TR Noob with Road Cycling Questions

I plan to use TR for the first time starting on Jan 1 but have so many questions. The amount of quality workouts feels like a lot to me – compared to my previous experience as a distance runner – and I worry about doing this successfully. I tend to need more recovery time than I used to and get “run down” easily.

Me & My Goals:

  • Started cycling at 49. Now 52.
  • I ride to be as fit as possible and KOM hunt.
  • Can ride 6 hours per week in the winter and up to 14-15 in the summer.
  • The past 2-years I get fit by riding 100-200 miles per week with random or semi-structured efforts 1-2x per week. Some of these are multiple attacks on segment. Over 5k total the past couple years.
  • I would like to be at peak fitness in late May, 2019. I keep putting my serious efforts off until August but something derails me every time so I want an early summer peak.
  • Goal: Local KOMs. I have a lot of them or sit in the top 2-10 on any I put an effort into.
  • Goal: 2-20 minute efforts but probably more like 3-12 with 5 being the average.

Questions:

Should I ride easy for a couple weeks before beginning a plan? I will start on Jan 1 and take Dec completely off with low volume riding in Nov. These plans scare me and I worry it will start me off too hard. Suggestions?

Given my goals, am I looking at the following?
• Sweet-Spot Base at Mid Vol II for 6 Weeks
• Build Phase using a Short Power Build but somewhere between low and mid volume
• Specialty Phase with a Rolling Road or Criterium focus (not sure which)

How many days a week am I doing TR workouts? Are the other days completely off-bike rest days?

Is there an example of actual workouts I can see?

Should I forget mileage? Having said that, can I sneak in longer, fun rides with these plans? I really enjoy a fun 60-100-mile ride on a regular basis?

I don’t have a power meter or smart trainer but use a dumb trainer and sensors. I know what the website states, but will this work for me?

Thanks for reading all this. And thank you in advance for any help you can offer.

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You don’t need to train to train. Just start the plan when you can commit to consistently doing the work.

The plans are all scaled to your level of fitness based on the Ramp Test. Start with Low Volume, do the first couple of weeks and see how you’re feeling. SSB I LV is only 3:30 per week, it’s really not very much but your return on investment is exceptional.

The plans have a progression. You start with Sweet Spot Base I and then you move to Sweet Spot Base II. Base phase is 12 weeks total, not 6.

Your goals seem to be KOM’s (I’m assuming these are short 3-5min efforts) and sustained efforts (20 min). Based on that I think I would lean more to General Build over Short Power. But if KOM is really your primary goal, then yes Short Power + Crit plan is likely a good combination.

For Low Volume plan you’re riding 3 days per week (roughly an hour for each workout) and the other 4 days are rest.

Mileage doesn’t matter for indoor riding. If you’re trying to convert over to structured training, I would recommend replacing your weekend TR ride for your outdoor ride. If you’re scared of the workload in the low volume plan (you shouldn’t be, you’ll be fine), then don’t add outdoor riding on top of the structured work.

Yes, you can use virtual power. It’s not as good as real power measurement, but the perfect solution is the one you have. Make sure you do your best to keep things as consistent as possible (tire pressure, tire tension, etc).

You’re welcome :wink:

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Thank you SO much for taking the time to answer all my questions. I really appreciate it the effort. You make me feel a little better about this. I’ll look more into general vs short power options. But, for me I think much of this a change of perspective. Quality over quantity and the idea of allowing recovery to do its magic.

Welcome @FattyLumpkin and props to @julianoliver for another awesome reply.

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I have to say, the advice I’m most skeptical about is to jump right it without “training to train.” I will have been off the bike for over a month when I start. That is why I would love to see the first week of workouts so I can better judge.

The first workout is a fitness assessment. So all the subsequent workouts are scaled to your level of fitness coming into the training block. The plans are designed to cater for all riding levels. My wife start using TR as a convenient way of just getting some general fitness. She’d hadn’t ridden a bike in 30 years and her first workout was the Ramp Test. Believe me if she’s fine, you’ll be fine.

The only reason to train before you train is because you think since you’ve been off your bike you’ll quickly gain a ton of fitness back in the first 2 weeks and then the remaining 4 weeks of the training block won’t be as beneficial. This is short-term thinking. You’ll still benefit from structured training and the minimal difference in FTP when scaled to sweet-spot work won’t make that much difference. If this really is your concern though, you can always just manually adjust up the intensity of the workouts by a few percent right from the app. I’ll say it again, you do not need to train to train.

