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why can't I maintain VO2max intervals?
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I’m having trouble going the distance during VO2max intervals. I can generate the power, but I just can’t seem to hold it. For example, in TrainerRoad I need to do 3 sets of 3x3 min at 108% (3 min rest) and 6 min rest between sets. I can get to 108% but then can’t maintain it after 2 min, and later in the set I can manage 1 min but that’s it. (Same is true with higher %'s and shorter times.) Z4 stuff and below I have no problem with. It can be hard but I can complete it.

As I’m just a triathlete, not a roadie, I’m thinking I should just swap out the VO2max stuff for threshold work. I figure if I can complete threshold intervals I will be training better than with a half-assed attempt at VO2max (assuming same TSS).

Does that make sense? Or will I be giving up a lot of performance trading Z4 for Z5?

Also, what might cause my trouble with the VO2max intervals?
- Am I just not trained enough at that level and I need to suck it up/use shorter intervals until I build that specific fitness?
- Is my FTP wrong? (I think it’s pretty good. It’s based on a 20 min test, but it seems reasonable when I look at my data overall.)
- Is it just psychological? Again, I just need to suck it up?

My FTP is currently 251. Nothing awesome, but improving.

Thanks!
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Re: why can't I maintain VO2max intervals? [michaer27] [ In reply to ]
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FTP is wrong. Possibly recovery is not enough- So you carry a level of fatigue into these efforts
What would happen if you drop FTP by 10 watts?
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Re: why can't I maintain VO2max intervals? [michaer27] [ In reply to ]
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When you say 108%, you are saying 108% of FTP, so 108% of 251w = 271w ?
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Re: why can't I maintain VO2max intervals? [bootsie_cat] [ In reply to ]
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bootsie_cat wrote:
FTP is wrong. Possibly recovery is not enough- So you carry a level of fatigue into these efforts
What would happen if you drop FTP by 10 watts?

I would agree as 3 minutes at 108% FTP shouldn't be that difficult.

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Re: why can't I maintain VO2max intervals? [michaer27] [ In reply to ]
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Curious what test you used to approximate your ftp?
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Re: why can't I maintain VO2max intervals? [michaer27] [ In reply to ]
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Also agree with Bootsie and Xtrapickles. Your FTP is too high.

I do 5x5 (5') at 110%. I'm just starting to look at the clock at 3 minutes---thinking, "ok, I can hold this for 2 more minutes." It shouldn't get "tough" until well after the 3 minute mark unless you did threshold work less than 24 hours prior. And it really shouldn't be a struggle until maybe the last minute or so of the last interval.

You said your FTP is based on a 20 minute test---specifically, what was the test protocol (I don't do TR, so I don't know what their standard protocol is). What was your avg power for that 20 minute test?
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Re: why can't I maintain VO2max intervals? [bootsie_cat] [ In reply to ]
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bootsie_cat wrote:
FTP is wrong. Possibly recovery is not enough- So you carry a level of fatigue into these efforts
What would happen if you drop FTP by 10 watts?

In the TrainerRoad vernacular, you can drop the intensity for all or part of a workout without having to adjust your FTP. But it does sound like michaer27 has his/her FTP set too high if that workout is consistently too hard to complete, as opposed to just an off day.

And someone else asked about the TrainerRoad 20 minute test. It is the same Coggan test protocol we've all come to love, so the hard 5 minute effort beforehand, etc.

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Re: why can't I maintain VO2max intervals? [michaer27] [ In reply to ]
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if you are using some variation of 95% of 20 min=FTP and state FTP is 251, then you must have held 264 minimum for 20 min. you really can't tack on 7 more was without failing after 1-2 minutes?? something is wrong in your calc's
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Re: why can't I maintain VO2max intervals? [michaer27] [ In reply to ]
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michaer27 wrote:
I can get to 108% but then can’t maintain it after 2 min, and later in the set I can manage 1 min but that’s it.

As others have mentioned, your FTP is likely set too high. I can do 6x4-min at 115% FTP (2 min rest). Might want to look back at your test protocol and possibly retest.
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Re: why can't I maintain VO2max intervals? [michaer27] [ In reply to ]
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michaer27 wrote:
I’m having trouble going the distance during VO2max intervals. I can generate the power, but I just can’t seem to hold it. For example, in TrainerRoad I need to do 3 sets of 3x3 min at 108% (3 min rest) and 6 min rest between sets. I can get to 108% but then can’t maintain it after 2 min, and later in the set I can manage 1 min but that’s it. (Same is true with higher %'s and shorter times.) Z4 stuff and below I have no problem with. It can be hard but I can complete it.

As I’m just a triathlete, not a roadie, I’m thinking I should just swap out the VO2max stuff for threshold work. I figure if I can complete threshold intervals I will be training better than with a half-assed attempt at VO2max (assuming same TSS).

