How to build a training plan around long unstructured rides on weekends?


I started cycling last year and just recently got a road bike and a smart trainer. I did the ramp test and my ftp is 260 (4w/kg, 32yo, m).
I want to start structured training but I’m not sure how to manage having structured workouts througout the week and unstructured, long rides (3-5h) on weekends since I don’t think due to traffic and other reasons I will be able to do structured training outside, but I don’t just want to ride in Zone 2 either. Mostly I do Zone 2 and 3 outdoors. I also have a power meter.

If it were completely up to me, I’d do the following:

Monday - Rest
Tuesday - structured hard effort inside for 1-2h
Wednesday - structured medium effort inside for 1-2h
Thursday - structured hard effort inside 1-2h
Friday - rest or very low intensity outside
Saturday - very long ride outside, 4-5h
Sunday - long ride outside, 3-4h

I pretty much have all the time in the world and could swap things on weekdays around, but those long rides on the weekend have to stay.

Any recommendations for a plan around that schedule? If I use the plan builder and go low intensity, it’s not enough riding and if I go for medium, I can’t do unstructured on weekends.

I’m not looking to do racing any time soon, for now I just want to go faster and longer. In the long run 5w/kg would be great. I’d have to gain 50w and lose 5kg, which I’m already working at with a 300-500kcal deficit daily.

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very good question, I am in for a similar scenario: workouts during the week, longer outside rides on weekends.

Right now I am at the end of a Sweetspot Plan. I am considering the new polarized plans since they offer something which fits my schedule quite well.

Have you had a look at those?

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I asked kind of a similar question a while back here.

I ended up choosing LV plans and adding my long, outside rides. It should be even easier for you to keep track of your TSS since you have a power meter.


This might take forever, but maybe add the unstructured as events using plan builder? You put in duration/relative effort and get out a TSS estimate - which the rest of the plan builder would take into account.

Make them all C races so it doesn’t try to make you peak for them.

Making them a C race would just have plan builder replace that days workout with your ‘race’…as far as I know it doesn’t do anything else.

I like the OPs thought process, I don’t think there’s much wrong with doing it that way or much room for improvement on it.

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+1 for the polarized training plans.

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You could do LV plan and replace one of the workouts with a long outdoor ride or even do the workout outside and then carry on riding.
I would caution against thinking LV is easy - it’s not there’s a fair bit of intensity in there. You could easily destroy yourself if you’re not careful…

LV is not easy and quite a few people have found this out though you know how well you recovery. Try adding in a low plan and doing the workouts in the week and see how you feel… Though you may find in a few weeks you hit a bit of a wall. :grin:

YMMV and I hope it works for you - whatever you decide to do… :grin: :+1:t2:

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My main concern with LV [I guess that stands for low volume? I’m still fairly new to this thing :slight_smile: ] is that I don’t spent as much time on the bike at each individual workout as I’d like. I love riding my bike, even indoors, and ideally I’d do 90 minutes workouts, but the LV workouts are all sub one hour as far as I can see.


I am planning to go for the polarized plans and actually reduce the intensity of the indoor workouts a bit so I do not hit absolute peak all the time. Yes, i am to be crucified as this is not polarized anymore, but it would suit my needs well.

I don’t get out Saturday and Sunday (generally Saturday is my window, with Sunday family time), but I do mid volume on Monday - Saturday schedule. So I sub out the “moderate” end of week workout for an unstructured spin.

If I could get out Saturday and Sunday, I would probably look at the polarized plans. 2 hard/ moderate workouts would be enough for me on top of two 4 hour weekend rides.

I experimented over lockdown with more condensed weeks - 2 days back to back was all I could really manage after a few weeks.

In the LV sweet spot base it’s two rides of 60 or 75 minutes and one longer 90 min weekend one. You could do the workout and extend the cool down - adding a couple of 10 minutes or look for a variation of the workout that’s longer. There are several options.

It’s been said many times by the TR crew that LV is not low intensity.

I’m sure you’ll decide which way you want to go and hope it works out for you. :grin::+1:t2:

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I did almost exactly what you’re describing. My schedule ended up being:

Monday - 60min active recovery (lazy mountain)
Tuesday - TR LV 90min ride (normally Saturday)
Wednesday - TR LV 60min ride (normally Thursday)
Thursday - TR LV 60min ride (normally Tuesday) sometimes extended to 90min if feeling good
Friday - 60min active recovery or low endurance (lazy mountain or pettit -1)
Sat / Sun - Open, typically 3-4hrs endurance ride on Sat, 3hr on Sun.

