How to Do Base Training the RIGHT Way

Curious to hear folks’ thoughts on this video, which contrasts a bit with the output of TR’s high-volume, full-distance plan builder, essentially replacing early season VO2-max workouts with endurance-paced sessions.

My situation: COVID willing and injuries allowing, my “A” race next season will be an IM in July 2021. I used TR’s plan builder to generate a training calendar, and have been following it for about 6 weeks (was following some other high-volume TR plans for the year prior). The plan seems mostly reasonable, though I’m not gonna ramp up the running volume as quickly as recommended. It does strike me as odd that TR already has me doing a lot of VO2-max work. Did Mills last week, Dade - 1 this week, and my arch nemesis Mist is on tap for next week.

I realize that the alleged rationale for early season VO2-max work is that it isn’t specific to Ironman training. However, the studies and example plan in the video seem to contradict this rationale. This has me thinking about replacing the early season VO2-max work with endurance rides, and maybe adding an additional recovery ride to each training week. Then I’d plan to follow along with the remainder of the TR plan, starting around the end of December with another Build phase, and revisiting VO2-max in March when another Base phase is scheduled.

Also relevant to note is that I will be happily unemployed as of Nov 13, so training time isn’t as limited as it was.

Before I pull the trigger and overrule Coach Chad + The Machine, thought I’d poke the hornet’s nest and get some feedback here. Maybe I’m just fishing for an excuse to bail on Mist?

I had the same question about a lot vo2max in base

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This longer slower approach has been talked about frequently as of late here. Personally trying this this winter, I’m no pro but this type of base training aligns more with what I’ve heard from people like Phil Gaimon, as well as other successful amateurs. That said, I’m not sure where the tipping point is, in the sense that you need more volume to make the most of Z2, and it does get to a point where if you can’t commit the time you are probably better off doing intensity instead

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Agreed, I’ve been noticing the topic coming up a lot. I think as base season comes around, people want to optimize their training, try something new, make sure they’re doing the right training, etc. I’m included in this camp… I’ve toyed with penciling in Traditional Base vs. SSB this year.

Here are my thoughts/things to consider:

  • The Z2 or traditional base method is preferable to Sweet Spot Base. It’s proven to work, but it’s definitely not for everyone. I’m considering Traditional Base over Sweet Spot base this year, and here’s what I’m asking myself:

  • Has Sweet Spot Base worked for you before? Did your FTP grow using SSB Base? Did the intensity in the base phase burn you out down the road? Were you able to complete/achieve FTP gains in the build phase with the aerobic base you built in Sweet Spot Base? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  • Are you going to be consistent with long Z2 rides? For best results, Z2 endurance rides should be >2.5 hours. With working from home, I can put in 2-3 hours per day of riding no problem. But, that doesn’t mean I’ll be as consistent doing it. I can talk myself into 60-90 minutes of sweet spot easier than I can talk myself into a 3 hour trainer ride if that’s what’s on the schedule and the weather is bad.

  • What are you training for? An aerobic base is the key to virtually every cycling discipline. But, if you’re doing a 60 minute super high intensity crit vs. an Ironman, your aerobic base needs are slightly different. SSB more akin to short intense events, long slow hours from Z2 base for multi-hour events.

  • 2021 is probably going to look a whole lot like 2020 in terms of cancellations, so if there’s a time to try something new, now is a good time.

  • A sub-optimal but perfectly executed training plan is better than a perfect but poorly executed training plan. Don’t waste mental energy trying to perfect every minute detail of your plan. Both SSB and TB are science based and proven to be effective. Pick the one that you want to do, and know you can stick with, and execute it perfectly.

  • FWIW, I am going to stick with Sweet Spot Base. I’ll definitely swap some weekend rides with longer Z2 rides, and drop intensity if/when needed, but deep down I know I can comply with the workout (as I have in the past), so I’m going to go with what has worked.

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The last two Base/Build/Specialty blocks I completed, I had bigger FTP gains coming out of the base phase oddly enough than I got from the Build phase, and by a good bit.

I, like you’ve stated, do not have the time for a traditional base, SS always gave me more bang for the buck. I just can’t squeeze in multiple 3-4 hour rides every week. I’d be lucky to get even a single 4+ hour ride per month. That said, my goal this winter is to do longer SS intervals and see how that goes.

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My thought process for TB is this is going to be my 6th year cycling and third winter training and my gains weren’t as big year 2 as year 1 (300-310 vs 268-290). Working from home gives me more time to do the longer rides. And at the end of the day I’m only gambling with my future so nothing important on the line. I don’t race and just enjoy training and getting stronger so I can do more big rides in the summer with friends and myself.

That said I don’t know if the 2.5+ hour thing is really accurate, if that is used as a benchmark outside it’s not really the same indoors with nonstop pedaling compared to most outdoor situations. It’s definitely daunting to do some of the bigger rides, I’ll try to do some outside if weather allows but for now it’s been a nice change of pace

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Nope.
Exhibit A: the German 2000 Olympic 4000m World Record team.
Exhibit B: Nate at Leadville.

The goal of “Traditional Base” isn’t increasing FTP. Apples to not-apples.

The 2.5hr minimum ride will get you a lot of solid adaptations. However, if all you have is 1hr, do 1hr.

And for the record, outdoor Z2 is the same as indoor Z2. I’ve done the experiment (and so says Dylan!). The key is as you said, outdoors you need to focus on and practice “nonstop pedaling”. Plan your route and pedal.

A great quote from some French cyclist (I think), she said, “My bike was made to be pedalled, so I pedal!”.

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Exactly. TrainerRoad’s blanket assumption about Z2 outside=inside+50% is really tedious for planning and definitely does not apply to routes I ride. I have given up syncing Z2 outside rides to headunit and instead simply ride at prescribed power range for indoor workout duration.

EDIT: took a look at couple Z3 workouts, seems those are updated as well over time to have similar multiplier (Hump Mountain has indoor/outdoor diff but Martin Hill does not yet)

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That’s interesting, why do you think that is?

One thing I’ve found is that if I do SSB during the winter, I’ll stick to it with good compliance as all the rides are on the trainer. Then, come build phase, the weather is getting nicer, so I inevitably sneak a few outdoor group rides (remember those?), and either replace the TR workouts with a group hammer ride, or am too cooked to complete the intervals, thus not getting everything out of the build phase that I probably could have.

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Wait, riding our bikes isn’t the most and only important thing we do!?

That rule is definitely not hard and fast, or even widely accepted. I’ve just kind of heard it thrown around a few times. A two hour, or even one hour Z2 ride isn’t a waste because it didn’t hit some arbitrary time threshold.

to quote someone famous: " I have no science to back this up."

I’ll admit, this is totally my perception, and not science based. My thought process though is that if you do TB, into short power build, you might be unpleasantly surprised when you hit the anaerobic efforts in SP build if you haven’t done any work on that system for the past 12 weeks. Traditional Base into Sustained power build seems to be a logical progression as there are some threshold efforts in trad base. Similar to SSB II into short power build… you’ll have at least touched high end V02 systems.

Again, not science based.

Agreed. So, if someone’s goal is to increase FTP, and they achieved that using SSB, why switch? It’s one thing to consider when picking a base plan.

Bingo. 2.5 hrs > 1 hr >>>>> 0 hours.

That said, if your base phase is constituted of largely one hour rides, you may get into later phases and try to frost and ice a cake that isn’t fully baked.

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An opinion on the “2.5hr Rule” by Hunter Allen:

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This is probably the most important part to all these discussions. Figure out your goal, find the best way to get there, ignore the rest.

Summer 2019 I did only Z2 rides. 2x4-5hr on the weekends, 8-10x1hr during the week. The 5hr rides really grew my fitness but all the 1hr rides definitely helped support my ability to do those long rides. You gotta do what you gotta do.

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My goal was to get over the 4w/kg Mark, now that I have I feel I can afford to experiment. Worst case I don’t bump my FTP any further at all this entire winter (doubtful), but even if that’s the case I’m sure I’ll get some good adaptations from doing different style of training than the last 2 years of SSB.

I’m not saying this is your case, but when I read this forum I have the perception that many people think their gains are going to be linear and not ending. The reality is that most people will improve more at the beginning of their cycling careers and less as they progress along. At the beginning you get the noob gains and other low hanging fruit that give you big initial gains. As you progress there is less and less low hanging fruit and you need to work harder to make smaller gains as you approach the limits of your capabilities.

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Yea that’s a given with basically any exercise so totally not expecting linear results. My point was probably poorly conveyed but that because the low hanging fruit is gone changing things up with more volume may be beneficial “later in the game”

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Some interesting points above. Given I had my largest ftp gain from last winter’s SSBMV1 I thought I’d supplement this years SSB with some more zone 2 rides to provide me with a more resilient base. I’ll complete the planned workouts in the morning with the zone 2 ride in the afternoon.

That’s the plan! I’ll see if my body is up to the increased stress but I’ll compliment the extra activity with increased sleep and diet. Abstaining from alcohol should aid recovery to as I’m on the wagon until Christmas or maybe Spring.

Whilst events in my cycling calendar are in doubt I want to use this increased free time to get myself as bike fit as possible.

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I don’t think it has to be one or the other (SSB vs TB). A good compromise for many could be a mix of the two. For example, pair a SSB Low Volume plan with several longer Z2 rides, maybe 3 days of each if you ride 6 days weekly. If that’s too much stress, drop one of the SS rides, add another Z2 ride, or take a second day of rest … easy to adjust one way or the other, and customize to your specific needs.

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Totally agree. One should remember that the (main) idea of SST is to be as good as possible replacement for long endurance rides. So if you don’t have enough time during weekdays, do sweetspot, and leave the LSD for weekends!

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