Finding comfort in discomfort

So I’ve always struggled with FTP/threshold efforts of any length. Even after a recent fitness test with what should be correct numbers, they always fill me with a dread.

Today was supposed to be Full Frontal after the week’s prep. Half Monty gave me some numbers which felt right but when it came to actually maintaining that figure on the 20 minute section, five minutes in I was done. Toast.

I’d eaten well, slept well and was (as far as I could tell) in a decent place mentally. Yet I just can’t get through FTP blocks!

I suspect that there’s almost certainly a massive mental component (so I’m adding the mental strength plan to whatever I start tomorrow), but would I be better off thinking about a 3/4 week FTP block to work on this specific white whale of mine, or can I just Trust the Process with a normal plan?

I’m always second guessing trainer calibration as well - Hammer H1 with regular spin-downs.

This is my big weakness, the sustained effort and my dread that is in that 20 min section. I have no experience using the half Monty as my guide, but follow the guidelines from the 5 min MAP section. Like you, I have thought about doing a 4 week FTP builder but if I wasn’t confident in my 4DP numbers then I might want go back and try Full Frontal again (after another build up week). That fear of having to repeat Full Frontal so soon is a huge motivator to complete it as best as you can.

My strategy for handling that 20min section is not to think about the end, but just keep breaking it in half. With 10mins left you are on the home stretch and focusing on the next 5 mins (its only 5 mins etc) until the last minutes you know you have it in the bag.

Perhaps just look at your 5 min MAP from that last effort and see if you were overshooting your target watts. Or in your next effort just back off slightly and see if you can hold that number (or just follow the instructions for modifying your effort).

1 Like

That’s a good strategy. I break it down in 5min blocks, the first 5min are the easiest, the second get you to halfway, the 3rd is probably the hardest, were you’re thinking of survival and the last one I generally feel better looking at the end of the tunnel.

I use the first block to find my zone, validate in 2nd and then execute in 3-4.

Mental strategy is key tho: way too often athletes focus on the result (what if my number is not what I expected) vs the process (I’m doing the best I can, whatever the outcome). I know the second approach minimizes anxiety and improves outcome in the end.
Other than that, embrace the Suffer!

1 Like

Like you, sustained power is my nemesis. With the cancellation of mass start racing due to COVID-19, I became desperate for competition, sucked up my pride, and decided to punish myself at my club’s weekly TT series (usually just 15 km but the courses are lumpy). To help prepare myself for these, I decided to try the FTP Progression workouts. Like Buckley’s Cough Syrop, they taste awful but they work! They helped me break through my mental block, teaching me to keep pushing even when I felt like I was starting to crack. They gave me confidence that I could hold a high effort longer than I thought possible. Maybe they’ll do the same for you.

BTW, I’ve done Full Frontal many times and for me the biggest hurdle comes at about 11 minutes into the 20-minute effort. Have to learn how to deal with it and push through the barrier.

General rule of thumb: you can do much, much more than you think you can.

So when you think you’ve completely cracked and have to stop - don’t - just keep pedaling.

Also, don’t go into it telling yourself it’s going to be hard, and you’re going to try. Just say, this is what I’m doing today, then go do it.

ETA: That may sound a bit trite, but I believe it’s really easy to overthink these things. Of course the science behind getting fitter and stronger works. But when it comes to big events, difficult challenges, or whatever, “just doing stuff” is a pretty decent way of dealing with a lot of it, I find.

2 Likes

Sustained is also my weakness, I am currently trying a 3 week block, just riding my “weakness” workout. It is the most masochistic thing I have ever done.
Having said that, 20 minutes is only 20 mins, and you can only do what you can do in that time . Your mind can tell you that you should ride harder at the start when you are fresh, then it tells you that you can’t do it, when your start to tire after 5 mins.For the FF I find it best to ignore the head unit, power and cadence targets , and just focus on my pedalling, constantly going round in a cycle of EOS checking the way your foot feels on the pedal, the way you are pedalling, a check around the body for tension, then start again/

I believe the mental strength program will massively help you in this department. Sadly, there’s nothing for it when it comes to pain and lactate buildup for longer efforts held at a high power. The “trick” is just to tick all the boxes internally that are necessary to maintaining your focus and courage.

  1. Proper goal setting
  2. Reward system in place
  3. Knowing your Mt Sufferlandria (Main goal above all others)
  4. Remembering why you’re doing all this in the first place
  5. Proper self talk (motivational, instructional, reward)

This stuff will help you mentally break through those longer high sustained efforts. My 1st Full Frontal test gave me sustained efforts as my weakness (1.7 w/kg 20 min), but yesterday I finally hit a milestone on my 20 minute and hour efforts (2.4 w/kg for my 20 and 2.3 w/kg for my hour).

Other tips would be to go for these efforts in a group setting. I did mine yesterday via a 2.0 w/kg targeted Zwift group ride. I also mixed in attacking from time to time to keep things interesting.

Here is how we recommend pacing the 20min theshold section in our Full Frontal Guide:

After just the right amount of recovery, you get to dive into that stand-by of the old FTP test, the 20-minute, all-out effort. After those two sprints and that 5-minute effort your legs aren’t going to exactly feel as fresh as a daisy, however, so you will NOT be able to hold the same power as you would in a 20-minute FTP test like Rubber Glove. Unlike other tests, we will calculate your FTP on the full average of your 20-minute effort, rather than 95%. But to be accurate, you have to go all-out on the 5-minute effort that precedes it. Sandbagging any part of this fitness test will skew the results and negatively impact your rider profile and subsequent workouts.

Your performance in the 5-minute effort will also give you a good idea of how you should pace the 20-minute portion of the test. For the first 10 minutes you should aim for 80% of the power you held for the 5-minute effort. So if you averaged 250W for the 5min effort you will want to start this effort at 200W. Once you hit the halfway point you can increase or decrease your pace depending upon how you’re feeling.

20 minutes isn’t a flash in the pan, so settle into whatever cadence you consider optimal. For newer riders that will be a bit lower, somewhere around 75-80 RPM. More experienced riders should aim for 95 RPM. Again, your muscles can only handle so much load, so if you find you get to the end of longer efforts and your legs are burning but you aren’t gasping for air, then you need to focus on pedaling faster. This isn’t weight lifting.

Having said that, it doesn’t make that 20mins any shorter or easier so if you feel the FTP number generated from your Half Monty was better starting point, try them in a couple of threshold workouts as you may find the sustained efforts are achievable when they don’t last 20mins.

3 Likes

Or sign up with Xert and let them evaluate your fitness signature, and you won’t have to do an FTP test ever again.
Last time I did my Full frontal the Xert signature matched within a couple Watts, so there’s that.
Most athletes like to do testing, and it’s a good workout if you can fit it into your plan.

1 Like