Long, low-intensity rides for century training?

First, I have to provide a bit of background…

I’m a pretty big dude, at least for a cyclist. I’m about 6’2" and 240 lbs, about to turn 42. Although I’m only slightly better than a beginner, I love cycling and now have a fair amount of time on my hands, so I’ve gotten serious about training. I joined TrainerRoad and absolutely love the workouts. I’m currently working through the mid-volume version of Sweet Spot Base 1.

What I really enjoy most about cycling is long rides – seeing just how far I can go. I’ve done a couple rides that were between 40-50 miles (admittedly fairly flat) and though I’m slow, overall I felt fine doing them. I’ve now signed up for a couple metric centuries, a true (imperial) century, and I’m even considering a randonneur brevet of 200km.

I have some time to train for the first of these events, and I feel myself getting stronger every day, so I’m not that worried about my fitness when the first event rolls around. I AM worried about my ability to bear the pain of sitting in the saddle that long. This is partly a physical issue. I haven’t found a saddle I love, and have another bike fitting session coming up to try out some different saddles. There is also just the reality of 240 lbs. sitting on a couple of very small surfaces. But I suspect there is also a mental element to it, too. On long rides I reach a point where my arse hurts so much that I just can’t imagine sitting in the saddle for twice or even 3x as long. I can barely even finish my 40-50 mile rides. And during my current 1.5 hour workouts within TrainerRoad, I have to pause the workout and hop off the bike for 60 seconds here and there in order to be able to keep going.

The mid-volume version of Sweet Spot Base 1 includes 2 rest days (Monday and Friday). I was thinking about switching to the high-volume version, but after looking at it, I suspect that would be too much for me, and I would rather ensure that I complete all of my scheduled training sessions, than over-estimate what I can do and wind up bailing on workouts or skipping them.

But I would like to find a way to start building up the physical (meaning: my @$$, not my fitness) and mental endurance required for a century (or longer) ride. In another thread, I was advised that it should be OK to do a steady, low-intensity ride (~45% of FTP) during my rest days.

Any thoughts on the value (if any) of gradually adding longer and longer low-intensity rides during one or more of my rest days? What if I start out with a 2-hour ride at 45% of FTP and add 15 minutes to the length of the ride each rest day? Or is that (a) not helpful in terms of getting my ample derriere to adjust, and/or (b) too long a workout for my rest days, such that it is likely to negatively impact my proper workouts?

Many thanks in advance for your advice,

P.S. I should add that I obviously plan on doing Sweet Spot Base II, Sustained Power Build, and as much of the Century Speciality phase as I can. Those workouts should take care of my fitness. I’m trying to work on my ability to just sit in the saddle and hack it for 5-10 hours.

I can’t comment on the low volume rides, but I can give you what I have learn over the years. I also do long rides like you. I am not fast, but I have always liked doing the longer steadier events.

A bike fit was the best thing I ever had done. During my fitting they used a saddle cover with pressure points that showed where I was actually sitting. I was sitting more to one side.

I still find long rides uncomfortable, but not unmanageable. Saying that, the distance into the ride has got longer. I don’t think you can beat time in the saddle to make that part of cycling easier. As for the high volume plan, the guys have said on the podcast very few people could manage that.

I wish you all the best and hope you enjoy the ride.

Consider reading (and following) the weekly tips section in the notes for each week. Once you get into the SSB2 and beyond, the Sunday ride is set as a Sweet Spot one, but there is a longer Endurance level ride that is listed as an option. I would look to apply those for your Sunday ride, as opposed to adding work on the Monday or Friday of your already demanding Mid Vol plan.

One example, week 4 from SSB2 MV:

Thanks, Baz. I appreciate the words of encouragement. My professional bike fits have been extremely helpful. My flat bar road bike is extremely comfortable now, with a saddle I love. But my drop-bar bike has become my main bike and I just can’t seem to find a comfortable saddle. I’m hoping my Thursday fitting will yield results!


HI there.

I find the issue to be the in the TR indoor rides that your butt is almost glued to the saddle and sees no real movement and for me 1.5 hrs is my limit. I do use butt cream (Penaten) to help as well.

