Drop from Mid to Low Volume Plan, what to expect: setback or slowing down?

Hi, I’m currently training on a Mid Volume plan but in the next weeks I will begin new studies for three years so my time will be limited and I will probably have to go down to Low Volume. I have some Gran Fondos and other road events in October, November and December of this year so I still need to keep training, even if it is less.

I already resigned myself to that plan change, but I wonder what to expect. Will I suffer a setback in my fitness or just a slow down of the ramp? What do you think, what should I expect?

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My N=1 of reducing volume but maintaining quality when we had kids (this was before I was using TR but was reasonably structured with my training) is that it had very little impact on my fitness for shorter events or durations, but I lost some durability and muscular endurance for events of 1.5-2 hours or longer. Could still do them - did an 80 mile sportive at a decent speed despite having only one ride >30 miles in the preceding 8 months. But bigger drop off in performance for those than in things like ~1 hour hard group rides with lots of spiky power.

Possible that sweetspot could help offset that. I didn’t really do sweetspot back then, but if you can’t do long rides it’s probably the next best thing for maintaining/improving that muscular endurance.


Probably less impact than you think.

I wouldn’t be as quick to resigning yourself to lower volume though. Is 2hrs a week really that impactful on your life week overall? Have you cut out all other junk from your week like watching TV and mindlessly scrolling the internet? Could you be pedaling z2 inside while reading whatever’s required for the courses? Could you meal prep to save time? Get up a little earlier to get in a workout before the day starts? Commute to class via bike to still get time on bike …etc. There’s a lot of time in each day if you think about it, but sometimes doesn’t feel that way.

There’s been a number of guests on the successful athletes podcast that have been able to juggle jobs, school, life, kids and bike time…might be worth a listen.


Thanks for your answers!

I went from successfully completing a full Base/Build/Specialty criterium plan on High Volume, and with the birth of my daughter, I’ve gone back to a low volume plan.

Initially, I lost about 20W (324–>304). I did 3 cycles of Base (Base 1, Base 2, NEW base 2) and I’m now starting on my 2nd half of build. In the 18 weeks of base, I gained… nothing. But in the first 3 weeks of build, I put on 3W, and I’m feeling like I’m back on the upwards trajectory. The workouts I’m getting are ultimately achievable, and I’m just waiting for the levels to kick up again.

So, I’d anticipate a brief drop in FTP, but a gradual regrowth.

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End of april I changed from a mid to a low volume training plan because of other hobbies and family. I didn’t train as structured as before and yesterday I managed to increase my FTP by 30 watts after not cycling for twee weeks.

So the extra rest can also have its benefits and I wouldn’t worry about it directly. Of course the downsize will be, as @cartsman wrote, that for longer durations there can be a negative impact. We’ll know next week, I am planning for a 180 mile ride.

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Fwiw, every time I go from low to mid volume my ftp actually goes down so I’ve been doing low volume for years with great success.

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I was worried about this issue as well last summer when my wife, who is a new cyclist, asked me to switch to LV, so I could keep helping her on rides to build her skills. I was at first, not thrilled. In the end my stagnate FTP on MV jumped to my goal of 3w/kg. Alas it was close to the start of the academic year and then my ride time at this level reduced.

I am on LV as of last week so I can do more group rides since there are still little road races near me for the time being. USA Cycling can’t find good race hosts…long story…but I digress.

Low Volume is actually pretty effective and you will feel more rested for the intensity. Better to hit all intervals all of the time rather than skirt some slightly below wattage more often (outside rides).

You should be fine if not more fit over a longer period of time. Do be aware of your nutrition especially carbs. Long butter burners will not need 80grams per hour. Just stay topped off on those and experiment. Hard intensity–SS or above–definitely can use the carb fuel.

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It takes a lot more work to reach a certain fitness level than it does to maintain it. You may find you fitness stabilises and neither improves nor declines on low volume.

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Fitness increases from stressing the body and then allowing for recovery. If you were doing MV and then switched to LV and less structure, and saw an increase in FTP, that indicates that your MV plan didn’t have enough recovery built into it.

This seems to indicate that you aren’t getting enough recovery from TR MV plan, assuming that is what you are doing.

My personal experience is that TR places too high an emphasis on repeatability and puts too many intervals in workouts. On one recent podcast Nate intimated it was TR’s secret sauce, for me it dulls performance. I’m sure it works for some, just not me. For the last 18 months I’ve taken a different approach (FasCat vs TR), and reduced the number of intervals and keeping long-term average weekly hours in the 6-8 range. I’ve seen an increase in performance across the entire power curve.