Numerous individuals have expressed their disappointment with a decrease in their FTP during their latest test. While there are obvious factors that can contribute to a decline in FTP, such as insufficient training or illness, there is a significant reason that seems to have been overlooked.
Professional athletes typically train for specific events. For instance, fighters undergo a focused “fight camp” lasting 6-8 weeks to prepare for an upcoming bout. They cannot sustain that level of training continuously without risking burnout or injury.
The concept of periodization is prevalent in most high-intensity sports. It involves having a well-defined timeline leading up to a crucial event, allowing athletes to program their workload to achieve peak fitness at the right moment.
However, the majority of Peloton users are not training for a singular event. There is no peaking for a competition or downtime afterward. Instead, we train consistently with the expectation of continuous improvement because of the hard work we’ve invested. Although the recent PZ Challenge emphasized foundational endurance, there is still an aspect that cannot be addressed adequately within the current system.
When dealing with thousands of riders at varying fitness levels, Peloton and the coaches cannot feasibly prescribe the exact workload for every rider. Beginners, in their initial adaptive phase, benefit from specific stresses for maximal gains. On the other hand, experienced riders who are already in good shape and nearing the plateau of improvement require different approaches.
Given the diverse range of riders, some new and others seasoned veterans, it becomes evident that the scientifically elegant structure of Peloton Power Zone training cannot be universally applied. While FTP-derived zones provide appropriate intensity for any rider, assuming a successful test, the programming of rides and frequency should ideally be tailored on an individual level.
Unfortunately, the options of participating in 3, 4, or 5 rides per week during challenges are typically selected based on members’ work/life schedules rather than what routine would be optimal for each individual. The same schedule limitations apply to those who choose their own rides.
This is all acceptable.
What is unreasonable is expecting to constantly maintain peak fitness and continuous improvement without experiencing the typical ebb and flow observed in professional athletes. Given life’s challenges and unexpected obstacles, this level of consistency is simply unattainable for a significant portion of us. Hence, we must acknowledge that our FTP will inevitably vary as our bodies (and lives) subject us to this involuntary periodization process.
In summary, all Peloton riders are far ahead of those who spend their time on the couch. Perform your Peloton FTP test diligently (had to mention that!) and comprehend that the process I’ve attempted to describe will impact your results. Sometimes we’ll be on an upward trajectory, while other times we’ll be in recovery mode. Understanding that this fluctuation is normal and that your fitness has significantly improved from the baseline is crucial. Just imagine achieving your current level on the FTP test when you first acquired the bike. Keep things in perspective!
Stay committed. The journey may have its bumps, but keep moving forward.
This article is part of an ongoing series on Power Zone Training. You can find the other entries below in suggested reading order:
#1 – What is Peloton Power Zone Training?
#2 – Peloton FTP Test Strategies & Lessons
#3 – Peloton Power Zone Training – My Zones Are Too Easy!
#4 – Living with new zones & more FTP test
#5 – Post Peloton FTP Test New Zone Struggles (Mental & Physical)
#6 – Decreases in Peloton FTP (This article)
#7 – Age-related limitation & degradation of FTP in Power Zone Training
#9 – Resting Heart Rate: Why Power Zone Training reduces it
#10 – The “Training Effect”