Sore legs - how much is too much?

This has been a training concept that has been on my mind for a while. And the other day I listened to the Strong and Savvy Cyclist Podcast with Tim Cusick as the guest.

One thing that he said that was interesting is that you should recover from a workout within 24 hours.

I’m getting back into cycling shape after 8 months off. I ran, lifted weights, and rowed so I’m not at zero. On Monday, I did a VO2max workout. It was hard start, high cadence. 30 seconds at 300 watts and 3 minutes at 200+ watts. My FTP is currently 200. I only did 3 of those intervals.

I managed the workout fine. I hit a high sustained heart rate during the intervals which was the goal. Today is Thursday, three days later, and my legs are still sore. Yesterday I had a cramp in my quad carrying a box of groceries up the stairs! My legs are feeling a bit better today but I suspect I won’t be fully recovered until Friday or Saturday.

By Tim’s definition, I guess I over did it since I didn’t recover in 24 hours let alone 36.

My questions are:

Do people agree with Tim’s 24 hour rule?

Should interval progressions start much more modestly? Minimum dose for recovery and adaptation?

The other thing that Tim said that resonated with me was the chronic tired legs. I’ve often been in that state riding my usual 8-10 hours per week. I often like to ride 6-7 days per week and I have struggled with riding slow enough on an easy or recovery day. Even with tired legs, cruising along at 125bpm (zone 2) feels pretty easy and zone 1 feels ridiculously slow. But I’ve learned that an hour of zone 2 can delay recovery from previous workouts.

It depends :slight_smile:

  • volume is key. So if you’re so sore you can’t right, you are missing out on volume
  • sore means you need recovery (of the type 2 fibers), that could be a zone 1 ride to build aerobic endurance, but make sure you stop when it doesn’t feel right.
  • if you are very well trained, you might need to push beyond the ‘recovery within 24 hours’-intensity to get any noteable signal for adaptions

I get all that. I’m more interested in the response to workout prescriptions and Cusick’s “recover in 24 hours idea”. With my last workout, if it takes 4 days to recover, then it was obviously too much. I did 3 intervals, 11 minutes in total length as the 3rd was 30 seconds longer.

I’m wondering how low a coach might start a rider on an interval progression. Should I try again and do 3 minutes total (3x1 minute for example) or 6 minutes (3x2min) and see how long it takes to recover from those?

Or take the power down to threshold and try to achieve an interval set where I recover in 24 hours? And then add a little bit on each time.

I’m wondering if you should dip your toe in and do a little more each session or jump in the deep end as I did.

Vo2max intervals are icing on the cake. So maybe save those until you have something to spread it on. Get some a bunch of z2 and some thresholds (45min → 48min at @95%).

Flip side, i don’t know if my legs are ever not sore except before a race. But if they’re so sore I can’t do the workout at the quality i need then that’s where I dial it back… Sometimes it’s not even intensity but volume that I have to cut back on.

I’ve been riding endurance with a bit of tempo and ftp tossed in since February. I found an old block periodization schedule from Dean Gollich which had a small VO2 block preceding a big endurance block. My intention was to try something similar.

Maybe the issue is the type of vo2max work for the type of rider you are?

I have a friend who is my go-to ride buddy. Same w/kg, but weighs 20kg less. Even though I have a 80w higher threshold and go must faster on the flats he outshines me when we go long.

Today we did 80mi ride with 4k feet climbing. For the first 50mi i was off the front and easily in Z2 for the majority… The we hit a 1mi climb with avg gradient of 18% and pitches upwards of 32%. That amounted to 10 max ~1min efforts for us to summit. After that I was barely holding on for the rest of the ride.

As a more anerobic rider, going really hard for shorter periods of time really work me over vs. my friend who can’t go as hard as I do (as a % of threshold) and those efforts deplete me a lot more than they do him (which makes sense since he’s sandbagging).

Similarly when we both do vo2max work, he does shorter intervals (1-4min) and i do longer (~8min). If I do shorter intervals I’m unable to recover as well and don’t get the adaptions i want (vo2 goes up but so does my vlamax)

I think there is merit to doing your VO2 work before an endurance block. I tried it recently with an athlete and he is putting out his best ever 20 - 60 minute numbers now. However, he had an established aerobic base and workload. It is our 3rd season together, I put the concept to him and he was willing to try it.

However, I would be reluctant to kick off a rider who is coming back from a long break with work of that intensity. Firstly, I am wanting them to create the habit and establish consistency. Going so hard that they do not recover within 48 hours would, to me, be too much. Also, I would first want to establish some degree of aerobic fitness, especially the ability to recover between efforts, so there is more value in the V02 efforts.

It may sound like a soft answer, but if you look at a typical training pattern, there are two or three hard sessions a week. I would always choose to underestimate intensity to enable consistency, than prescribe too much intensity and sacrifice consistency - especially at the beginning.

If an athlete is recovering in time to hit their next key session, then intensity/dose is probably about right. If they can’t hit the session then dose and recovery need to be examined and adjusted so they can.

