New to TrainerRoad - What volume is right for me?

Hi all, I’m a 35 year old amateur cyclist in Seattle who recently decided to take the plunge into structured training. I’ve been riding road since 2016, rode ~150 hours each year, and finally got a smart trainer (Wahoo Kickr) in September 2020 to get more fit and increase my total training volume. Between September and now, I did a handful of simple, pre-built training plans provided by CTS within Strava and fell in love with the process of structured training. From there, I discovered the AACC podcast and it eventually convinced me to sign up for TrainerRoad.

From September to October, I was riding 3-6 hours a week with Zwift. From early October to mid-January (until I was shortly derailed by a tweaked back, which I’ve since corrected with frequent trunk stability and strength work), I was riding 7-10+ hours a week (hitting a peak of 12 during the Festive 500). This volume was manageable for me, and I loved seeing the performance gains (FTP raised from 203 in September to my current 274).

My question is about selecting the right training volume. Since December-ish, I’ve settled into the ability to comfortably ride 8-10 hours a week and still hit power targets probably 95% of the time. When I signed up for training road, Plan Builder recommended the Mid Volume plan, and reading the forums it seems that Low and Mid Volume are recommended as well. The thing is, if I select the MV plan for myself, the number of hours it schedules per week simply feels way too low for what I want to (and I what I think I can) do. I find myself setting MV as the base, then not being able to resist the temptation to up it to HV later on to get the time in.

On the one hand, I want to follow the plan recommendations because I do believe TR’s training philosophies are sound, and that I can greatly benefit from them. I do not have any planned events in 2021 (I have never raced) but do plan to start racing in 2022 (likely some local crits, perhaps 1-2 road races) and eventually explore triathlons sometime after that.

Am I missing something here? I really do feel like I can handle the HV plan, but is that just a mirage of being in the relatively less-intense base phase? Should I stick to MV, but add in additional Endurance/Z2 rides on scheduled days off to raise my total weekly hours and TSS to where I want to be? Will I run the risk of burning out really early if I stick with HV? Ideally, I would “peak” (as much as I can without any specific events) late in the summer, August and September, when I will be doing the majority of my riding outside and can attack some of my favorite Strava segments in the area.

Any feedback or comments are appreciated. Cheers!

P.S. Attached is my fitness chart, showing that my biggest gains came during December, particularly the Festive 500, when I was riding 10-12 hours a week.

Start with low volume, and then add endurance rides as you want. After you finish one or two segments, you can look to jump to MV. Be very wary of high volume. Its not about how much time you have. This is about how much stress your body can take.


Choose the lowest volume plan you can recover from. Remember that fatigue builds up over time and what feels “easy” now could be a struggle in six month’s time. Also it’s better psychologically to complete all the workouts and add more than have to skip workouts. The Build phase is particularly hard work and you want as much recovery time as possible during it.


With TR plans it isn’t as much about the hours as it is the intensity. I would recommend a LV plan and then add 2-3 easy rides/week if you need to get more hours in the saddle. The MV and HV plans add those extra rides at intensity which can be a lot. As spring/summer hits in Seattle you can add longer outside rides. By the end of the summer you should have a good idea if you can try the MV plans for next year.


Thanks, this is good insight. I guess since I’m still so early in my experience with structured training that I don’t know yet what volume I can recover from. How will I know? What’s worse: undergoing too much volume and overtraining, or putting in too little and leaving fitness gains on the table inadvertently?

If I could redo my start with trainer road, I would ease into it more slowly. Never did structured training before and got injured within the first month. The injury came back frequently when I tried to train and finally now, a year later it’s better. So, that’s just my personal anecdote. Listen to your body and let it adjust.


Without a doubt doing too much volume is worse. You’re early in your training history, start with low volume and take the easy gains you should get from them. Bump it up to medium volume in six months (or more) if you’re feeling fresh as a daisy at low volume

With regards to training, your fitness will almost always benefit from taking the longer term view. Hitting a low volume plan and nailing it, building your fitness and your confidence in yourself to manage the plan will be a better long-term strategy.


Leaving gains on the table just means you’ll take a bit longer getting there. Overtraining means you might never get there.

Make copious notes on each workout - how you slept the night before, fuelling, etc. If you struggle in a workout, try and figure out why, you might spot trends which will help you.

Doing low volume plans doesn’t mean you only have to do just those three workouts each week, add a long Z2 ride at the weekend, indoors or outdoors to balance the intensity of the TR workouts.

One of the points coach Chad often raises is “brittle fitness” by which he means fitness gains that have been made too quickly and that can be lost just as quickly. Getting properly fit takes years, even the pros have taken many years of riding to get where they are, they just do it at a level we can only dream of.

Which plans? And do I understand you were doing them in Zwift on the Kickr?

Yes, I started the plans in Strava, and created them manually in Zwift, to be performed in Erg mode with the Kickr. I did " Intermediate Indoor Training Plan," “Ten Minute Climb,” and “Forty-five Second Sprint,” all of which prescribed 5 rides a week, with 3 days of intensity. I would sometimes add a 6th day of easy riding as well.

Think I selected the max hours per week, did it look like this?

Posting for some of the folks commenting, for reference on what you’ve done.

Yes, exactly that.

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I did that one in 2017, back then it looked like this (week 2):

Back in 2016-2017 I got my fastest loosely following the Strava/CTS plans, mostly the Gran Fondo Intermediate + 30/45/60 minute climb plans followed by the short power plans (45/90 sec sprint, 3 min climb). I think the Gran Fondo plan is no longer on Strava (replaced by indoor plan).

If you go with a TR mid volume plan for base, be sure and read the weekly tips. If you swap the Sunday sweet spot ride for the endurance alternative, you’ll have something closer to what you’ve been doing since September. The other difference - for a given workout / energy system, the TR plans tend to have more intervals. Those two things (not doing Sunday endurance, and doing too many intervals) are what I believe led to my own burnout with TR plans. To borrow a phrase being used on the podcast, I think my minimum effective dose of intervals is far lower than what is in the off-the-shelf TR plans unless you are young, or have excellent recovery, or have a naturally high vo2max, or have a long training history (to name a few things).

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Thanks for the input, everyone. I think what I will do is set my plan to SSBMV, and add Endurance rides on the scheduled off day (Friday), and adjust the rest of the rides to add a little intensity to what I think I can handle, and then keep a close eye on my performance and fatigue from there. Let’s get faster!

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Good advice in here so far!

FWIW, Evan, I recommend Low Volume for almost everybody at first. You can always step up your volume later by clicking on the training block in your calendar and just changing the volume. Plan Builder will recalculate your plan and it’s as easy as that.

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