Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Help! My FTP Won't Go Up

Level 1 USAC Coach and Master/Elite Coach with Peaks Coaching Group

You’ve purchased a power meter. You’ve trained hard and seen progress. You’ve spent hours on the trainer doing more 20-minute sweet spot intervals than you care to count. You’ve done the Functional Threshold Power (FTP) testing - multiple times - to measure your threshold. For a while, you excitedly watched your 20-minute test numbers rise but then, they stall.
What’s this!? Does this mean you’ve reached the limit of your FTP improvement? Does it mean your training is no longer working? Are you doing the wrong workouts? Are you not trying hard enough? Does this suggest that you should purchase a different power meter?
All too often we assume diligent training leads to linear increasing FTP. This simply is not the case. Threshold improvement is realized, for lack of a better phrase, in “fits and starts”. There are times when improvement follows a linear trajectory. At other times, however, FTP can appear to diminishing despite continued training. FTP can also appear to be “stuck” at a number despite the athlete’s efforts to improve. If this happens to you, what should you do?
To begin, I recommend checking some basic metrics. Are you getting enough rest? Knowing your Training Stress Balance (TSB) can help guide this. Are your hard workouts hard enough and your easy days easy enough? A cycling power meter can be indispensable for this type assessment. If neither of these seem to apply you may need to dig deeper. 
cyclists riding on bikes

CHANGE IT UP

First take a long look at where you are, and how you got there. Are you doing the same workouts day after day and week after week? You may actually be getting too good at doing those workouts. Your body has gotten “efficient” at them and you aren’t triggering adaptations any longer.
Remember, you need to stress the system to send the adaptation messages. Maybe it’s time to change things up. Consider doing a really long ride if that’s not something you usually do.
It might be a good time to vary the workout pattern. If you do a rest day Monday, hard day Tuesday, easy recovery Wednesday, hard skills day Thursday, easy day Friday and two longer ride days on the weekend, try moving those around. Perhaps do an easy day Monday, hard days Tuesday and Wednesday, easy day Thursday, rest day Friday and long rides on the weekend. Give it a couple weeks and see if things get shaken up.
While it isn’t the first choice of many athletes, one way to change things up is to rest more. Often a “training vacation” of 3 or 4 days is followed by a noticeable improvement in performance.

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