Up until this point, I’ve been pretty pumped about my training. It has been hard, but until now I have been able to succeed — and exceed — in every workout I have attempted. I’ve gotten used to my coach saying, “Good job! You nailed that one!” Now, I’m having to get used to hearing, “Hmmmmm, that one wasn’t so good.” Have I reached a plateau?
At the center of this question is the workout I have been doing recently. I’ve talked about the 30/30’s before. Now, I have graduated to the 60/60’s. I did these for the first time last Saturday. It goes like this:
- Warmup – 30 minutes
- Blow-out – 305 watts
- Spin – 5 minutes
- 1 minute at 425 – 465 watts
- Spin – 1 minute
- Repeat 4 and 5 four more times
- Spin – 5 minutes
- Repeat 4 – 7 four more times
- Spin – 20 minutes
- Complete 6 10 second all out sprints with five minutes spinning between each
- Ride home for the duration of the designated workout time
For 30 seconds I have been able to crank out more than enough wattage to meet my goals. However, when it comes to the 60 second workout, that is another matter. For the first two sets I manage just fine. However, in the third set things start to go down hill. By the fifth set, I’m averaging down in the 380 watts range.
What’s up with this? I’ll be around 450 watts for 30 seconds. Then I will see the wattage drop below 400 watts. I react trying to build the wattage back up, but when I do my legs go to jello and though my brain is yelling, “Spin! Spin!” my legs don’t obey. By 40 seconds in, I’m toast. To make matters worse, my heart rate isn’t even hitting 180 bpm.
Maybe I have just reached a plateau. Up to this point, I have been working under the level of my peak ability. It has allowed me to exceed. Now, I’m breaking out of that and am discovering for the first time what it means to have to work to build up to success.
I asked my coach about it. He says he does not think I have reached a plateau. He thinks that I am simply not doing the intervals correctly. Looking at the graphs of my workout seems to give his argument credence. Below is a graph of one of my failing intervals. You can click on it to enlarge.
The yellow dotted lines going straight across designate my targeted wattage range. The yellow line going below it and within it is my wattage. This was the fourth interval in my second set on Tuesday’s workout. It is a great example of what I feel. Notice that I’m hanging in there for the first 40 seconds or so. Then I start to drop. You see my legs like a drowning man gasping for air trying to produce the necessary watts. Then they sink beneath the waves.
Jim tells me the reason this is happening started back on Saturday and just came to a head on Tuesday. I have been doing the intervals incorrectly and that has caused me to be more tired than I should be. My way of approaching the intervals does not give me the opportunity to recover between and so I sink further and further. Looking at an earlier interval explains this.
Notice the first 20 seconds or so of this interval. This is the third interval in the first set. Basically, the other four look like this as well. My tendency is to start off really hard and then fade toward the end. That works out initially because it gives me the necessary average wattage. However, after that first set, the initial output in succeeding intervals is much lower and still continues to drop off.
Next time I do these things, I’m going to take a different approach. I’m going to try to make that graph look like… well… a plateau. Starting off slightly easier — 380 watts or so and then building up to the needed wattage. I’ll then taper down toward the end to near the 420 watts range.
Bottom line is on a micro level, I was just wearing myself out. Add to that a hard workout Saturday and then another on Tuesday with days of riding between and you can see why my body was just letting me know it was tired. Ah, but I have today off and a couple of easier days before racing in Rock Hill this Saturday. All I can say is that I sure am glad it isn’t one of my “A” races!
After the intervals, I sent a text to Jim saying, “These things are sucking all the joy out of riding my bike!” Really, I don’t like failing — even training intervals. The joy came back pretty fast as I enjoyed the beautiful day on the 20 minute cool down before the sprints. Then I uncorked this one…
For 10 seconds of the sprint I averaged 1000+ watts and maxed at 1200+ watts. For someone like Eric Christophersen or Rodney Dender, that is chicken scratch, but for me that ain’t so bad. Better than the numbers was the feeling.
Good things are ahead. I might or might not be on a plateau. Even if I am, a plateau isn’t the highest thing around. I’ve just got to keep working and learning and before long I’ll experience a mountain top.