Why is my Workout RPE is lower than Racing efforts

Hello all.
I have been training with TR now for around 6 months and have seen my FTP go from 275 watts to currently 319. I am 32 and have gone from 322lbs down to the current 210lbs over the last year. I have been cycling for about 3 years now, mainly MTb, but just recently started taking it seriously. I also started doing Drop Rides this year with the local group on the road and will start racing Crits this next season if they happen. I just had my first MTB race this last weekend and was able to take 5th place overall with my teammate on a relay-style race.

I am in my Second week of Build with a modified low volume plan, “Texas fall weather” I tend to shift things around as needed, 70 and sunny makes it hard to sit inside. I have noticed an increase in the intensity of the V02 max efforts lately, But why is it when I do the V02 efforts on the trainer my HR stays around 150-155 and my RPE is high, but I really feel it in my legs more than I do my breathing. When I race, or do the drop ride, my HR stays around 160 the entire time, and often efforts where your seeing cross-eyed HR is 180+ and tung is hanging out, but still manage to get back on the paceline, legs are burning but usually not as bad as they do when I’m on the indoor trainer. Is this due to the constant resistance while pedaling on the trainer vs outdoor where the efforts are high surges followed by coasting or lighter pedaling repeated? Or am I just not pushing hard enough during my Ramp test and I’m working at a lower FTP? I have seen rides over an hour with my Avg power higher than my FTP. I use a Tacx Neo Bike for indoor training and I use a Stages single-sided power meter, so I just chalked this minor delta up to the difference in power meters. But after noticing the difference in how I feel I can’t help but wonder.
I know in the last podcast chad said he wants training to be harder than any race, and that is simply not the case for me, and I’m wondering what do I need to change. My workouts are plenty hard, but I’m wondering if they are hard enough… I don’t leave them with legs cramping and eyes crossed like I do when I’m riding with a group outside.

What’s the duration of these VO2 efforts? 30/30s, 3 min?

Bad comparison. Have you tried doing a TR VO2 workout outside? That would tell you a lot more than trying to compare a workout to racing / drop rides.

% FTP works great for threshold and below. Efforts above FTP like VO2max or anaerobic or sprinting really should be done using what you can do for short efforts, and not on % of FTP. Also, TR generally goes for higher reps on VO2 workouts. Personally I appear to have better results doing fewer reps (possibly due to age/stimulus/recovery) and at higher power (due to having high power on short efforts).

I have not done 3min yet, my last one that i did was 2.5 min rounds.

I have not done any outdoor workouts. I don’t have terrain that would yield good results, and when I got outside its either a group ride or I’m on my MTB, and I’m just looking to have fun at that time,

I know with the workouts they are also going for repeatability, and the efforts outside that I have done are not necessarily repeatable. I just notice that it’s a completely different feeling. I am seeing improvement, I’m just questioning if the indoor workouts hard enough? I don’t have issues failing them, and often increase the intensity on shorter higher intensity levels. Sweet spot/threshold is a different story, that is typically all I want, I do not adjust the intensity on those work outs.

FWIW I’ve ridden a bike in Fort Worth, El Paso, and Austin, and can honestly say would have no issues executing workouts outside. I live in the Central Valley of CA, and its pancake flat and windy and perfect for almost all my workouts.

like I said, using FTP is great for setting training intensity on sweet spot, threshold, and aerobic endurance.

For short/hard efforts like vo2max or anaerobic, that is very individual and you should not be surprised by having to change % intensity in TR app. Some will need to adjust down, and some will need to adjust up, and some will find it just right.

I would say a 44W / 16% increase in FTP in 6 months is a good sign that the TR workouts are hard enough to be doing their job! Nice job.

Racing and drop rides are just hard. Power tends to be much spikier which isn’t always reflected very well in NP or AP. And instead of pushing to a target wattage, you’re often pushing to your limit and have a high motivation to do so - digging deep to hang onto the group over a punchy climb is much better incentive for me than hitting a particular number because Chad tells me to. And if you’re new to those kind of rides you’re probably not being as smooth and efficient as you could be either - maybe spiking your power too much when closing a gap, or not cornering as well as the more experienced riders and having to accelerate more out of turns.

I am definitely not smooth as the more experienced riders… and I have paid the price multiple times! lol,

I agree that TR is doing its job, I’m not denying that one bit, and I’m very pleased with my gains. I was just wondering cause I heard Chad say on the last podcast that he wants the training to be hard! and it should be your hardest stress., and when he said that I was like I can not say that. I have gone much deeper outside of my workouts.

You nailed it in one of your earlier posts - it’s supposed to be hard, but it’s also supposed to be repeatable. No good going so hard that you have to spend 2-3 days recovering or only doing z1-2 rides! And I’ve certainly done group rides and races that are like that. Definitely still worth doing those rides, there’s a lot of benefit to be had from them. You just can’t do them multiple times a week and still expect to be able to follow a TR plan. Or at least not until you’re strong and/or experienced enough to be able to do those rides and survive (or be OK with being dropped) without having to squeeze every last watt out of your legs!

I would normally say if you have 1hr avg power outside is higher than your estimated FTP, its time to raise that FTP! But if you’re using different devices, can you throw the bike with the stages PM on the trainer, dual record a workout and see if there are any differences? Then at least you’d know if outside is x% higher/lower or if they are the same its time to bump up that FTP.

Re: RPE differences, it could also be that outdoors you have more external motivational sources (people around you, trying to hang with the group, etc.) that results in lower RPE compared to a similar effort on the trainer. As you also mention if you’re doing ERG mode on the trainer the power is pretty constant and unrelenting where outside you can get these micro-recoveries that might make it feel easier. Some might also depend on your ‘entertainment’ situation while on the trainer and how engaging / motivating it is.

As others have mentioned, 120% for VO2max is more like a starting place and needs to be tuned to your situation. I have to turn it down a little bit. You might need to go up. My self-assessment for shorter (2-3min) VO2 intervals is about 2min in I should feel like death, like my legs are both going to explode or tear in half and there is 0 chance I can get through the last minute, and somehow get through the last minute. And do that 5-6 times. If that is the case, the intensity is about right.

Last but not least, that is great progress! I hope you are proud of yourself for that kind of progression in 6-12 months. I’ve been riding for 15+ years and I find these kinds of stories and progressions to be really inspiring.

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Yea my outdoor RPE is higher than my indoor RPE, im opposite of what most people say. that’s the problem I have. I just did a VO2/ Anerboic ride today and noticed yet again, my HR does not get over 160, and I could carry on a conversation if needed. Is the idea of these Vo2 work outs to stress your breathing rate? Cuase i feel it in my legs, but i wouldn’t say its awful. I would consider myself to be very explosive, I have a peak power up around 2k, watts, so putting down 500-600 watts for the short term doesn’t hurt, I also noticed I was seeing my biggest gains doing sweet spot, and it hurt so much more for me.

I will bump the intensity up next time and see what i need to make it hurt. But i think im going to just finish this block of Build, then go back to Sweet spot for the off season.