Training: Help me understand how TR tackles limiters

Hi all,
Its probably me and having not read (found) all resources on this topic but currently I do not fully understand how TR is addressing weaknesses / limiters.

I think all would agree that working on a limiter is prerequisite to ride strong during a race so limiters should be definitely taken off during training.

Lets say for example ones weakness is anaerobic power and training for MTB marathon. So following Sustained Build and Marathon Specialty as outlined here is assumed. Obviously, doing Short Power Build or General Build (or even XC Specialty) for addressing weakness is no option as the duration of XCM races will be 3 hours and quite longer (which requires Sustained Build / XCM Specialty phase per recommendation).

What I´ve seen so far on TR for addressing the limiter topic is the following:

  1. Adjusting your training plan – Too much time
    Add an extra base and build block (Base/Build/Base/Build/Specialty) and address the limiter during first build block (increased season length by 14-20w)
  2. Choosing your training plan - Re-build, Off-season, or Maintenance for Your Fastest Season – Off Season – Off-season focus on a limiter

Both options will address ones weakness long time before an A event. Regarding option 1 there will be 28w between training weakness during extra build black and the A event considering following the standard training cycle with base/build/specialty. Quite the same for option 2.

What I´ve also read here is that for maintaining fitness its required to train once a week anaerobic power. But if I train my weakness as described above long time before my A event, all benefits gained will probably be lost and gone at time of race. Also the recommended training cycle (Sustained Build / XCM) does not consider anaerobic workouts that much (2 in Sustained Build Phase, 3 in XCM Specialty – so just 5 anaerobic workouts in 16w).
I understand that anaerobic limiters are on another level for XCM than for a Crit Racer but it will remain a limiter avoiding one to show best performance.

So I basically do not understand how the concept of limiters can be tackled by using TR.

Sure, you are welcome to correct me and / or provide an explanation even I am able to understand :slightly_smiling_face:

Where are you seeing this? There are VO2 max and suprathreshold workouts twice a week throughout sustained build and I think the distribution is pretty similar during the XCM specialty.

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My example was for Anaerobic Workouts - the Sustained Build MV contains 2 of them, HV even none, check the plans :slightly_smiling_face:

I think you cannot compare this to VO2max or Suprathreshold: VO2max ranges up to 120% FTP only (Suprathreshold is even lower) while Anaerobic just starts there and goes up to 150%.

I understand what you are saying but are you potentially approaching this from the wrong way around. Rather than look at your limiters, you are better to train to the demands of your event because not having the appropriate fitness for your event will lead to a poor performance.

You mention Marathon XC and anaerobic efforts and I would wonder why you think that is so important. Over the course of a 3 hour ride in which you are going to be constantly riding hard, all of your efforts will become increasingly aerobic, and aerobic power will be critical to your performance in such an event.

Being able to punch up a few hills very hard may be useful, but you are not going to be able to do that on every single climb for 3 hours. The question is that you may just want to increase your anaerobic ability, which is fine, but this is likely not going to lead to a better outcome than focusing and making big gains on your aerobic system.

Remember that even a 1 minute effort is primarily aerobic, and that in an endurance event such as marathon XC aerobic power is going to be the driver and the key to a good result.


Thanks for your feedback and sure, I do not expect same anaerobic capabilites for XCM as for Cyclcross as mentioned, also remember Coach Chad saying in a podcast “The longer the event the less explosive it can be”.

BUT for my example: based on my XCM race experience (which is little) I saw personal deficits during the start and during short, steep climbs which I relate to a lack of anaerobic power. There might be also some deficits during final sprint but I never finished sprinting so far … So I would like to improve anaerobic power to better (start)sprint or not getting dropped on punchy climbs (or not going so deep into the red during that climbs that my legs explode and I will loose my group).

And generally I do not understand the resources on TR for limiters as described above. Anaerobic is my very personal example but following the linked resources for other limiters which might come up in the future seems not to be target-aimed for me. So where is my error in reasoning?

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From a trainerroad stand point, it seems to be less interested in improving your limiters, but rather more interested in prepping you correctly for the event of your choosing.

If you have recognized a limiter as you think you have, in this case anaerobic power, then you can adjust your plan to suit. If you want to improve your anaerobic power then do short power build, followed by the criterium plan which will definitely improve your anaerobic capabilities. But, you also have to recognize that you can’t do everything all the time and focusing on your anaerobic power will limit your progress with aerobic power, which may have a greater affect on your end performance.

The training plans are not the be all and end all, they are just a recommendation based on the established demands of any respective event.

An example from myself, I typically do rolling road races, however I have chosen to do the sustained power followed by climbing road race plan, rather than general build followed by rolling road race plan as would be recommended, as i feel my sustained power has always been a limiter. But, because of this my anaerobic ability is going to suffer as I am not training it as much, but I think that trade off is currently worth it.

Regarding sprints at the start and end of a race, yes that is anaerobic but really how important is the first and last 30 seconds to the overall result of a 3 hour race. And secondly, when you say punchy climbs, if these are any longer than a minute, or you have any less than a minute of full recovery between the climbs, they will be primarily aerobic, and improving your aerobic power will stop that feeling of blowing up a lot more than improving your anaerobic power.

Do you have the elevation profile for your A race, as this would be extremely useful.

You´re probably right that the TR concept does not focus on limiters. If one read other concepts (Friel, for example) this is quite irritating but lesson early learned: do not mix up different concepts :grinning:, so I am following TR consistently. Just the general approach as mentioned for addressing weakness way before the A race (extra build block or off-season as described above) confused me and I hoped to get some clarifcation by sharing my lack of understanding publicly :slight_smile:

For my personal example: Totally agree with you that shifting focus during build addresses the limiter but this approach is not worth it (for me) considering the limitations for other race requirements (sustained power), as you indicated, too. Happy for you, you found an approach tweaking the plans for your need. I think this might be quite a journey :). I wish there is just some more guidance available for this. Another user kindly recommend to swap one workout a week with another one addressing a limiter, e.g. swap Saturday workout from XCM with some workout addressing anaerobic limiters. But again, if TR states that just for maintaining my anaerobic power I have to do one anerobic workout per week, where will lead me this swap to? I will maintain my insufficient anaerobic power? :smile:
Even had the wacky idea to boost my 7-day workweek to a 9-day one during build and specialty. So include just one additional workout (which will be an anaerobic one). But here we are again, will just one anaerobic workout suffice each 9-day-cycle? Dunno …

For the sprints at the start: Quite important, imho. If you do not get away fast right from the start you are stuck when it comes to the first climb or the first trail section, depending on the race. Quite often the road / track gets so small that its hard to pass slower riders and - perceived - I loose a lot of time there. I also feel that it hinders me to stick with a faster group.

For my A race: currently there is no elevation profile available for 2019 yet, but based on the same races I did in 2016 and 2017 I highly assume the elevation will be quite the same with respect to the most challening part: a short climb about 100meters (0,06miles) / average slope about 20%. This is a round course so you tackle this climb every 2km/1.25miles again and again and again for 3hours.
Also it would be beneficial to have a good start sprint to be quickly in this uphill, otherwise there are a lot of people in front of you, some of them even walking.

Swapping one workout a week for an anaerobic workout probably would be beneficial, from what I have read regarding anaerobic training you can develop that system very quickly. So doing one anaerobic session a week probably would develop it, especially if it is currently underdeveloped due to a focus aerobic sessions.

A potential alternative to this, and exploiting the potential to make big gains on the anaerobic system is to continue with your current aerobic plan as normal. Then for the last 3 weeks of the plan switch all of the high intensity supra threshold and VO2 sessions to anaerobic sessions which will develop that system. In 3 weeks with the usual base and zone 2 sessions your losses from the aerobic system should be minimal, maybe something to think about.

