Can I Build The Same/More Fitness On Same Hours But Fewer Training Days? (Was 4w/kg, Now Struggling To Maintain 3.5w/kg)

Hi all, I’ve been a cyclist and TrainerRoad user for several years now.

A couple years back in 2017, after a couple of low volume TrainerRoad BBS cycles in 2015 and 2016, I diligently worked through the mid volume sweet spot base, general build and rolling road race plans and got up to just over 4w/kg on 6-7 hrs weekly training. I was training five days a week, racing well, and was in the best shape of my life.

However, in the last couple of years, job and life changes limit me to three days on the bike each week (Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays). I now work an odd job schedule on-call. Every other week is very busy, and getting in 1 hr weekday workouts is very challenging on those weeks. The other weeks I can invest more time but I’ve only maintained low volume BBS plans for 2018 and 2019 at 3.5 hrs each week and my power-to-weight has fallen to 3.5w/kg.

Three days a week is all I can guarantee with regularity, but on average I can commit more time across those three sessions than the 3.5 weekly hrs prescribed in the low volume plans that I’ve been doing in 2018 and 2019. After a lackluster and demotivating 2019, I want to invest that extra time and get my fitness back up if possible.

Every week I can do Monday (1 hr), Thursday (1 hr), and Saturday (2-4 hr) workouts. Every other week I can extend the Monday and Thursday workouts to 2-4 hrs, but only every other week. All other days are off limits for training.

What do you all think is the best approach to maximize my fitness within the framework of my schedule? Below are the three most obvious options to me but I’m wide open to other ideas as well.

Plan progression would be a foundation of low volume sweet spot base, general or short power build, and rolling road race or criterium specialty. Additional hours above and beyond the 3.5 hrs of prescribed TrainerRoad workouts would be sweet spot and below.

OPTION 1 — Maximize Hours Training
Extend my weekday rides every other week as I have the time, with the goal of getting in as much training time (on average) as possible. 5 hrs one week, 9 hrs the next, 5 hrs the next, 9 hrs the next, etc. 28 hrs total training time every four weeks.

W1 = Mon 1 hr, Thurs 1 hr, Sat 3 hr
W2 = Mon 3 hr, Thurs 3 hr, Sat 3 hr
W3 = Mon 1 hr, Thurs 1 hr, Sat 3 hr
W4 = Mon 3 hr, Thurs 3 hr, Sat 3 hr

OPTION 2 — Maximize Consistency
Maintain as consistent a training schedule as possible week to week, keep all weekday rides at 1 hr, and only do long rides on the weekends. 5 hrs weekly every week like clockwork. Could dedicate more time to recovery and/or regular functional strength training this way as every spare minute wouldn’t be spent on the bike. 20 hrs total training time on the bike every four weeks.

W1 = Mon 1 hr, Thurs 1 hr, Sat 3 hr
W2 = Mon 1 hr, Thurs 1 hr, Sat 3 hr
W3 = Mon 1 hr, Thurs 1 hr, Sat 3 hr
W4 = Mon 1 hr, Thurs 1 hr, Sat 3 hr

OPTION 3 — Consistent Weekly Training Hours Through Daily Variability
Weekly training hours would consistently fall in the 6-7 hr range but it would be by way of 1 hr + 1 hr + 4 hr sessions one week, 2 hr + 2 hr + 2 hr sessions the next, 1 + 1 + 4 the next, 2 + 2 + 2 the next, etc. 24 hrs total training time every four weeks.

W1 = Mon 1hr, Thurs 1hr, Sat 4hr
W2 = Mon 2 hr, Thurs 2 hr, Sat 2 hr
W3 = Mon 1 hr, Thurs 1 hr, Sat 4 hr
W4 = Mon 2 hr, Thurs 2 hr, Sat 2 hr

OPTION 4 — OTHER (Please Specify)

For background, I’m a 36 year old father and roadie with an interest in MTB/CX for fun. As I said, I work on-call. Life and work stress are very low and I’m fairly healthy overall. 5’ 10”. Previous best FTP and weight in 2017 was 278w @ 150-154 lbs after mid volume BBS. Stuck in the 260-264w @ 160-164 lbs range after low volume BBS plans in 2018 and 2019. Strengths have never been glaring. Weaknesses have always been fatigue on hard rides over 2 hrs as well as punchy power and repeatability.

