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.
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