3 intense workouts per week + long rides = too much! Strategies to Increase Volume?

I am a young professional, a 23-year-old male, who has been cycling since 2018 and has been riding with power for almost 5 years. I have been using TrainerRoad since 2019, but haven’t been consistent with it until recently.

I am someone who has “unlimited” time to train, as I do not have a stressful job at all (mostly work from home), and I am single. I am quite comfortable doing 9-12 hours per week of riding, and I’ve done that a lot back in 2021, 2020, and even 2019. Well, this was well before the RLGL feature came by, and going back, I noticed that most of my riding was in endurance (zone 2). Although there are some instances where I’ve managed to squeeze in a low volume training plan. Looking back, quite a bit of intense training was done on yellow and red days, which I presume caused me to burn out. My FTP was hovering around 285W.

Starting this year, I started to become more serious about consistency, and I am preparing for quite a lot of biking events ranging from road races, crit races, gran fondos to even some epic bikepacking trips! In 2023, my highest FTP was 290W, and I believe that it was due to my consistency!

Now in 2024, I started training back in December and have completed General Base 1, General Base 2, and now I am nearing the end of the first half of the General Build (mid volume). I initially started this season with a low volume (3 intense workouts per week) and then upgraded to a mid-volume plan. I was aiming to do around 8-10 hours per week by incorporating some 2.5 - 3-hour endurance rides every week. I started this season with a 274W FTP in December, and now I am currently at 293W (4.0w/kg), and I expect to surpass 300W by the end of my build phase! I strength train twice per week. Well, I wouldn’t call this training, but just to maintain my strength - these are 15-20 minute sessions, and I don’t do too many reps to cause fatigue.

A trend I am starting to notice is that three intense workouts per week feel like a lot in terms of intensity. I am barely able to hit 8.5-9 hours of riding per week without getting a red day. I am fuelling well, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, getting great sleep, and as I said before, there aren’t any limiters in my life that would make me want to reduce my riding volume. I personally would like to ride around 10-12 hours per week, but I find that to be quite difficult, if not impossible, with 3 days of intensity. I am answering the post-workout surveys honestly, and ever since I’ve begun my General Build phase, most of my workouts are “very hard,” and that’s what I answer in my post-workout survey. Here are some additional observations:

  • I started doing more above FTP efforts since starting the General Build plan, and these workouts are pretty challenging! The above FTP efforts - especially VO2 max and over-under intervals - squeeze a lot out of me and leave me gasping for air. My maximum heart rate is 206 bpm, and I’ve been going over 180 bpm a lot more in the build compared to the base.

  • It is challenging to do a ~3-hour endurance ride without getting a red day even when on a low volume plan. Last week, I did the Four Horsemen route on Zwift in addition to doing the 3 required intense workouts, and I got a red day the next day. My upper body and lower body were completely sore that day, and even on the next day. It took me 2 days of rest to get back to normal after that ride! It was 3 hours and 15 minutes in length. Rides like these require additional recovery.

  • The only way I can safely add volume to my plan without going into the red is to do a recovery or a lower zone 2 workout like Dans after a workout. This intensity is very digestible for me, and I am able to accommodate this.

  • I even struggled with long endurance rides when I was doing low volume plans, and doing a 3-hour ride every week caused a lot of fatigue. I feel like riding 9-12 hours per week, with mostly zone 2 with some zone 3 sprinkled here and there, is not the same as riding 10 hours per week with 3 intense workouts per week. Even the low volume plans aren’t low intensity!

  • Right now, with a mid-volume (or even low volume) plan, I feel like I can barely hit 6.5-8 hours per week. That is what I can handle without overwhelming my body’s ability to recover.

  • While I understand that not all TSS is created equal, I am quite surprised as to how I was able to handle 500-600 TSS/week of endurance riding when now, 350-400 is what feels sustainable when on a mid-volume plan.

I’d like to hear your insights on how you would increase your volume. Additionally, TrainerRoad says that a masters plan is for those having high-stress lives and older athletes, but I might be missing out on my PLs. What would your approach be?

I am also planning to do a training camp sometime in late April when I will be in my rolling road race specialty to increase my aerobic base prior to the start of the racing season. While I won’t be traveling anywhere, I feel like 2-4 days of unusually high mileage will cause enough stress that would improve my aerobic fitness and fatigue resistance.

