(Kind of) feature request: Sweet Spot Base Repeat plan

Very much enjoyed Podcast 284, and particularly interested in @chad’s explanation of Minimum Effective Dose and how it applies to training.

In particular, the interesting part was how the MED for improved performance varies based on a number of factors. And it made me wonder - wouldn’t the MED for someone doing structured training for the first time be different to the MED for someone with a season or several seasons under their belt?

And yet if you repeat base/build/specialty, the training plans remain the same. What if there was an SSB plan that “unlocks” when you’ve completed the first one? Could SSB1 go straight into longer 10-15min intervals instead of the 5-8min intervals that are common early on? Does SSB2 need to lead quite so gently into the vo2 work if you’re already really used to that level of intensity?

I get that the plans need to be doable for beginners so they don’t give up, and it’s fairly clear that Trainer Road focuses strongly on this as it’s where their bread is buttered (not a criticism, just a fact of how tech companies need to operate and exactly what they should be doing). But for more experienced but time-crunched cyclists, it just feels like you can extract more value out of your 3.5-6 hours.

Would be interested if this resonates with anyone.

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SSB given me 30/30s as a ‘VO2’ is part of what convinced me to go get a coach. I brought up my concerns that they felt useless compared to the traditional intervals as was told ‘we see better compliance with similar results’. :man_shrugging:

SSB = Sweet Spot BASE.

A lot of coaches wouldn’t have you doing any intensity during BASE training.

SSB2 prepares you for BUILD by steadily increasing the interval time spent in the VO2Max power zone.

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30s at 120% is a waste of time at any point in a plan.

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Side issue: SSB2 is basically a build program (vo2, threshold, and over-unders all included). Do the last week with Spencer, Lamarck, Leconte, and Wright Peak, and that’s way more than just “preparing for build”.

It’s more SSB1 LV and MV that I’d want to focus on though to be honest, and the length of intervals in the weekday 60 minute sessions.

For time crunched “athletes” I’d have to disagree. You could say the same about 60m zone 2 workouts, or 6 min sweet spot intervals. If you are progressing each week then you’ll see gains.

Yes, and people quite regularly question it on this forum. Again, I get that it might be the best approach for someone new to intense structured training, but once you go back to it, either you need vo2 work or you don’t - there’s no need for half measures that I can see.

Most people typically take some time off before going back to SSB1 LV/MV. It would be interesting to see some stats on seasoned TR users vs new users, and the gains made following a full 6 week plan.

On a personal level I got a bump in fitness having just completed SSB1, but would I have had more of a gain if the interval durations were longer?:man_shrugging:

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I basically hacked together my own version of this. Used Eclipse -3 and Tallac a lot for my mid week 1hr workouts. But at the end of the day you need to start adding minutes to keep progressing.

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Well it’s the overall plan that has created the improvements - you can’t really pull out individual elements and say they were vital to the improvement without a control in the experiment.

That is, how do you know you wouldn’t have improved more if the second time round, the vo2 workouts had been introduced with less “preparation”? Or that if you repeated SSB1 but done more longer interval workouts as @Benrlelliott did above, you wouldn’t have constructed an even stronger base to build upon?

After 2 full years of TR training I’m just about to start my new season with SSB1 LV (I also run 3 times a week so stick to LV) but I’m planning on doing much longer sweetspot intervals by skipping lot of the recoveries or substituting for custom workouts with longer sweetspot intervals. I know i can do 2 x25mins at 90@ ftp with no issues (I’d argue if you can’t do 2 x 20 mins at 90% with 2-3 mins between intervals then ftp is overestimated…but that’s a different argument!), so see no benefit in doing 8 min intervals at sweetspot.

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Erick was quoting they are a waste of time. I highlighted why I think they are not. Again, it’s about proper progression. At least to me. I could never stomach three minutes at VO2 max without some proper preparation (mostly progression).

I know because I tried exactly that first hand. Unsurprisingly I saw myself failing those workouts quite a lot. This was and is not the case when I follow a proper progression.

Why would I want to question the plan that got me to (today 4.6 watts per kg) in less than two years? In the same time frame I also saw my running improve fastly. As far as I am concerned their plans and methodology works. What doesn’t work, I can see with many of my friends.

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One thing I haven’t seen mentioned at all is that your FTP should (hopefully) have increased when you restart the plan. If you repeat the plan without an increase in FTP, then you’re right, your dialing back your interval durations when you’re already used to doing much longer intervals. However, let’s say when the plan ends, you do an FTP test, and you have an increase of 1-10%. Now those short SS and VO2 intervals are a higher intensity, and therefore going back to a shorter duration makes sense again, because you’re going to have to build up to the longer durations at a higher wattage than before.

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I think this is true for higher intensities: 6x3min @ 120% of a correctly-tested FTP, or 4x10min @ 100%, is going to be hard whether you’ve done it before or not.

But I think anyone who’s done a full cycle of training plans and is going back to the start if capable of replacing, say a 6x6min sweetspot interval session with a 3x12min and not only manage the session but absorb it and recover from it comfortably, even with an increased FTP.

I’m now back on SSBLV1, as it happens a year to the week that I last did it, and my FTP has risen by 13%. That means I’m doing Sweet Spot intervals such as those in Carson at the same power as I was doing the low end VO2max intervals a year ago.

My weak points are VO2max & Anaerobic, plus I’m getting on a bit, so I find the 30s/30s intervals really hard. Certainly not a waste of time - see FTP gain.

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First, congratulations on the improvement! How does it feel doing Carson now? Do you feel like you could do 3x12min and challenge your muscular endurance a little more without burning out?

FWIW I’m not advocating that everyone be automatically put on a harder SSB repeat plan. Just that people are different, and it would be nice to have an option - particularly in the lower volume plans - for those who feel they’re ready for a little more work.

While the increase is nice I’m aware that at 61 it’s as much about slowing the decline as anything. I’ve a lifetime of endurance orientated activity so suite that side of things. I’m not a total noob when it comes to training, this is my second stint on TR, so not all the gains can be laid at that door either. In addition to MED there’s MRD - Maximum Recoverable Dose, not sure if it was covered in that podcast. With increased age MED goes up whilst MRD comes down, at some point they cross, when they do your performance will decline no matter what you try.

Here’s the workout (with notes) https://www.trainerroad.com/app/career/bobw/rides/94004244-carson. Didn’t have a HRM last year (well one that worked with the iPad Mini) so there’s some data missing from the comparison.

Got Eclipse today which is 3x20min.

With regard to your OP - I can see where you are coming from and it’s something I’ve thought about. Not necessarily a “locked” plan but several parallel ones to alleviate boredom. However repeating workouts is quite useful as you have an historical perspective to them - keeping notes on each workout is helpful here. I (and others) have made a feature request for +1 and -1 versions of the plans so you could move up (or ease off) depending on how you feel, i.e. a more formal way of increasing the workload rather than choosing the alternate versions every time.

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That’s a great point and would be a really good thing to cover in the podcast.

This is why this year I’ve gone straight for high volume. If you’ve already trialed intensity, I think it’s better to keep base season to actual base efforts. Plenty of time to bring intensity in during a build period. I think doing the likes of overunders and the baby vo2max workouts in SSB2 are good for someone starting out and looking for more immediate results.

I do wonder if there should be a MV version of HV SSB, with longer intervals. And paired with this HV should definitely have longer than 30 minute intervals towards the end of SSB2

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I’d also note that if one had done SSB and build over the off season then never touched the trainer / structure again then yes, the regular SSB is good to ease back into structure. But for those who keep some structure throughout the year, longer intervals would seem a natural place to start.