Blowing up above treshold - VO2max weakness

Hey everyone

Quick question here. My FF pegged me as a ‘sprinter with VO2-max weakness’ and I’ve been following the all-purpose intermidiate plan since the beginning of october. Lately, I’ve been unable to complete a few workouts: Nine Hammers, Team Scream and A Very Dark Place (I either bailed NH or reduced the intensity TS and half completed intervals AVDP). I’ve skipped a few as well, either because I wasn’t feeling great or I didn’t have the time, but in general, I’ve been doing at least 3 rides per week (some weeks 4 or 5). I’m guessing my next plan will be less time intensive, so I have time to run and swim as well (training for Alpe d’Huez in July), but with Covid the training plan got thrown off quite a bit…

I noticed that anytime I go too far in the red (ie above treshold for sustained periods), I simply blow up and cannot complete the next interval above treshold. Today I did A Very Dark Place and I finished the first interval and was just spent. After the 3 minute rest, I got to the second interval and had to bail after 2 and half minutes (I went to level mode and spun it out until the next intervals, which I completed , those after I did until I couldn’t go anymore and spun those out in level mode as well).

My HM gave me a nice increase in MAP and FTP, but any chance those numbers are just a tad optimistic? Should I just start most workouts at 90 or 95% and see how that goes or is it normal to struggle after the intermediary Half Monty? And how do I recover faster from efforts above treshold?


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I definitely struggle when I have new numbers and also have a VO2 max weakness. I think it is pretty common for others to have a transition period to the new numbers as well. It seems you are on the right track with respect to reducing numbers but check out the attached link. Also check out the Mental Toughness and yoga breathing videos. Both have really helped me through some difficult efforts.

Even the Badass Have Bad Days

It may be a case HM has given you too high a MAP? Try FF instead? Having to bail multiple sessions or significantly reduce is not good. Having a bad session happens to us all, but if you’re finding them ALL too difficult then clearly the numbers aren’t right.

For reference, Nine Hammers is almost designed to make you fail, but only in the 9th hammer, but it is a savage workout. If your numbers are accurate you should at least finish the 3rd interval in AVDP and get to the end of the 4th, if you’re having a fairly good day it is definitely doable (just).

For me (FTP strength) then Team Scream is actually pretty easy.

If I were you I’d continue with the numbers, take it easy for a few days and try again. If you struggle badly again I would retest using FF.

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Hey Arne,

Let me begin by thanking you for starting this discussion. Like you, I have just completed FF after the 6 week Transition Ramp Up plan. I thoroughly enjoyed it as it seemed perfect for a returning cyclist. I had been off the bike for a few years and completed 1,000 miles of base training keeping my heart rate in Zone 2.

On completion of FF, I was identified as a Rouleur with, like you, a weakness in VO2.

My question for you and anyone else with a recommendation is “What is the best plan to focus on VO2 weakness?”

You made the decision to use All-Purpose Road. Do you believe in hind sight that it was the best choice?

I sincerely hope I am not taking focus away from your questions. I simply hope to avoid the challenges you appear to have had.

Thanks, Don

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Hey, glad to keep the discussion alive!

I do feel like the all-purpose was a good choice. Especially as it is adapted to your 4DP and strenghts and weaknesses. So, I think me asking this question wouldn’t happen if the plan wasn’t focussing on VO2-max and MAP.

It can however be daunting or demoralizing when every other session brings you back to MAP-training. But in a way that shows you’re really working to build your weakness.

I bring down the intensity when I feel like I can’t hold the targets on sustained V02-max intervals, but the past week has been a lot better with SUF Idol, Revolver is Easy and The Cure, although these intervals are a bit shorter so I might benifit from a decent AC there.

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Hi Arne,

I have the same issue after my numbers have recently been adjusted based on the HM test.
My FTP and MAP went up by ~9% but now I really struggle (or fail :slight_smile:) completing the harder workouts with longer intervals such as AVDP. I think the jump in numbers is just a bit too big, so I now plan on riding at 95% intensity for a couple of weeks, which is halfway between my old and new numbers and then hope to move on to riding at 100% later.

But I also think my HM results could be a little too optimistic, so look forward to doing FF again in a couple of weeks.

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If anybody completes Nine Hammers at 100%, their settings are wrong. It is brutal.

I’m 3 years in to Suf now. After a test, I can barely complete any workouts. I knock the intensity down to 90% for all or some of the workout or skip an interval. Over the course of a few months of workouts I get back to being able to do them at nearly 100%. When it gets to this point, I know it’s time to retest . This is without following a plan. When I’ve done plans in the past (before work/children) this improvement happened quicker.

There is an article on the website somewhere explaining what to do if you can’t complete a session.

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My MAP was abysmal at the turn of the year. I ignored it for a while and did the tour.Retest, higher numbers…next was the general road plan. At the end of it I wondered what all the fuss was about , riding at MAP seemed much easier, I was suffering at tempo instead. The workouts you say you are struggling with, are hard for all of us.They are brutal and it is almost a badge of honour to complete them at 100% unless a retest is due. Maybe that’s the aim. Push your energy systems to the max to stress them into adapting

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AVDP defeated me on my first attempt recently. MAP is my strongest metric, but I still struggled to complete this workout fully. I’ve struggled with a few of the other tougher sessions too. But I just give it everything I’ve got and trust that the adaptations will come. I would be much more worried if it felt too easy.

That’s the ticket on the ‘just do it’ attitude.
For what it’s worth … I’ve gone through a few ‘fed up’ phases where it used to annoy me when I ‘couldn’t’ ‘complete to numbers’ workouts.

And now I adopt a similar approach - nine hammers or avdp I just go in and do as much vo2 work as possible. And come out the other side knowing I’ve spent an hour doing something useful instead of eating chocolate watching the Abu Dhabi F1.

Never have completed NH so after this many years I assume I might never. Avdp sometimes do, sometimes don’t. Irrespective I still force the lungs to work hard for repeated intervals and happy days.

And if that helps keep one alive for a few years longer then super !!


I totally agree Sir Martin. While it is undeniably a great feeling to complete a hard session, I think it is more important to push yourself as hard as you possibly can. With AVDP I blew up midway through the 4th interval and then scraped through the last one. But I most definitely hit my VO2 max really hard on all those intervals, so that’s job done in my book! Also leaves something on the table to aim for next time.

@Arne It does sound a bit like you were perhaps biting off a little more than you could chew at the moment, so maybe backing off the intensity slightly could be a good idea. Ideally I guess you want to find a level where you can barely complete the hardest sessions on a really good day. MAP sessions are not supposed to be a comfortable experience!

that’s nice work … vs this for example …

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After 5 failed tries over the last 6 months, today I finally completed Nine Hammers. I almost felt of the bike after the last interval, it’s so extremely brutal. It’s an hour and a half later and my body is still hot as hell.

It is a great feeling to finally be able to complete it without reducing the intensity. Next is AVDP, haven’t completed that at 100% yet. First some rest :smiley:

VO2 max is also my weakness, I guess that’s what happens when you pass 40. You just get less explosive (luckily FTP is still well over 300W :joy:)


Cheers, that makes me feel much better about not quite making it!

One thing I’m learning about these near death sessions is that they warrant serious preparation. Going into them under-fuelled or with a lack of sleep is not really an option. So now I’m thinking more about those critical off-bike periods. On which note I’d better get to bed!