How to structure a 12 hour indoor week for gradual, sustained improvement

My goals at the moment are to increase endurance and ftp. I have no race in mind but want to build endurance using relatively high volume. This would also translate well to my running when / if I return.

I am relatively new to cycling, and have switched from running because of a long string of injuries. I have since been torturing myself on the spin bike at the gym, not training correctly, doing up to 4 hours (once did 4.30. Didn’t end well). I burned myself out very quickly and began dreading these sessions until one day I just broke and couldn’t do it anymore. Not even the highest dose of caffeine could get me on that bike again. I have just bought an indoor trainer and hope to begin training in a bit more of a structured manner. I completed my first ramp test which came to be 3.5w/kg. Going by rpe, I seem to have been doing all of my gym sessions at least at tempo effort, and have been wondering why I have been losing weight (that I really can’t afford to lose) and have developed anemia despite keeping good track of my calories, iron intake etc.

But I understand cyclists train differently to runners and would like some advice on how to properly structure my week, and the best approach to training on my time limit, which is around 12 hours per week at the moment. When I was running I would do around 11 to 12 hours / 90 ish mpw with a workout on Tuesday (and sometimes Thursday) and a long run Saturday (usually up to 22 miles) .

I likely won’t be committing for long periods of time as I’ll be switching between cycling and running over the long term, so I’m not sure whether to follow more of a base phase structure with only threshold / SS or to include all types of intervals (threshold, SS and vo2. One day of each per week?). I love high volume training and intend to train around the 12 hour per week mark. Would it be better to do more days of sweet spot or fewer days of threshold? Vo2 intervals or will this burn me out?

Should I do 2 vs 3 days of intensity on 12 hours per week? And how do I arrange these in the week? I do my long days on Saturday and rest on Sunday but am unsure of how many days of intensity to add and which days these should be on. If I do 3 days of intensity (not including long ride) I would have to stack some of them but I don’t know which.

Another option could be to include sweet spot in my 3 hour long ride and have 2 other days of intensity during the week eg one vo2 and one threshold, or 2 thresholds? This would fit more with what I learned as a runner ‘keeping easy days easy and hard days hard’, but am not sure if this is the best approach to cycling.

I have made a few potential weekly plans that would work with my schedule, and would greatly appreciate feedback:

Mon 2h vo2 sessiom
Tue 1.5h z2
Wed 2h threshold
Thur 1.5h z2
Fri 2h sweet spot
Sat 3h endurance

2 (no vo2) :

Mon 2h endurance
Tues 2-2.5h threshold
Wed 1.5h easy
Thu 2h threshold
Fri 1.5h easy
Sat 3h endurance or free ride

3:

Mon 2h vo2
Tues 2h SS
Weds 1.5h easy
Thu 2h threshold
Fri 1.5h easy
Sat 3h endurance

I have trainerroad so I could adapt plans on there eg swapping one of the SS workouts for a long ride to instead do 3 SS and one endurance, but my issue with the sweet spot plans is the lack of variety and more importantly lack of long rides (none exceed 2 hours). Also, following a base plan would be a long term commitment I’m not sure I would be sticking to.

I understand I’m probably over thinking this (might be my ADHD), but I’m definitely a person who needs solid structure and a plan to follow and can’t settle until i have.

Long story short, what is the best way to plan a 12 hour training week to build and maintain a high level of fitness year round, without specific training blocks and peaking?

Apologies for the super long post.

Thanks!

I’d just follow your running plan of 1 weekly workout on Tuesday and long ride Saturday with tempo or SS. One day super easy or off and the rest low endurance zone.
Sample below
M 1hr easy or off
T 1-1.5hr. Key workout day
W 2hr endurance
R 2hr endurance
F 1.25hr endurance
S 3-5hr with (tempo or SS or threshold)
S 1-1.5 easy or off

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I recommend following a polarized plan similar to the below. It’s basically the POL Base (6-week) mid-volume plan with an additional endurance (65-75% FTP) ride mid-week and progressively longer endurance rides on the weekend.

Mon - Off
Tue - VO2 with endurance before/after, 2 hrs
Wed - Endurance, 2 hrs
Thu - Threshold with endurance before/after, 2 hrs
Fri - Off
Sat - Endurance, 2-4 hrs
Sun - Endurance, 2 hrs

If you’ve got the time have a look through this thread

Having burnt out from too much intensity you might find it very informative and interesting.

So one vo2 and one threshold? The thing is, my schedule doesn’t allow back to back long rides on the weekend. I tend to be busy on Sundays and that’s why my long day is Saturday. Sunday is an off day for me. How would I go about this? I tend not to go over 3.5 hours for my long ride just because of the mental difficulty of sitting on a trainer for over 3 hours (and the ass pain and crotch numbness).

I have found that the long ride, including building tolerance for being in the saddle for long periods of time, was key to increasing my FTP. Based on my work schedule and commute I rarely get more than six hours of sleep, so lack of recovery was limiting my gains. The polarized plans give me the right amount of training stress that I can still recover from.

Other than Sunday being completely off the bike, can you train Monday-Saturday? The order of the workouts does not matter, but I would separate each hard day (e.g. VO2, threshold, and long day) by at least one day.

Mon - VO2 with endurance before/after, 2 hrs
Tue - Endurance, 2 hrs
Wed - Threshold with endurance before/after, 2 hrs
Thu - Off or endurance, 1-2 hrs depending on what you do Friday and Saturday
Fri - Endurance, 2-3.5 hrs
Sat - Endurance, 2-3.5 hrs
Sun - Off

That’s quite far from my running schedule. I feel like I have to be doing more on the bike than I do running. I generally, for running, prefer to make my harder day’s longer. For my running schedule I would typically do:

Mon 8-10 miles easy
Tues 16 miles with LT portion of around 6 mi
Wed 8-10 mi easy
Thurs 14 mile medium long (sometimes with intervals eg vo2)
Fri 8-10 mi easy
Sat 20-24 mi (sometimes with some marathon pace tempo work)

Thanks for the input!

Thanks for the quick reply. This schedule would work better for me. I indeed can train Monday to Saturday at the moment, just not Sunday. For the back to back long rides, I was wondering if it might be good to do some sweet spot or tempo on Friday for a shorter time of 2 hours and Saturday 3 to 4 hour endurance? Or some tempo in the long Saturday ride? I think I would struggle finding time to ride for over 2. 5 hours on a week day. Saturday I could do 3 to 4 hours though. I was just wondering if the two intensity days being Monday and weds might be a bit close together?

Adding in sweet spot shifts to a pyramidal type of structure, which some recent research has indicated is better (subjective) for a build phase. TR’s mid volume “build” plans include three days of VO2 and threshold, one sweet spot, and one endurance day. As I start to bump up against my total training time limit and shift from base to build, I will definitely replace one of the 2-hour endurance rides with sweet spot, so I think that is a good option.

I have had no problem with a full day between the VO2 and threshold workouts. On occasion I’ve also done them on back-to-back days but I don’t recommend doing this regularly.

Again, as a note, these suggestions are based on a mid-volume plan with added endurance. At 12 hours per week they are actually closer to TR’s high-volume plans but the VO2 and threshold workouts are longer and, for me, I can’t recover from that level of intensity with less than six hours of sleep.

If it helps, check out my TR calendar. I’ve been following this type of plan since 17 Jan.

Thanks! I was thinking maybe as an adaptation to your plan to do:

Mon 2h with vo2
Tues 1.5-2h z2 endurance or off
Wed 2h with threshold
Thurs 1.5-2h z2 endurance or off
Fri 2h SS
Sat 3-4h endurance

If I feel the sweet spot on Friday is too much, I would either move it to Saturday or just remove it entirely and shift the workouts to Tuesday and Thursday.

I was also wondering if you had any recommendations on whether or not to use erg mode, and if so on which workouts? The issue I have is that on low intensity rides I get pretty bad numbness ’ down there) and struggle to peddle out of the saddle when resistance is low. But it’s also a massive faff trying to adjust resistance manually. Do you use erg for vo2 intervals? I’m afraid of the death spiral I hear about with erg.

Would you recommend zwift for any of these rides?

Thanks

I’d then suggest:
M 1-1.5 hr endurance
T 2-3 hr with key workout
W 1hr easy
R 2hr endurance
F 1hr endurance
S 2-3 hr with key workout
S 1hr easy or off

Key workouts: tempo, SS, threshold, or vo2. If vo2, then have other be tempo go balance stress on the body
You do not need 3 workouts per week at 3.5 w/kg. Keep it simple. Especially given you already burned yourself out

Have a play around with Plan Builder and let it do the thinking, you don’t need a specif event to use it. I have an A race in June which is a specific event but after that I want to continue training and stay fit year round so created a dummy event.

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I use erg mode for almost everything, but i also workout early in the morning and am half asleep. On the endurance days I typically watch/listen to something and can do so without having to pay attention to power since erg is taking care of it.

There are many coaching companies that offer such plans, the sweet spot is 8-12 hours/week. I’ve done several of these plans, and have also hired a coach to refine the plans to my needs. In the process I find it builds a very strong “aerobic engine” or very high level of fitness. Highly recommended if you have the time.

TrainerRoad plans are generally focused on time-crunched with the sweet spot having fewer hours/week, in the 3-6 hour range for LV (low volume) and MV. By reducing hours, the TR MV and HV plans have more interval days and more intensity versus the other coaching companies.

I can post some example weeks if you are interested. One thing you’ll want to do is slowly ramp up to 12 hours, say starting at 4 hours and bumping up 10-20% a week. Even doing just endurance it can be a big leap to go from 6 hours to 12 hours.

There are relatively inexpensive plans you can buy on TrainingPeaks, and they will sync to TrainerRoad so that TR controls the trainer in Erg mode. Or they can sync to Zwift or RGT Cycling or your bike computer or … These plans are designed to build a strong level of fitness over 4-5 months, and I think are ideal for what you are looking to do.