Outdoors with all the bumps and jostles the road hits at you as well and any out of the saddle work really gives your butt breaks throughout the ride.

Indoors my butt hurts - outdoors is SOOO much better.

Hope that helps


That’s awesome, and exactly what I was looking for!!! Thank you…


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@mathewsparents I keep going back and forth on that one. I do find the rough patches in the road to be painful, but I agree that getting out of the saddle helps. I also find that when riding outdoors, I feel more free to take quick breaks and give my butt a rest. When doing a workout indoors, I feel guilty every time I have to pause the workout, especially since it isn’t being driven by exhaustion or fitness problems, but rather by a literal pain in my ass! :roll_eyes::stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I know Trainerrroad say you won’t get the same gains training outside, but once summer comes I want to be out on the bike. I will go out most evenings if I can. If I’m away then I will try and take my bike with me, find a new route. I once managed to find a 14% climb in an area I was just visiting. I realised it was a loop so another 14% was coming on the way back :smile:

I’m a big believer of enjoy being out on the bike. If you race then training is everything. If it is about slow and steady then time in the saddle outside is good too.

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@bazcurtis I completely agree. I’m just training now to enable myself to ride longer outdoors later. Also, I find that due to weather (I live in CT) and long work hours, indoor sessions are often easier to work in during winter and when work is hectic.

@mcneese.chad I should have asked before…is it OK for me to start substituting longer, low-intensity Sunday rides now, or should I wait until they are suggested in the SSB2 ride notes (which would be several weeks from now)?

Thanks again for your quick response to my initial question.

Best regards,

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When you get out onto the road and are doing long rides, I find it helpful to stand up every 10 minutes for 30 seconds or a minute if you can to relieve the pressure. Some folks even go so far as to set a timer and do it religiously. I’ve been into the randonneur thing for a few years and still am learning lots of little secrets like that one.

I also do some of my lower intensity workouts on rollers and find my bum feels better than it does on the trainer, so if you can snag a cheap pair of those they might be helpful. It’s also said that they engage more stabilizing muscles and whatnot than just sitting on the trainer but I do planks and other strength exercises for that too so I can’t say how much it really works but it’s a nice change of pace if nothing else.

  • For sure. I see no problem with that. There just aren’t any set in the notes in the SSB1 group.
  • You could consider taking the same ones from the SSB2 phase, and just apply them for your SSB1 weeks.
  • However, those could be a bit much, so you might consider looking at them a bit and pick a few that are a bit shorter/easier than that. But either way, I don’t think you can go wrong with a sensible substitution from the Endurance zone workouts in the time range that leads to a normal progression for time on the bike.

@clasher LOL, you and I think alike! I actually bought a set of rollers for just that purpose (and to mix things up occasionally). I enjoy the challenge of riding the rollers, but I’m not good enough yet to be able ride them for over 30 minutes. I will get there!

@mcneese.chad Thanks yet again! (Did I mention that I’m completely in awe of TrainerRoad? Not just the software, but the community and the support have been absolutely fantastic.)

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Happy to help :smiley:

Yeah, the community here is one of the best! It’s one reason I spend a ton of time here. There are so many smart and helpful people that do an amazing job supporting all the members. That’s true even those most have no affiliation with TrainerRoad proper (non-employees), but they do such good work with the TR specific items and so much beyond it. Awesome group!

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Also, I started a thread looking at saddle pain that may be helpful for you.

@mcneese.chad Thanks, I’ll check that out!

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I didn’t know there were “Week Description” notes! Those are awesome!

Also, thanks for the coaching. Amazed how the whole system is organized to build up my muscle endurance and now to make me stronger. Ramp test in 1 week and I can’t wait! I’ve slowly bumped up the intensity as I progressed from my recent ramp test and could handle it so after next week’s recovery I am going to crush it!

As a physician I love it when you Geek out on the science, I’ve actually used some of the things you’ve taught to help caring for my diabetic patients. Especially the effects of hyperinsulinemia.

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For clarity, I am NOT Chad Timmerman (TrainerRoad’s Head Coach). I’m just an active forum member and big fan of TrainerRoad.
#TheOtherChad :wink:

Just saw that! Sorry, mate. Love your comments.

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