10 weeks into training my AeT is going down and I’m getting slower?

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  • #46131

    I was hoping someone could help me with some advice. Basically I’m an avid skier and have had a consistently substantial volume of recreation the last 20 years or so between road cycling, backpacking, skiing and surfing, but never trained whatsoever. I read TFTNA nine months ago and was inspired but didn’t really know how to apply it until I found this site and purchased the 12-week freeride skiing program thinking I had a pretty good base fitness and that would be perfect for preparing for the new ski season.

    Before training I had been doing 45-minute zone 4 runs every other day and then a leg blaster progression two or three days a week in lieu of strength training. Plus some low-intensity bicycle commutes and occasional surf sessions.

    When I first tested for my Aerobic Threshold at the beginning of August I got it bang on. At 145bpm over an hour on a track, Training Peaks showed a Pa:Hr of 4%. Not bad I thought, but 30bpm below my AnT of 175bpm so I had some work to do.

    I shifted immediately to following the aerobic workout schedule in the Freeride training program, two one-hour zone 2 runs plus one two-hour zone 1 hilly hike/run. I couldn’t do the prescribed strength workout since gyms were closed, so I just replaced those with leg blasters plus the killer core routine as I had been doing.

    Then gyms opened in mid-September so I decided to start the 12-week program over again, figuring my ADS could only have gotten better and now I could go to the gym to do the prescribed strength routine. So now I was doing everything to the letter. When I tested for my AeT again in mid-September I thought maybe I had raised it already, so I shot for 150bpm and “failed” the test as my Pa:Hr at that heartrate was 7.3%. Also my splits for that activity (on the same track) were 20s-60s/mile slower despite the higher intensity. It was disappointing, but I knew that AeT adaptations take a long time to manifest so I figured I’d keep plugging.

    I’ve been noticing my speed has been slowing lately at the same heartrates, so I’ve avoided adding any work above zone 2, disregarding the progressions in the 12-week program that add zone 3 work since I know that that shouldn’t be added until ADS is gone. Today I redid the track test for AeT at a lower heartrate (140bpm) than my first test 10 weeks ago and the intensity was apparently still too high, as my Pa:Hr per Training Peaks was 5.9%. On top of that, my pace at that lower heartrate is two-minutes per mile slower than it was during my first test 10 weeks ago. (I should note that all three tests were captured with a chest HRM so the data should be good.)

    I know it can take four months to see AeT adaptations, but is it normal to go backwards in between? Do I need to add more capacity volume? Am I overtraining? I’ve been doing four- to five-hours a week (spread over three or four days) of LISS, plus two days/week of strength training and one rest day. I don’t mind being patient, but I have a nagging fear that I’m missing something and not getting the benefit from training that I should.

    Thanks to anyone who reads this overlong blog, but I’m quite confused and wanted to paint the whole picture!

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    jakedev on #46133


    So I have been doing HR drifts every time I am on my home treadmill, because why not, and this exact thing happened to me awhile ago and I realized it had to do with my leg fatigue. You mentioned leg blasters. I’m not sure if your still doing them but that may be the cause of your high HR drift.

    So I could do a HR drift one day and get 3% (good), but then if I did that same treadmill HR drift (with EXACT same speed, grade, and pack weight) the day after leg blasters, ME, or very arduous approach I would notice my HR drift was much higher (like 7-8%. I would just let my legs recover and do the same test 2 days later and it would be back to the same HR drift (3%) or lower.

    By all means I think it’s still important to do the aerobic capacity work the day after or even the same day of the leg blasters if that’s needed to get the weekly volume. But if your looking for a number to anchor your AeT on I would make sure your legs are rested.

    Beginner wisdom here so take it with a grain of salt.


    jdubus on #46134

    Thanks Jake,

    I’m sure that some of the days on which I’ve been slow (including maybe the second AeT test) had to do with tired legs, but today for instance I’m coming off a rest day yesterday and a gym day before that from which I didn’t feel much or any leg fatigue. (Since gyms reopened I’ve been doing max strength work rather than leg blasters, which seem more like muscle endurance/plyometric work.)

    jakedev on #46143

    Hmm. Well a few other things I’ve Learned.

    Warming up good. I found that I need 20 minutes of WU to get my HR to the right level, and then doing the same WU for every test.

    I would also try a treadmill to be sure your going the exact same pace. I’m not a good pacer.