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Simply put, my numbness mostly disappears if I use sim mode (Zwift or RGT) or slope mode (bike computer).

There is a technical reason why that is true. Power meters measure torque, and torque is directly related to the amount of force you apply to the pedals.

The low resistance that causes both you and me a pain in the rear? That is when you are applying low force to the pedals.

For the exact same workout, my power meters show 40% higher force in sim mode (e.g. Zwift or RGT) versus Erg mode. Same comment when using slope/standard/level mode, this is a mode that emulates outside by providing higher resistance when pedaling harder.

Do yourself a favor and try using Zwift or slope/standard mode if you have it. TrainerRoad used to support standard/level/slope mode with Kickr, until Wahoo added support for a new Bluetooth profile. So I simply open the Wahoo app, tell the trainer to use standard mode, and set level = 2. And then I can do an entire workout including high wattage sprints by simply using 2 or 3 gears.

Back to my offer to post some details of plans designed around building a robust and large engine of general fitness… Below is an older Carmichael Training Systems plan that was available to Strava premium subscribers, that I used in 2016 and 2017 to build the biggest aerobic engine and achieve my highest level of general fitness (the plan is no longer available on Strava)

That is a snippet of the summary. This is the basic pattern - Tue, Thur, Sat, and Sunday. I changed it up due to Wed night group rides, and generally was riding 5 days a week. But it was a good template illustrating the ‘more endurance and fewer intervals’ approach.

Below are weeks 3 and 6:

Week 3:

Week 6:

Another example for you… my coach has organized my training in a similar ‘more endurance and fewer intervals’ fashion, and he has me doing about 5-6 hours Mon/Tue/Wed, and another 4-6 hours Fri/Sat. This week I have two group rides and the once a month long group ride:

  • Mon 2 hours of intervals
  • Tue 2.5 hours of endurance
  • Wed 1.5-2 hours group ride which is flat but a lot of non-stop pedaling and as long as I can hold it sweet spot
  • Thur is mobility and core work, upper body strength
  • Fri 1.5 hours of intervals
  • Sat is 6+ hour group ride on a climbing route
  • Sun is mobility and core work, upper body strength

Saturday is usually 2.5-4 hours, depending on Friday, and this time of year I try and do a long climbing century ride once a month. Monday is the hardest day, but it usually is mostly endurance and then some intervals. The Friday ‘intervals’ consist of two short above threshold efforts, and a 10-min sweet spot push.

My season started early September, and we ramped from 2 interval days/week (Sept-Dec) to 3 per week (Jan and later).

Hope you find that rather long post helpful. As mentioned earlier there are well designed plans that you can buy (one time purchase) that target your time commitment and will build a large base of fitness. For example this one I completed in 2020 and mostly did outside with some completed on TrainerRoad via the TP-to-TR sync.

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That does sound good. Could you send some samples across? I’m a student and unfortunately can’t afford coaching or I’d do that in a heartbeat. Similarly I don’t have much money left to spend on plans (especially having spent over 2 grand on the bike and turbo) so don’t want to commit to a plan if I don’t know what it entails.

Beat me to it. Thanks!

So would you recommend doing intervals the day before a long session or instead taking an easy day and going into my long session fresh and adding some tempo work or intervals there instead? I don’t think I would be able to do over 4 hours on the trainer for my long rides and can’t train outside.

I have had a play with it, but it gives plans designed to peak for a race. I just want a well rounded program that isn’t split into blocks at the moment as Im not looking to peak but want to build all around fitness more gradually

You could schedule it for a peak a year or so down the line, a theoretical one that you wont actually ever reach and when you get closer to it just move it. That’s what I am doing with the end of my season after my A race when I just want to maintain fitness, I don’t have another real A event scheduled. A varying plan split into changing blocks is more interesting to me anyway.

Hard to say and more importantly if you are just starting off in college I’m about three times your age, and only cycling seriously for 6 years. Assuming you are in twenties, you can likely handle both more volume and more intervals. In general I can handle 8-10 hours weekly volume for months and months and months, but not as many intervals as I need more recovery. So any ideas shared are more oriented to masters 35+ cyclists, or anyone that needs more recovery (for example when getting started or if you have a highly demanding physical or stressful job).

That said, always a rest day before your hardest intervals. That means my hardest days are Mon and Fri (because Sun and Thur are off days). My weeks have evolved based on what we found works, for me. A recent week targeting 11.5 hours:

  • Mon: 2 hours with 20 minutes tempo and 8 minutes above threshold
  • Tue: 2 hours endurance
  • Wed: 2 hours with 32 minutes tempo
  • Thur: mobility/core work
  • Fri: 2 hours with 32 minutes tempo
  • Sat: 3.5 hours with 60 minutes tempo
  • Sun: mobility/core work

Again, that was later in my season. Earlier that would have likely been an 8-10 hour week and only 2 hard interval days. Early in the season its mostly endurance riding and a little bit of ‘stuff’ which for me is either adding short sprints or a handful of short intervals. The example above is showing what happens after 4+ months of progression.

Here is some info on my earlier October thru December work: