Easy riding for the win... or not? A genuine question

This might be a long, confused and potentially confusing post. If so, I apologise.

Also, to be very clear, I’m NOT trying to start a method vs method or guru vs guru flame war. I AM trying to see if there’s a consensus on a couple of issues, and hoping that there’s someone who can pithily explain a few things to me, as I don’t have a physiology background.

My context: I’m an ex-TR user, who is now being coached. Lots of reasons why, but being friendly with an ex-pro who is trying to grow his coaching business and offered very attractive ‘mates rates’ is a big one. And I have had some success, though perhaps not as much as I’d have liked or hoped. Indeed, while my durability for longer rides and events has very much improved, my max power from 60s through to 20m has actually declined a little in a year, despite riding more.

This ex-pro is rather an Alan Couzens disciple. His view is that:

  • A lot of volume is essential for high performance;
  • The majority of that volume should be very easy;
  • The reason most of that volume should be very easy is to maximise fat-burning abilities, which will shift the lactate curve to the right.

Now, b and especially c seem somewhat disputed, shall we say. I’ve read some interesting posts here an elsewhere that the ‘lots of easy volume to maximise fat burning’ approach is flawed, and that an athlete’s ability to burn fat is – basically – a measure of metabolic fitness, and here ‘all roads lead to Rome’. Some seem to advocate that the real reason to do lots of easy riding is to manage fatigue if you’re putting in big miles/hours.

Away from the theory, I am – in honesty – getting a little bored with noodling around most of the time at ~65-70% max HR, about devising routes that usually eliminate longer hills, etc. I might prefer to do a lower overall volume (say 10hrs/week rather than my current ~12) and do a little more tempo and sweetspot work. I’d also like a little punch back.

So – to stop this becoming an essay:

  • What are people’s thoughts on the ‘very easy riding for fat oxidation’ philosophy?
  • Has anyone had success with moving away from such an approach?

Thanks in advance.


I was contemplating the same after all the posts by @The_Cog . I think I am going with more fun and just ride by the way I feel and not what zones say. Hopefully my app (not TR) will pick up what I did and adjust accordingly

I have a lot of thoughts on this, but little time today to write them. My basic feedback is that the fat burning argument is off the mark and I turn on my “question everything that is being said” filter. However if the arguments to support programming are about adaptations, the type you hear about on the Inside Exercise and Empirical Cycling podcasts (and The_Cog too), I’m all ears.


How much more volume? Yeah he’s probably misguided with the fat burning argument, but in general more volume shouldn’t cause stagnation, obviously with a lot of caveats. What are you doing weekly for hard sessions?

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I put away the mag trainer and just rode for fun for a few years, Now back on a trainer.
I have some thoughts.
If you want to maintain your current level, riding for fun at lower levels is great. However I did not find myself getting any faster or stronger with low intensity rides. Being the competitive type I feel much better on group rides now that I’m doing more intense training.

Recently we’ve had a weekly gravel ride; the brief has been to use that as my intensity session over winter, with a 40/20 or 30/15 session if I couldn’t make it.

Previously he’s been quite a big fan of long sweetspot efforts with bursts, and/or unstructured ‘intense’ rides, where the brief has been to go and ride for 90 minutes, but get in ~20 minutes over threshold on hills.

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This is true (for endurance based activities).

Some people do well off of this. Some do not. In my opinion is more personal preference than science.

Old school thinking. I always burned more fat the harder I trained. “Long Slow Distance” (my coach called it “time on your feet”) has been debunked.

And for what it worth… as a pro what is the definition of “slow?” Guys I ran with would routinely run sub 6 min miles on long runs… but that was a minute slower than their marathon pace. It may not feel difficult for them but is that slow?


what is true is that more easy volume will deliver both cardio and metabolic adaptations.


These recommendations are basically exactly what I do in a week (and was coached on years ago). I’ll do either of those workouts1 or 2 times per week, the rest of it as endurance rides (60-70% ftp, but usually closer to 60). I’ve had a lot of success with that and buy into it. I’m pretty time constrained tho so I can typically get about 9 hours in with 12 hrs being a lucky week with 2 longer weekend rides. I’m definitely in a plateau but unless my wife divorced and takes the kids, don’t think I’ll be riding much more anytime soon! I think to ‘break the plateau’ for myself would be to keep the same structure and add even more ‘easy endurance’ riding to lift up the volume. Your coach is good (in my book at least)!

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This is basically the same. If you want to do 10 do 10 hours. There likely isn’t much in those extra 2 hours in the bigger picture. It took me going from 12-ish hours to 20+ hours to notice anything. I was basically the same if I did 11-14 hours.

Have you talked to your coach about your concerns and needs?

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I absolutely plan to. First, I wanted to see if I was totally barking up the wrong tree!



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When you say noodling around, how much slower are you than if you ride at say 80% max HR for a few hours?

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Probably not hugely in terms of kph, but there’s a psychological aspect to it, and over my local rolling terrain, it’s (perversely) a much more focused task to be very disciplined about HR.

I’ve been more pyramidal in my approach last couple of years and that’s lifted my Z2 HR average speeds around 3.5 mph in that time. I used to be more polarised as your coach suggests, but I prefer the variety pyramidal gives me. You need to find a training approach that keeps you motivated, and makes it easy to execute it consistently well over a prolonged period.

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