While Sweet Spot might feel difficult now, you can change that. With the right mindset, proper nutrition and a better understanding of Sweet Spot, you can actively improve your performance in this zone.
For more training tips and information on other topics check out the Ask a Cycling Coach Ep 194
What is Sweet Spot Training?
Riding within the Sweet Spot power zone allows you to reap similar benefits to threshold training without the strain of riding at or above threshold. This makes Sweet Spot training one of the most efficient ways to improve aerobic capabilities and muscular endurance.
The Sweet Spot zone is just below threshold and targets power between 88% and 94% of your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). Spending extended periods of time in this zone exhausts muscle fibers in a way that brings about increased muscular endurance without excessive damage to these fibers. Because it doesn’t have the same stressful impact as threshold you can complete more Sweet Spot work in a single day, and you won’t feel as fatigued going into the next day of training.
Why Does Sweet Spot Feel So Difficult?
Because Sweet Spot work is just below threshold, there’s a common misconception that it should be easy to stay in this zone for long periods of time. But this isn’t the case, Sweet Spot feels uncomfortable and is a particularly difficult zone to maintain when you haven’t given it a lot of time and attention.
Sweet Spot intervals are difficult because they target a high power zone for a relatively long duration of time. Once again, this is hard and feels hard, but the benefits for you as an endurance cyclist are massive.
The workouts are tough on their own, but can be made exponentially more difficult with the wrong mindset and improper nutrition. Knowing how to ride in the right head-space and what you can do to nail nutrition can make all the difference.
Fuel Your Sweet Spot Workouts
Your system burns a lot of fuel during Sweet Spot work – in particular, this type of work demands simple sugars and carbohydrates. Because these workouts rely on carbohydrates they can be extra difficult if you haven’t eaten enough of the right food.
To increase the possibility of a successful workout, fuel properly before your workout with nutritious, carb-centric whole foods. If possible, try to avoid dieting or calorie cutting before Sweet Spot workouts. While some athletes can successfully fast, diet and cut calories in low zones, as intensity increases, this will become much harder.
Maintaining an intake of carbohydrates during your workout is another great way to boost performance. Athletes should consume carbohydrates on the bike to the best of their abilities. Consuming upwards of 90g of carbohydrates is what we typically see from top-performing athletes, but you’ll have to gradually work your way up to those high numbers.
If you don’t have a lot of experience taking in carbohydrates on the bike, start small and progressively work your way up. Over time your body will adapt and become more efficient at utilizing the calories you consume during workouts.
To remind yourself to eat, try setting a timer on your phone or head unit during your workouts. When the timer goes off, eat or drink whatever fuel you prefer. If you aren’t sure where to start, thirty-minute intervals are a good time increment.
Every time the timer goes off, hit the reset button so that you will be reminded to eat again. Not only is this a great way to keep calories coming and increase performance during your sweet spot workouts, but it’s also an effective way to train your body to efficiently take in fuel during races and other hard efforts.
Adjust Your Mindset
Mental preparation is as important as physical preparation. Don’t go into Sweet Spot workouts thinking that you aren’t good at it, or you can’t become good at it. Just because it doesn’t come easy, doesn’t mean you aren’t good and won’t get better!
Approach your Sweet Spot workouts with a positive mind set while still acknowledging the difficulty of the workload. The understanding that these workouts are hard, and will be tough, will ultimately make the workout easier.
Sweet Spot Can Be Trained
While it will always be difficult, Sweet Spot work doesn’t have to be daunting. You can become better at sustained efforts, just like you can become a better sprinter or climber. With structured training, intentional nutrition and the right mindset you can make sweet spot a strength.
For more cycling training knowledge, listen to Ask a Cycling Coach — the only podcast dedicated to making you a faster cyclist. New episodes are released weekly.