Does that make sense? Or will I be giving up a lot of performance trading Z4 for Z5?

Also, what might cause my trouble with the VO2max intervals?
- Am I just not trained enough at that level and I need to suck it up/use shorter intervals until I build that specific fitness?
- Is my FTP wrong? (I think it’s pretty good. It’s based on a 20 min test, but it seems reasonable when I look at my data overall.)
- Is it just psychological? Again, I just need to suck it up?

My FTP is currently 251. Nothing awesome, but improving.

Thanks!


Don't do it man. Working those really high-end intervals (30sec to 2min) will pay huge dividends in how much power you can maintain during your threshold intervals. By the transitive property, they'll indirectly (if not directly) improve your FTP and race pace. And this is definitely the time of the year that you want to be doing those, assuming your races are predominantly toward the end of summer.

Edit: but yeah, based upon your difficulties here, I'd guess two things: 1) your FTP is biased high or 2) your high-end aerobic capacity is relatively inferior to your FTP. Remember, these "percent FTP for a given time" are just predictions based upon population data. And for that reason, we wouldn't place much faith in a 3-minute FTP test.

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Last edited by: domingjm: Feb 26, 19 11:00
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Re: why can't I maintain VO2max intervals? [michaer27] [ In reply to ]
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Re: why can't I maintain VO2max intervals? [michaer27] [ In reply to ]
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Doing zero z5 work, then trying to complete 9x3min is a tall ask especially if you have never done z5 intervals before.

If your struggling that bad on the first set, either your power meter needs to be calibrated or your ftp is off.

If your struggling like that during the second set, I would not worry. Keep at it until you can hit the numbers for 2 sets. Then try adding in the 3rd set.
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Re: why can't I maintain VO2max intervals? [michaer27] [ In reply to ]
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i just finished up TR's sweet spot one and two, and towards the end of two i could tell my "VO2" workouts were hell but managable. without the proper buildup there is no way i could be able to hold what i was holding (my ftp is much lower than your's, but i can holder higher percentages for longer now and its a great feeling).

like others have said drop your FTP. even doing a TR ramp test it didnt peg my FTP just right. i had to go tweak it according to how my workouts were going.

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Re: why can't I maintain VO2max intervals? [michaer27] [ In reply to ]
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I have the same ftp as you, 251, and last weekend I did 2 sets of 6x2.5 minutes at over 120%. You should be able to comfortably handle 3 minute intervals at 108%. I would adjust your ftp down to 240 or 245 and see how that works. It can be discouraging when you can't hit the numbers on TR. I end up bailing on the workout when that happens which does not help. For some reason I can't mentally handle finishing the workout even at a slightly lower intensity. There is something about not being able to hit the watts that makes you want to pack it in, at least for me anyway.

I think it is better to complete the workout at a lower intensity. You are still getting a benefit from working above your ftp for several minutes. Besides the overall TSS score seems to be more important.

BTW, I did the 20 minute test a month ago, and the ramp test last week, and came up with the same ftp on TR. So it seems to be pretty accurate for me.
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Re: why can't I maintain VO2max intervals? [michaer27] [ In reply to ]
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Drop your FTP for these workouts to a level at which you can complete the workout reasonably comfortably.

I've seen a few triathletes who were so used to training at sweet spot and never going above threshold that they couldn't do a single workout with intervals above threshold. A lot of it was mental, they couldn't deal with the shock. If we got a couple of people around to encourage them through it they could go much higher than they expected. Definitely do the VO2max intervals if you want to get better. Doesn't have to be at a particularly hard level. Even a few percent above will see gains. You're supposed to feel uncomfortable but not to suffer. You will make steady progress, maybe not as rapidly as with the 110-115% intervals, but less likely to burn yourself out either.

Joe Friel has also pointed out that the older we get, the more important it is to do these type of intervals to retain and improve fitness.
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Re: why can't I maintain VO2max intervals? [damon.lebeouf] [ In reply to ]
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damon.lebeouf wrote:
i just finished up TR's sweet spot one and two, and towards the end of two i could tell my "VO2" workouts were hell but managable. without the proper buildup there is no way i could be able to hold what i was holding (my ftp is much lower than your's, but i can holder higher percentages for longer now and its a great feeling).

like others have said drop your FTP. even doing a TR ramp test it didnt peg my FTP just right. i had to go tweak it according to how my workouts were going.

Totally. High end workouts are a massive help for SST and threshold work.

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Re: why can't I maintain VO2max intervals? [domingjm] [ In reply to ]
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domingjm wrote:

Totally. High end workouts are a massive help for SST and threshold work.

and the sense of accomplishment and "high" after the workout is awesome.

