Limited hours - a perfect case for sweet spot?

I was a little hesitant on how to phrase this question, and hope it doesn’t devolve into another sweet spot vs Z2 thread, although I wouldn’t be surprised. And all of this is n=1, so I was really hoping to get more input. My training has stagnated this year and I’m not sure exactly why, but have some ideas for which I expect to get supremely roasted. Z2 just doesn’t work for me.

Let’s go back to winter 21/22, around November. Cross is over, I’ve taken a nice break, and I’m ready to get training. I work between 70-80 hours a week, which means I get between 6-8 hours on the bike. So what do I do? Sweet spot, and lots of it. Sticking with 90% of FTP, I simply did longer and longer intervals, working my way up to 4x20 and 3x30. I started with 3 workouts per week, then 2 per week with the longer intervals. The rest was easy riding, usually only an hour max per ride. I did this until Feb, then did a 2-week VO2 block, a recovery week, then some more sweet spot until end of April, when I transitioned to some threshold work. Road racing season was my best ever. I was hitting new PRs left and right, and my FTP had gone from 320 to 340 over the winter on the training above. But better than that, I had 3 wins and another two top 5s.

Fast forward to the most recent winter (22/23). I jumped on the Z2 bandwagon. But still with only 6-8 hours I had to train, I wasn’t sure how effective it would be. But it sure was mentally easier. I could hop on Zwift and ride for 1-2 hours. I tried to get in longer rides, but with my schedule and other life responsibilities, even hitting 3 hours on the weekend was difficult. So come April 2023, I was just not where I wanted to be. FTP was around 320-325, and I felt like I had no pop. And this racing season confirmed my fears. I had terrible results, either finishing off the back, or just not having anything left at the end. My best finish was 17th.

Now obviously there is more to the puzzle. But just looking at my winters, I had way better results with sweet spot. My thinking is that 8 hours per week of Z2 just isn’t enough to get any results. So I’m leaning towards going back to sweet spot this winter. Sweet spot was tougher mentally, but it wasn’t anything that I couldn’t handle. And come spring I just felt way more prepared and itching to race.

So I guess my overall question is: with 8 hours per week, is sweet spot a better option for base? I feel like sweet spot has fallen out of favor or just gets sh!t on recently (here included weirdly). Everybody is doing Z2, or just “ride more” which isn’t an option. Or am I just out of luck with 8 hours per week?


I tried something similar (sweet spot to Z2, not a ton of hours available in a week) and I also felt stagnant. :man_shrugging:t2:

I’ve been doing the standard TR CX LV plan this season and I’ve been seeing “number go up” and I also feel stronger throughout the different power phases. So the Sweet Spot approach (with a big ol’ dose of VO2) has been working well for me.

I ride 8hpw too and I basically ride 1hr M-F at 55-60% ftp then 3-4hr on Saturday at similar intensity but with a workout built in. I tend to do a vo2 type workout on Wednesday and either vo2 or tempo/SS in the middle of Saturday’s long ride. This scheme works really well for me and I’ve been doing some variation of it for the past 3 years.
This keeps my ftp around 4.8 w/kg. I did a 12 week block of same stuff but 10-12hpw this winter into spring and hit a 20min PR of 5.4w/kg

I believe training is super specific to the person in terms of how you respond. The general principles of riding hard enough to get stronger than easy enough to recovery applies to everyone. The rest is up to you to find out.

I think you need a big ‘dose’ of stimulus to get adaptations. For me atm, only 60min of SS feels worth it to get any stronger, so I would only build that in to Saturday. I do 30/30 on Wednesday bc I have less time to work with. I just recover during the other days noodling around at 55% ftp to keep the legs moving and relax from work.


Holy moly that’s an awesome w/kg for “limited” hours. I’m sitting right around 4 right now so it gives me hope to get faster in the future. Does your training stay the same for the entire year or do you change it in the summer/winter?

This. Training-wise, there are only 3 levers you can pull: frequency, duration, and intensity. If you’ve maxed out on the 1st two, the only way to apply an overload is to increase the latter. How much and in what manner (e.g., steady-state vs. intervals) is context-specific, but if your goal is to build “base” fitness (whatever that is…the term has no scientific meaning), then doing so-called “sweetspot” training can be highly effective.*

*As I have repeatedly pointed out to critics of this claim who ask, “where’s the scientific evidence that sweetspot works?”, by far the vast majority of exercise training studies ever published in the scientific literature have had participants training essentially only in the “sweetspot”. That’s because we exercise physiologists know that it is effective…you’re simply not going to elicit a lot of improvement in healthy younger individuals by having them do “Z2” for 3-6 h/wk. IOW, the scientific literature is littered with such evidence…it is data supporting other approaches that is more limited.