    Anonymous on #46153

    Great thread guys. Jake is right about any exhaustive leg work (leg blasters will have a substantial ME effect) requiring more time to recover from. Anytime you “test” anything you should try very hard to replicate the same conditions you had on the previous test. For instance; ambient temperature and humidity will have a big effect on the HR even at these relatively modest efforts. Local muscular fatigue, (like Jake and I have mentioned) will also make a big difference. In my experience ME workouts can easily remain in your legs for 2-3 days. Even Max Strength workouts can have an effect for 2 days although they do not seem to have quite such a dramatic effect as ME unless you are going to failure in some of the sets.

    I’m glad you wrote to ask these questions because this is certainly unusual. If you can eliminate the above causes then it is time to look at other possible causes to your non adaptation. The most common cause for no progress is overtraining. Please read the Overtraining section of either book or the article on website. See if you display some of those symptoms. Your history of a high volume of what we’d call random exercise should have prepared for taking on a more structured plan. Please consider this:
    If you have not kept a log of your activities it is common to misremember what we did. We tend to remember the highlights and big days/weeks and over estimate how much we’ve been capable of doing.

    Under training is a possibility of course but the volume in the Freeride plan certainly would not cause you to regress unless you were very aerobically fit and this plan was a big drop in aerobic training.

    Work and life stress are often uncounted but significant stressors.

    In conclusion I will say that there are non-responders to any type of training. They are exceedingly rare and in 30 some years of doing this stuff and now with UA reaching thousands of people I have not heard this kind of story. So, you are wise to consider other causes for the non-adaptation.

    I wish I could be of more help as I know this is surely frustrating for you.


    jdubus on #46168

    Thanks Scott, I really appreciate the long and thoughtful response, as well your frequent and in-depth responses to other threads. I do find it quite helpful.

    I think it’s very unlikely given what you said that I’ve undertrained. Since I live in the Bay Area and the weather has been very consistent on the “test” days, I doubt that that’s the issue. I had been doing leg blasters for months before I switched from zone 4 runs to zone 2 runs (i.e. before I got slower and my AeT went lower), and my strength sessions the past five weeks have at least felt much less taxing than the leg blaster-based sessions, so I don’t think leg fatigue from those days have been the issue, or at least the primary issue either.

    That leaves overtraining which seems the most likely cause. I just finished a quite-busy, fairly high-stress month of work in which I often didn’t sleep as much or as well as I had been. I was proud that I didn’t let my busy schedule prevent me from my (new) normal load of training, but it seems that I should have modulated it somewhat to compensate for the other stress in my life.

    The zone 2 workouts feel so easy that it seems like I could do them as often as I have the time for, but it seems that it’s not so simple as that.

    Anonymous on #46467

    Also, you’re assuming your first test was correct. What if it wasn’t? If it was loaded into Training Peaks, you can share a public link to it here and we can take a look.

    The worst ADS I’ve seen—from a long-term diet of high-intensity—was 40%. So don’t rule out that your starting AeT may have been lower if that first test wasn’t correct.

    hikerobby on #46752

    This reminds me of something I read on here, where Cory Richards was sad all the other climbers were fitter and faster than him, but in the end they all turned around and he submitted Everest bc of this Aet training. Perhaps you do get slower if you’ve done lots of Zone 4 training.

    My question is, outside of an 8,000m peak where these adaptations are certainly helpful–isn’t faster better?

    jdubus on #47101

    For what it’s worth, here are the three Aerobic Threshold Tests I’ve done. I’ll do another one once I resolve some issues with my HRM strap that have popped up in the last week or two, from either cooler temps or interference with some new bluetooth headphones. I’ve basically been in a holding pattern of two days a week of the squat routine plus three or four days a week of one- to two-hour runs or hikes with heartrates between 120 and 140. I figure if you can’t have enough base workouts then I should at least be doing some benefit with those?




    Anonymous on #47471

    @hikerobby: “Faster” at what? The duration of the event is always a factor. Being faster at shorter events doesn’t mean that that same person will be faster at longer. I’m not familiar with Cory’s experience, but that’s perhaps what happened. His training may have made him “faster” at longer durations.

    : Interesting… These look like good tests, so I would assume that overtraining or training at too-high an intensity is the culprit. Leg blasters, for example, will definitely reduce performance in the short-term. Also, I would avoid strength sessions for at least two days prior to a test. For an important event, I would avoid strength for at least ten days prior.

    jdubus on #50457

    Update! Good and bad news I guess, but I’m feeling very positive.

    The super short version is I still have ADS and I don’t seem to have a higher AeT than when I did the first test back in August, however, at the moment I am not frustrated because I feel as fit as I ever have ski touring, which was the whole point of this!