You can increase volume by lowering the weekly intensity. Hope this helps!

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Pretty much everything I read from people I respect suggests that intensity should be limited to 2 and maybe 3 days per week. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t recover from 3 intense days per week while logging 12 hours. Sometimes I can. Right now I can’t either. And the mental stress of dreading that next day of intensity doesn’t help recovery or adaptations.

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Try going to 2 intense days per week. 2 high quality intensity days is all most need to drive the adaptations (assuming you are doing significant Z2 volume). Keep the rest of it Z2 and make it lower/mid Z2 if high Z2 is creating too much fatigue. Over time, the Z2 will get easier and you can push toward the top of that zone. It takes time. One of the things I’ve been doing recently is sandwiching my intensity sessions with Z2 to extend the workouts. If you have the time, do an hour of Z2 prior to your intervals and another hour after. For me, it makes the intervals feel easier (fully warmed up) and Z2 feels effortless after doing some hard intervals.

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After watching a few interviews with David Seiler, I decided to abandon 3 intense rides per week in favor of five intense rides over a 14-day period.

On “Week A” I do a VO2 max and a threshold ride, and on “Week B” I do the same plus a sweet spot ride. 5 intense rides total, but it is very manageable. My TSS is about 20-25% lower, but my FTP is exactly where it was before and I am able to go into each hard ride with energy and without the same sense of dread that I had before.

As others have said, I would consider decreasing intensity and If you want to increase your load, add it with extra zone 2.

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While I agree that going to 2 high intensity days may make sense… are you eating enough (I know you said you are, but, like… are you sure)?

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I’m older (44), so that may be part of my problem, but I only do one to two intensity days a week.

But I ride 20 hours a week.

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Lots of good advice already. Here’s what I would do…

Just ride. Take three-ish months (more if you need it) and work on increasing your volume. Ride in the forest, on trails, on the road… You have unlimited time, get on your bike and just go. You mention the long endurance ride is a struggle and this is what I would work on first. Slowly increase volume, don’t worry about watts and get some time in the saddle.

During this time I wouldn’t worry about workouts. You can do one VO2 and a sweet spot tempo but wouldn’t do more than that (and be sure to space out by 2-3 days to ensure recovery as there’s no need to hold to a 7 day cycle). Intensity of those should be manageable. Once you’ve built up endurance and strength you can increase the intensity. But with “unlimited” training time that is where I would start.

Best of luck to you.

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This recommendation really clicks with personal experience. Did even less intensity:

  • 1st month: 6xZ2
  • 2nd month: 1xSS + 5xZ2
  • 3rd month: 1xSS + 1xZ4 + 4xZ2

Z2 capped at 80% of LTHR (~57-60% of FTP for me), volume ~15-18h/week, occasionally ~20h+/week. Never any stress, always hungry to ride more. It was really surprising how easy and long could ride at FTP during third month. Even assumed that AI FTPD miscalculated FTP, confirmed with Kolie Moore test long test, simply TTE increased to 70min.

EDIT: consecutive Z2 days can be still hard, but only due duration and/or frequency and for legs only. Should not increase resting HR (much) or cause any motivation swings.

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Four Horsemen, huh? Here’s my graph for that. 254 TSS! :joy:

If you have the corresponding screenshot for your ride … please share with the group. :wink::sunglasses:

Hopefully you didn’t start dying a thousand deaths a third of the way up AduZ. As you can clearly see, I did. :grimacing::rofl:

Some of these have been covered above but just some thoughts:

  1. Make sure your Z2 rides are truly Z2 - don’t be afraid of altering the power on these so they feel comfortable, and remember this will be different day to day depending on what you’ve done previously

  2. Drop one of the intense days, replace with a longer endurance ride

  3. Adding some Z2 before and after the more intense rides to add volume

  4. Try some double days to add volume - an interval session in the morning and then an easy Z2 45-60 minute spin in the evening works well for me

  5. Make sure you are fuelling enough, both on and off the bike

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Switch to the masters plan. This will keep your volume and lower the intensity by one ride. PLs are a reflection of where you are currently - nothing to really miss out on.

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What he said.

Z2 should be Z2, not free rides interspersed with intensity, harder group rides etc. For me personally, a Z2 workout is 65% of FTP right now, and similarly around 65% of max HR (lower to start), and last year when I started building volume it was lower.

