Is Base Necessary for a beginner

So I am kind of new to structured training ( did a zwift ftp plan took me from 180 to 203) and otherwise just cycled for fun intermittently the past year and a half. I have no event goal in the foreseeable future other than to build up my FTP ( Currently 203 at 160 pounds) and be ready for my first group rides this spring.
Following TR plans would have me go through multiple base training phases. This sounds like a good idea for experienced cyclists. For a beginner would it make sense for me to just do build phases until my FTP stops responding to them? Alternatively would you limit to one base followed by build in cycles? I know there is the valuable beginner gains idea and I want to make the most I can out of it and not sure that low intensity efforts will get me as much of a response as a beginner?
Any thoughts? I keep going back and forth about how I should invest the next few weeks.

Base is more important for a beginner. You don’t have any old man strength yet. Start at the bottom, work your way up.


Rule #1 - cycling is an almost all aerobic activity, ergo, develop your aerobic system to the best of your ability.

JRA for a couple of years made you more fit than the average joe on the couch, but that’s about it.

FTP is mucho aerobic; see Rule #1.

Do Base until you want to cry. Then do some more. A couple of years ago Nate did something like 6 months of SSB with a really big jump in FTP.

Also do as many long Z2 rides as you can.

It’s all about the base.


Hi Omar, Welcome.

Base is definitely your friend, albeit a surprisingly demanding friend that will poke, prod, and challenge you, exposing your opportunities for growth (er um… weaknesses) along the way. Yet all the time, Base is building up your foundational strength and endurance giving you the capacity for more later on.

Taking advantage of the winter to log consistent hours in structured base training will pay killer dividends come spring time group rides. In a group ride you can always pass on taking a pull, but you still gotta hang with the group if you want the draft (or not miss a turn). You’ll be in a much better place to enjoy those group rides and learn from your riding mates if your base fitness is solid.



Yes - I started riding last year, and while I’ve had plenty progress, in retrospect I would have been far better off with a heavy focus on base.

With that in mind, some people do not find base very interesting, especially indoors on the trainer. There may be a trade off here, where you introduce intensity or unstructured riding to keep things interesting and keep your legs turning. Because as much as base is beneficial, it will be far less so if you decide to quit riding in Feb because you’re bored or tired of it.

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There is no such thing as base training.

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Now there’s a hot take I wasn’t expecting from you.

The base phases may actually benefit you more as someone new to interval training

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I guess there is consensus from everyone. Will keep going at base training then.

My schedule is variable by week. I have 2 really light ones after which I get a few tough ones where I would expect about 3 -4 rides a week. I have selected the low volume plan and am filling in the extra time with zone 2 rides while watching basketball or rarely a zwift event or race ( no more than one a week). Is that ok or would I risk overtraining on the weeks I have more free time? ( I have done lots of riding in similar weeks like this in the past and it doesn’t make me feel fatigued so was hoping to continue with this plan).

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That plan is fine. Be consistent with your LV base workouts and ensure you do everything you can to hit each one. If you have extra time you can “extend cool down” to add some Z2 (65% FTP is good). Listen to your body and pull the plug if the extra is causing you to struggle / fail base workouts. There was a good discussion on this weeks podcast about this.

It’s like making a curry without the base paste. It’s never gonna be as good!!

It’s tempting to think along the lines of I don’t need this part, I’ll skip to the “good stuff”. Prior to starting this round of TR I had around ten years of cycling experience and nearly fifty of general aerobic activities (running, mountain hiking, climbing) and still went for the prescribed plan. At 61 and with that existing base I still saw a 13% improvement in FTP over the first year.

The three phase TR plan of Base - Build - Speciality is a bit like building a house. You can’t build the house unless you have the foundations (Base) and you can’t fit out the house, i.e. Speciality, unless you have the house (Build). So all are required.

Have a play around with Plan Builder, you can just enter a fake event sometime in the future if you want to limit the length of the plan it gives you, it defaults to a year which would just give you two full Base-Build-Speciality cycles. Try different scenarios particularly with the experience part to see how that adjusts the proportions of Base and Build.

Sweet Spot Base part 2 could be seen as Build part 1, it’s quite a bit more intense than SSB pt1, really it’s just a name, so going Base pt2 - Build - Base pt2 - Build is almost like staying in Build.

Due to the winter weather and having an outdoor job I need to shift workouts around so will often move them around to fit my schedule. Calendar is your friend here, just drag and drop. Try and keep the same order to the workouts though.

You are unlikely to become overtrained if you do more than usual for a single week, overtraining is a long term thing and usually manifests itself as a slow deterioration over several weeks with consistent failure to hit power targets, failing or skipping workouts on a regular basis. You then slip into the mindset that the training isn’t working so you need to do more which just adds to the problem. The occasional failed/skipped workout isn’t usually a problem (I failed on one yesterday), sometimes you are “just tired”, a day or two later and you are fine again. Remember that recovery is just as important as the workouts themselves. Again, you can modify your schedule by using Calendar to “Push” the program back if you know there’s a week where work/life is going get in the way.

Ive followed everyone’s advice. I finished base 1 with an ftp increase from 202 to 220 though I think my first ftp was underestimated. I must admit though… the second base is kicking my ass… not easy … not by any means.


Base sir. “You must become STEEL Mr. Vollmer!”

Yep. Sweet spot base two is not easy. I think thisnis the biggest reason to go with base training for a while as a beginner. The TR build plans just introduce a whole new level of continuous pain and suffering…I’ve been riding for 30 years…the last 5 or so seriously. I cant get through a build phase.

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I’m brand new to it and not as in-shape as you are, and I find base quite the challenge, and from what I see it only gets more challenging.

Why not give it a go and see what works for you? It’s all beneficial.

Yeah Im certainly going to try and finish this. Its just not as easy as the first base for sure.


Is Base Necessary for a beginner?


So I am kind of new to structured training

Very much YES.

For a beginner would it make sense for me to just do build phases until my FTP stops responding to them?

Nope. Build that base first.

About 5 years of it should be enough (joking but not joking)


From my experience, without the endurance as a foundation you will struggle to see sustained development over a number of years. When you pick up all the snippets from this forum and across the WWW, you are really unlikely to see someone with a high quality endurance background falling apart from a training regime. Those that just dive into the higher intensity work often see short term gains and then stagnate. Problem we have is that commonly people seek out a structured training plan to get that quick fix. It is hard to make any money out of a plan that says just ride at a steady easy pace for 15 hours a week for three months before you consider any interval sessions.