You don’t need prior training experience to get started with structured training. Athletes of all fitness levels and abilities can get faster with the right training plan. The Sweet Spot Base I low-volume plan is an excellent option for beginner cyclists.
Table of Contents
- Why Structured Training is Important
- Cycling Training Plan for Beginners
- How to Choose Your Next Training Plan
- Five Tips for Cycling Training Beginners
Why Structured Training is Important
Most cycling training fits into one of two categories; unstructured training and structured training. Unstructured training includes any workout or ride that aims to build general fitness but doesn’t have any specific purpose or structure. Unstructured training can be a great way to build basic fitness and get some time on the bike, but it’s not the best or most efficient way to get faster. When you want to reach peak performance, target specific goals, or build long-term fitness, a structured training plan is the most effective way.
Structured training targets specific goals and abilities through training phases composed of goal-oriented workouts. In this approach to training, the structured workouts are the substance of the training, and the structured training plan is the overall organization of the training. A season-long training plan typically includes three different training phases; a base phase, a build phase, and a specialty phase. Each phase lasts between four and six weeks and helps build a specific type of fitness through a strategic organization of workouts and training weeks.
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All of the workouts in a training plan are tailored to your current fitness to help ensure that your training plan is neither too challenging nor too easy. As you progress through the plan, the workouts will gradually increase in challenge and specificity so that your training continues to challenge you and grow your strengths. This progressive layout makes this approach to training productive for everyone—no matter what their starting fitness level may be. However, some plans are better for beginners than others.
Cycling Training Plan for Beginners
The Low-volume Sweet Spot Base I training plan is what we recommend for beginner cyclists. This plan packs a lot of productive work into a relatively short amount of time, making it a great introduction to structure and a fruitful training load for various fitness levels and abilities. With three structured workouts per week and four dedicated rest days, this plan also gives newer athletes plenty of time to recover in between hard workouts, and room to integrate a few fun, unstructured rides into the week. Here’s a preview of what you can expect from this six-week training plan.
During your first week, you’ll complete a Ramp Test, an introductory Sweet Spot workout, and a longer threshold ride. This combination of workouts is designed to assess your current fitness level, introduce you to Sweet Spot intervals, and kick off the endurance training.
Day One: The Ramp Test
At TrainerRoad, we use functional Threshold Power (FTP) to quantify your current fitness level to tailor all of your workouts to your current abilities. To know your FTP, you’ll need to complete a fitness assessment test. We recommend the Ramp Test, which assesses your FTP by gradually increasing the power target in one-minute steps until you reach a point where you can’t maintain the power target any longer. Though challenging at the end, the test is relatively quick and easy to follow. For more information on the Ramp Test, check out the video below.
Day Two: Sweet Spot Intervals
On the second day of your training plan, you’ll complete your first Sweet Spot workout! Sweet Spot workouts are an aerobic exercise that targets the Sweet Spot power zone. These workouts are an incredibly efficient way to grow your aerobic fitness, improve muscular endurance, and integrate moderate-intensity into your training. Acho is an introductory Sweet Spot workout with three sets of twelve-minute intervals at 80% of FTP. For our complete guide to Sweet Spot intervals, check out this article: Sweet Spot Intervals: How to Execute Them.
Day Three: Threshold Training
On day three of your Sweet Spot Base plan, you’ll complete your first long Threshold workout. At ninety minutes, this workout is primarily focused on building endurance with longer tempo intervals at the start and finish of the workout. As you’ll see from the graph above, this workout also integrates a bit of higher intensity with some over-under intervals that target power above your FTP. These intervals help increase how long you can work above FTP and reprocess lactate buildup, while also increasing your ability to hold higher power values for longer.
The following weeks follow a similar structure with two 60 minute interval workouts during the week and one longer activity on the weekend. The goals will vary with each passing week, though. In your second week of training, for example, the Sweet Spot intervals will increase in duration to target your ability to maintain moderate-intensity and muscular endurance work. This work helps pave the way for later improvements in your ability to sustain higher power output for longer lengths of time. During your second week, you’ll also get the chance to start doing some indoor drills. In this week, you’ll find form drills like isolated leg training (ILT), form sprints, and cadence spin-ups; the remainder of your week will be dedicated to accumulating time in Sweet Spot.
The third week of the Sweet Spot plan focuses on pedal economy and efficiency with leg-speed drills and more Sweet Spot intervals. Some over-under intervals on the weekend help increase your ability to shift between reasonably high power values. This weekend workout also challenges your ability to resist fatigue when riding at high percentages of your FTP.
Continuing a familiar pattern, the fourth week of your plan includes more leg-speed work, Sweet Spot intervals, and over-under intervals in the Threshold zone. During the fourth week of your training plan, you might start to feel the effects of the fatigue you’ve incurred during the first three weeks of training. Though challenging, this is where the benefits of consistent training begin to show!
Week five is your final week of training before your first recovery week! Two rounds of Sweet Spot workouts precede another weekend round of over-under intervals. For many athletes, the final week of training before a recovery week can be the most challenging. As the cumulative fatigue from weeks past ratchets up, the goal here is to try to hang in there, with the promise of next week’s drastically-reduced recovery workload serving as your goal.
The final week of this training plan is a recovery week. Recovery weeks, also referred to as rest weeks, are weeks in a structured training plan dedicated to rest and recovery. In most plans, you’ll have a recovery week integrated into your schedule every three to six weeks. The week itself is composed of rest days and active recovery rides, all of which are included to help you recover. As a result, you can grow stronger and take on harder workouts later on.
Try Adaptive Training
When you’re just getting started with structured training, it’s never entirely certain how your body will respond to training. You may progress very quickly, or you may need a slightly gentler approach; with TrainerRoad’s Adaptive Training feature, your plan will adjust to the pace of your progress as you work your way through it. Whether you have a breakthrough ride or need to take time off due to life events, your plan will always be the right one for your individual needs. Adaptive Training is automatically enabled for all TrainerRoad plans; click here to learn more about why it’s the smartest and most effective way to train, no matter your experience level.
How to Choose Your Next Training Plan
After you complete Sweet Spot Base I, we recommend moving on to the Sweet Spot Base II training phase. The second Sweet Spot phase builds on the skills and fitness you’ve established in the first training phase, making it a natural progression. For this second training phase we recommend sticking to the low-volume approach, however, in some cases, athletes can increase their training volume and train with a mid-volume plan. If you’d like to see if mid-volumes are right for you, you can check out this article: Five Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing a Mid Volume Plan.
With that said, If you’re interested in committing to a longer training progression, this would be a good point to build a training plan with Plan Builder. Plan Builder is an automated training plan creator that builds custom training plans. It uses your current training load, experience with intervals, primary discipline, and schedule to create you a custom training plan. Plan Builder helps take the guesswork out of choosing a training plan.
Five Tips for Cycling Training Beginners
While you won’t need much to get started with your structured training plan, there are a few things you can do that will drastically improve the quality of your first few weeks of training. To help ensure success in your first few weeks of training, follow these tips.
1. Use the Equipment Checker
There’s nothing more frustrating than putting on your kit and getting ready to ride only to realize you’re missing an essential piece of equipment. To help prevent this from happening, you can use the TrainerRoad Equipment checker to make sure you have all the required equipment to train indoors: Equipment Checker.
2. Consume Calories During Workouts
Hydration and nutrition are vital aspects of cycling training, even for shorter workouts. We recommend fueling all of your moderate to high-intensity workouts with additional carbohydrates on the bike. Fueling before, during, and after with carbohydrates ensures that you have enough fuel on board to power through all of your efforts. Going into a workout fueled can also decrease the rate of perceived exertion (RPE), making the workout seem easier than it would otherwise feel. To ensure that you have this advantage, eat a carb-rich meal two to three hours before your workout. During the ride, plan on taking in 60-120g of carbs per hour to stay on top of your system’s demand for fuel. For more information on fueling your workouts check out: How to Use Carbs for Maximum Performance
3. Ride With a Fan and Music
While you don’t need a fan or media to complete a workout, both will make the training process a lot more enjoyable. First, investing in a good fan can make a big difference during your indoor workouts. When riding indoors, there’s significantly less airflow than there is outdoors. As a result, it’s a lot easier to overheat indoors. Riding with a fan aids your body’s cooling process, which increases efficiency and drastically reduces the rate of perceived exertion.
Playing music or watching a TV show can also do wonders to decrease RPE during a workout. During lower intensity workouts like Active Recovery workouts, Endurance workouts, and Tempo workouts, we recommend a more involved media like a movie, a show, or a podcast. The more engaging it is, the better. During higher intensity sessions like Threshold and VO2 Max workouts, we recommend something a little less cognitively demanding, such as music.
4. Aim for Consistency
Consistency over time is the surest way to becoming a faster cyclist. Long-term consistency promotes sustainable physical adaptations and high aerobic fitness while helping to prevent setbacks in your power development, mental burnout, and fitness plateaus. Try implementing strategies that reinforce a consistent training regimen and prevent missed workouts like designated off days, allocated training time, and a consistent sleep schedule. For more tips on consistency check out: Tips for Consistency and Early Morning Workouts
5. Respect Your Limits
While cycling training can be challenging, every workout shouldn’t be pushing you to your absolute limit. Remember it’s okay to cut a ride short, opt for an easier alternative, or even skip your scheduled ride when you’re not feeling up for it; Adaptive training will adjust your upcoming workouts to keep you on track. Remember, it’s all a part of a learning process; with time, you’ll know what works for you and what doesn’t.
Ready to learn more about power-based training? Check out Training with a Power Meter: What Every Cyclist Should Know