I am considering purchasing a subscription to TR but have one or two questions.
I am 52 years old, been cycling for 5 years. My story is not dissimilar from many other relative newcomers to the sport - I saw massive improvements quickly and then more gradually while just riding my bike.
Just before the first lockdown in my country in March last year and entirely fortuitously (we were not allowed to train outdoors) I purchased a smart trainer and Zwift subscription and absolutely loved it. I am addicted to the racing and although I haven’t followed any training plan I have sourced a few structured workouts and alternate these in a rotation with racing depending on my mood and how strong I’m feeling. I do longer rides on the road and on cross country mountain bike trails on weekends.
I have never done a FTP test but according to www.intervals.icu which I use to track my progress my FTP has improved from 2.9 w/kg to 3.6 over the last year. I’m definitely getting faster and I am pleased to be improving at something physical at my age at a time when many of my peers are complaining about declining physical capacities.
I am interested in seeing how fast I can get on the bike. However my major concern is that cycling is a source of recreation and pleasure for me. I love nothing more than waking up and deciding that I feel like a long mountain bike ride or rather a quick burn on one of my local and very beautiful routes including trying to beat my PR on a few segments. Very often I just feel like riding my bike for the fun of it.
I have listened to a good number of the Ask a Cycling coach podcasts and like the scientific method that informs the approach.
However, while I enjoy the numbers and am always interested in my stats after a ride, cycling is an escape from pressure and represents freedom, excitement and adventure to me. And this is the source of my hesitation in signing up for TR - I am concerned that the strong emphasis on structure, while satisfying my self-competition and need for improvement, will not mesh well with my tendency to decide that next weekend I’m going to do a 200km gravel ride that wasn’t part of the plan when it was originally drawn up or that I might feel like smashing myself in a 30km zwift race on Tuesday evening after work.
I suppose my question is , “How compatible are the TR plans and training methodology with my need to improvise like this?” I have listened with interest to the machine learning based selection of workouts currently in Beta as I understand it, and wonder if this will be able to adapt around my “non-compliance”?
I guess I would start with, what are your goals? Once you know what your goal is, then you can work backwards for a plan.
you can stick to structure exactly or deviate as much as you want. Trainerroad doesn’t force you to do anything. But if you rarely do workouts, then the value to you may be less than someone who does it religiously. I think you need to figure out what your goal is and then you can figure out the best way to get there.
And many of us do go on outdoor rides, I’m sure many are spontaneous, you can even do your workouts outdoors if you like and replacing a long easy z1 or z2 indoor ride for a long easy z1 or z2 outdoor ride is a pretty practical deviation.
If you like structure training TR is the tool for you.
Some people rather do unstructured training, and thats perfectly fine.
I like the structure, but i pick my own WO.
I will start following a plan as soon as I am back to training for an event mode.
But most easier rides I do on zwift just because of the feel of “rolling terrain”…
Me too! After a couple of years on TR’s plans I’ve found what works best for me to balance the joy of riding with the fulfillment of getting faster - a Low Volume plan. 3 dedicated workouts a week allow enough time to get after the fun aspects of cycling as well. It’s been working well so far for me and I feel better about my training and mental outlook after switching from a medium volume plan to the “LV” plan.
If you have the mental capacity for it, I’ll go one further and recommend doing a traditional base plan in place of the “plan builder” or SS plans. The TB plan so far has allowed for spot on training, minimal fatigue with plenty left over for my fun mountain bike rides and occasional group road ride.
Nothing to lose if you can get yourself a free trial too.
TR is a tool, you can pick it up when you want it and drop it when you don’t but the more you use the tool, the better you’ll get at the craft. As someone else mentioned, doing a Low Volume plan leaves a lot of open time for your own leisurely rides so i’d probably go with that
Some workouts you can even take outside if you get a powermeter if you think you can do structure while outside. The world is your oyster
As you said, just the fact that you’re getting out there and improving your fitness is awesome.
I see someone’s given you a free month trial, but you may want some advice on what to do once you have the month!
From how you describe your riding, I would recommend Low Volume SSB. Even if you come in with fitness, start with Base I so you can get used to regular structured training. Low volume is light enough you can get away with doing a different (epic) ride when you want and still be gaining fitness.
Are you thinking of keeping Zwift for the visual stimulus? You can run both Zwift and TR concurrently as long as you have a Ant+ dongle for Zwift so that TR can have the BT
Another idea is that TR has recently released the Train Now feature. Not quite the same as the ML model but you input some filters and it spits out three option which if you don’t like the looks of you can always just refresh to get three others.
Just thoughts. Great work on your fitness improvements keep it up
The suggestions for the LV plan were so that you could then add your outside riding around that plan. That way you get the fun and enjoyment of the outside MTB and other rides while also getting some structure.
Similar although I started seven years later in my mid fifties, and also have 5 years of cycling. My first two years were all outside riding with some structure using the science in Carmichael Training Systems (CTS) Time-Crunched Cyclist program. That program emphasizes more endurance rides versus TrainerRoad. If you have Strava premium you have access to many of the CTS plans. Then I bought a trainer and did TrainerRoad for two years, and to be honest I encountered two problems: it wasn’t as much fun as training outside, and my fitness decreased. Started doing more outside workouts and then decided to buy & try a plan from FasCat because it looked like the Strava/CTS gran fondo plan I had used in 2016-2017. And I got faster again. I also have a masters plan from Velocious and it looks similar to FasCat.
At this time my primary conclusion is that more endurance, fewer intervals, and more max efforts provides better results for me personally, but that is simply a guess comparing the plans. If I went back to doing TR plans then I would incorporate that observation into what I would do different.
The point of all that - sports science is clear that responses to training are individual. Other training companies have built programs around science and riding outside (CTS and FasCat pre-date TrainerRoad). Their interpretation of the science is different, based on coaches working closely with athletes for years. What works for you may not work for someone else, the only way to determine what works is with a bit of trial and error. So while TR gave me results, I got even better results by doing another science based program. For what its worth TR doesn’t offer plans designed for masters (35+ years old) athletes, and according to forum posts plans to initially rely on adaptive training instead of dedicated plans for masters athletes. And taking that one step further, trying to optimize long-term gains when you have 5 years experience may in fact require very different training than if you had 20+ years of experience.
Whatever you do, focus on the joy of cycling. Some might disagree but I’ll claim you’ve already been doing a form of adaptive training. It certainly sounds like you are at a point where a little more structure would help, and so I’d suggest starting off small with say 2 days/week while still doing the things you love on the weekends.
Here’s another way to think of it: you may always prefer to ride outdoors – it’s fun, invigorating, good for the soul. But what do you do when that’s not possible, perhaps due to weather, time constraints, global pandemic … etc.? On those days, TR is a great tool for finding a workout with a purpose within your available time. And the new “TrainNow” function appears to make “smart” recommendations on what you would benefit from focusing on given your training history.
A big question for you (or any user) may be whether you need more entertainment/motivation/feedback while you turn the pedals. The best way to answer that is to use the free trial. Good luck!