Planning My Off-Season Break: Questions About Integrating Strength Training and Adjusting Training Volume

As I approach the end of my cycling season, I’m planning to take a well-deserved two-week break. Over the past three years, I’ve primarily followed TrainerRoad’s low-volume training plans. I have a couple of questions regarding my training approach:

  • Currently, I incorporate one strength training session per week to maintain my overall strength and bone density. This helps me meet TrainerRoad’s Level 2 “All-Rounder” criteria based on their strength training calculator. However, I’m considering taking a complete two-week break from all physical activity to refresh. I’ve seen comments from TrainerRoad representatives, including @ZackeryWeimer, in the forum, and I’ve heard similar advice from Nate on the Ask a Cycling Coach podcast. They suggest that you don’t need to train to train when starting a TrainerRoad plan. It seems like their focus is primarily on cycling training, and I’m concerned that introducing strength training and a new structured training plan (even a low-volume one) might put excessive stress on my body, hindering effective recovery when starting right after the break. Given this, how should I integrate strength training when following a TrainerRoad plan? Should I start strength training after the break and aim to reach my desired goals (such as meeting the “All-Rounder” benchmarks) before beginning structured cycling training? How does this integration work if I decide to follow a mid-volume plan?

  • Regarding the weekly training volumes, I’ve noticed that the primary distinction between the low-volume and mid-volume TrainerRoad plans is the addition of a lower Zone 2 endurance recovery ride midweek, along with a 2-hour long endurance ride on Sundays in the mid-volume plans. Despite adhering to TrainerRoad’s low-volume plan for the past 2-3 years, my weekly riding hours have typically ranged from 8-10 hours, and I’ve been including long endurance rides on weekends. I’m curious if transitioning to the mid-volume plan for the upcoming season would offer any advantages, or if it’s advisable to stick with the low-volume plan. My FTP has seemingly plateaued around 294-295 with low volume lately, although it did reach 311 in 2020 when I added more volume to my low-volume plan. I’m open to receiving second opinions, especially considering TrainerRoad’s plan changes.

Any insights or advice on these topics would be greatly appreciated!

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Hey there and welcome to the TR community!

We’d definitely recommend taking that two-week break you mentioned – it will probably be a great opportunity to rest and recover physically and mentally!

Integrating strength training can be a bit different than cycling on its own. After a couple of weeks off, it would be a good idea to start out with a “preparatory” phase with your strength training so you don’t ramp up too quickly there. I’ve hit the gym too hard too soon in the past, and my legs definitely felt it on the bike. :sweat_smile:

Consider lowering the weights you’ve been using or starting with body weight alone (no added weights) once you’re back from your break. Ease back into the strength training for the first couple of weeks before you gradually build up to where you previously left off.

You could certainly continue to lift while working through a structured cycling plan as well!

  • Try to pair your weight training within 12 hours of your intervals & preceding a rest/easy day. Ideally, you’ll do your cycling first, but if you can’t, just know that your riding will suffer since you’re training on pre-exhausted legs.

  • Try to adhere to an on/off schedule by following hard days with easy ones.

Mid Volume plans now look closer to what you were doing in the past – i.e., Low Volume + some extra endurance riding. They’re still about 6 hours per week on the bike, but you could always add in some extra low-intensity riding to bump that up to 8-10 hours. You can also specify the duration of each workout in a plan now (instructions here towards the bottom of the article) to get the weekly volume you’re looking for.

It sounds like you had some good consistent gains following that kind of approach before, so I think that would be a good starting point! Remember to check in on how your body feels as you progress through your plan – with cycling and strength training – and don’t be afraid to ease off at times if you feel the need for some extra recovery.

Hope this helps and feel free to let me know if you have any other questions!

Hi Zack,

Thank you for your reply!

I certainly don’t want to experience very sore legs or any body part to the extent that it affects my daily activities. So, I’ll keep that in mind when I resume strength training after the break :smiley:

Initially, I suspect that doing strength training 12 hours after a bike ride or intervals and then attempting to ride the next day might impact the quality of the following day’s ride. So, I’m not entirely sure if I should start with mid-volume plans right after the break. I might begin with low volume and then transition to mid volume once I feel confident about my ability to recover between sessions. I’m also eager to experiment with custom workout durations. I believe that longer sweetspot intervals over a couple of hours could help me keep up with the fast group during my local Wednesday nighter rides.

I have another question, though: After taking two weeks off, is it okay to immediately start structured training on the bike, or should I wait a week or so and spend the first week doing some unstructured riding?

I’m excited about incorporating strength training alongside structured cycling training this time!

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No problem!

Quick clarification on the strength training bit – we’d recommend pairing up your strength sessions within 12 hours of an interval day, preceding a rest/easy day (if possible with your schedule, of course). That way, you’ll keep all of your hard efforts on one single day, while leaving at least the next day for rest/recovery from those harder efforts.

The strength sessions will probably impact how your legs feel overall – but remember that we’re training for racing or for a goal that’s ultimately further in the future, so you may feel some fatigue as you go through a plan – especially paired with strength training. That will all be part of the load/de-load cycles that are part of a structured training plan. Work hard, push yourself, and then recover before going through that cycle again to get stronger.

The same can be said with getting back into your on-bike training after your two-week break. You probably won’t lose a lot of fitness over that time – in fact, you’ll probably wind up coming back well-rested and very fresh. It might take a few rides for your legs/body to “wake up” after that time off, but you should get back into the swing of things pretty quickly.

If you do feel like you’d be better served with riding more easily for a week before getting into a plan, though, there’s nothing wrong with that approach!

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