Here’s the first week of Sweet Spot Base I - Low Volume:

56%20PM

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Training to train is, at its very core, just training. So why waste your time? You’ve outlined your specific goals so why take a round-about route to get there? Specificity is usually the best route.

Here’s another way to look at it:
You’ve got 2 weeks for vacation + want to drive across North America.
You know you’ve got a bunch of 6-8 hour drives ahead of you but so far you’ve only driven 1/2 hour to work every day.
So instead of getting on the road you spend the first 5 days of your vacation driving around the block for hours at a time.
Now you’ve got 9 days left . . . are you gonna cram all the sights/sites into those 9 days or are you gonna cut some out?

Pack your bags bruh! Grab an apple and some water, you can eat at the motel. Get goin already!

The only possible thing you’ll regret is not jumping in sooner.

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If having all of Dec off then certainly start on SSB1 then move onto SSB2, then build and speciality. SSB1 is more gentle intro, whilst still v good

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If KOM’s are your goal you’d be as well following the weather forecast rather than a training plan!! Might seem harsh, but there’s a bit of sense behind it. Most KOMs these days are so heavily wind assisted that there’s no point in even trying until the weather is right. It’s very hard to peak for a KOM at a certain time of year only to find your chewing bar tape into a screaming headwind! A local KOM I really wanted took me three year to get between being at my best and the right weather. Just good fortune that the wind was right just as I was peaking for the main race I was training for last year!!

Yeah, but you need the fitness AND the weather.

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Bingo mcneese.chad! But it is good to account for all the variables.

I’m probably never do a proper race. As a runner in a previous life I had my share of it when I was younger. Now it will only remind me that I’m old, slow, and out of shape. But seriously, I do appreciate the feedback. There are enough KOMs I have my eye on that no matter which way the wind blows I’m screwed :wink:

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I’m looking to start riding tomorrow on Jan 1st (if I can start on a Tuesday and stay on the plan) and am suddenly unsure if I should be doing the Road Racer or Enthusiast plan. I’m not going to race but will I get more out of my KOM goals to follow the Road Racer or Enthusiast plan?

I’m leaning toward the Enthusiast Sweet-Sport (6 wks), then Build Phase (8 wks), into the Specialty Phase with a Road Racer focus (8wks); all mid volume. Is there anything “wrong” with this approach?

This would bring me into June 3rd-ish . . . which is slightly beyond my late May target. And in terms of TR plans, what would I do at that point?

Finally, how flexible are these plans? I know there will be interruptions. For a guy like me, does it really matter if I have to switch things up?

Thanks!

A couple of things to clarify. 1) There is no such thing as an Enthusiast Sweet Spot plan. The Enthusiast plans are generally intended as maintenance plans. There are 3 broad plans; Maintenance, Time Crunch 30 and Time Crunch 45. 2) There are several plans designed for road riders based on the discipline of the event you are preparing for; Rolling Road Race, Climbing Road Race, Criterium, 40K TT and Century.

You’re clearly trying to develop more fitness on the bike so we can just put aside the Enthusiast plans and focus on the regular training plans. Within that the plans are designed to be periodized over 28 weeks:
a) Base Training - 2 blocks of 6 weeks (this is Sweet Spot I that you were likely referring to) which is generalized base training for all rider types
b) Build Phase - 8 week training block designed to improve your fitness (increase FTP) more specifically focussed in the area you want to improve
c) Speciality Phase - 8 weeks to fine tune the fitness you’ve built. Think about this as sharpening the edge you created during Base and Build, or making your efforts more repeatable.

So, to that end we have to take this knowledge and apply it to your situation. You don’t have a specific date in mind, and you want to focus your training on snagging KOM’s. You’d need to analyze the KOM’s you want to take and direct your training towards that.

  • If they are short punchy segments (2-5 mins) you’d want to build the watts you could put out over that time frame, so mostly VO2Max efforts. For this I would look at Short Power Build and then either the Criterium Speciality or Rolling Road Race Speciality. I think Criterium is likely the better fit, but again you have to look at the work you’re trying to do.
  • If your target segments are longer, 30-60 mins for example, VO2Max wouldn’t help you that much and you’d be interested in a training schedule that focusses on holding close to your FTP for long durations. For this I would look at the Sustained Power Build followed by 40KTT Speciality (Climbing Road Race or Century plan would also work).