Outdoor rides are much more fun and fulfilling (if the weather’s nice) but executing workouts is 100% easier on the trainer. If I go out and do a bigger outdoor Z2 Ride, it’s really easy to induce a lot of extra fatigue because of hills, quick higher intensity efforts, etc. It takes discipline to make your outdoor Z2 actually a productive Z2 ride.

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Thank you, everyone! I’ve decided to switch to a masters plan. I’m hoping this change will be more manageable, allowing me to recover properly after intense sessions while still enjoying riding my bike without feeling overwhelmed. Doing three high-intensity workouts per week has been draining, as I end up focusing more on recovery during the non-intense days rather than simply enjoying the sport. Tomorrow, instead of an anaerobic workout as scheduled, I’ll be doing an endurance ride, which I believe will be more enjoyable and fun.

How many hours per week do you think I should aim for to see improvements? I’m thinking of aiming for 8-10 hours per week given that I would do 2 intense workouts each week, but I might increase that depending on how I feel!

I’ve completed general base 1, general base 2, and now I’m almost done with the first half of general build, with a 19W increase in FTP. Although I have switched a masters plan, I’m worried about potentially reversing my progress. While I do have “unlimited” time to train, I’m unsure about how much workload I can handle without burning out.

How many hours do you sleep per night in average?

Here you go! I joined this group ride after a week packed with three intense workouts, right after a solid anaerobic session. I opted for the C group since that’s where I knew I could hang without feeling totally wiped out, haha! For the first part of the Alpe, I tried to keep it steady with a mix of tempo and sweetspot. I wanted to keep the intensity low, aiming for a yellow day the next day. So, I cruised through the rest of the climb, sticking to zone 2. Managed to finish the entire route in about 3 hours and 15 minutes.

The next day was rough, to say the least. I struggled to get out of bed, feeling sore all over from the previous week’s efforts. It hit me hard, and I had to take a couple of days off just to recover. Eventually, I got back into it and tackled an over-under workout, though it felt tougher than I expected!

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Yeah. 186 TSS over 3 and a bit hours on top of your other workouts will do that. :joy:

I like to do that sort of ride if I’ve got a sweetspot workout but feel frisky. Climb at 90%. Ride btwn climbs at 65%. Great fun.

Note: do it instead of the workout, not as well as the workout :wink:

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Depends on the person. Not everyone responds the same and can tolerate the same amounts of volume.

One thing you don’t want to do is just jack up your total volume at the start. You want to scale up volume / TSS over a little bit of time to make sure you adapt to it. There are various ways of tracking a good amount of volume/TSS build per week depending on platforms (Garmin, TrainingPeaks, Intervals, WKO) but work up slowly, take your rest weeks seriously (not an excuse to go ride a lot more outside) and you’ll need to feel out if the volume is still allowing you to execute your interval workouts without being too fatigued. If you’re feeling fatigued and crushed - back off…

Before Masters Plans, I done what they have done; changing one workout to an endurance one because I like to do a lot of outdoor riding and it suited. Just switch to a Masters Plan if it suits you better and don’t worry about what you’ve read.

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I “follow” the training plans and ride outside full time.

Monday easy ride 90-120 mins. With a 25 min commute in the PM (try to keep hr below 120)

Tuesday I do 75-90 min TR scheduled workout.(20 min commute am and then 25 min commute pm)

Wednesday usually repeat of monday( I might change this to tempo as I feel like it’s a waste of time)

Thursday 75 min TR schedule workout then commute

Friday repeat of monday.

Saturday 3 hr ride unplanned. Lately my rides have had me ending with a 230 NP. My ftp is 294 and I weigh about 70 kilos

Sunday 3 hour easy ride( I would like to make Sundays a little bit more but the climbs in my area are a bit much at time)

I keep my commutes Zone 1. I don’t care if I get passed by a guy wearing flip flops and gym shorts.

Lately this has me around 14-15 hours a week.

I probably don’t eat the best but I eat! I have been riding non stop for a decade now? (I’m 35) and idk it just doesn’t feel like much at this point.

I just started doing this schedule last year around July. Broke my hand in Nov and restarted back up with zero issues 4 weeks after 12 weeks of trainer rides.

But prior to this I would ride the trainer an hour daily then do big group rides on the weekends. 100-150 mile weekends.

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