    There is of course the caveat that in previous seasons I weighed 15-25 pounds more *and* I was mixing in resort skiing with my ski touring unlike this season *and* my overall volume must have been lower, but still, I’m now able to do back-to-back half-day tours of 5000′ vert (while sleeping in my car in between) and feel recovered within a couple days. Under normal skinning conditions I’m climbing 1000′ in around 45 minutes while mainly nose-breathing. (I don’t normally wear a chest HRM ski touring for fear of it interfering with my beacon, and my watch seems even less reliable at detecting my hear trate in cold weather, so I’m not totally sure what my heart rate is, but it feels like it’s around my AeT for the most part). Previously I think mid-season pace was more like 1000’/hour, and at a heart rate closer to my AnT.

    I still want to push my AeT up to the high 150s (AnT-10%) but that will likely have to wait until the summer I guess.

    Of course, all this just leads to new questions, most of which don’t belong in this thread.

    One question that is relevant to this thread though:

    When I do finish the ski season and go back to attempting to move up my AeT, is it advisable to drop strength training entirely until I reach that threshold? Or maybe do two strength sessions a week but keep them mellow enough that I can do recovery aerobic sessions the same day? Given the improvement in my fitness that’s happened since the ski season started, I get the sense that I was doing too little aerobic volume at too difficult of a pace.

    Just want to close (for now haha) with appreciation for all of these resources. I wish I had discovered structured training while I was still in the middle of my athletic prime.

    Reed on #50627

    Sounds like you’re having a fun season! It’d be a good idea to keep up some amount of strength training in parallel with increasing low-intensity aerobic volume. One other idea comes to mind – you mentioned in your original post that your zone 1 workouts were spread over three or four days per week. You might consider bumping that up to six or seven days. If you’re aiming for five hours total, 6x 30-45 minutes and 1x 90-120 minutes might be a more effective stimulus than two 1-hour runs and a 3-hour ski tour…

    dcgm on #61068

    Yeah, this feels familiar.

    HR drift test —> today’s training run (and the three or four preceding it, more or less)
    HR 147 —-> 143
    Pa 9:54 —-> 11:00
    RPE “steady”, had to push a little —-> really easy, was “riding the brake”
    HR drift ~3.5% (by hand) —-> not entirely sure how to interpret Garmin Connect IQ Cardio Drift app output but I think around 3%
    Comparable terrain (dead flat vs 165ft elevation gain over the whole course)
    Comparable weather (30s/40s F, no wind)
    Same shoes
    Both fasted/caffeinated

    I dunno. I’d have thought if it was fatigue from max strength work and overall training volume I’d feel it.

    dcgm on #61399

    Update: deload week, half the volume of last couple weeks. Feeling springy, stairs feel good, aches and pains are melting away. Been training pretty much exclusively in Z1/Z2, no planned excursions above Z2 but a few accidental, and never very far above. Max str a couple times a week, no ME.

    Had to walk to keep today’s run in Z1 (<135bpm); eventually said screw it and jogged slow. Last mile in 12:06 at average HR around 145-150. HR drift test in similar conditions about a month ago yielded a 9:54 pace at 147 HR. What’s going on?

    “Residual fatigue from max str”–okay, but I’d expect this to feel like a higher RPE at same HR (and have actually experienced this in previous training cycles) and this wasn’t that–it felt really easy, I just couldn’t keep my heart rate down

    “You accidentally found your AnT, not your AeT”–doubt it. I’ve averaged 7:20ish for 4 mi with a negative split (didn’t take HR), 7:00ish/190bpm for a 5k, and 173 HR for ~35min uphill hike within the last year, no major breaks or obvious acute regressions. I suppose I could be in good enough shape that a half-hour-ish effort won’t capture AnT, but look at my actual performances, I’m not exactly Kipchoge here.

    “Instrumentation”–maybe, I didn’t notice anything weird at the time of the AeT test but I did notice some anomalous readings from that chest strap ~2 weeks later, changed the battery, still got weird readings, switched makes/models, have noticed nothing weird subsequently.

    “Overtraining”–I can’t prove this isn’t it, but I don’t think my volumes (~10hr/week) are way out of line with previous training cycles (especially considering non-training activity volume), I don’t feel run-down or flat or whatever, I still want to get out the door and train, everything feels pretty easy. HR is just misbehaving wildly relative to pace while running. (Hill hiking seems to be behaving about as I would expect, though it’s obviously harder to control for surface, incline, etc.).

    “Undertraining”–surely not.

    I’ll try a new AeT test fairly soon (not right away, I’m about to change location to a warmer climate and want to acclimate). What else can I do here? In general, what gives?

    dcgm on #61400

    Edit window closed, but now I think about it, I wonder if instrumentation could be an issue on the pace/distance side as well as the HR side (Suunto Ambit3 for HR drift test, Fenix 6x currently.). Well, a new HR drift test with the current watch and more importantly on an actual track should solve this.

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