Endurance workouts - still required?

If I’m happy with my current base/aerobic fitness, and doing regular sweetspot, Threshold, and VO2, and the associated TSS, is there really any point/benefit in doing low intensity endurance workouts? or would complete rest be a better option?

More volume is almost always beneficial with few exceptions.

Those exceptions being if the volume creates too much fatigue/added stress, and that fatigue prevents you from completing and progressing in the quality interval work you regularly do.

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Within those rides, you surely must be riding endurance before, between, and after the intervals.

If you are at 8 hours per week and and are considering cutting out 4 hours per week of time in zone 1/2, then you’ll probably slowly lose fitness over time.

But if you keep your training load exactly the same then you’ll probably stay at roughly the same fitness level.

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…in which case its the intensity that should be scaled back…not z2 endurance volume :wink:

Endurance z2 work should be the bread and butter of the programme and intensity sprinkled on top, for sustainable long term gains and progress. The OP’s question is the wrong way around. Most of the benefits of longer endurance rides are not replaced by intensity.

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I generally agree with @Bigpikle but I’ve been thinking about minimum dose lately. I think if I were only going to ride 3 times per week, 3 hours per week I would have every ride include some intensity. Now, you have to define intensity. Is tempo, sweet spot really “intensity”. It is aerobic and below threshold.

My minimum dose plan might be something like:

day 1: a short block of 30/30s + 30 minutes of tempo
day 2: 2x20 sweet spot
day 3: 2x20 sweet spot

As I got more towards the riding season, I’d probably swap out one of those sweet spot workouts for a threshold progression and probably insert a VO2 progression.

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I’m just looking at Coggans physiological adaptations chart, and there doesn’t seem to be any adaptations from Z2 that aren’t touched on with Z4 and 5.

Do you not think Z4 and 5 workouts would be sufficient to maintain aerobic fitness at least?

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It might help if you frame this with respect to your short and long term goals, and stating the timeline you have in mind. “Maintenance” is a possible thing, but like anything, there are limits to the time and what you can expect. That in conjunction with your recent training history before this potential change all matter to what you can get and for how long.

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my understanding is that you will get small quantities of that adaptation, but the main difference is the amount of time you can spend in zone doing Z4/5. Z2 is far more sustainable to reap larger quantities of those adaptations.

I kind of had the reverse of this happen to me when I moved to TR plans from more unstructured rides. I dropped a lot of Z1/2 stuff and “trimmed the fat”. My fitness has kind of leveled off and at some point you will need additional stimulus to make fitness gains.

So, play around with removing some of that training, but you will likely lose a little fitness. Everybody reacts differently and maybe you are genetically gifted and don’t need training to sustain endurance capability. I know, anecdotally, that wouldn’t work for me.

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I think if you’re interested in long-term growth and progression, yes aerobic endurance workouts are beneficial. From my perspective, aerobic endurance rides are like contributing to your 401k on a regular basis. They are investments in your future growth.

Beyond the chart mentioned in a prior post, I find the following subjectively improve and stack with years of aerobic endurance rides:

  • fatigue resistance - I can hit hills hard towards the end of 4hr rides and not feel completely destroyed
  • slow vo2max - I don’t do a lot of traditional vo2 max work and often put down 5min power PRs after good blocks of aerobic endurance rides. Aerobic endurance rides work hand in hand with traditional vo2max workouts to improve aerobic capacity via increased mitochondria, increased mitochondrial enzyme production and aerobic fat utilization, and increased capillary development.
  • improved recovery - recovering from 1-2hr interval sessions isn’t so bad following a good block of aerobic endurance rides.
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Another benefit that I see personally is additional resilience against lost fitness. The more endurance work I put in, the longer it seems to take to detrain ime. I seem to bounce back more quickly after my season break than in seasons where I had fewer training hours at endurance.

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Why don’t you read page 60 of the 3rd edition of Training and Racing with a Power Meter. I’ll post some excerpts if you don’t have it.

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I think ISM sums it up quite nicely in this article, although there are countless others talking about the benefit of including z2 sessions for maintenance - difference being you dont need so many of the longer sessions when the focus is more on maintenance. It doesn’t mean you should ignore z2 altogether though.

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Yeah please do, i’ve got the 2nd edition but not read it all.

page 78, first paragraph under Level 2: Endurance, and the last paragraph for that section at the top of page 79.

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“An endurance athlete should never stop training in zone 2. The ideal training plan should include 3-4 days a week of zone 2 training in the first 2-3 months of pre-season training, followed by 2-3 days a week as the season gets closer and 2 days of maintenance once the season is in full blown”

That’s the answer then. :+1:

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And when you have a chance to open your 2nd edition of the book, it suggests 2-3 hours of endurance at 69-75% FTP, and “It is very important you do enough of these longer rides to prepare your body for harder levels of riding. The longer you can ride, the better.”

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I reckon so :wink:

Not in the article and I cant find the source right now, but there was also some interesting stuff about z2 work offsetting the sympathetic stress from higher intensity - balancing the scales so to speak. Doing more of it actually helped rather than simply skipping it.

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Just read it :+1:t2:

My thoughts were that I had built my base and that the higher intensity stuff would maintain it, but the TP article implies to keep putting dedicated time strictly into Z2 to maintain it.

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The thing with physiological adaptions using SS from the coggan table is that they may produce adaptions more efficiently, ie adapations/min but you’ll cap yourself out in terms of mins/week you can sustainably do consistently. So Z2 work might provide the adaptions at a slower rate, but with more time/volume spent there you’ll get an overall bigger stimulus. Then you layer the intensity on over the top

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Here’s the Coggan chart with an additional footnote.

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