I'm spending a lot of time in the grey zone - what should i do?

Morning All

I figured it would be worth starting with my goal which is a 5 day gran fondo around the Italian alps in July, I’m pretty good shape but ultimately my objective in true SUF fashion is to punish my buddies who are not training and smash some PB’s in the lead up to the event.

I have been following a strict training program since early September but I seem to be spending a lot of time in the grey zone according to intervals.icu.

I’m up to about 8 hours a week and I can’t really increase that too much due to other commitments. I also play soccer for about 2 hours a week- this is also uploaded to intervals as my view is this all helps towards fitness. I will likely be able to extend this a little with longer weekend rides as the weather changes here in the UK and I get a little more understanding from the wife to disssapear for hours on end at the weekend but I need to save these tokens until a little closer to the event - likely may/june time.

I know that the CTL score is not a true fitness score but cant help I could/should be pushing myself more to stress the systems a little more (keeping in the green zone)

what I have found is that according to intervals I’m in the grey zone quite a lot, I guess the question is should I be looking to swap out some of the easier workouts for harder ones in the plan to try and get those gains more quickly. My test results have shown consistent good results but I’m wondering if I could be doing a little more for faster/bigger gains without too much detriment.

There is a lot of Z2 scattered in the plans and part of me wonders if I could increase the difficulty of these by 10/15% but I note that this would then no longer be zone 2 work and clearly a huge amount of data around how good this is for you

Training Plan History.
Sept 13th - Dec 3rd 12 (Weeks) Mountain Fondo - Low Volume 3:1
4th December - 25th Feb (12 Weeks) - Mountain Fondo -Moderate Volume 3:1

Maybe my time restriction means that ultimately I am going to plateau here on the fitness (CTL) and I just have to accept that given the restriction I have on time

my intervals graph is below - yellow block is where I had a bit of light flu type illnesses so had a lighter week than prescribed and the pink block was when I went away snowboarding so missed about 4 days on the bike

My advice - don’t sweat it. It sounds like you have a good routine and you are keeping your fitness up. Notice that the blue Fitness is still trending upward.

To stay in the “green zone”, your Fatigue would also have to trend up at a similar rate to your fitness.

I bet adding one particularly hard session per week that allowed adequate recovery time for your soccer and other weekly goals/schedule could bump your fatigue up a tad and trend you more toward the green zone if you really wanted to do so.


@Stu_Trout Note that 4DP and TSS don’t really interact that well so the calculations in intervals.icu may be off a bit.

If you are going to make tweaks to the plan make them slowly and in small increments - maybe 3% to 5% at most. There is definitely risk of going overboard and derailing your plans.

Scores can be a reference point but nothing really replaces listening to what your body is telling you.


You don’t say when you last tested, just that test results have show improvement.
If you put on the high volume plan, and only do the high intensity sessions, would that fit within your available time? I also find I make more gains doing the general Road Plan, and then consolidate with something like the MGF or GG plan.

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The second half of 2022 I was doing primarily long zone 2 rides with one or two long interval sessions per week, riding around 9-12 hours per week. Doing a pretty good 80/20 - tho maybe more 85/15. Over time I gradually got to the point where only my 2.5+ hour rides would get me out of the grey zone into the green zone. And that was even after doing HM, FF, and another HM and having my 4DP go up each time

The problem is that you have to do more intensity or more volume to keep both your fitness and your fatigue going up. But that also risks burnout and overtraining. And at some point you just can’t training any more or add any more intensity. Because you can’t ride your zone 2 rides in zone 3 and you can only do so many intervals.

So take the green/grey zone with a bit of salt - and always consider your external stress/fatigue factors that your CTL score doesn’t take into account: sleep, work, family, RPE, etc. As long as intervals is putting you along the border of the green and grey zone and you occasionally dip into the green zone after longer or harder rides you’re probably getting your training pretty dialed in.


The way I understand it, if you want to focus on being in the green zone, thus ultimately “playing” with your Fatigue/Fitness or CTL/ATL numbers, you need to ensure week on week you are increasing your volume (hours) and intensity (TSS) in your ‘work’ weeks within your 3:1 plans.

I could also totally be wrong.

A screenshot of a full training block into taper into race into one week recovery and a 4 week 3:1 base build is shown. The start of the first full training block I was trying to recover with some bug/virus infection, why it dips below Fitness on the start.

My focus is not my numbers but periodised training with 3:1 focus, ensuring volume and intensity increases week on week for the 3 work weeks. The default of this focus is shown in the graph, I have not tried by design to be in the green zone.

With regards to testing, I have posted below and after seeing the large gains between the last HM (3rd Nov) and yesterdays FF I think this probably shows why I think I can/should be doing more as I’ve probably been cruising a little bit as its been 15 weeks since I last tested. I remember immediately after that last test, the workouts were an absolute killer. I cant remember now but I must have missed the HM at some point when I was ill or away and didn’t find a way to get it back in.
The last time I did really structured training like this was 2014 but I wont leave it that long between tests again.

I didn’t want to go back to the GF training plan and reduce the time back so for now I have added in the high volume 4 week threshold block which is a good 8 hours and none of the long 3 or 4 hour endurance rides

Was the first ride today and straight into a hard FTP progression 5*6m session which tore my legs off and likely the next 4 weeks will be harder.

I think ultimately my learnings here are test more regularly and then I wont be begging for harder sessions and trust the process. In reality I have probably been cheating the CTL as with me not increasing the FTP that line the actual TSS would be lower but I think I’m likely over thinking things.

@DameLisa - which is the general road plan you refer too? just the general fitness all purpose?

Thanks to everyone who has took the time to respond!

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I’ve not got much to add to the topic but that’s a super smooth power graph on your last FF.

Looks like you’ve perfected your 5 and 20 min pacing!

Wish I could say the same.

@Dafydd its more a case of trusting the targets of what the Half Monty provided a few days prior (all as part of the fitness test prep week plan) and hanging on for dear life. My HR was about 6 BPM above the zone 4 it wanted me to stay in but I managed to hang on so I guess its ok.


That’s a pretty impressive bump in ftp.

I completed the HM / FF week at the start of my current 12 week plan and tried to work to the HM results.

HM 318 / 395
FF 303 / 395

Pacing for the 20min section was absolutely awful and after 10 mins I resorted to a series of thresholds / under threshold efforts to try and keep my HR in check.

Mid plan HM at the end of next week so fingers crossed :crossed_fingers:

Just wondering seeing the intervals.icu fitness graphs @Stu_Trout and @Dan . You are never in the risk zone. How do you do that? Only long Z2 rides and sufferfest style interval sessions?
I always get in the red after a long and hard weekend ride… That’s probably why i don’t get better a lot. Our Saturday rides are all out, get home, lay down a bit :slight_smile:

Hi @MatthiasC

The setting you use to record form can also make a difference to the graph.

I have mine currently set to percentage of fitness, but using absolute value can reduce the instances of going into the red (but also results in a lot more grey time for me)

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@MatthiasC I’m ashamed to say it but I haven’t been outside on the bike once in 6 months, everything has been in sufferlandria!

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@chrisjennings thanks, I have been lazy (compared to what I’m doing now) for a good number of years but have had it up as high as around ~350 before but that was nearly 9 years ago and also weighed 5KG less. From what I understand its easier to get back to where you have been before vs making increases past this number.

Shame? For being in Sufferlandia? :upside_down_face:

I haven’t changed any settings so wouldn’t know if that does/doesn’t impact where my graph goes. It’s in the default setting when joining the platform.

Consciously. There have been training blocks where I lie in bed and my legs are buzzing from overload. As I track my training wrt completion of workouts, in the periods where I have felt the buzzing, I have either skipped a workout totally and taken an extra rest day and then a reduced day thereafter, or had to reduce a workout to compensate for fatigued legs, or just failed the intended effort despite pushing in and digging a bigger hole, I came to realize and recognize the signs leading up to those buzzing days, what I was doing from a workload perspective and looking back on incomplete weeks, learnt that to progress, I was likely going into overtraining periods which defeats the long term goal.

As such, I stopped chasing micro goals of weekly hours or weekly mileage, or workout average speed or TSS or a combination of them and began to believe in the science of the training, to trust it.

As I have training blocks set out for the year, when I encountered this red risk/buzzing legs/‘failed’ workouts periods, I ensured upcoming training plans had been altered.

It’s been trial and error, being strict and sticking to the plan, saying no to some good rides (forfeiting short term elation for long term riding gain).

Currently I am in block 2 of 3 in my second 14 week training plan for the second A race in April. First race was in January after starting the first main 14 week plan back in October. My off season is September.

Every block is 3:1 work:rest focus. All work weeks are 5:2 work:rest. The first base block is solely Drills and Z2, 13/14,5/16 hours weeks with a 10 hour recovery week. This is the only block I do not ride on Saturdays outside. Sundays (and either Wednesday or Thursdays) are rest days.

The Tempo Base block is 3 weekdays of SubThreshold sessions, with Z2 attached onto the sessions, going up from 16/17/+18 hours weeks. Saturdays are progressive endurance rides of 5-6/6-7/+8 hours rides.

The Fast Twitch base block is similar to above but with VO2/NM/AC styled workouts 3 days a week with Z2 attached to them, going up 16/17/+18 hour weeks, with the same Saturday rides as above, but these rides are focused heavily on the upcoming event route profile and terrain.

The two week Taper block into Race Day will never get me in the risk zone and these weeks generally have an extra rest day with workload heavily reduced but intensity remaining high.

All the blocks and rest weeks, I do 2-3 weekday 5am 75-90minutes group rides which has a sprinkling of everything in, some rides show as Base, some as Polarized, some as Pyramidal. All depends who shows up, how many riders there are and how much of an ego everyone wakes up with.

So not everything in my recordings are SUF/SYSTM, a very large % is IDT, there is a ton of Z2 to bulk up the workload. Our roads are not conducive to Outdoor workouts and a lot safer to ride indoors too.

If this is working for you, keep at it. No harm in trying something different though. If you don’t like it, go back to what you changed from. But being in the red risk area/having buzzing legs was not doing it for me. Be smart with your decisions :metal:t3:


Just as an addendum to my previous post, here is my training for the last half of 2022.

I did an HM in October, FF in Nov, and another HM in December. Can see as my fitness built up, but my fatigue didn’t (supposedly), I spent less and less time in the green zone until that huge dip in the red which was my KOS quest.

Oh, and don’t worry about spending all your time in Sufferlandria. That’s where I do all of my riding, too. I haven’t done any outdoor riding since early 2020.



Yep this one. Sorry am old school and it used to be called the general road plan.

Good news on the testing. With your limited training time per week, keeping on top of fresh power numbers is key as you’re unable to increase your time on the bike, so you have to periodise your training purely on intensity.

I have a similar issue. But my issue is I’m supposed to be building a monster base for a 234km race in November. And I’m battling to find the time. Will make it a priority when I get back from Australia in April.

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