FAQ ~ FTP Movements
Lloyd Morgan ~ on
his way to a 2015 PB of 21:19
photo by Rob Warren
Will my FTP figure drop with base training over the winter and in theory bounce back even higher as the sessions get progressively harder through the winter into spring? Is this how it works?
Yet another great question and another of the training dichotomies that face cyclists around the world. The short answer is yes, absolutely. The reasons why are described here...
Cycling is a sport that is as beautiful as it is cruel. You are either giving out or on the receiving end of unadulterated suffering. There is very little "casual stability" in cycle racing.
FTP (Functional Threshold Power) has a similar transience; it is either going up or going down. FTP is never casually stable.
If you train hard to keep it high, you are too fatigued to make best use of it. If you back off and recover, to enable taking advantage of it, it begins to bleed away.
It's all about balance; it's a physiological see saw, the two ends (fitness and freshness) can never both be up at the same time.
The Root Cause of FTP
A lot of the remote riders I work with ask me what I think we can get their FTP up to. It spooks them a little when I say I haven't a clue! The world, due to mis-informed contributors to the interweb, is led to believe there is a definitive wattage answer to this question.
FTP is (lets discount the naughty sweet options) a genetically set concept. Your parents have magically gifted you certain physiological qualities. It is these qualities, the heart, lungs, muscle build etc, that will determine your FTP potential.
The vast majority of your FTP potential is pre-set; there is nothing you can do about it. One of the first thing I do here for riders visiting for a RAMP Test, is measure their lung capacity. Before we even start, I have an idea of what their FTP potential can be. It's that simple!
But there are things that are within your control; you notice I said the vast majority are pre-set. There are certain minority things you can do, and do well, that will help you to get closer to the power pot of gold at the end of the physiological rainbow.
Clare McGreevy ~
three golds and an individual bronze
Island Games 2015
My work as a coach, and yours as an athlete, is to get you as close to your pre-determined potential as you can.
During the winter you can either work on raising your actual FTP or you can work on raising your potential FTP.
Quick fix athletes will mainly take the "actual" FTP route. Long-term coaches will mainly take the "potential" FTP route.
During the gold rush, the people that got rich weren't the short-term prospectors panning for gold and running around like headless chickens. It was the clever long-term people, selling the dynamite and the shovels.
I've said it many, many times on this site; my biggest problem is slowing riders down in the winter. Other factsheets cover this, but if you aren't riding slow, you aren't preparing your body for FTP improvement.
Obviously, while preparing your body for FTP improvement your FTP will drop. But a bigger base can support a higher peak; play the long game and reap the rewards in the spring.
Some riders worry that our Base Build Programmes appear too easy; which is perfect, it's just how it should be. I tell them to stick with it and see if they still think the same when they get to the, "death by a thousand cuts", Pre-Comp Programme.
The base build programme prepares the body for FTP development by expanding the potential of the athlete. The pre-comp programme builds FTP development and takes it to the level of the previous season.
The follow on specialist programmes will peak the FTP, and/or VO2max, depending on the requirements of the rider's objectives, to new found heights. Much higher than possible just thrashing around all winter.
Higher FTP equals faster riders. Faster riders are happier riders and the suffering they are able to inflict on others is increased. Which perversely makes them even happier still!