This schedule worked fine for SSBI/II and first half of Sustained Power Build. I had to adjust the schedule for second half of SusPB as it was too intense to do on consecutive days and I was starting to crumble. I chose to prioritize 2 of the workouts and do them Tues/Thurs and make the 3rd optional / best effort on Friday.

I would give this schedule a shot as-is before increasing the lengths of the workouts during the week. SSB LV is mostly threshold / over-unders / VO2max workouts and intensity is higher than MV or HV. Its not like 60min of sweet spot each day. If you can handle that schedule / volume I’d just add on z2 / endurance riding on those weekday rides to get you up to 90min if desired.


Yes, this is what I ended up with :slight_smile:
On this weekend rides did you make an effort to stay in z2? Structured is nice, but sometimes I just want to ride how I feel at the moment. I expect to dip into tempo a lot and do some harder efforts on climbs (I live in a very hilly area).



The two options would be to keep the low volume, but add 30-45 min of strict z2 at the end of each 1hr workout. That’ll add time/volume/fitness without adding a ton of stress.

Other option is to choose the high volume plan, but only keep 2-3 of the 5-6 workouts each week. Delete the other ones that are least functional for you and/or would lead to overtraining if you did them all. That might mean keeping the vo2 max, sweetspot and endurance and dropping the supra threshold and over/unders. If you try to keep the vo2 max, over/unders, and supra threshold…and also do 8-10hrs of spirited riding on the weekends, you’re probably gonna be cooked in 2-3 weeks.

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I would say that in general I tried to stay in z2 for the weekend rides and tended to choose routes, if riding solo, or zwift group events that made it easier to ride steady z2. But I would also do spirited solo rides or hit the hills or zwift events that would cause me to spend a lot of time in z3/z4. I mostly tried to minimize time in z1 and avoid going so hard that I needed to drop to z1 to recover. And tried to restrain myself a little bit so I could recover on Monday for the Tuesday workout, but still enjoy myself and have fun. I was probably getting 190-220TSS for Sat and 150TSS for Sun.

For me it was a matter of balancing fun and structure. Structure without fun = burnout and falling off the plan. Fun and no structure = stagnation and/or regression. Seriously, I applaud your effort to incorporate the ‘fun’ rides into your plan. Its totally doable with a little thought.

My brain melts every tie I see a thread where someone basically says I love X / Y / Z about cycling and want to get better so I hopped on a plan where I won’t do X/Y/Z for 12-20 weeks. If they love X/Y/Z, they should make sure their plan has at least one of those activities each week. For most of us its a hobby and we do it for our enjoyment, just because we have structure and a plan doesn’t mean we cannot have those.

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This actually is very similar to the manner in which I structure my training:
Monday - Rest
Tuesday - structured hard effort inside for ~1 hr + Z2 to make 2 hrs
Wednesday - structured Z2 effort inside for 1-2h
Thursday - structured hard effort inside for ~1 hr + Z2 to make 2 hrs
Friday - rest
Saturday - very long ride outside, 5+h
Sunday - structured hard effort inside for ~1 hr + Z2 to make 2 hrs
I sometimes switch Saturday/Sunday, depending on group rides. If Saturday is very. very long [6.5 hours yesterday], I drop the Sunday ride. And sometimes, depending on the group, the very long ride might be mid-week; then I try to adjust to match my fatigue levels.

At the moment I have found no TR plans that readily accomodate that kind of planning, so I’ll be interested to see how you go. I am going to investigate the polarized plans once I’m finished with the current plan.


I’m in a similar position; quite a lot of free time*, but want to keep some ‘fun’ rides in while making progress. With some help from a local coach, I ended up with a loosely POL plan:

Mon: 1.5-2hrs Z2
Tuesday: structured intervals
Weds: as Mon
Thurs: off
Fri: 2.5-3 Z2, hilly route or including 2x20 min sweet spot pushes
Sat: 3 hours + long ride
Sun: off

I’ve really enjoyed that style of setup.

*I’m temporarily unusually busy at work for the next month-6 weeks, so dropping down to 2 x long-ish rides on Friday and Saturday, with intervals Monday and Wednesday.