VO2max Struggles

I’m finding that I struggle with VO2max intervals. Even looking back at when I had a coach, it was always my most hated workout because I couldn’t ever complete them as prescribed. I have no problem hitting other workouts, threshold, over/unders, anaerobic and short high power intervals… All seem easy compared to 3 minutes at VO2max. Obviously, I keep trying, but it’s been years. What am I doing wrong or what can I do to change this?

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sounds like you are doing them right! :rofl:



Sharing some data may be helpful to others, as well as describing your struggle in greater detail.

I did some VO2 this past week and struggled, then I reflected on days I used to do 3 min multiple times over @ 40+watts than I did this week. So you can get there.

General tips

  • Improving is about time in zone (moreso than watts)
  • Understand your vo2 max zone by watts, find a workout and aim for the bottom of that zone
  • You’ll want start to increase the time of intervals and the number of intervals you can do - but the important part is to get your HR up and stay in that high zone for as long as you can
  • Go from 1 min (or even less) to 2, to 3 min intervals at that wattage. Even if you get 2 of 3 done, keep at it because the deeper you go into that 3rd interval the more you are improving.
  • Go back down to one min, add 10 watts and start again, increasing more intervals in a work out, then adding more time.

3 min on, 3 min off where my jam back in the day


Completely feel your pain, VO2 puts me in a world of hurt compared to similar IF over unders

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i get this. My vo2 is relatively low. Ive found that i can do 1 minute intervals all dat long with no issues at all… i even enjoy them. 2 minutes i can get through, 2.5minute i can limp through but 3 minute intervals at 120% will either lower my immune system enough for me to get sick with the latest bug the little one brings home from nursery or puts me in a dark hole for the rest of the week. I now do 3 minute intervals at 110%… as said earlier, time in zone is more important that watts. Finally, i do all of my Vo2 intervals as outdoor rides (same bike with PM, i use power match indoors so all good) because i find them so much easier outside…


a good 3 min stretch that has a hill at the end can be awesome for these - good tip!


Lower the power target until you can just barely achieve the workout. That will be perfect for you.

VO2max is a rate of oxygen consumption…not a power number. If you can achieve a rate of oxygen consumption that is high enough to achieve training adaptation at a lower power number, well, that’s just the rider you are.


Have you tried a massive fan … not joking. Get too hot and you body will natural limit your effort



You do not have to do all the efforts on prescribed power zone. Just simply rip every effort as hard as you can. Even if the later efforts would be on lower side you will get benefits. If you are doing them TR way, 120% is not for everyone - it is another bell curve prescription. Do them in resistance/level mode and go as hard as you can.

And remember they are painful. They should not be hard. They should be done on the verge of failure. You should be in massive pain, fighting for your life efforts. You will feel destroyed after every workout, this is the way they work.


Thanks for the info!

Maybe the engineer in me is overanalyzing things. I was really frustrated by yesterday’s Elephant +4 workout which is “low” VO2max so having to lower the power made me really mad.

Below are a few examples of what I am seeing. Maybe I just coincidentally have bad days on VO2 days, or maybe it’s in my head. For some reason I couldn’t complete Baird +6 but up it a little in Bashful+6 and I completed it like a champ.

Yup! Fan is ripping. Can’t even survive an easy ride without one. :hot_face:

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without even looking deeper I see

6 min vo2max, and two +6 workouts. EVERYONE HERE should be on the struggle bus on these. my word!

Now - actually looking at these:

The best looking interval in the 6 min was the 4th one. your HR slowly went up - power seems steady. You suffered. Go do that again and get through 1-4 cleanly and there will be improvement.

I failed at Bashful +2 this week:

Went and did Bashful -1 as a make up:

For your +6’ers, try something lower…you will get improvement but remember - these suck on purpose!


I fear for my life when I see 4+ minute Vo2max intervals on my calendar.

I’ll usually do a couple perfect then break them into chunks. 2 minutes in zone quick 20-30 second break then finish strong in zone the last 2 minutes.


@tmarieg3 other things to consider…only you know the answers…

Is it possible ramp test over-estimates your FTP? This was sure the case for me. But for me I could always do VO2max stuff…just struggled with extended sweetspot or threshold work. Kaweah, for instance, would make me tremble.

Make sure you’re eating enough before and during the workout. You probably are but just throwing this out there. If nutrition were the problem you’d have trouble with ALL long intervals! :smiley: Threshold, sweet spot, VO2max, whatever. As the efforts got longer you’d struggle regardless of workrate.

So, two things that probably aren’t the issue but just in case…some additional things for you to think about.

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Oddly I had the same issue but in reverse. I’m yet to complete Bashful +6, but I can complete Baird +6.

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Thanks! That makes me feel a bit better. I know I should suffer but I guess I struggle with feeling like a failure when I don’t complete a workout as planned.

Somehow I didn’t have a problem with Bashful +6 but the other 2 killed me. :woman_shrugging:t2:

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@tmarieg3 my engineering mind has observed the following over 5 years:

  • “workout success” should be judged by the level of stimulus YOU need to drive adaptations (and not completion rate of the one-size-fits-all workout as defined by TR)
  • power targets are highly individual for vo2max, anaerobic, and sprint workouts
  • ultimately the level of stimulus you require will be dictated by many factors: training age, actual age, current fitness, ability to recover, and other life stresses
  • properly executed vo2max efforts are very very hard
  • counterintuitively I found doing more zone2 / aerobic endurance, and less interval work, has made vo2max efforts easier
  • depending on your training age and physiology and current fitness, a workout like Elephants could be a success with only 2 intervals, or 3 intervals, or … It all comes back to how much stimulus YOU need
  • your hardest workouts should be scheduled after a day or two off

Without looking at big picture, you can’t say anything about results from Bashful +6 and Baird +6.

Also personal preference given what I wrote above - turn off auto-pause and stop trying to complete all intervals. Your heart rate appears to show a lot of pauses and restarts.


Thanks for the advice! You are correct, the intervals I struggled had pauses in them.

I will also try to change my mindset in regards to success.

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There are no easy answers, only what is right for you. One of the goals of TrainerRoad’s upcoming Adaptive Training is to make it easier to dial in what is right workout level for you, and once available will help. I still see a lot of vo2 and anaerobic workouts in the TR library that are too heavy on the number of intervals for myself, within the context of a ~8 hour/week target. Not sure what TR is planning to do with respect to minimum effective dose in regards to the number of vo2max intervals, as hammering out a large number of intervals seems to be part of the TR ethos when I look at the default plans.