I think this really comes down to your own uniquennes as an ahtlete. I coach some that only need 24hrs and others that need 48 or more inbetween their hard sessions. I have found that age can affect recovery time, I coach many that are 50+ with 74 being my oldest athlete and once thing I have learned is this: age does not keep you from training and racing at high level, but it can determine how much reocvery is needed between those hard and or long rides. I would start by looking at your interval rides and see if you are speding time at the floor or cieling of the zone, really for all zones for that matter. Your pyhsio does not necessarily gain from spedning more time at cieling vs floor, but it will produce more fatigue and I find this a common cause with what you are expericneing or within the questions you have. Progression of intravals in my opinion should start with more time at intensity, then move to more power, this helps build fatigue ressitacne which will help with yor chronic fatigue as well.

maybe the VO2 was too early and your big arobic base has not been established, thus the stress and strain of the workout had longer effects into Thursday?? One thing you might want to look into is a polarized approcah to your training. The beauty of this model is how it makes you a very durable athlete as you only get 1x really hard ride week. 80% of rides are easy zone 1-2 or I coach these rides to be 80% of less of MHR. Then, the hard ride is as hard as you can go for the duration of the interval, 5M, 6M. 8M etc. 3-4 of these intervals with goal of getting 90+% MHR- power is anywhere from 105%+ FTP, focus on HR activity and allow power to be what it is, you will progress over time and power will become smoother, higher and longer. There is a TON of research on this model.

Happy training!!

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Thanks @Fpike. It took me 5 days to recover from those intervals. Saturday, I did almost the same workout minus the 30 seconds hard start portion (150% of FTP) and I recovered in about 24 hours. 150% is obviously too taxing right now but It didn’t feel that hard during the workout.

I’ve done strictly polarized training in the past and experienced good gains and then stalled out. I’ve reached my best performances with a @steveneal inspired tempo build.

I still try to keep it polarizedish by keeping it under LT1 between harder workouts.

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Good to hear! Anytime you add those hard starts you for sure induce a diff metablic load which sometimes means more recovery, you just may not have been ready for them as well? If you experince plateau on the polarized plan add time at intensity. The classic intervals are 4x8, 4x12 and finally 3-4x20M, keeping in mind you are after HR as much as you are power.

Mixing in some tempo will add density which I am a fan of, be careful not to go over 20% of following polarized, I prefer more 10-15% tempo.

I have a really hard time with hard start intervals no matter how fit I am. I just get super hot and find i fade a lot faster. Since the goal of vo2max intervals is stroke volume i gravitate towards higher cadence (100-110). Doing that will get my HR way up with less power and heat overload compared to hard start or self selected cadence (~80rpm)

What I did was high cadence (120 rpm). I just have no other way to drive a high heart rate in a 3-5-8 minute interval. My max HR is 188 and I’ll top out around 160bpm (85%) unless I put in a sprint. I can’t even get to 160 fast without a hard start. I could never get to Seiler’s recommendation of collecting minutes at 90% of HRmax.

I’m just going to progress it slower and forget the hard start for now.

Curious what you’re using to define your max HR?

Age? If so, you may want to use another method for calculating your zones / max HR. For instance from my above example of a friend who is age 44 vs. my 42, his max HR is about 15BPM higher than mine (seen from real world max values), and his conversational Z2 is 20bpm higher than my lowly 126bpm

I’m 56 so the max HR isn’t what it used to be. The max I’m going by is what I’ve seen on the bike Usually in a race simulation group ride - think an hour near threshold followed by a sprint at the end resulting in my max.

A couple of weeks ago I did a 45 minute FTP/TTE test and at the end I was at 160bpm. I think typically HR isn’t my limiter. It’s the muscular endurance.

There is no way I could quickly get to 170bpm (90%) and hold it there any substantial length of time. And it’s not that I have a burning need to do intervals like this.

Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but this description suggests to me you shouldn’t set your zones as a % of max HR. Maybe try to set your zones as percentages of your VO2MAX, threshold, vt1. inscyd test with HR zones (not sure if fast talk offers that yet) would be great for you or if too expensive you could try the Aero tune test.

I’m not sure what you are really getting at. I’m not concerned with my zones. I’m using power zones in WKO5. I’ve also triangulated my VT1/LT1 heart rate with the talk test and dfa a1. I use the Kollie Moore FTP test protocol and have been going by the calculated mFTP in WKO5 plus I keep the residuals and power duration curve updated in WKO5.

I said above that I’ve heard Seiler say many times that you collect minutes at 90% of HRmax but that is practically impossible for me. Maybe it’s because they are studying young undergrad students or elite athletes?

“Accumulating 32 min of work at 90% HR max induces greater adaptive gains than accumulating 16 min of work at ∼95% HR max despite lower RPE.”

I’ve understood it to be a percentage of your vo2max or HR peak (max achievable).

Similarly in the study you linked their protocols were:

Interval training was performed at 88 ± 2, 90 ± 2, and 94 ± 2% of HR(peak)

I believe the definition of HRpeak is max achievable HR in activity?

Personal note: I can also hit a much higher HR in running than in cycling. Doing so in cycling requires me to be really fit.

It seems like HRmax and HRpeak are used interchangeably. What I think is my max is what I’ve seen in cycling. I see it 2-3 times per year.

As others have mentioned, I think those hard start VO2max intervals are very fatiguing. I tried them a couple of times a few years ago but found that any potential marginal gain from the hard start wasn’t worth the extra recovery needed. I don’t do them anymore.

Also age is a factor and I know that I need more recovery (age 53) than I did a few years ago.

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