In regards to the start, that is totally fair, I overlooked that point, usually not an issue in road races.

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Then for the last 3 weeks of the plan switch all of the high intensity supra threshold and VO2 sessions to anaerobic sessions which will develop that system.

So you refer to the last 3 weeks of the specialty plan? Probably, yes, but just to be on the safe side.

Thanks for your valuable feedback!

I think there might be some fusion of the terms “limiter” and “weakness” here. I can definitely see how anaerobic power is a weakness for an XCM or any sustained power athlete. That said, the plans you cited address that weakness five times over the course of 16 weeks, which is probably adequate given the demands of the event. Have you considered how that weakness is really limiting your performance/placing in your events? It might be a weakness, but I’d think your time would be better served addressing sustainable power or simply increasing overall aerobic capacity (if you’re not already a pointy-end FTP athlete in your category) and touching on anaerobic power just occasionally. I think your ability to hang on with the faster groups is more a function of aerobic capacity than anything.

I think the reason that Sustained Power and XCM contain so few anaerobic workouts is because limited training time is probably better served training those capabilities above. Again, the difference between “weakness” and “limiter”.

That said, if you are convinced that it truly is a limiter, you’d be best served to train anaerobic power late in your specialty phase since it comes on faster and doesn’t last as long. You’d want some of that anaerobic intensity right up to your race, though you’d obviously taper the volume those final two weeks.

(Please pardon me if this sounds condescending; not my intention at all.)

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You are right, I just adopt the wording “weakness/limiter” from the cited TR resource. So for the sake of this thread it should be strictly “limiter”, so a deficit limiting ones race performance.

I have no sound data to confirm that anaerobic power is my limiter for XCM but I strongly feel so based on the experience I made so far during races. Maybe I should do a profile test as provided in the workout database according to Coggan (H.A. & A.C. Power Profile Test) to have numbers at hand.

But also according to your feedback it is understood that the provided training options as stated in my initial post are no use if anaerobic power is ones limiter. Why should one train this particular area months ahead the race if its probably gone when switching to his event-determined training cycle. That caused some massive confusion for me but seems to be solved now. TR approach for limiters might work for other areas of interest (e.g. climbing) but not for anaerobic power. Got it!

Wished that was mentioned in the resources :smile:

And no worries about being condescending.

The HA/AC profile test might identify anaerobic power as a weakness, for sure. My point is that that doesn’t mean you should necessarily dedicate a whole lot of training focus towards it. Some is probably appropriate, just not at the expense of more important abilities.

To be clear, a “limiter” is the (usually) one thing that is most holding you back from your peak performance. I admit I know nothing about your background and overall fitness, but unless you are a truly “pointy-end” athlete in your category as pertains to aerobic capacity, the chances that anaerobic capacity is truly your limiter in XCM is small. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t train it, as mentioned in the final few weeks of your plan, if it is a weakness. It just means that you must first and foremost focus on what is truly limiting your performance. For most sustained power athletes (certainly not all!), muscular (or “strength”) endurance is it. It’s possible in XC that bike handling or descending is a limiter as those are likely to cost you more time than losing one or two seconds on a repeated single, punchy climb. If all three of those are strengths of yours relative to your competition, then certainly an argument can be made (as you did) for anaerobic power. If I were your coach, which I am not!!, and again not knowing you from Adam, I would caution you from focusing too much on this one weakness that in all likelihood has a limited impact on your results relative to other skills and abilities.

You certainly know your abilities and the demands of your race better than any of us, so take all of this for what it’s worth. Good luck!

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Well, I am certainly not topped out, thats for sure :grinning:. I will see how my B-Races go this season and depending on this implement some anaerobic extras as suggested above (or not). Obviously I am the only one with such concerns so maybe, yes, I am a bit overreacting on this topic :thinking:. So thanks for knocking me out of the skies :smiley: and your support.

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