How to improve fatigue resistance
When most cyclists head out to test their FTP, they will generally do a fairly short warm up, possibly a few short “priming” efforts and then hit the go button. 20 minutes later, bingo! You have a new FTP. But just what is this new number useful for?
What FTP is good for:
Consider this question.
Assuming you know your current FTP, how close do you think you may get to it, if asked to perform the test having just completed one, two or even three, hours of hard riding? Would you be close? Down 10%? Well in fact most sub-elite riders who are tested after 2 hours of “tempo” riding (Zone Three) show max 20min power numbers that are between 10-25% lower than their “fresh tested” FTP. So, for a rider with an FTP of 300 watts, that is a drop of between 30 – 75 watts, which is one hell of a drop.
In a racing scenario, riders will generally need to produce high power outputs at the “business end” of a race and after a significant amount of hard work has already been done. Very few races are held over a 20-minute duration, so having a high FTP is of very little use if that number cannot be re-produced in a significantly fatigued state.
In scientific terms, this is known as fatigue resistance (FR). FR can be significantly improved through training, but this training must be quite specific. As one may suspect, fatigue resistance training (FRT) can be both physically demanding and time consuming. That said, there are ways to incorporate elements of FRT into the normal weekly routines of most riders. The key is knowing how and when to do this.
The starting point (and underlying physiology) is to improve aerobic power. This will mean that efforts performed earlier during rides (provided these are mostly sub-threshold) will minimally erode anaerobic reserves. Because anaerobic reserves are required for 20min FTP-like efforts, it makes sense that “saving these” for key moments is very important.
The next step is training the body to deal with the occasional dip into the red zone. This is often referred to as “in-ride recovery” and is also highly dependent on efficient aerobic function. Much of this is complex but to keep things as simple as possible, a FRT progression would look something like this:
This type of riding can be quite demanding, so be sure to monitor fatigue levels and seek advice on when to rest / recover.
Improving FR or building your fatigued FTP will take your cycling to a whole new level. Whilst the outcome is fantastic, the incremental improvements that come with the training progressions outlined above also provide a massive boost to cycling capacity.
What are your thoughts or have a question? Please leave a comment, we would love to hear from you
If you found this useful or interesting, please share on your favourite platforms using the buttons below.
I am often asked by cyclists about heart rate and whether it is still relevant for training, given the increasing use of power meters. So, do power meters tell us all we need to know about our training and how our bodies are responding? Well, no. And in fact knowing how to use heart rate will help you get far more value from your power meter.
Whilst I concede that using HR as a gauge of intensity during a training session (especially those involving shorter interval efforts) can be inaccurate, it is the trend data provided by heart rate response that provides a valuable insight into how your body is adapting to training loads. Additionally, this same data will show when a cyclist is ready to ramp up the training or conversely, when it is time to back off.
Although the interpretation of HR response can be complex, there are some clear markers that are easy to spot, provided the HR data is collected in the first place. Two key measures are:
Understanding Heart Rate Drift Patterns
It is quite easy to spot these trends using any of the common analysis platforms (the graph above comes from the Wahoo Elemnt App). Once you know what you are looking for, Heart Rate trend patterns will confirm both if your training is at the appropriate level and when to take it up a notch.
Generally, the less drift there is in a HR pattern, the more “easily” a rider has been able to handle the training load. If the same session is completed each week for 4 weeks, one would expect to see less drift at week four than week one. If this is the case, power targets may be ramped up. If not, a short-term reduction in load may be required.
It is possible to use a HR / Power “index” to analyse sessions where the power outputs vary from effort to effort. Although this is somewhat more complex and usually the domain of a qualified coach, it is further evidence of the importance of Heart Rate and why it is necessary to collect the data.
So, don’t throw away that HR monitor just yet. It is in fact the perfect companion to your Power Meter and will help to make it an even more effective tool.
Your thoughts? We would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment below.
And, if you found this information useful, please share on your favourite platform by clicking the icon