Thanks so much for any help and input. It is greatly appreciated.

For me… No 1. but very close could be option No. 3. It depends.

OPTION 1 — Maximise Hours Training

but IMO you need to be consistent with any training approach, I don’t favour Option 2 as consistent time training isn’t maximal if you can be consistent generally. A step up is more training or higher level training if you can keep being consistent. Hope that makes sense.

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Interesting to see you consider the first option as consistent. I guess I tend to look at training microcycles in terms of weekly stress rather than daily stress. My biggest concern with Option 1 is that my TSS would not be steadily progressing on 3-week cycles as intended. I’d get the most training time in for sure, but I’d be constantly bouncing back and forth between higher and lower TSS weeks every week.

Any concern there?

I’m saying first maximise training hours as long as that is regular training and you can keep maintaining maximal train hours. No point doing 10 hrs one week if the next you have time to do 8 but are so tired you can only do 4 hours at a decent level.

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I’d switch this up a bit to make sure you’re worrying most about the big gains, not marginal gains. Big gains come from riding your bike, as much as possible, with as much intensity as possible baked in. All the other stuff is marginal gains, and in some cases very marginal.

For instance, strength training likely would give you life improvements, but is not going to give you any sort of big increase in on-bike performance. 20hrs vs 29hrs of on-bike time may however give you more wins, but trying to cram all the bike into your life with nothing to spare may not be realistic month over month.

My recommendation would be just pick your baseline goal, which is consistently riding as your schedule allows. It sounds like that is Option 2. Incorporate intensity into that as much as you normally would.

As your schedule allows, add in extra on-bike time. You do that at a micro level by adjusting the days towards Option 3. You do that at a macro level by adjusting the weeks towards Option 1.

Holding a baseline of 3 days with the same intensity constant (say 1hr of intensity), with the volume you’re talking about here the big gains would come from adding in time whenever possible. All the rest doesn’t matter. If you find adding more time is compromising the ability to do the intensity on those days, then worry about reducing. Likely start by reducing the intensity of the “add-on” time, and then if that doesn’t work reduce the amount of add-on time.


Great thoughts. The intensity would be fairly limited to the prescribed workouts of low volume TrainerRoad workouts. The additional time, when possible, would be mostly easier riding (although the Saturday rides can get pretty spicy if done with the local groups).

I would chose option 3 and consider some of my points below:

  1. On such limited hours I would remove any strength training and add that to bike time.
  2. Accept you might not get back to where you were due to lower hours.
  3. Be flexible
  4. Don’t waste time for maximum results - make every session count, think of quality. Cut out zone 2 work and aim for sweet spot and above for those 1 hour sessions.
  5. On such little hours you might need need a recovery week so bear that in mind.
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Thanks Dave. My expectations are something at the forefront of my mind. I did 4w/kg before on 24-28 hours a month across five days a week. I just don’t know if it’s realistic to think I can get back there on the same time of 24-28 hours a month but only on three days a week. Great insight. I appreciate the input!

No worries @joshuagull happy to try and help.

Forgive my bluntness about not getting back to where you were, I could have worded it a little better.
For all I / we know you may get back to that level on less hours, who knows. The advantage you do have is that you’ve done this before and after sometime your body should recognise that. After all, you’re only 10 watts or so off what you were previously, albeit the watts /per kg isn’t so great but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved if you watch your nutrition.

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I don’t see any reason why it would be unrealistic to get back to where you were before. It looks like most of the drop in w/kg was an increase in weight. Your FTP is only 14w down from your all time high.

Regardless of how you break up the time, you’re obviously a good responder to training if you can get to 4w/kg on those hours.


No worries Dave. I don’t mind bluntness and have considered myself realigning my expectations more realistically if necessary. I’m not sure these are unrealistic expectations though. Only one way to find out.

Go out and smash it dude and prove us all wrong :+1:

Link to revised version of this question.

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