Training falling apart, why?

Hello fellow TR users!

In September this year I started a new job which is way more time demanding then my old one. To keep my cycling training on track I decided to switch from 10 hours per week unstructured outside training to the low volume plan on TR.

Since September I’ve been training 3 times per week in our garden shed using TR and I’ve been adding occasional rides in the weekends. After SSB1 I saw an increase in FTP from 307 watts to 313 watts doing this (putting me over 4 FTP/kg :D). But at the last week of SSB2 things started to fall apart I failed once at spencer +2 (VO2Max) having to stop after the first 2 intervals and I had to back paddle and reduce the intensity of Leconte (Threshold) by ±10% to complete the workout.

In this last week of SSB2 and the recovery week following on that I had a continuous pain in my guts which I blamed my failed workouts on. The next week the worst pains in my guts were gone and I did a ramp test which put my FTP back from 313 to 306 watts. I was a bit happy with this because I was about to start ‘Short Power Built’ to work on my weakness in repeatability of short power burst (aka VO2Max work).

My first workout, Lion Rock (Threshold) , went absolutely fine but the next workout (Pierce) (VO2Max) was horrible. I managed to get through without reducing the intensity but I was experiencing cramps in the 5th and the 6th workout blocks and I felt nauseous and lightheaded for the next 2 days. This made me decide that I should dial my training down a bit an I decided to put in an extra week of recovery and hopefully will be able to continuo with my built phase afterwards.

I’ve been trying to discover a bit which could be the reason why my training fell apart and I have a couple of ideas:

  1. Fuel – Since I do 2 of the 3 workouts in the morning before work (5:30-6:30h) it is hard to fuel my workouts properly. I’m trying to do this with some fruit biscuits and mix in my bottle. I’m doubting a bit though if this is enough for the intense VO2Max work. I’m not willing to eat more because a full belly will just make me throw up instead of cycling faster. Does anyone have some tips and tricks on this? Or is it not smart to do VO2Max work in the morning anyway?

  2. Temperature – I’ve been training in our garden shed and since it is getting winter over here in the Netherlands the temperature in the shed has dropped. Sometimes it is down to 4 degrees Celsius when I start my training. I have been noticing that although I sweat like an ox during my trainings that I sometimes when I finish my workout my belly feel rather cold. Would it be a good idea to get a heater and put it on a timer so that the shed is a bit warmer for my work out? If so, what would be a good temperature?

  3. Compensating for my weakness - Allot of my training before TR was focussed on riding 80-90% of my FTP for 1 to 3+ hours. So logically seen I did become really good at threshold and sweet spot work. I hardly ever did any intervals so I’m pretty new to VO2Max work. Trying my first races last year I discovered this weakness which motivated me to choose the criterium plan on TR. Could it be that my VO2Max abilities are just weaker in comparison causing me to nail the threshold trainings and fail at the VO2Max ones? Would it be an idea to reduce the VO2Max intervals always with a couple of percent to compensate for this relative weakness? If so what would be a good percentage and how long should I keep on doing this?

I know became a very long post. So if you’ve made it this far I want to thank you for reading my story and I would appreciate and tips, tricks or advice.

Kind regards,
Tom

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Yes. And what’s more, this is perfectly normal. FTP and VO2max are correlated but not perfectly. That’s why the workout text for all the VO2max workouts include something like the following (taken from Spencer +2):

Important: Try to settle on a demanding but repeatable power output such that you can finish as many intervals as possible. The goal is to accumulate a productive level of stress at a high level of intensity while avoiding the need to frequently quit intervals early.

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  1. WHEN I do early WO’s I try to drink aleast 500ml of water as soon as i wake up. It is the single most effective thing I can do to lower the percieved effort of the coming WO.

  2. The lower temps should not be a problem however when you have a fan on you the chillfactor could be a consideration. maybe try and put something on your belly to keep it from being too cold? - I notice the same thing but havent had any issues yet (10 degrees celsius here in Denmark)

  3. I struggle after the first week or two of VO2 max. I have done so the last 2 seasons. This year I will try and lower the efforts before it becomes a problem. (In the past I have lost motivation due to the amount suffering and failed wo’s)

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Thanks for your reply!

I’m actually aware of this piece of the workout text. I think it is my pride that stops me from dailing down the intensity on forehand. But when I realize during the workout that it I’m not going to make it to the end it is usually to late properly finish the workout even with dialing down intensity.

So I assume that I should get over this and not let my pride be an obstuction to my training.

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Vo2max percentage ranges are simply a recommendation. 120% of FTP might be someones vo2max level whereas 115 or even 110% might be another persons vo2max levels. Never worry about dropping the level of a vo2max workout from what the default workout value is. Just get it set to the correct value for YOU so that you are pushed for the duration of the workout but not repeatedly failing them. When you know your own percentage your set…

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  1. Do you just drink water or do you also add something like sportsmix into this to get some suger in to your system?

  2. I’m training with a fan and I already started putting something on my belly to protect it. Good to know that it doesn’t have to be a problem to workout in a slightly colder room.

  3. I feel your pain, once you start failing workouts it starts to become really though to keep up the motivation. Where in the beginning I used to look forward to my workouts I’m now starting to dread to do my next VO2Max workout.

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  1. Just water (my reasoning is that its normal to be a little dehydrated after a good nights sleep). dehydration will have VERY bad effect on your performance. That being said i can’t see electrolytes doing any damage

  2. Remeber the gospel of “constancy” and do whatever is needed to keep yourself happy with training. Even if its doin less VO2 - It will be a lot better than no training :slight_smile:

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I swear it could have been me writing this post…dates the same…train in my shed…getting cold (UK)…same weekly TSS…exact same struggle with VO2 max. Admittedly I also haven’t focused much on VO2 max aside from the odd session mixed into SS plans.

All of my work up until Sep had been SS and Sustained Power so I thought I’d go SSB1>SSB2>Short Power for a change. Shorter VO2 intervals were ok but anything upwards of 1m30sec I had to dial back the intensity to complete. Power match wasn’t really helping my efforts with bad spikes of 150% lasting for 30% of the interval but still I know the repeatability was above my capabilities at the time.

I took a step back and tried Chad’s recommendation of spending a week or two focusing only on VO2 max and building it from 30sec interval sessions up to the 3minutes of Spencer +2, Matthes +1 / Kaiser +2 etc. I don’t have the exact progression on hand but there is a thread in the forum which covers it. Completing this over 2 weeks definitely improved my VO2 max efforts.

Unfortunately I’ve since been off my bike for 2weeks so I’ve likely lost those gains…i think the rule of thumb is 11days of no training results in losses…

Overall this post might not be much help but if anything it assures you that your situation is probably normal. Training outside of our comfort zone (SS) gets very hard at higher w/kg. Particularly in my case when I’ve cashed in all of my easy gains. Started cycling a 1.5 years ago and currently at 3.4w/kg after a year on TR.

If you need to dial down the VO2max stuff, that usually means your FTP is at a high percentage of your VO2max (“fractional utilisation”) - this is actually something to be proud of in a way, as it takes time and work to reach high fractional utilisation levels.

Also important to keep in mind that you can reach a physiological state of VO2max at many different wattages, as it depends on the duration as well.

If you want a great in-depth coverage of VO2max check out the Empirical Cycling podcast. One of the key takeaways I got from that is that the best indicator of hitting VO2max we have (outside of being hooked up to laboratory equipment) is not power or HR, but actually breathing. If you’re breathing like a fish out of water., you’re doing it right - regardless of the watts.

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It is good to hear that I’m not alone, thanks for your reply!

I’m not able to find the coach Chad 2 week VO2 plan. If you would still have a link to it that would be cool!

For now I think I will just stick with the short power plan and just reduce the intensity of the VO2Max workouts by 5% or so and see how I get on with that. Hopefully this will help me to grow my aerobic capacity and will allow my over time to do VO2Max efforts without reducing the intensity.

Interesting what you are saying about training outside of the comfort zone at higher w/kg. I have never thought about it this way.

as it says this isn’t a plan but its easy to pull one together.

I also used to train in a very cold garage very early - sometimes at -2 or lower outside temp (UK based). So I’d be in there in roubaix full length bibs and all my winter kit. 20 mins later I’d have removed a few layers - but always have a fan on and make sure you don’t catch a chill.

Some mornings were so hard but found plenty of fluids and either a banana or gel would help massively with perceived exertion.

There were plenty of times one of the girls would have a bad night and i’s stagger out into the garage thinking i needed my bumps feeling and be almost falling asleep during the warm ups but you get used to it, you adapt and it’s worth getting as much as you can ready the night before… even in my case i used to put my bottle and banana in the garage the night before.

