FTP Friday – Power Zone Training – Decreases in FTP

Several folks have written about their disappointment with a reduction in their FTP on their latest test. While there are some obvious reasons for FTP to go down (lack of training, illness, etc), there is one major reason I’ve not seen discussed.

Pro athletes train for specific events. As an example, fighters have a 6-8 week “fight camp” in which they single-mindedly prepare for the upcoming bout. They could not train at that level continuously without burnout or injury.

The concept of periodization is universal to most athletically-intense sports. Having a defined timeline which leads up to a single, important event allows programming of workload to achieve peak fitness just in time.

The vast majority of Peloton users are not training for a singular event. There is no “peaking” for a competition and no “down time” after said event. We train continuously and expect to keep improving “because we’ve put in all that hard work “. Although the recent PZ Challenge focused on foundational endurance, there is still a piece of the puzzle which cannot simply be dealt with under the current system.

When dealing with thousands of riders at vastly different levels of fitness, Peloton & the coaches cannot possibly prescribe the correct workload for all riders. Beginners, whose initial adaptive phase allows rapid improvement, are best treated with certain stresses for maximal gains. Experienced riders, already in good condition and on the flatter portion of the improvement curve, need different approaches.

With thousands of riders at a time, some of them new & some of them seasoned veterans, it becomes easy to see that even the scientifically elegant structure of Power Zone training cannot be applied as a “one size fits all”. Yes, FTP-derived zones provide the appropriate intensity for any rider (assuming a good test), but the programming of which rides and how often to ride is still ideally set on an individual level.

Unfortunately, the 3-ride, 4-ride, 5-ride per week options on challenges are typically chosen with respect to a member’s work/life schedule and not according to what routine would be optimal for that individual. The same schedule limitations apply to those who choose their own rides.

All of this is OK.

What is unreasonable is to expect to remain “peaked & improving” constantly without the typical ebb & flow of peak fitness displayed by the pros. With life’s many issues and surprise stumbling blocks, this continuity simply cannot exist for a high percentage of us. Therefore, we MUST understand that our FTP will BY NECESSITY vary as our bodies (and lives) put us through this periodization process involuntarily.

Bottom line: all Peloton riders are way ahead of those who ride the sofa. Perform your FTP Test well (had to get that in there!) and understand that the process I’ve tried to describe will affect your results. Sometimes we’ll be on the upswing & sometimes we’ll be in recovery mode. Understand that this is normal and your fitness is still greatly improved from baseline. Imagine scoring at your current level on the FTP Test when you first got the bike. Perspective!

Keep at it. The road is bumpy.

This article is part of an ongoing series on Power Zone Training. You can find the other entries below in suggested reading order:
#1 – What is Power Zone Training?
#2 – FTP Test Strategies & Lessons
#3 – Power Zone Training – My Zones Are Too Easy!
#4 – Living with new zones & more FTP test
#5 – Post FTP-Test New Zone Struggles (Mental & Physical)
#6 – Decreases in FTP [This Article]

Image Credit: Peloton Blog

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Lee Aldridge
Lee Aldridge is a former cycling time trialist and current competitive rower. These articles are reposted with permission from Lee's Facebook group posts.

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