I pretty much train the same all year with no formal down time. I used to race years back and did again for the first time last fall for a CX season. I raced about 12 weeks and programmed my training accordingly. I then took a whole week off the bike. After I build back up for 12 weeks and did that 20min test, I took 5 days off the bike.
Racing is hard to get to bc I work and have kids, but I keep the same training structure and do progressive overload within my Wednesday / Saturday workout schedule. I just like to train and make progress.
You can get really fit on 8-9hpw. That 20min power was like a peak for me tho, I prob can ride similar power but I don’t think I could decide to ride 5.4w/kg for 20min this Saturday and not ‘fail’ the workout, tho I could come close to it. I also don’t believe I could ride 95% of it for 60min without specific training bc I’m more of a punchy/classics rider type, so I never changed my ftp number to take it into account.


Later you said something that made it sound like all z2. What did your bandwagon look like?

All Z2, with an occasional Zwift crit (maybe 2-3 per month).

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That’s a bandwagon I’d never jump on!!! Where did you find that bandwagon?


In addition to what has already been said (which is great), I think most of this stems from “magic zone” thinking. As in, there is something special or different about a level of intensity than another one. And this is certainly the case, for example, when comparing supra-threshold intensities to standard endurance riding (although they are still more alike than different).

At the risk of stirring the pot unnecessarily I’ll say this: coaches, training plans, online platforms (including, but not limited to, TR), and even some physiologists, are to blame. Why give something a special label? Usually when it’s…wait for it…special. There is nothing special about Zone 2. There is nothing special about tempo or sweetspot. Your bandwagon experiment essentially led to you riding too easy. Maybe gave you a bit of rest. But then you detrained.

Here is the special part: you need to make yourself tired. And then not tired. Over and over.

Also, Z2 vs. SweetSpot is a false dichotomy. What you are essentially asking is: “should I do my endurance riding a little harder in order to elicit more overload?”. When you can’t, you’re going to be one of those guys who comes on the forums and yells: gotta be Zone 2. If you can, you are going to be one of those guys who comes on the forums and yells: gotta sweetspot, bro.

The most important word in “tempo and endurance riding” is the word and.



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I’d say it depends on a lot of factors. I have limited time to train as of this year and usually have 60-90min a day over lunch to train. With bad nights and awful recovery Z2 and the odd sweet spot or threshold workout is all my body allowed this season to handle the training stress. I’m now switching things up and am in general build and already dread the intensity. We’ll see how it goes for the next couple of weeks.

If you know you can handle the stress and recover appropriately then go for it. There is no right or wrong just what works for you in your particular situation. I’m not as fast as I could be this season but I take it - consindering the circumstances.

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Assuming you’re riding z2 exclusively and your weekly hours stayed consistent, I’d expect some detraining simply as a result of lower overall stimulus. Big picture, you’re simply doing less work.

I’d hazard a guess that people seeing bigger improvements with a z2-centric plan on similar volume are doing so because they’re able to push harder on key sessions/intensity days, or because they were overly fatigued by a SS approach to begin with- Ultimately I think it largely comes down to load/recovery balance.


I’m not “pushing harder” on interval days, so it seems I’m giving my body more chance to recover and adapt. Minimum effective dose.

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I don’t know sht about sht but I don’t think Z2 style training is supposed to be done as the ONLY zone trained - regardless of the hours performed.

Newer evidence has proven the utility of performing intervals during “base” season as well. I don’t believe in the ISM - zone 2 “talk test” thing as the gospel, but from the interveiws I’ve heard of him, I’ve heard him speak about doing intervals - just at the end of the longer zone 2 rides. I doubt he is subscribing to ONLY doing zone 2.

There might be a sufficient volume that performing only zone 2 training is effective to not lose any watts at FTP or any V02max, but I don’t know it - and don’t know if anyone does know it.

There is no such thing.

Either you’re “tapped out” on the extent to which your body can adapt, or you’re not. Up to that point, “more is always more”.

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at my age (sixty one, training age of seven) and my stress levels at work, more isn’t always more :wink: Three years working under a coach that works for Frank Overton, and my vo2max and ftp and overall fitness have been up and to the right. Thanks for all you’ve done, but having tried more is always more, I’ve found a better path.



In fact, you could extend this all the way up to classic VO2max intervals, or even HIIT. Only if you do really hard, really short intervals with lots of rest between efforts are you clearly inducing different adaptations.


IOW, you were “tapped out”, in terms of the training you could handle.

Miniumum effective dose, not maximum. How little you can do and still improve. After that, more is more, of course.