Reversing a 15 month decline …

TL;DR - post about how it isn’t always an upward trend.

So - in what seems an accurate reflection of how things ‘feel/RPE’ outside I’ve just been going back through the last 15 months to see where I was testing and it’s pretty horrifying (and wrecks / changes this years plans a bit

Jan 2021 - testing much as expected. Ftp sitting broadly in right place for the training I do. All good. Plannning ahead for 2021 to see if can improve it ready for 2022. Exciting times back then - thinking about what just a small improvement of a few percent would do for when I try some long one day efforts on the MTB.

By June I’d done three more tests and each one was slightly down. About 1.6% each time and now down 5% in total.
No big deal I thought - June is summer time and even with the three consecutive declines I thought I can turn that round.
I was about I have the time to finally kick off some STR work more and embed that in the programme and as a relative weakling on the muscle front I saw a huge opportunity there.
Roll on the second half of the year
Tests continue to show the same gradual decline and another 4% is lost by January.

At this stage I’m a wee bit worried about 2022 (now consistently dropping 1.5% every two months for about a year is starting to add up.

Replanned for Q1 this year based on the simple fact of where I was. got some great sessions in.

End of quarter test today and another 1% off ftp so now a full 10% down.

It’s interesting - as in theory I had a good opportunity with STR to make a difference. I certainly should have been able to at least maintain where I was I thought.

Like everyone I get older every year. Could be a gentle decline as the body starts to decline a bit (but how on earth without professional testing of all sorts of markers will anyone ever know that).

Sitting today mixed between curious and slightly depressing as last year was about building up to this year (I have some very specific ‘22 opportunities).

Can’t really understand it.

Email already away to @Coach.Rupert.H on the subject of a call - anyone out there with similar experiences?

Thing about posts like this is everyone is so different. One persons age is irrelevant compared to someone’s else’s (I’m in my 50’s - shouldn’t really be a big issue for me). I have no blood test issues being shown (had some tests last year for various things and have no obv issues with any part of me).

Probably a reflective post for deleting in a week. Just shows though. It’s not always upwards !! and I would really like to be one of those who can post improvements all the time :rofl::rofl:


I can relate. Looking at my FTP history since 2017 it has fluctuated within a range of 28 watts and resembles a bit of a bell curve atm. I’m 58.

My 2 cents, focus more on what you want to get out of the opportunities you mention in 2022 than your FTP, you might just find it increases as a consequence of focused planning and training.


Sounds frustrating. Perhaps you have an underlying medical issue. Or perhaps you are one of those people who has a negative dose-response relationship to training. That would be frustrating. While the existence of a very wide range of dose-response is well established, I haven’t found good studies on whether alterations in training load or intensity can help turn low responders into stronger responders. Perhaps you can change up training/workout intensity (from SYSTM, I’d start by experimenting with reduced intensity) and weekly load. Maybe you’ll find a combo that will work better for you.

Here’s the best study I found about dose-response for older adults. It shows clear and extreme variation, but has no ideas about alterations that might help low responders.


Yup for sure. Im very much recognising what the limitation is and moving on. time waits for no one in that regard and summer will be here soon.

Ftp checking is useful as as long as I keep it regular and at the end of a rest week then it’s a consistent look ahead / look back on what works (or doesn’t). And to be honest two of my ‘things’ are a goner at this capability as was on the edge of being able to do in a single day (daylight is the issue) and I had been wondering how some test outdoor runs were so (relatively for me) slow … which testing helps confirm.

It is what it is. Need to find different things to do maybe.


Feel like sharing your goals?

Edit: if it helps, I had a plan a couple years back to do an Everesting of a hill a few hours away from where I live. I did a ton of planning, scoping and calculating and a bunch of test runs sticking to my expected power output. I did some night descents and, at the time, that was enough of a fright to give up on the goal as I was just not comfortable doing descents in the dark (I had plenty of light on the bike but was still too nervous). So, in that particular case, I changed my goal from an Everesting, to a Dawn to Dusk ride where I would see how many reps I could get in during daylight hours.

Planning to give it a shot through the night this year as my confidence has increased (along with my weight but not along with my fitness :stuck_out_tongue: )


Hang in there man - you have ridden too well for too long to get down on yourself now!

Not sure how far back your data goes, but perhaps you could look at what sort of riding and training you were doing as your FTP was rising (up to Jan 2021?) compared to what you have done since then? I have found that strength work is great over the long term but does impact my cycling fitness in the short term, so that could be part of it.

The other item which has led me to declines/“false flat” plateaus like the one you are describing is doing too many high intensity sessions over a longish period (weeks/months). It is a real problem for us time crunched folks and has certainly affected my performance, particularly when I do them after what turns out to be inadequate base training.

MTB requires some intermittent hard efforts no matter what, but given that your target events are day long epics perhaps you could try the TT plan? Of all the SYSTM plans I have (mostly) completed, that is the one that has consistently had a positive impact on my test numbers, which, given my sustained weakness, makes sense.

Lastly, I am also in my 50s but refuse to accept that my age should have any impact on me, which is quite ridiculous since I spectacularly fail while chasing folks in their 20s and 30s in races. Much easier to blame my results on training, fitness, nutrition, tire choice, handlebar width, phase of the moon, etc. That is my alternate reality and I am sticking to it!


Given your explanation, I doubt you are overtraining, but you might be overreaching. As the other posters have said, response to training (even for younger riders) is highly variable. If it changes by age nobody knows.

I have found (and I am in my late 60s), that I have to experiment. I have found that, in general, I need more time to recover from the high intensity (NM, AC, MAP) workouts than the plans allow for. I can stack endurance (.6 - .7 IF) rides on consecutive days. Life stress will affect my recovery. If you are not giving yourself enough time to recover properly, that could affect performance numbers.

As for age, it is one’s biological not chronological age that counts.


Hate to say this, but it sounds like you are WAY deep in the red. There is a saving grace though. Take a week to a month OFF the bike. Do things like nature hikes. You may have been trying too hard to recover the losses and now you are below the bottom of the barrel. And a month off isn’t as bad as it seems. The pros do it although you wouldn’t know it.


Yeah that gets my vote !

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+1 for this. It could be that you’ve swapped doing the type of cycling that you enjoy to doing more structured training which actually doesn’t give you as much of a workout

I find that I can put much more effort in for longer on an outdoor ride than I ever can in the pain cave. Plus there is always the extended effort of getting back home that doesn’t apply indoors :sweat_smile:

@Martin - Lots of great advice on this thread, and honestly it could be a combination of several factors leading to successive decline. Checking with your primary care doctor is always a good start by requesting a full lab panel. This could help identify Vitamin, mineral or hormonal deficiencies, or other potential causes, like a thyroid issue.

The other recommendation would be to jump a on 30 minute call with a coach, and it sounds like you are reaching out to @Coach.Rupert.H to set that up. One of the Wahoo Coaches could look back through your training logs to see if there are any negative trends that could be playing a role.

Lastly, as the weather warms up, it is not a terrible idea to take a month of unstructured time and keep your intensity and volume very low. Again, a coach could help you make the most informed decision and help plan the next best steps forward.

I would recommend taking a look at both The Importance of Strength Training as We Age and How Does Age Impact Performance and Recovery? for some tips on modifying the train plan as we grow older. Yes, there will a be slow decline, but from the sounds it, there seems to me another culprit at stake for what you are experiencing over the last year.


This is probably my biggest challenge - trying to get a handle on when I’m overrechng and when I’m just training hard. I’ve not had the same experience as @Martin in terms of plateaus etc, but I have had a repeated cycle of training then overreaching which I know has been detrimental even if my general fitness and performance has been on the increase (long term trend, shorter term oscillations to get there). If anything SUF/System has made this worse, because it pushes me further, brings out the best in me, makes we want to do more.

Systm can really push you further than you realise, especially if you find it fun (I don’t think any of us would be here if we didn’t), and it’s hard to notice what’s going on sometimes. Maybe your (@Martin 's) post and reflections is part of that. That’s a good thing. It might be the prompt to discover what’s going on (or what’s missing?).

I hope you come to some conclusion or at least make peace with the state of play (we can’t all improve to infinity forever!). There’s not always an answer, but there is always a solution.


I am experimenting with Xert to see if I it can help me get a handle on my fatigue level.

I used to use Training Peaks, but TSS load is not good enough for non-endurance rides which is what a lot of the SYSTM workouts are.

Joel Friel (The Cyclist’s Training Bible) notes that one of the signs of severe overreaching is observable performance decline. The key to how severe it is, is the time it takes for recovery to obtain improvements again. In severe cases, it might take as much as a month off (as @jmckenzieKOS suggests) before you can resume training.

Overtraining is more severe, and has more obvious symptoms.


Thanks for the reply sir. That specific one isn’t really a UK ‘thing’ - though those with private medical insurance might do. But I was lucky enough to have some tests done (no idea what the results were tbats not disclosed and I never needed to ask I just wanted a ‘you’re fine’ response at the time) last year and nothing identified.

Yup - on the case :+1::+1:

Bang on - something I chose to do recently rather than deal with numbers. Ride when the weather was nice, didn’t when it wasn’. Intensity there when I wanted to chase myself up a hill. And I did take a week off before testing this week.
I’d ride outside permanently, but sometimes to hang on to what little I’ve got I’ll need some structured VO2
Ach - it’s all such a complicated thing without bloods being taken every week and labs :slight_smile: (and even then !!)

I’ve been a keen follower if these articles. Was one of the reasons I’m doing the STR work. :+1:

It’s kind of done now anyway in many ways as this was a specific year. But it would be good to know how to make the most of any future opps if they ever happen. Keep on keeping on

I’ll get the coach thing sorted hopefully soon.

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At which point it’s too late and you’re already deep in the red.

Agreed, this is incredibly hard to track and Training Peaks isn’t adequate. I track using Wild.AI which Infind absolutely nails my fatique levels. Unfortunately it’s for women only. But it keeps track of RHR, HVR, all my training, sleep, day to day and work stress hormones, illness, the works, and spots trends and gives me a good heads up if I need more recovery. And I listen and it helps, hard as it is some days to not ride when I just am fizzing to go.

I read this and immediately made a note of it:

Then I read the very next sentence:

Must. Concentrate. More.

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Hahaha sorry. Though I must say, it is amazing what a difference it makes using fitness software based on science on women only and designed for women. None of the “unisex” stuff works at all. So sorry, not sorry! :rofl:

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I think we’re in a similar spot. I use TP almost religiously, though yep agreed that it doesn’t do what we require. I’ve been looking at Xert also.
I’m on the back of a week of having an awful cold which I’m pretty sure came about because of over-reaching and followed by a hugely stressful week workwise. Getting a handle on the effects of the latter (as relevant to training etc) is very difficult but if one can keep the former under control it helps.
I’ve not had much luck with HRV either though I’m intrigued by whoop.

We digress from the OP, but all perhaps related.

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I might develop my own men-only version. Eat meat, drink beer, get dropped by meat-chomping, beer swilling ladies on bikes (and, in all likelihood, all others too) !

This one eats meat but doesn’t drink any alcohol any more. I ride my bike faster that way! :muscle: