Working hard will only get you so far. There comes a point when you need to strategically plan how to best use your hard work to maximize fitness gains — that’s what training smarter is all about.

By exploring our training plan process, we aim to clarify the purpose of each training block you’ll work through when you’re on a TrainerRoad training plan. Like a puzzle, there are three training phases that fit together to illustrate an image of your fitness over the entire training season. Whether you have a goal event in mind, or you’d just like to become a faster cyclist, your training plan will apply the right type of training stress at the right time to make sure you can achieve both.

Traditional Periodization

Head Coach Chad Timmerman has carefully designed every TrainerRoad training plan around what’s known as traditional periodization. Traditional periodization divides your season into distinct phases with the purpose of dedicating each phase to specific goals. By following a logical pattern, each phase ultimately leads to a specific set of adaptations upon which achieving peak fitness is hinged.

Base Phase

Proper strength and endurance building begins with a foundation. Just like you wouldn’t build a house without a foundation, you wouldn’t build your higher-level endurance and power without establishing a foundation of strength and aerobic endurance first. Your first step in the training plan process is to establish that foundation in what’s known as the Base Phase.

Build Phase

The Build Phase of TrainerRoad’s training plans cranks the volume up a notch. Based on the demands of your specific performance goals, we focus on your short power, sustained power or varying mixes of the two. By focusing on your muscular endurance and/or maximal aerobic power, our aim is to develop and improve those higher-level forms of fitness mentioned earlier.

Specialty Phase

The Specialty Phase strives to be as specific to your target event and performance goals as possible. Whether you’re a road racer, triathlete, off-road rider or enthusiast, the Specialty Phase serves to refine the fitness you’ve developed over the previous weeks of training. By fine-tuning your fitness and mechanics, this phase of training will have you peaked, ultimately fresh and specifically prepared for race day.


“What If I’ve chosen a plan but I have less than the prescribed number of weeks until my goal event?”

Fit as much of the Base/Build/Specialty cycle in as possible. Newer athletes should prioritize Base training, while more experienced riders can use their judgement on whether to cut it a bit short. The entire duration of the Build Phase will benefit nearly all athletes, and the Specialty Phase can be truncated by riding through as much of it as possible. Make sure to schedule week 8 as your last week before your event or season.

“What if I’ve chosen a plan but I have more than the prescribed number of weeks until my goal event?”

You have more flexibility here. If you’re still early in the season, you can extend your Base conditioning. Or, after a couple weeks of low-intensity work following the Specialty phase, do a partial repeat of the Build and Specialty Phases. If you go with the latter, choose either the first or second half of the Build (first-half if fatigued, second-half if fresh) to set the stage for further increases in fitness. Just schedule a taper week before your event if your event doesn’t align with the end of the plan.

Note: Your season may be spread out long enough to not require any accommodations to the plans.

“What if I have more than one goal event?

The answer here depends on the duration between your events. If your events are close enough in proximity, effectively maintain your peak fitness by repeating one of the last 2 weeks (taper weeks) in your Specialty Phase. Coach Chad often limits this to about 5 weeks before you want to schedule a downturn.

If the duration between your events is any longer, we recommend scheduling a downturn revolving around consistent, low-intensity riding then moving into a partial repeat of the Build Phase. You can then follow this with as much of a Specialty Phase as time will allow.

“Can I skip base training?”

Everyone needs Base training. It’s just a question of how much and how frequently to revisit it. About the only time we recommend leaving out a training phase dedicated to Base conditioning is mid-season to re-build for a second peak in one season.

To Wrap Up

The TrainerRoad training plan process has specific phases aimed at specific goals. By understanding these goals and the structure of the process, you can be confident planning out your season in accordance with your own fitness goals.