Most Strava segments are of the short variety in my experience, so I think you’d want to focus on the plans that improve your short power output. The interesting thing about your situation is that you don’t need your fitness to be repeatable, you just want to put out as much power for 2-5 mins once and then you’re done. What’s unique about this is that likely you could think about dropping the Speciality Phase of training. You don’t need to drop big watts (to bridge to a break) and then repeat it a few mins later (counter-attack). So the repeatability of this fitness isn’t so important to you. So, if I were you I’d make a list of the segments that you want to go after and group them into 2 buckets a) KOM’s that need short power b) KOM’s that need long sustained efforts. From there you could create 2 “seasons” for yourself within the year and do something like this:

  • Season 1 (Short KOM’s): SSB I --> SSB II --> Short Power Build --> then you could give yourself 2-3 weeks to hunt all the KOM’s that favor the short power burst you’ve been training. 20 weeks of training and then KOM hunting as long as you felt like you had good legs. I’d just keep repeating the last week of the Build plan during your “race” weeks and use the weekend for KOM hunting.
  • Season 2 (Long KOM’s): After knocking off the short KOM’s go after the longer ones in your area. Go back so SSB I --> SSB II --> Sustained Power Build --> 2-4 weeks of KOM hunting. You’ll hold the fitness for longer power durations than the short stuff, so your race season could be 1-2 weeks longer here. 20 weeks training and then KOM hunting for 2-4 weeks.

After that, repeat and go back to Season 1 again. Of course, you could focus exclusively on the short (or the long stuff) by just repeating the SSB I --> SSB II --> Build phase cycle. With this approach you should see good increases in your FTP which will just make you faster in general.

Hope this helps.

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This was me. I started using Strava because it was competing w/o having to race…or something like that.
Either way, you’re still trying to be the fastest, or at the very least, the fastest you.

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julianoliver, Thank you again for a generous response! The check is in the mail!

This helps so much to clarify what I need to do. I really appreciate it as I’m unfamiliar with both TR and cycling training. To this point I logged my miles, did occasional/rare workouts, and attacked segments. In fact, most of my segment “victories” are during longer rides and one of many attempts at a hard effort. Few are all out for a single segment. Even if I don’t do the TR plans perfectly, it should get me in better shape.

I’m going to sign up today and make a start!

All the best to you this year.

Thanks, RobertSims! Good advice.

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That and being consistent in completing the plan are the best two things you can do. You’ll have plenty of time to specialise when you’ve completed your base and build

Best of luck!

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Hey Captain . . . So, the question is, are you racing now? Were you able to resist the urge?

Racing appeals to a certain part of my brain but I’m not sure it would be good for me considering my aging body and large, fragile ego :blush:

Yup. And Nope!
Took up racing again in 2018 as the final test of rehab after getting nailed by a car in 2017.

Came back in the ‘Civilian’ category because I didn’t really want to compete, I just wanted “official” times.
The results were very promising and I had to do a bit of soul searching to decide if I wanted to continue.
Now I’m here doing TR and gunning for a National championship! WTF?! :rofl:

However, it also reminded me of the two biggest reasons why I stopped racing in the first place: huge time requirements and amateurish/incompetent race organizers (my sock drawer is more organized!).

With Strava you can hunt KOM results whenever and however you want…no one is going to delay your effort by 45 mins or change your start time 7 times or DQ you after your ride because your bike had incorrect measurements even though it was officially measured before the race…

So…up/downsides to both “real” racing and social media racing. Strava lost its fun appeal after a couple of years and once I started racing again…but I can already see real racing losing its appeal because of all the BS. After this phase I’ll probably just end up tearing around on my single speed and doing some summertime bikepacking – all “naked” – no power meter, no speedo, nothing…just me, the wind, and my legs. :grin:

Captain, national championship aspirations? Wow. Good luck. You’re engaged in the process, eventually you’ll land where you need to whether its racing or something different. Personally, I can see in a couple short years just going for fun centuries, having fun on hills, and attacking the occasional segment. I hope TR can squeeze a little more speed out of my body before I transition into a more casual posture.

And I know what you mean about the hassle. At your level its far more difficult but even for me, I still get annoyed with the equipment. Running was far more simple. Just now, for example, I went to set up for my first TR workout and I can’t use my good bike (Specialized Roubaix Comp with disk breaks) because the skewer is not compatible. I have no idea what to buy and the bike store is closed. So, for now I’m on the out of tuned Surly Long Haul Trucker. Oh, and I sync’d my sensors with my new Christmas pajamas on. Rookie mistake. I tore one leg. My wife is going to kill me!