VO2 is my weakness?


I am wondering if anyone would want to chime in on what my weakness is and how to address it. For the last two seasons I have used TR for the better part of 6 months during the off season. Been riding for 10 years and focused on getting faster for 5. I am a MTB and CX racer/rider who spends most of his time riding in the woods when the trails are in good, but once winter hits I am on the trainer 80% of the time.

The last two seasons i have done a combination of SSB MV with short power and general builds. I ride about 400-500 hours a year and via the ramp test my FTP has stayed consistent for the last 18 month(tested evenly 4 times during that period). On the bike my race and Strava times have increased significantly as well as most of my power PR’s. Where I am struggling is the power in the range of 2 through 6 minutes. I have not been able to improve power in this range more than a few watts. But my annual power PR’s below this and above this have been great.

Maybe this will put things in context on my weakness. I can complete the following workouts at these FTP levels in TR:
Base–Gibbs 285 watt FTP setting(heart rate and RPE correct for base work, have completed a few weeks of traditional base early winters)
SS–Antalope 285 FTP setting(heart rate and RPE correct for SS work)
Threshold-- Avalanche Spire, donner, etc 285 FTP setting
Ramptest–285 watts the last 18 months
VO2 max–Mills 270 watts(my HR max is 194 and I can’t push past 180 on the trainer usually)
Anerobic-Striped 325 watts
Anerobic- Spanish Needle 325 watts

I live in relativity flat area and spend a lot of time on the MTB. This very punchy riding I have adapted to and as long as little bits of recovery are sprinkled in I can put down the power. However I get to a hill and my power drops off very quickly.

I am about to plan my 2020 training and wondering where to start. I know this is a loaded question, but my power profile is a bit different. My goals are shorter XC races, fall CX, and general fitness for group rides. Right now I get passed on climbs by riders that I can pull away from easily every where else.

Perhaps a pre-season 4 or 6 week block of training focussing on VO2Max as a limiter?https://support.trainerroad.com/hc/en-us/articles/360001766351-Re-build-Off-season-or-Maintenance-for-Your-Fastest-Season

VO2Max efforts are always hard, and over several recent podcasts, Coach Chad has emphasized building up to this, starting with 30s/30s efforts (eg. Gendarme, Taylor), and gradually working up through 1 minute (eg. Baird), 2 minute, 2.5 minute and 3 minute intervals. Probably 2 VO2Max interval sessions per week is plenty.


I’d second the advice given by @mcalista

If you’re feeling able, look to add an additional VO2 session to your base training. Something simple like a 30/30. This will keep your systems ticking over whilst adding only a small amount TSS to your plan, helping to ensure your base work is quality.

I also really struggle with VO2 max or intervals 20% above FTP for 4+ minutes. These are the only workouts I fail on. It feels like I am drowning for air. I would say they are the hardest but probably give you the most gains. Key thing is to keep motivated - aim for more complete intervals on next go - and the gains will come.

When you do intervals above threshold in the 2 - 6 min range, do you do them in ERG or Resistance mode?

At and above threshold, using Resistance mode on the trainer can be really helpful. That way if you can’t hold the power the whole interval, you can still complete the interval and get a great training benefit. On the flipside, as you get stronger you may actually be able to exceed the prescribed power.

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Uh yeah! Cuz they are H A R D! Kudos to you for choosing to face the pain with old school classic 4min 120% intervals!

Do you fail on the first interval or on the last? If it’s on the last, that’s probably ok (see above); just do that last one until failure. If it’s the first then it could signal a couple different issues. Maybe you are going out too hard. Think of the entire session like one big interval. If you start off too hard you’ll never make it to the end. Could also mean you just aren’t ready for those long killer intervals yet. Tone it down to maybe 3min reps and let your body — legs + lungs — work it’s way up to 4min (or even 5min!).

Ha! Many a pro and amateur rider have said the exact same thing. At least you know you are operating at/near your VO2max!

The hardest, probably. The most gains…in dispute. The gains come from time spent working in your VO2max zone. Don’t forget, VO2max is a physiological function, not a power target. Intervals that push the heart rate to >90% max are the most effective, regardless of power. If you can’t finish your interval, then you aren’t getting that time in zone. Have a look at something like Rattlesnake or even a standard session with shorter intervals.

Good luck! :+1:

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In resistance mode (which I agree is much better) - so I still complete them but not to 100% target.

Great feedback. Thank you. When I fail - its usually after 75% completion - never at start. I have changed the training block to a shorter duration (which has helped a lot for recovery).

Rattlesnake looks horrific - I cannot wait !! :crazy_face::crazy_face: That is exactly the type of session I struggle with. Most of my recent training blocks have been BASE / BUILD to increase FTP. Since I started SUSTAINED BUILD - I have found these tough.

Notably missing from your list are the hardest threshold workouts like Mary Austin and Leconte. How are you doing on these? Can you complete them at your 285 FTP with zero backpedaling?

Also, workouts like Spanish Needle are aerobic rides disguised as anaerobic. How are you completing these? Any backpedaling, pauses in the workout, etc? Fast twitch guys find the first half of 15s microbursts to be downright easy. It’s the second half that gets you, especially in the later sets.

Also, how quickly are you reaching max power on these sprint bursts? It it nearly instantaneous or is ramping up over the 10+ seconds?

Lastly, having a discrepancy in energy systems shouldn’t be alarming. Reading your complete post, the thing that stands out most to me is the stagnant FTP.

We also have to ask, what fails — legs or lungs? Different problems, different solutions. Try dialling it down to 118% for your 4min intervals, see how that goes. VO2 intervals are a bit trial and error so don’t be scared to play around a bit.

It’s not really. I mean it’s hard but power is declining and it’s an on/off interval so hopefully you can use both those factors to help you push through, physically and psychologically. The hardest part for me was the 1min hard start; you really have to keep hammering that first minute in order get into VO2max zone, it’s all downhill from there.

That’s normal (the opposite is also normal). The good thing with high end work is that it develops quickly, you should be flying in a few weeks with consistent training.


Good question. When i started my body was strong but i didnt have lung capacity. Now my lungs have overtaken my body. Ive started p90x focusing on legs and back with ab workout. Its a lot of core which is where i think im weak right now. This should help a lot.

Looks like your threshold is really, really close to your VO2max. For instance, it’s interesting that you really struggled with Elephants+4, which is basically 6 minute intervals at 108%, an basically totally nailed Stromlo +3, which is 6 minute intervals at 102%.

On the other hand, looks like the 27oct Elephants+4 was a much better effort…so maybe the previous day’s Tray Mountain effort caused you to bring a lot more residual fatigue into the most recent Elephants+4 attempt.

Anyhow, Elephants+4 is a tough workout, apparently. If I look at the last 20 or so attempts at that workout seems like at least half of those attempts show some sign of cutting the workout short in some fashion.

My advice? Import that workout into WorkoutCreator and add an extra 120 seconds of recovery between each interval. I’d much rather see you accumulate the extra time at the prescribed wattage with extra recovery between sets. It’s more important to get the time under tension than it is to pack the intervals into a certain amount of time.


That’s very interesting. I’m basically always hitting that during my workouts unless it’s sweetspot-work. Recently did Mills and I see that I hit 90% about halfway through the 2 minute intervals. That should mean that I’m getting the benefit of the workout right?

Another thing to think about could be your setup and I didn’t see anyone ask when skimming the other replies. Are you on a smart trainer or virtual power? I train with a fluid turbo trainer at home and a bike with a power meter when I’m at work, the virtual power really wanders from reality (it certainly feels like that) in the VO2 max arena.

I really used to struggle with VO2 max until I started training with a power meter at work and now I have to have two different thresholds to have the right baseline for a workout but I try and manage it so that on a ride at home I do SS to threshold where I feel it is more accurate. I do VO2 max etc at work.

Also maybe reset to the first introduction Chad gives you, start in 30 seconds blocks and build it up again.

Thanks for the reply!

I can complete workouts like Mary Austin at 285 however I am pushing very hard and need a few mellow days after. However that’s the way I should feel if doing these correctly?

Regarding Spanish Needle, that’s exactly how I feel I can easy crush the first half of each micro burst, but it’s the last half that gasses me. As long as I am somewhat fresh I can always complete full Spanish Needle workout much above my tested FTP although it’s far from easy. Actuactly the first time I started using TR was back in summer 2017 and I had no idea what I was doing . It was a rainy summer and I was only using TR to build short power. I only completed the same workout twice a week(Striped). I couldn’t figure out how to use the smart trainer for an FTP test so I started at around 250FTP and ended up peaking doing Striped at 330w FTP setting. This was before I ever listened to the podcast and I use to think, hey I can complete this as 330 so I must have a 330w FTP. Learned really quick that winter when

started SS MV1 that was not the case, lol!

Also, I do think I am a fast twitch guy as I
run a PM on my MTB and even on a long 5-8 hour trail ride with friends I am the only guy in the group who can put out 1000w bursts with ease. I think the punchy flat and technical MTB that I ride a lot has formed me into a fast twitch guy.

The smart trainer I have set to 0 second power smoothing and it’s pretty fast to build up power. Maybe 2-3 seconds and it’s close to target.

Regarding the stagnate FTP, I have thought about more of a polarized approach after a through base plan. Before build spend 6-8 weeks with long base rides and one hard threshold or longer VO2 workout per week. 30,30’s allow me to cheat too much and rely on my fast twitch. Like others have said here a proper block of 4 min VO2 is what I need maybe?

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Yup. It usually takes ~1min to move the system into VO2max territory. On the first interval, anyway. The rests should be short enough that each subsequent interval takes less and less time to achieve VO2max, thus giving you more time in zone.

This is why with a workout like Rattlesnake, with its 1min @140% hard start, delivers you to that >90% VO2max HR and never lets you fully recover, thus giving you a lot more time in zone than a classic interval workout.

Do an on/off workout like Gendarme and see how your HR reacts to that. It’ll be a clue as to the best type of VO2max workouts for your specific physiology.


You know it sounds like you just have a ton of mental fortitude and are absolutely killing it on a lot of these workouts. Like you’re testing and performing higher than other riders with similar fitness, but on the longer VO2s you’re hitting your actual physical limiter.

Yes, I think a nice big chunk of VO2 workouts will take you to the next level, with an emphasis on those longer blocks, starting with 2 min and going up to 4 min.

I’m also fast twitch (semi-fast twitch?). I was a 400m runner in school. Not amazing, but well above average. I think we’re able to recruit our fast twitch fibers and large anaerobic power bank to muscle through the SS and FTP workouts. This method doesn’t work at 120-130% FTP. The burn becomes insurmountable. When I do those workouts, high cadence is key and I also concentrate a lot on breathing, especially powerful exhales. YMMV.

Good luck!

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Oh I did Gendarme +8 as a part of my speciality this year. Took me until the end of the third set of intervals before reaching 90%. So I guess these sprint-workouts don’t cut it. :cry: Sad. I really enjoy short sprint workouts at high power. Does this mean I have to do longer VO2Max-intervals? I really really don’t enjoy those. :grimacing: Bluebell looks the same as Gendarme. :frowning: Taylor -2 not even hitting 90%. Dade +2 hit the 90% after about a minute each interval.

That’s due to having either fast or slow VO2 kinetics. Looks like you have slow (I do too; Sleeping Beauty never got my HR to 90%) so those longer steady state intervals are going to be more beneficial for training your VO2max capabilities. Sorry about that.

I really do recommend experimenting with Rattlesnake at least once. It’s got the gross 140% 1min start and then it’s all declining power 30/30s; so it’s the style you enjoy but hopefully in a way which trains your VO2 powers.

Or search for on/off workouts with longer work periods and shorter rest periods (e.g. 45/15, 60/20 etc).


It’s very strange. When I do threshold work my HR is usually very fast to respond I get to 90% within 2 minutes. Don’t know how/if they’re connected but I’m still figuring out my body and fitness since I started training seriously late 2017.

I did a lot of 4x8min/3min rbi @ about 107% in early 2018 and that was brutal but it got my HR up real fast.

I have Spencer +2 waiting on Tuesday next week and I can’t say that I’m looking forward to it. 120% for 3 whole minutes. :face_vomiting: