How to improve ... when NOT improving ... 53 male

I’m very hesitant to ask this as I fear it will spiral into all kinds of who knows what but here we go.

I’m not seeing improvements and I am doing TR to improve, in fact my performance has dropped (but I’d rather not focus on the drop)

My perspective is that IF I do say 6 weeks of training Then I should see an improvement both physically to a degree as well as psychologically (feeling stronger).

Let’s remove the AMOUNT of improvement but just say a bit of improvement any improvement would be reasonable to expect.
If I do 6 weeks of working out I think some improvement would be certain … some responses might be … staying at the same place is an improvement at your age …

Assume I eat fairly healthy / I sleep fairly well / I am 6’1 and 180 lbs … so not obese but not super thin … I don’t drink much / etc …

I’m confused how doing say 3-5 rides a week for 6 weeks / completing several blocks of base/sweet spot etc … and I am actually at same spot even worse ??? over a year of following plans moderately

Also, the workouts I find to be legit, they are challenging and enjoyable and somehow mr. chad seems to know exactly the limits to push … I would even say for me that they seem to be just hard enough that I have to focus on lifestyle choices so I can finish the blocks … so lots of positives outside of performance gains

Any perspective by people who actually suck … all you genetic freaks or 4.0 watt whatever … congratulations but your input might not really relate to old tired guys …

For argument sake : If I do two blocks of Sweet Spot, take care of myself as much as busy life allows, it’s confusing why I’m not really improving, ?

I love TR, it is like my own personal shrink, doing the workouts helps my mood, and helps with structure for me, but performance improvement is frustrating but maybe that’s just unrealistic expectations.

Respectfully,
d

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Assuming you have the fueling, rest, recovery right… Here are some training related questions that may help hone in on your issue.

How did the Ramp/FTP testing go?

  • Did you feel you got accurate values that translated into proper training zones?

Are you tracking your gains/losses with FTP or any other values?

  • Many times we gain in areas other than pure FTP. We may see improvement in Time To Exhaustion, or gains in fitness at different levels than FTP.

Can you be more specific about how you feel before, during and after the workouts?

  • Are you being challenged too much, too little?

What is your prior experience with structured training?

  • Do you have experience and know how an Endurance, Tempo, Sweet Spot, VO2 Max, etc. workout “should feel”?
  • This matters in light of making sure you have a correct FTP value, with the intent of setting your training zones for the workouts appropriate to your current fitness at that time.
  • Are you doing notably different efforts inside / outside with this training compared to prior experience? (goes towards seeing if you have the appropriate training load / volume… not too much, not too little)
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Agree with Chad McNeese. Plus a couple of possibilities that Chad did not mention are that

  1. You could be at a plateau. These are fairly common. There are ways to break through the plateau and hit new highs. A “kitchen sink” ride is one example.
  2. You could be nearing your genetic potential. If you’re been training for awhile, you might not experience any significant jumps in FTP any more. It could take an entire year to get a 5 watt bump.
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Hi Mr. Chad,
Thank you for responding. I have to say that I have spent quite a bit of time enjoying your workouts on TR and am actually a little amazed at how you know how to push my limits during the workouts… the TR experience is very satisfying and in a way completely helps me with mood / and general health. so thank you.

• In terms of stress, I feel like you are in my head knowing when to push and when to back off. Especially the Sweet spot workouts they seem to be perfect amount of pushing. After I do an FTP test I just follow the workouts … I will admit that I have considered doing two weeks on and 1 week recovery and then 2 weeks on …etc … but I’m pushing myself to try and hit your goals and I think I am a bit better at surviving an entire block, (if work allows)… so that getting through a block isn’t as challenging as when I first started …

I find the build phase to be VERY difficult … I was considering backing off plans and focus on strength training especially core and leg … and maybe that is where I need to focus a bit. Back off Medium TR plans go to Low TR plan and hit the gym a lot more … it’s tricky because TR really really helps my mood and generally I’m just a happier person when I’m doing my TR workouts … (you’re more like my shrink… ha)… so gym workouts are annoying b/c I don’t have time to fit TR in as much.

I realize that the whole FTP thing is “a thing” but I’m not obsessed with the number … I personally don’t race and want to avoid getting all invested emotionally in FTP … although I admit I would like to achieve some fitness … some strength on the bike … while not getting sucked into FTP obsession … I don’t have a smart trainer nor a power meter (I use a KK with their virtual thing … I want the experience to be a priority not all the numbers and tech)

I think your workouts are challenging, as I mentioned your sweet spot is fairly comfortable but your build workouts are wicked and I struggle to hit those and they take a lot out of me …

I was an athlete growing up (3 sport) so I’m fairly in tune with my body … I would say on a scale of 1 to 5 … I’m an easy 3 … mid pack performer … I think that is a little bit why I asked the question because in other activities … if I put my head down and work on that 3-5 times a week I’m gonna improve and I’m gonna get fairly good … cycling is HARD to improve compared to other experiences I’ve had … but even as a general question … and observation … cycling improvement is tough it seems …

I always do the 20min FTP test, I don’t do the Ramp test … maybe I should do that but I feel like the 20min test is a bit more accurate for me to gauge my perceived fitness … and honestly I like the struggle of the 20 min test … it gives me the pain and struggle that feels like an accomplishment at the end …

In general I’d say I’m Mr. Average … not too good / not too bad / … but I think I am putting in a bit of work and I kinda wish I was hitting some improvement … but again my family loves TR for how it helps my mood … ha … joke is if I’m grumpy my partner will tell me you need to go ride on trainer.

Your workouts are NOT too easy … at least for me … and I feel a sense of accomplishment when I finish them …

Thank you so much for taking the time to respond … not sure how you have the time …

by the way I find your discussions on the science of the body very interesting … its cool to learn about that stuff…

Ideally others would find my experience to parallel theirs and your perspective would help out all us Average Joes … and in a way maybe it’s just unrealistic perspective on how to improve … so thank you for your insight …

Cheers,
d

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Hi Nate,
What is a “kitchen sink” ride?
Thank you for taking the time to respond. You guys are awesome!!

There has been some really good advice here to try and explain what might be going on. I don’t think I saw you mention or anyone else ask about consistency. That’s a major thing especially with the amount you ride.

You mentioned no smart trainer or a power meter. You’re using a KK trainer using virtual power. Tire pressure matters with that I believe so if not set the same every time it could be off, plus it’s not “real” power so there could be other factors.

I know almost everyone wants to see improvement, but since you mentioned you’re not racing and you find the workouts your way to destress then the best thing I can say is to enjoy the journey. I went almost all of last year without seeing any real ftp gains and only recently have I noticed it going up. I just kept it consistent, enjoyed the training, and tried not to worry about have the power number always go up.

Good luck and hope that helps.

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5 TR rides per week at 53? Sounds like over training. Also, how long have you been doing this? If it is just 6 weeks, give it more time.

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Hi,
Thank you for replying.

If we consider this say a case study, b/c I do think there are others out there like me,

My cycling background is; 10 years of spinning classes, riding a trainer, triathlon, average rider.
3 days a week riding is NOT a problem and makes me grumpy if I don’t do more … 4 and I’m getting happy …

I’ve been doing TR since 2018

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Hi,
Thank you for responding.

Technical issues : I have a separate tire gauge 100psi every time and I calibrate.

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I still need to read your full post, but have to clear something first.

I am NOT Chad Timmerman (TrainerRoad’s Head Coach). I’m just an active forum member and big fan of TrainerRoad. I try to help here whenever I can. #TheOtherChad :wink:

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Ok, you mention the idea of changing the work / recovery week pattern. As I said, I’m not The Coach, but have crafted and option for Sweet Spot Base timing that is different than the TR default. In spired by one from The Nate, I made a 4:1, 3:1, 3:1 pattern that I have use last year and half way through my base this year.

At 46 yo, and following Mid volume for the 5th season of TR, I find this much easier to follow and nail the workouts more consistently. Check it out if you plan to do another Base, it might work for you as well.

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You also mention difficulty in Build, which is a real deal, since it is often the toughest phase. You also said you want to stay closer to Mid volume.

One option to consider would be to follow Low volume instead, for 3 set workouts per week. Then you can manually add 1 or 2 other workouts as you see fit. It might be appropriate to add the shorter and easier workouts like Taku, Pettit and such.

All that is mentioned with the possibility that you are overtraining now, without enough recovery to really hit the hard workouts. Totally guessing and may be off. But I know that I am seeing more consistent gains from taking small bites that I can nail, and adding easy stuff when I know I can handle more.

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Build is a beast. I’m 47 (been on TR since last October, no previous structured training but I ride a fair bit) & in the second half of sustained power build mid volume & Palisade shattered me today. I had a good vo2max workout Monday, Wednesday was Stromlo +3 which I killed, yesterday Beech & Palisade today. I shut it down & changed the rest of the years training to low volume. I need more rest & psychologically just don’t want to be suffering so much.

I’ve seen an 11% improvement in FTP over base & half of build. I’ll take it. Definitely able to ride harder for longer outside too, so I’m still improving. I’ll likely add an endurance ride or two until I’m riding outside regularly again at which point I’ll be pedaling 6 days a week, most likely. In the mean time, I’m hoping a bit more recovery will help get my head back where it needs to be to nail the 3 TR workouts I’ll be doing each week.

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The virtual power could be a big issue. I have a friend who has a 100 watt FTP on TR because of his virtual power setup. He was happy to learn that his FTP is 200+ when I told him we were doing 150 watts just soft pedaling along on a group ride.

Do you ever ride outside? I benchmark myself on Strava segments and comparing myself to people in my club. I can easily see if I’m improving and who in our group is getting faster or slower.

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Thank you for replying …
I like your idea a lot of using Strava as a way to see what is happening … it makes sense … I got a little caught up in TR training … on the one hand we have to do our FTP to set our training baseline … but it sounds much more fun to evaluate one against an actual segment and others on Strava … thank you for the tip …

ETM,
Question? How are your real world rides ?
Are you feeling stronger, faster, better?

I am 6’ 3”, 225lbs.

In my training I am no longer focused on raising FTP, but improving endurance and increasing cadence so the gains I’m achieving are not well represented by FTP changes.

I and doing 3-5 rides per week and feeling pretty beat overall. 14 weeks total, 1/2 way through strength build. And doing strength training and mobility weekly too. And I did Tour de Zwift on top of my TR workouts.

I am squarely in the over training zone. I probably need 2 weeks of taper and reduction to feel strong again. Rest seems to always help me feel strong again.

Think about taking a week with almost no intensity. Recovery rides only, stretching, walking.

Take a break.

M.

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I’ve been thinking about training schedules that plan for more super compensation and adaptation. We usually think in 4-5-6 week blocks of training and many of us are loath to take a rest week. Over the course of a training block we get slower. The rest period is when we get faster through super compensation.

I read about a fast master age grouper who qualifies for Kona that does 1 week on / 1 week easy. I probably do 4 to 6 weeks before I start feeling tired and then am forced to rest. I think I might improve at a greater rate if I tried 2 week hard / 1 week easy or at the maximum 3 hard / 1 easy.

I had an unintended peak in January. I did my year end test in November - FTP 275 watts - rode at reduced volume in December - took xmas week off and then was sick new years week. Two weeks after being back on the bike I had a Strava KOM and three top 10s on climbs. WKO5 was estimating a 290 FTP and I felt like I had it.

Then I started base miles and did the following hours 6-9-11-12-13. I was cooked by that last week. This week was supposed to be an easy week and I’ve done 8 hours. I didn’t feel on form on today’s group ride so I probably still need more rest.

Long story short, I’m wondering if I’ll get more improvement on 2:1 or 3:1 blocks.

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I can relate a bit…a little bit of a different scenario for me. I’m 52 and have been racing competitively for about 10 years, been using trainerroad since 2013. The ages of 47 thru 50 were great for me, I was about 160 lbs at 5-11 with an FTP of 308…was riding great and winning CAT 4 races and placing at local CAT 1 MTB races. Since then I have developed some arthritis in my knees and I also took a really hard crash in 2016 at a race and broke my collarbone, scapula, 5 ribs, and bruised a lung…Its been downhill from there, now I am struggling to keep my losses to a minimum. My FTP has dropped to 248 and my weight has climbed to 170. Basically I am trying to say that at our age it is hard to improve, you just have to take whatever you can get.

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Tire pressure does matter, yes. TR also has the ability to do a spindown test, and you should do it after a 5-10 min warmup before every ride @EveryThirtyMins. That said, the data is pretty darn accurate, which is really cool:

I just watched this … Functional Threshold Power: Does It Really Matter?


(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfGsUFw5PhE)

all this is a bit more nuanced which makes a lot of sense … slowtwitch vs. fast twitch etc …

interesting …