Knowing which training plan is best for you is the first step toward becoming a stronger off-road racer.

All Successful Off-Road Cyclists Follow a Training Plan

TrainerRoad’s training plans are broken up into three sequential phases: Base, Build and Specialty. Each phase serves a different purpose. As you progress through your training, your plan evolves to meet the unique demands of your goal event.

Base Phase

During the Base Phase, your training is focused on cultivating your base fitness, building strength and refining your technique. Together, these will establish a solid foundation of form and fitness. There are two different base training plans available to TrainerRoad athletes.

  • Traditional Base: This plan takes a more old-fashioned approach to Base training. Unless you have at least 10 hours/week to train, we do not recommend this long, lower-intensity approach.
  • Sweet Spot Base: This plan will provide a blend of Sweet-Spot, Threshold and even VO2 Max efforts that will lay the groundwork for the training to come. In almost every case I recommend Sweet Spot Base to our athletes. It’s the most efficient way to establish a well-rounded base of fitness. If you have any doubt about which Base plan to choose, go for Sweet Spot Base.

Build Phase

Once you’ve worked through the Base Phase, it’s time to focus on raising your sustainable power. Regardless of which type of rider you are, this phase will prepare your mind and body for the rigors of the more specialized training to come. There are three different Build plans to choose from. The plan you choose depends on the event or season you are preparing for.

  • Short Power Build: The Short Power Build plan is what the majority of off-road riders will choose. One focus aims to increase your maximum aerobic capabilities, while the other improves your anaerobic power. So if you’re preparing for a race with short, intense efforts like a cross-country race or cyclocross race, the Short Power Build training plan is what you need.
  • Sustained Power Build: If you’re preparing for a long, sustained effort like a marathon cross-country race or one-day epic you will have the most success with the Sustained Power Build training plan. This plan, above all, is about emphasizing high-end muscular endurance.
  • General Build: The General Build training plan is for riders who compete in both short power and sustained power events. In this plan you’ll find an even mix of VO2 max, anaerobic and sustained power workouts.

Specialty Phase

The final training phase is the most event-specific yet. In this phase, you’re going to fine-tune your fitness to best suit the demands of your event’s distance.

Nearly every discipline of off-road racing has a Specialty plan associated with it. Short track XC, marathon cross-country, cyclocross and gravity races are all covered. Pick the speciality plan that corresponds to your goal event or season.

How to Choose the Appropriate Plan Volume

Each of our event-specific Base, Build and Specialty training plans have three volume options: low, mid and high. There are two main factors, stress and time available to train, that will determine the volume that’s best for you.

  • Stress: Consider the amount of training stress your body can handle. The demands of indoor training might be more intense than what you’re used to so take that into account when you choose your plan’s volume.
  • Time: Decide how much time you can to dedicate to training. If you decide you have a lot of time to train, it’s important to remember just because you have the time does not mean you should pick a high-volume plan. It is OK to move between plan volumes once you learn more about how much training stress you can handle.

A word to the wise: If you’re having difficulty choosing between two volumes of a plan, choose the lower volume. You can always increase volume during your next training block.

How Off-Road Racers Can Adjust Their Training Plan

All TrainerRoad training plans are flexible. That means you have the power to adjust any training plan to fit your schedule and race calendar. If you’re wondering how to modify a plan in the event of having more or less time to train, or you’re curious about how to prepare for two different duration events, here’s what we recommend.

What if I have multiple races over the season?

If you have multiple races throughout the course of your season, you’ll have to decide the importance of each race. If you’re not sure how to do that, here’s a great post on how to prioritize your races and build a seasonal race plan. Once you’ve done that, you’ll then schedule your training to peak for your highest-priority race or set of closely scheduled races. It’s important to recognize that you can’t maintain your peak fitness for very long and effective training is cyclical in nature.

What if I have less than the prescribed time to progress through Base, Build and Speciality?

Newer athletes should prioritize their Base conditioning above all, but experienced athletes can use their own judgement based on their current fitness. Almost every athlete will benefit from a full Build Phase. So whenever possible, shoot for the full duration of your Build phase.

If necessary, the Specialty Phase can be reduced by going as far through the plan as time allows. In all cases, leave at least one week to taper your training prior to your event. This can be done using a scheduled recovery week or by making it all the way through the final weeks of your Specialty plan.

What if I have more than the prescribed number of weeks before my goal event?

After completing all three phases of training, do a couple of weeks of low-intensity work followed by a partial repeat of the Build Phase. This will set the stage for further increases in fitness following a second Specialty plan. Better recovered athletes should revisit the latter half of their build plan, while less recovered athletes will be better served by repeating the earlier half.

How do I fit racing in with my training plan?

Many off-road racers compete throughout the season. Feel free to substitute a race for one of your higher intensity workouts. This is an acceptable if not encouraged approach.

Final Words

Choosing the off-road training plan that’s right for you is critical to achieving success. You’re now ready to choose and follow a training plan that’ll prepare you for your season of racing. In his words — good luck and train hard!