for aerobic in my case).
  5. What is interesting my over-threshold power also went up (60s and 5 min - probably due to better leg strength).
  6. Z2 rides are great to fill the gaps between workouts.
  7. I have seen these improvements because I am still in noob-gains zone. For sure if you are more experienced, the benefits will differ. But if you are more experienced, threshold workouts probably do not put fear in you :slight_smile:
  8. If you could finish Lamarck - you can easily do 2x20. If you can do 2x20, 3x15 also can be done. 3x20 is harder but very doable. 2x30 is hard and more boring than taxiing. 2x40 is hard as hell.
  9. Doing your threshold in Standard/Resistance mode is a lot easier - you can implement these micro brakes when you lower your wattage 10-20W for a couple of seconds, and then return to your wattage target - your average should match the target, but your HR will lower a little bit and also you give your muscles a little bit of rest.
  10. 97% of your FTP gives you all the threshold adaptations but your power does not spike a lot over 100%, so it is not draining your FRC, which can be very hard for your body.
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Are you getting lab tested?

No it is only WKO estimation. I am sorry I didn’t mention this.

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my take on this is that if you follow Kolie’s FTP test progression, you end up doing 60+ min @ 100% FTP, so doing 20-30min @ 95-97% FTP should be very doable.

Straight threshold w/o are different than O/Us. Thresh is almost all about power and muscle endurance; O/Us are almost all about how to deal with lactate. Two different types of training, one is most likely a struggle, the other most likely painful.

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True. 60min@100% should be doable, but 60 min constant threshold is very hard, even if you have quite big aerobic engine and years of riding behind you.

Yes, but looking at the forum, people hate O/U and underestimate their ability to ride at threshold. That is why I have grouped them in one sentence.

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60 min constant threshold…I would have to have a number on my arse…no other way round it! :grin:

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Was looking for something else when I landed back here, but now that I’m here…

I’ll second this. I’ve been doing FRC/anaerobic/Z6 workouts lately, man…8-10mins of work can leave you smashed. Well, me at least.

After a recent block of SS/Thrsh training mine did as well, new 1min PR. KM kinda explained why this is recently, somewhere on this forum, as well as on his latest podcast (I think). Pretty sure it’s not because of increased muscle strength.

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True. Now I also know it :slight_smile: But interestingly my middle power (1-5 min) is always a little bit better after threshold block.

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I need more data man :wink:

So for week one, do you only do one workout? An ftp test an that’s it for the whole week?

Can you indicate to the recovery times for each workout you listed in the 7 week block? I.e. If you have a workout 2x30@97% then what recovery times are you using inbetwen these sets?

Also, when doing an U/O workout, what intensities are you working at and for how long in those 20 minutes sets?

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Yes, week one was only FTP test and rest was a Z2. This was some time ago and I have changed some things since then (number of rides per week)

Recovery:
It all depends what your training block looks like, where are you in the phase of training is your training block and how much stimulus you need.

I have started with:
M: Threshold, W: Threshold/O/U, Th: Z2, Sat: Threshold

Later:
M: Threshold, T: Z2 W: Threshold/O/U, Th: Z2, Fr: Z2 Sat: Threshold

When it comes for specific recovery times - first two workouts in the week were 60 min TiZ, the longest workout was on Saturday - usually 75 min TiZ. But I have not differentiated if it was 3x20 or 2x30 - only by TiZ.

Sometimes I was blocking O/U and Threshold day after day to introduce more stimulus.
From my recent experiences with threshold, there are only two important factors:
nutrition and temperature. With higher FTP comes greater responsibility…tfu, greater need for an extraordinary amount of food you require to recover. And temperature and proper cooling - I have failed some workouts during summer only due the heat. When temperature was 27C inside doing these workouts was almost impossible. Now is perfect.

And recent discovery - if you want to easily do threshold workouts, do Z2 workouts :slight_smile: Recently I have started doing proper Z2/Tempo rides and threshold and O/U are somewhat way easier.

O/U:
I have started with simple threshold workouts with short power burst. Then I have started doing SST with 30s overs (around 120% of FTP). When it comes to unders - it also depends on how you feel and where you feel your FTP is. I am always starting with 92% unders that allows full clearance of lactate, then 95% and finally 97%. But take into consideration that these sharp overs are my great weakness. Recently my ability to do them improved greatly as my fast-twitch muscles started to work more aerobically I assume.

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