Coming back to training after 3-4 years

After a few years of no training at all (and a broken trainer, new one will be delivered mid October) I have made the decision to get back on my bike.

I’ve done full SSB1-2, General Build, Climbing in TR before, but now that I’m about to start fresh (couch potato fresh) I wanted to ask a few questions on what would be the best recommendation to start:

My goals: get fit again, group rides (lots of climbing), Gran Fondo in 2023 (still haven’t chosen my ride).

Available time: around 5 to 7h a week just for bike. The rest will be strength training.

Taking into account that I’m not “in a hurry”, would you recommend traditional base, polarized 6w plan or SSB->General Build->Specialty using Plan Builder.

If I had to guess, my ftp should be around 130 - 180 at the moment.


I think Plan Builder would be better if you had a date in mind for your fondo. It’s hard to build a plan around a date that is unknown. You can still use it and it will I suppose start you through the normal base, build, specialty cycle, but no telling if it will have you peak at the right time until you put in the date. You can obviously get started without it and update it when you know.

Main advice here would be, no matter whether you ride 3 hours, 5 hours, 7 hours or maybe even 20 hours, I’d pick a low volume plan. You can add rides to it to get to the volume you desire.


I think it depends on your age. I came back to riding after a 9 year hiatus, and jumped into the TR plans. The intensity was too much for this 60+ yo. If you are a more “mature” rider, I would strongly recommend a bunch of low intensity for the first couple of months, possibly Traditional Base

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Thanks Russell!
I’m think Gran Fondo towards second half of 2023 so I have around 10 - 11 months for it. Should be enough to get myself to fitness taking into account my time off-bike and age (44)

yeah, that’s what I was thinking as well, I’m 44 yo. Low volume to get used to it, and most likely will continue Low Volume adding outdoor rides as I gain fitness

to clarify, he said low intensity, not low volume. You may choose to do both, but just wanted to make sure you caught the difference. Trainerroads SweetSpot Base is not going to be low intensity. You will need to decide for yourself if you subscribe to the Trainerroad method that SweetSpot is a better choice for time-crunched athletes or if you want to take a more traditional low intensity approach. My thinking is that for someone doing 5 hours a week, SweetSpot will probably give you a quicker start.

that’s true! good catch.

for me low intensity will be more geared toward getting a good ftp measurement (not a good FTP overall, but to reflect my current status) so that everything then falls into the appropriate intensity.

I’m more concerned about getting used to the saddle (that initial pain… ) than the actual intensity to the body.

a lot of people in their 40s have busy lives which limit recovery, and therefore some coaches would err on the side of reduced intensity while getting you consistently doing 5-7 hours per (loading) week. The other consideration is burning out on structure over extended periods of training.

From a cycling point of view, having an lower intensity, endurance-first mindset not only helps with recovery, but also acknowledges a lot of muscular adaptations don’t require much intensity. Same for initial cardio adaptations after returning to training from a long time off. The other guiding principle is that your muscular, or metabolic, adaptations are generally more responsive to training than cardio. So a lot of lower intensity with some high intensity is a good path to follow.

Timing is everything, and a full TR base/build/specialty is 28 weeks. You’ve got more than 40 weeks. So that’s at least 12 weeks of ‘pre season’ before needing to get focused on a lot of structure to build up event specific fitness.

Personally I saw better results using Traditional Base 1 and 2, with some additional intensity, before doing some form of TR SSB. I don’t think Plan Builder will give you traditional base, but you can manually add to your calendar. Time availability, or tolerance to long indoor rides can be an issue with TR traditional base. Another approach for your pre-season would be to use TrainNow and pick mostly endurance and then every 3rd or 4th workout mix it up with intensity.

Hope that helps.

I did Trad Base 1 before SSBLV + Z2. I think it was useful in getting me used to how TR works and working out how to sort out all the logistics of training like pre/during/post-ride nutrition and hydration, and also getting my body used to just maintaining pressure on the pedals for over 90 minutes.

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First year I tried TB mostly inside, and that made me unhappy :frowning_face: The following year I tried to do most of Traditional Base outside. Much better outside! Always starting around this time of year, from September thru November.

Its flat and windy around here, outside you can’t avoid maintaining pressure on the pedals!

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If your weather is reasonable, I’d just get out on bike as much as you can and enjoy it (all the while you’ll be wakening your body up, getting fitter, and getting eager to take on anything.

I’ve said this before on another thread, the process/(early gains you see) getting from A to B are probably more enjoyable than the final destination (plateau :rofl:).

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Weather is mostly reasonable, I’ve done TR before so staring at the wall or video while listening to a podcast (TR) or music is nothing that I haven’t done before.

Love the journey part! Can’t wait to get my new trainer, next week is bike maintenance: new brake hoods covers, new bar tape, drivetrain cleaning and indexing. Fun stuff!

nothing beats riding your bike outside!

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Unless I’m mistaken, there is not much organized racing around here. So I’ve never been a pre-season / season / off-season.
You bring up a really good point, about 1 year ago I started training again but my first few weeks was just Zwift riding until I was up for TR again.
I’ve seen the body does remember quite fast.

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What worked for me in a similar situation (albeit from a slightly stronger base, in that I was already commuting, and throwing in the odd slightly longer diversion on the way home):

Full LV plan (SS base; Sustained Power build; Century specialty)
Dropped the last four weeks of the LV specialty and subbed in a full MV specialty
Before each recovery week, added in a ‘long ride week’ - riding increasing distances outdoors starting at about 40(?) miles and building up to close to the full century. Either nothing else that week, or a short, low intensity workout.

The last part helped to build confidence that I was actually getting strong enough to complete the target event, which I wouldn’t have got from the training plan alone.

In total this added up to 38 weeks build up to the event.

n=1, YMMV, etc.

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