Mind you if its a pretty hard VO2 max workout I’d struggle with the banana and you can hone in on timing with the gel - but you should have enough glycogen on board first thing to not really need anything more - there are posts about this. I think that a rule of thumb is that up to an hour you only really need fluids but others may have very different experiences.

There’s plenty more info on the forum…

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You might want to speak to a doctor about that pain - make sure it’s nothing serious.

If I were training at that time of day, I’d probably guzzle down a gel and a coffee before getting on the trainer. Not sure if biscuits just before is ideal (maybe too solid) - the gel should be easier and quicker to absorb and get the energy needed for the intense workouts quickly.

Also Spencer +2 and Leconte are hard workouts if you’re not on form, so don’t be too hard on yourself!

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At the moment the pain is (almost) completely gone again but if it comes back I will see the doctor for sure. Thanks for your concern.

I might try to take a gel before my workout once and see how that works out for me. I’m usually quite conservative with my gels since I think they are quite expensive. But if they can make the diffecence between workout failure and workout succes then it’s definitely worth it.

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I’d also agree with this - worth getting checked out and talking it through with your doctor. cover points like - Did this happen when you did unstructured? Does this happen on all rides? It could be a pointer to other things that need to be sorted out…by someone medically trained rather than a bunch of random chaps on a forum. :slight_smile:

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Yeah gels are expensive and the packaging feels wasteful to use indoors personally - I just buy tubs of High5 powder mix. 1 bottle equals 2-4 gels depending on how big it is, it’s super cheap by comparison, and it’s much better for the environment. I know you mentioned you have mix in your bottles already but some mixes (like typical sports drinks powder you can buy at the supermarket) are actually really low in calories by comparison.

Oh and also, a big bowl of porridge with some fruit added before bed is a good way to pre-fuel for a morning workout, think there was a thread on here somehow about how oats in particular digest slowly overnight or something.

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Can you get Tailwind where you live? This has gotten me through a lot of hard workouts, maybe even saved some. Better than gels for me for indoor riding, not cheap but maybe more cost effective? Also GU and Hammer both offer gel in bulk without the terribly wasteful packaging associated with singles. Hammer even sends it in a recyclable bottle. You use a flask style container instead.

When I’m training early I have to rely on coffee and some sort of easy to digest carb. If you go the liquid calorie route you’re getting hydrated and fueled at once, pretty efficient for nailing those early sessions.

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@tom_te_stroete, there’s lots of good advice above. I also train early in the morning - it is something that definitely takes getting used to. For fueling sweet spot and above, I go with mix in a bottle but always have a few gels handy in an emergency. I agree with drinking water before getting on the bike. Also, if I feel hungry, I’ll have a banana, craisins, or raisins before I ride - something somewhat solid to keep my stomach quiet. Surprisingly, if I eat a snack right before going to bed I’ll wake up feeling hungry - go figure.

I didn’t see anything above about life stress, though. In the original post you mentioned starting a new job that is more demanding than your old one. I recently moved and now have a commute 3x longer than previously. Consider what life stress is doing to your ability to complete workouts. Twice over the last two years I’ve bailed in the middle of a build block because life stress got in the way. In both cases I went straight into a recovery week, then did several weeks of sweet spot base before resuming build.

Finally, consider where you are in the block. Not sure what plan you’re on but Spencer +2 is usually toward the end of a three-week cycle right before the recovery week. Your fatigue is at the highest point and 3-minute VO2 intervals are really tough. I also tend to favor threshold work (I’d rather do Lamarck (4x10 @ 100%) than even Mills +2 (10x2.5 %120%)), so don’t get down on yourself - race your strengths, work your weaknesses.

Best of luck!

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A lot of very good advice here and many things I have positively experienced myself.

I also train early in the morning and something that has really helped me a lot has been setting my alarm a bit earlier than usual (~20’ or so). That additional time has allowed for my body to better tune in with the morning sessions and helped reduce RPE during harder sessions.

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Thanks for all the good advice everyone everyone! This was my first post on the TR forum and I’m truly impressed by how committed and open this community is!

I will try to integrate the things from your advice that work the best for me. I’m pretty sure that there are multiple tips in here that will make my workouts more bareable. So hopefully in a couple of weeks I’ll be smashing those VO2Max workouts!

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And getting enough sleep is the third key - rest, fuel and stress seem to be the three to get better, - fuel the work, do the work and rest well. .
When I was doing eraly morning workouts I’d make sure I got at least 8 hours or planned for that the night before.
Used to have some good chats with the milkman funnily enough and watching the rest of the world wake up was always kinda cathartic.

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