Low volume plan: 3 60 min sessions/week Ok for meaningful results?

I’m new to TR. I’ll use it primarily in winter when outdoors isn’t an option. I can’t find myself effectively doing structured riding outdoors or opting to be indoors when the weather is nice.

If I can fit 3 sessions of 60 mins per week in using adaptive training plan per week, how effective should it be? I don’t have specific event goals as I don’t race, so unsure how to program that piece when I setup my plan. Is there just kind of a constant build option for 4 or 5 months? I’ll be in good shape when I start from all the summer riding so don’t want the program to be too much base early. I don’t think.

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If you come from no structured training background, even 3 hrs a week will be very effective.

If you have no goal event, just set a fictitious one for 5 months from now.


Seconded. You should see substantial gains.

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You basically described that if you don’t do TR you will not train as much or as effectively. I imagine TR will be a big benefit relative to your baseline, as others have mentioned.

How much are you riding now? If you’ve been riding 8 hours a week unstructured all summer and then go to 3 hours per week you’ll probably lose fitness. It just depends on where you are starting from.

On the other hand, if you do ride 3 hours per week consistently all winter you’ll have a lot in the bank that you can build on it the spring rather than starting from zero.

Just because your TR plan is for 3 hours per week, you can’t still add in some extra endurance rides. It would be wise if you want top fitness. Other options are to lift weights and go cross country skiing every weekend. There are many ways to skin the fitness cat.


I don’t think that’s the case. At best 8 hours of unstructured riding will give @kosmo886 a good aerobic base, but it can also be lots of wasted kilometers because he’s riding in Z3.

When I started structured training, I reduced my hours on the bike significantly, yet my fitness went up since then. Before my first kid was born, I’d often spend a whole day on the weekends in the saddle. 8, 9, 10 hours, sometimes even more. That’s my weekly time budget for training in a single ride.

One word of caution: the gains you made due to structured training disappear after a while. So the best strategy would be to either do some structured training outdoors in the summer or add a few indoor trainer rides.

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Totally depends where you’re coming from. Young guy new to cycling you’ll see gains big time. Old crusty roady who has been doing 10-15 hours per week for 30 years and you’ll lose fitness. ‘Course the old crusty roady wouldn’t ask this so I’d guess you’ll see gains!


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Nothing to stop you adding some easier rides on top of the LV plan :smiley:

I treat the 3 workouts for the week from the LV plan as my “key” rides and then add (ideally) easier riding around that (if indoors that would be something like one of the Baxter variants etc).

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I ride 3x per week for roughly 1.5 hours each, so doing around 100 miles per week. My schedule allows 3 days of bike training per week, and not sure I’d be doing 90 minute indoor rides…

In my case, I’ve only been riding for 16 months or so and never done anything structured. My problem (I think), is I tend to mostly ride tempo. My FTP is around 240 and I tend to average between 190-215 watts on my rides with normalized power in the 230-240 range, to the extent that matters. I find it very challenging mentally to ride solo at anything like an endurance or definitely active recovery pace. Those rides are left for group rides where people are slower.

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How do the easier rides help? Are they more to build endurance or just get saddle time? I know riding is better than not riding, just per one of my other replies, struggling to strike the right balance between riding at a pretty good clip and something easier. Counterintuitive to think riding easier will help gains, but I know it does.

This is one of the things I am looking forward to about the winter trainer sessions. Finding out how intervals or other structure help.

Time in saddle, aerobic endurance, but critically making sure you are still fresh for the actual target sessions!

If you’re tired from riding a lot of extra tempo/sweetspot then it may make your other sessions less productive (these extra miles might be referred to as “junk miles”).

Obviously (well to me anyway), a certain amount of freeform outside riding is important to have fun etc. but if you try to do 3x proper structured hard interval workouts a week and then layer in another 3x tempo/sweetspot rides on top of that, you may find that is not really sustainable. That kind of riding is fun but it adds a lot of fatigue without necessarily offering a lot of training benefit (although of course there is a time and a place for everything).

To be honest if as above you’ve never done anything structured, you will very likely experience rapid gains once you start doing structured training (using pretty much any sensible structured training plan). The trick is to keep that going after you’ve got those beginner gains, and not to get carried away and blow yourself out - once you start to pick up fitness it is easy (in my experience) to get a bit carried away.

For me the extra rides would be more zone 2 (endurance) than active recovery.

I’ve posted this elsewhere, but it’s relevant.

I went from an incredible year where I was able to complete a full base/build/specialty cycle at high volume. I had amazing results, won a race series, and saw my FTP make it to 325W at 72kg.

Then my daughter was born. Now I’m training on low volume, racing rarely, and sleeping… occasionally.

After taking 6 weeks off the bike entirely, I dropped a whole lot of watts - primarily because of the lack of sleep, I think. But, then, after consistently hitting each and every one of my low-volume workouts, my FTP started to recover, and I’m now training at 310W, despite the lack of sleep. I just hit my all-time PRs from 16-22 seconds (just shy of 1000W for 22s tonight), all on low volume.

So, even coming DOWN from high volume, low volume is still keeping me fit, and compared to NO structured training, it’s gold.


3 hour long workouts should be great for a beginner through the winter. If you don’t have any specific goals then you can just choose a ‘focus’ in plan builder so that it knows whether you want to focus on short, punchy efforts or longer, sustained efforts. It will take you through a base/build/specialty cycle on that focus.

From a fitness stand point, you can’t have too much base. Aerobic training builds on itself, so the more riding you can do for longer, the better.

Though from a motivation standpoint you can do too much structured training through the winter. If you are not used to the work and structure then you could feel a bit burned out on it by the time summer comes around (depending on how long your winter is). So I would just make sure that you are keeping it fun as that will lead you to being the most consistent in the long run.

So keep an eye on your fatigue and motivation and as long as those aren’t in the toilet then the 3hr/wk plans will set you up nicely.

Makes sense. Interesting to me, the thing that holds me back is leg strength and I guess hard bursts for longer periods of time. My aerobic fitness seems pretty good. ie. my legs will give out before HR gets to an unsustainable spot. I can still hit decent peak watts for short bursts (around 1000 for a few seconds), but need to be able to lengthen the time I’d say.

I dont think it is leg strength holding you back if you can produce the force for 1000 watts you’ve got the strenght but maybe not the anaerobic or aerobic power to hold high watts for longer. Leg strength doesnt hold many back, it is normally muscular endurance or aerobic power.

Got it, I guess I am not thinking about muscular endurance…just making assumptions based on the fact that what will cause me to stop is rarely that I am huffing and puffing and have a crazy HR, but more because my legs don’t want to go any more. On hard efforts I mean. Seems like this is where TR can help me over the winter…

Sometimes these signals can be misattributed. Aerobic fitness or adaptations aren’t purely restricted to your heart and lungs. There are mitochondrial and other cellular adaptations in your muscles that come from simple endurance training. One of the largest is the muscle’s ability to buffer and turn over lactate. As you get more fit your muscles are able to use more and more lactate as fuel so that it doesn’t build up in your muscles. This (and the associated muscle acidity) could be the sensation you are feeling. So it isn’t that you need to get ‘stronger’ but you need to build up your body to better deal with the consequences of your strength.

AKA you’re too strong for your own good!

TR workouts (and just riding more in general) will definitely help with this. These feeling are normal as someone who is new to these sort of extended intervals.

As a personal anecdote, I picked riding back up ~4 years ago after lifting heavily all through college. I remember my first “real” ride with a big climb in it. It took me ~19min and I had to stop halfway up for 3 min because my legs welled up so much that I couldn’t push the pedals anymore. From memory, my HR wasn’t crazy but my legs just hurt so much. That was in the Fall. Fast forward to the spring and I was able to do that climb in ~13 min without stopping. Those adaptations can take a couple months to ‘kick in’ but those beginner feeling of ‘misplaced’ leg burning will go away. Unless you try to do 1 min all out efforts, then they will come back and it will suck.

As suggested above, with easy riding you can build mitochondrial density and increase the capilliarization in your muscles with almost zero fatigue.

I’m going to tell a story. :slight_smile: Back when I was racing cat 4, like 30 years ago, I had a cat 1 team mate. We never rode with him but I’d see him out riding all the time. I really can’t stress more all the time. And he was always riding slow, really slow. We used to laugh a little about it because we were dumb and didn’t understand it.

It actually wasn’t until the last few years that I really understood what he was doing. He was probably putting in 20 hours per week of slow riding. Why was he going slow? Because you simply can’t do 20 hours per week of sweet spot without getting so fatigued that you couldn’t get out of bed for a week. By going slow, he could put in his hours week after week after week.


Fun discussion. Endurance leads to similar physiological adaptations as quality interval work, see below. So you don’t loose all endurance just because you do intervals. In fact, gaining a nice FTP bump is probably on the horizon due to doing something different at an already good baseline fitness.

Once you go back to outdoors, after a few longer rides you’ll probably feel very good after a winter of structured training.