So it has been a couple of months since I last updated the blog. The main reasons for this are that a) I’ve actually been cracking on with “proper” training for the last couple of months and b) apart from Tenerife I haven’t actually done that many interesting rides! Whilst reading about turbo trainers and FTP tests is pretty dull I thought I had better document it for posterity (and to help convince myself I am getting fitter and not wasting my time!).
In my last post (about 10 weeks ago) I was a few weeks into the sweet spot base training plan from Trainer Road and had worked out my FTP to be about 200 watts. Trainer Road have a whole load of training plans and a tonne (thousands?) of actual workouts that are incorporated in them. The beauty is that whilst it is good to research and try to understand how what you are doing affects you, you don’t need to know it to follow a series of plans from TR. In my case I chose the sweet spot base plan as whilst I want to train 6-8 hours per week I don’t want to do 10-15+ hours of pure training needed for one of their traditional base plans (think long and slow). The sweet spot base plan is more time efficient albeit building a slightly less broad base (likely inconsequential for someone like me).
I did the medium volume version (most of their plans come in three flavours, low, medium and high) which is circa 6 hours per week. Each base plan is also split into two six week phases with the second week continuing the ramp up from the first. Each week follows a pattern of 60-75mins of sweet spot intervals on Tuesdays & Thursdays, 30-60mins of endurance continuous riding on Wednesday, rest days Monday & Friday, 90mins of overs/unders (fun!) on Saturday and around 90mins of sweet spot intervals on Sunday.
I found having a structured plan to really work for me. I did a fair amount of the workouts as and when it was scheduled, replaced some of the longer weekend sessions with outdoor rides (likely at the cost of quality but good for the motivation and let’s be honest, fun).
Subjectively I felt much fitter at the end of the first six weeks and found my tolerence for longer steady efforts to be improved.
After the first 6 week block came the objective test, FTP test number two. This came out at 215 watts so a fairly decent improvement in the time and I felt I was also starting to plug some gaps in my fitness.
The second 6 week block continued where the first left off but with the introduction of VO2 max sessions (the maximum or optimum rate at which the heart, lungs, and muscles can effectively use oxygen during exercise, used as a way of measuring a person’s individual aerobic capacity). These are dropped into the Tuesday sessions and typically invole 5-6 3 minute intervals at 110-120% of FTP. Not a fun zone to be in. The plan also lengthens the Sunday rides to around 2 hours and pushes some of the sweet spot sessions closer to and even right up to FTP.
Week 3 coincided with my trip to Tenerife which was slightly beset by contracting Tonsolitis but I soldiered on and got 4 decent rides in plus a fun day at the water park with a fantastic sunburn. I should probably write this up as a seperate post!
At the end of the 6 weeks I felt like I had improved again as one of the final workouts at FTP felt much easier than the 90-95% intervals at the start of the period. I retested my FTP shortly afterwards and it came out at 224 watts (having felt I put in a similar effort to last time). So at least some more improvement. I had also lost a couple of kilos doing the power to weight ratio a small favour… (Easily put back on).
I am now working through an 8 week ‘General’ build plan which I am hoping will really accelerate my fitness improvements although of course with the weather getting better I have been riding outdoors more. It is taking a lot of willpower to stay in and do the structured sessions. With just under 3 weeks until the first sportive I was targetting in the Peak District it will be timed just after the first half of my build plan. With it being the same route as the one I did last September it will make for a good comparison. I am hoping to put in a much stronger performance.
Other than the indoor training I am looking at doing a trip potentially in June to Nice for 4-5 days of mountain riding ahead of L’Etape and then a more audacious coast to coast ride from Biarritz to Barcelona via the Pyranees in August. A few logistical hurdles to clear on that one but fingers crossed. I have lots of ideas for some challenging trips but need a little focus and to just get on with it, the Big Trip in November hangs over me though and I don’t want to spend money that will be needed on the road…