2019 Schedule: Ironman 70.3 Texas April 7...
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Re: why can't I maintain VO2max intervals? [michaer27] [ In reply to ]
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If you are doing these in ergometer mode then try switching to trainer mode. Some people myself included tend to do better with a power output that varies a bit so you have little tiny breaks.

This type of interval is uncomfortable but you shouldn't need to turn yourself inside-out either.
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Re: why can't I maintain VO2max intervals? [michaer27] [ In reply to ]
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no offense to the other posters but there's nothing at all inconsistent with 108% of FTP being too high, for you, for a three minute interval and your FTP of 251 also being "correct." Meaning, 108% may or may not be your power at Vo2max; rather yours might be 106 or 105 or 104 or whatever.

Can you edit the planned workout without changing the FTP setting? If so, I'd try dropping it down a couple percent and seeing how you fare, then trying to work to bump that number up. If you change your FTP setting then alllll the power targets in your workout change proportionately, right? If your FTP is correct but your VO2max power is the weak point, you may not want to do that.
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Re: why can't I maintain VO2max intervals? [devolikewhoa83] [ In reply to ]
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Damn, I love Slowtwitch. Thanks for all of the responses! I will try to answer them all here. And if I don’t namecheck you, please don’t take it personally. I appreciated everyone’s input.


In summary, most of you think I should be able to do these intervals if my FTP were set properly, and therefore my calculated FTP might be too high (test details at the end), but maybe my FTP is good and my super-threshold fitness sucks. And the consensus is that I keep up with the VO2max stuff, for the training effect and the pride.

So I will keep the VO2max stuff, especially because I’m closer to 50 than 40 (thanks, carlosflanders). I currently do these intervals in erg mode, so (as suggested by jroden) I will first try turning erg mode off and just focusing on keeping the power. And if I slip a little for a moment or two I will get right back up and try to hold it.

If I still have trouble I will then I’ll reduce the power just for these intervals and see if I can hold them (per the suggestion of devolikewhoa83 and I think implied by domingjm). And hopefully over time I’ll work my way back up to the % that I expect it to be able to hold.

Finally, if that fails, I will just lower my FTP completely, although I have no trouble with longer Z4 intervals, so I think that might negatively impact my threshold training.

And to jeffp’s point “if you are using some variation of 95% of 20 min=FTP and state FTP is 251, then you must have held 264 minimum for 20 min. you really can't tack on 7 more [watts] without failing after 1-2 minutes?? something is wrong in your calc's.” That was what made me suspect initially that this was psychological rather than physiological. Hopefully the above changes I’ll make will further illuminate this. And maybe harden my psyche enough to hit the intervals going forward.

Thanks all!



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Answers to various questions:

Yes, when I say 108% I mean 108% of 251 = 271 W.

I don’t know what my W’ is.

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If you’re interested, the format for the 20-min FTP test is:

10 min ramp from 40 to 60% FTP; 1 min @100%; 1 min @ 65%; 1 min @105%; 1 min @ 65%; 1 min @110%; 5 min @ 65%; 5 min @ 110%; 5 @ 50%; 20 min test @ whatever I can hold steady; 10 min cooldown from 40 to 30%

I then take 95% of my average 20 min wattage for my FTP.

I think this is very similar to the test in Hunter & Coggan, but some of the details might be off. I don’t have that handy to check.

************************************
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Re: why can't I maintain VO2max intervals? [michaer27] [ In reply to ]
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What kind of tri do you train for ?

Sprint, Olympic, HIM or IM ?

Define the right FTP and Max VO2 power will help you, but clearly don't forget that in a 80/20 program, Max VO2 power will be maximum 2% of your complete program. And not the most important part. Far from it. Except for sprint, may be.
The main use of FTP and MaxVO2 power values will be to define your "base endurance" and "sweetspot" paces. The one really usefull.
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Re: why can't I maintain VO2max intervals? [michaer27] [ In reply to ]
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Wait. You can hold 110% for 5' in your ftp test, but you can't do 108% for 3' on vo2max day? Doesn't make sense. What do you do different before your ftp test compared to vo2max day?

I still think your ftp is wrong. Can you honestly hold 250 for an entire hour? But, maybe you aren't well rested for your vo2max day.

I'd look at your training history leading up to your ftp test and replicate that for your next vo2max day. If you still cant hold 110% them back down to whatever you CAN hold for the entire workout and then progress from there.

You can only do what you can do, and build on that.
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Re: why can't I maintain VO2max intervals? [michaer27] [ In reply to ]
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I've had this issue when my power meter was out of calibration. Intervals were tough but manageable and then all the sudden I couldn't make them. They seemed impossible. It took me a while to try re-calibrating my power meter. It takes about 10 seconds to run a calibration on my unit. It's worth a shot. For what it's worth, my power meter seems to go out of cal when I move the bike from the trainer to outside or vice versa. Now when I make the switch I just run a cal.
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