Sweet spot training is one of the most effective and efficient ways to train. However, there are times when you can take a break from the intensity and reap the benefits of a long endurance ride. You can address your aerobic base, experiment with nutrition, and prepare for your event by substituting an endurance ride in place of a sweet spot workout.  

Addressing Aerobic Base Fitness

In a progressive training plan, we generally view the Base Phase as the time when you are developing your aerobic capacity. Addressing your base fitness means training the body to become more efficient at turning fuel into energy using oxygen. As you progress into the Build and Speciality Phases, the emphasis shifts from growing your aerobic capacity to developing race-specific fitness. But throughout a training plan, you still need to maintain your base fitness. 

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There are two ways you can address base fitness—volume and intensity. Relatively speaking, volume and intensity are inversely proportional. As you increase volume, intensity needs to be decreased (and vice-versa). Otherwise, you will overwhelm your ability to recover adequately. While both are aimed towards the same goal, sweet spot and endurance workouts achieve this differently. Sweet spot workouts are more intense (88-94% FTP), but require less volume. Conversely, endurance workouts are less intense (55-75% FTP), but longer. 

Even as you progress into Build and Speciality, base fitness must be maintained. Mid- and high-volume plans include a mix of sweet spot and endurance workouts. Endurance rides are scheduled during the week, and a sweet spot workout is usually the final workout of the weekend. All of which help maintain your aerobic base. 

Benefits of Substituting Intensity with Volume 

Sweet spot work is highly effective and time-efficient. However, at times, you can replace your Sunday sweet spot workout, with a longer, less intense endurance ride, especially if you have the extra time. Not only will you address your base fitness, but you can gain valuable experience for your endurance event.

Recovery
As I have aged into the master’s categories, one thing has become blatantly obvious. It takes me much longer to recover from tough workouts. With family and professional obligations, recovery can often fly out the window. Switching to a long and gentler endurance ride is an excellent way to avoid overwhelming your ability to recover.  

Nutrition
Long endurance rides are perfect for dialing in your nutrition strategies. Aside from training your GI system to handle plenty of carbs, long rides provide an opportunity to experiment and discover what works for you. That way, you can know what products work for you, how many carbs you can ingest, and if your hydration is adequate. 

Bike Fit
Some bike fit issues show themselves immediately. However, many fit problems are only revealed after several hours of riding. Long rides can reveal if your fit is too aggressive by manifesting hand, back, or neck pain. The same idea applies to your clothing. Bib shorts that work well for an hour might not be your favorite three hours in. 

Ride Outside
Long endurance rides give you a chance to try Outside Workouts. In general, endurance workouts are the easiest to complete outdoors because they are relatively simple and easily done without a power meter. If you haven’t tried an Outside Workout yet, this is a fantastic way to get started. 

How to Substitute Your End of Week Workout

With TrainerRoad’s mid- and high volume plans, the last scheduled workout of the week is typically a sweet spot one. Each week you have the option to switch the sweet spot workout for a more prolonged, less intense one. Every TrainerRoad plan includes weekly notes that provide the reasoning behind the workouts, including options for the final workout of the week. You can find the weekly notes on your calendar. 

Trainerroad's weekly notes show you how to substitute volume for intensity.
To view your weekly tips, just click on the calendar annotation.

In this instance, we have the option of swapping out Tallac +3 for Boarstone +3 or Town Hill. For example, if you want to do Town Hill, just add it to your calendar and remove the existing sweet spot workout. When you schedule it, you can choose whether to do it inside or out. 

How to substitute volume for intensity.
In this example, the athlete has the option to switch Tallac +3 for the longer, but less intense Boarstone +3 or Town Hill.

The next time you have time for a long weekend ride, you may want to consider substituting the sweet spot workout for an endurance one. Not only will you address your aerobic base, but you will also have a chance to practice and discover the necessary skills needed for your endurance event. 


For more cycling training knowledge, listen to Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast— the only podcast dedicated to making you a faster cyclist. New episodes are released weekly.




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Jesse Fortson

Jesse Fortson lost over 145 pounds with TrainerRoad's help. He uses his experience as a teacher and race mechanic to get faster for crits, gravel, and marathon XCO races.