Help! I'm a newbie and need some guidance

Hi folks!

background: I’m 42y, male and new to road cycling. I am new to endurance sports overall. I used to play basketball over 20y ago, messed up my kneed and ankles, stopped sports altogether and did a few years of dedicated strength training, which I stopped a few years ago due to lingering injuries resulting from over-training.

Several road-cycling friends persuaded me to take of road-cycling given the low impact to joints etc. So… I started on Nov 11, 2019.

At first I did a few outdoor rides, and joined the group rides of my friends which as a newbie were pretty tough. I also monitored my Strava fitness and fatigue levels. Fitness was quickly increasing, but fatigue even more. My Garmin was indicating my training was unproductive as well. Being afraid of over-training, I backed off the outdoor rides altogether as I felt I could not really control the effort to slowly build up an endurance base.

I got myself a smart trainer which came with a 1 month Zwift trial. I wanted to make sure to take a structured approach to my training moving forward, so I picked a 6w FTP builder program on Zwift to get me going.
In January, I joined 2 more outdoor group rides. The first one was a 115km ride (basically 6 weeks after I did my first ride on a road bike) which went pretty well, the second one was only 75km but a lot tougher as there were several steep climbs on the way, even one with a max gradient of 18%, which to my surprise went well too.

During this time, I saw a better balance between fitness and fatigue, giving me more confidence that I was progressing nicely. My Garmin showed some good progress as well, moving from overreaching/unproductive, to maintaining, productive, and some peaking near the end of the FTP builder program.

In the meantime, I tried to figure out what to do after the Zwift FTP builder, and after reading many reviews etc, I decided to give TrainerRoad a go. I selected the mid volume SSB1 to start. I’m in week three now and today I just did the Monitor+1. I’m finding the sessions fun and moderately hard so far. Anyway, they are fun to do, and everyday I look forward to getting a ride done, which makes the rest days not so fun (I do know that the session is the stimulus and the rest the time to recover and have your body adapt to it).

I’m not sure if this is relevant to any of this - ignore if not - I lost about 9kg since Nov 11 as well. I changed my diet a bit to focus more on whole foods etc, but still getting in roughly the same amount of calories as before. I am now down to 84kg. I measure 187cm.

Prior to TR, my weekly mileage, TSS, fitness level in Strava etc were gradually increasing, while I think I kept my recovery under control. Since starting TR, my weekly TSS has gone down, my fitness level in Strava is going down, my Garmin tells me my training is unproductive…

TR has me doing a lot of speed pedaling drills and I can now average +100rpm for an hour and longer without too much difficulty. High speed for me is now around 120rpm. This obviously makes your heart work harder, so my avg HR has gone up relative to the Wattage I produce.
Often, when starting my TR sessions, my Garmin tells me that my Performance Condition is +3 or higher, but as soon as I start increasing my cadence, it starts dropping, sometimes even to -6 by the end of the ride.

Today, I happened to find out about Xert. I pulled in all my Strava rides. Xert analysed them and pretty much showed a decline in overall fitness, and power levels as well :-S.

I’m concerned about all the signals telling me that my FTP, or estimated FTP, my fitness levels are all declining since starting TR.

I’m thinking that perhaps the high cadence drills with increased HR/power ratio is messing with these stats?
Am I really losing fitness? Am I really losing power?
Should I be worried about the drop in weekly TSS etc by following the mid volume SSB? Should I switch to a high volume SSB plan? Should I add an outdoor ride in the weekend (which is likely going to happen with the weather getting better and the club group rides starting)?

My goal is really to make continued progress. I know this will take time (years). I know my focus right now is on building a large endurance base which I can build on. I’m just not sure what to expect and what to make of all this data etc.

Please help!

My Strava account with all my rides: https://www.strava.com/athletes/45751757

This right here is the thing to really focus on. And you’re doing great! It’s a long game, don’t sweat the details too much and focus on consistency.

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Breathe, and ignore the numbers, at least for now.

Having been down a similar road as you, I think the essential thing is to solidify cycling as a fixture in your weekly schedule. That will set you up for the long-term changes you articulate. It sounds like you’re already making great gains, and have found something that keeps you motivated to get on the bike several times a week. That’s huge. Now cultivate your own sense of whether you’re getting “more fit” (and what this means to you), and whether a particular weekly workload is making you “fatigued” (while also figuring out what this means to you). At best, numbers and data help give you some approximate metrics to track these concepts, but the ultimate “truth” of how you’re responding to training lies in you: can you take a hill faster than a month ago? can you extend a ride longer than you used to? do you feel less wrecked the day after a hard ride or workout than you used to?

FWIW: my experience with Xert has been one of “interesting, but not useful.” They have a model of estimating your capabilities, but this same model also drives its view of how your workouts change those capabilities over time. I never see an FTP bump in Xert unless I do a complete crusher of a workout or ride, despite seeing clear improvements in my demonstrated capabilities.

2 Likes

I started trainer road in November, garmin and Strava both say I’m detraining, or unproductive. I was a bit concerned at first but I don’t think it really matters too much. I know I’m getting better, both ftp tests have revealed good results and I feel great, The true test will be getting out on some group rides and training crits so I can see how much fitness I gained (or lost).

I know my strength is a bit down, but it should be, I used to primarily mtb, so my strength is short, high intensity efforts. But, after two blocks of sweet spot build, I would expect to lose some of that punchy power, but I most definitely improved on my sustained power, no doubt about it. Now I’m moving on to the strength phase and will undoubtedly gain back the strength I lost rather quickly, and gain some more as well.

I wouldn’t sweat it too much, unless you’re clearly getting slower or losing power.
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I have been riding for years. Started triathlon 4 years ago. So far this season, my FTP has not changed – but I can tell overall that my fitness is deeper than previously. Meaning I can hold the power on the bike, and the speed on the run, longer than previously. My swim is there as well.

Don’t get too far in the weeds. Trust the process. Brave soul doing midvolume. Wish I had time for that.

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My two cents below.

More general advice, just pick something and be consistent.

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So, I went on a 105km group ride today. We rode to a 55km event. I managed to ride along with the ‘A-riders’, averaging around 32kph with strong headwinds. After uploading the rides to Strava, TrainingPeaks and Xert, I got a 14W FTP increase. My entire power curve moved up as well. Looks like the training is definitely working!

Thanks for all the great feedback, folks! This was very helpful!