Training plan for an XC racer who does around 4 laps of 5 miles

I need help, I am a 15 yo boy who is trying his best to get faster without a training plan currently. I feel like I really need one if I want to progress any farther in my race season.

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Can you give us a little more information… Are you on a team? Do you have a coach? Do you compete in a league or take part in NICA races?

Also import to know about training history (how long have you been riding, how many hours a week, etc.). Have you ever followed any training plan in the past or just not this year? And lastly…. What are your goals?

Knowing this will help formulate the best response. Glad you found the sport!


Team wise I’m on a standard school team for NICA races in MS and ACA races in AL, I don’t have any professional coaches.
Ive been riding competitively for about 4 years now and I average around 10 hours a week. I have never stuck to a training plan and really just ride randomly on zwift and outside. My goals is 1st place finish (30-45 sec gap on me) and 300 ftp by the end of the year (260 current)

If you are part of the NICA program, maybe there is a coach in the program that can help you develop a training plan. Also if it happens to be a coach that rides with you regularly then they will have first hand knowlege of what you should focus on to improve. I am a coach in the Georgia Cycling Association for my son’s school MTB team. WIth that said I am not a certified USA Cycling coach, but I have enough experience to know how to help my athletes.

Here is a training plan that I found on Training Peaks:



When does your NICA season start for practices and first race?

Thanks for the info. :+1:

Seems like you have a pretty good background having ridden for 4 years and averaging 10-ish hours a week. That is a great starting point for more serious training!

Here are a few things off the top of my head:

  • Listen to your coach You mentioned no professional coach, but do you have one for your team? It can be hard with so much information out there to decipher what is good for you… and everyone on YouTube (and internet forums) will have an opinion. It is important to communicate your training and racing goals with your coach. A good coach will listen to their athlete and adapt to their feedback. Conversely, be open to take their advice. Communication and dialogue is key in any successful coach-athlete relationship. That communication will only help build confidence in what you are doing.

  • Be a good teammate. Many of the best athletes I know are driven individuals but find that extra gear for the team. Work hard and make others better.

  • Have fun. I tell my athletes in the off season, “do it because you love it, not because you have to.” Structured training is hard… and it is going to hurt. But that doesn’t mean it has to be nothing but pain and suffering. Especially at your age make sure the “fun factor” is always a key ingredient to your training program. That can be adventure rides or practicing your handling and MTB skills.

  • Dedicate yourself to excellence. Not just on the bike but in the classroom. All the little things add up to a lot.

  • Live a healthy lifestyle. You don’t need to forgo that burger when out with your friends but try to make healthy choices most of the time.

  • Don’t compare yourself to others. People mature at different times and comparing yourself to others can be unraveling. We compete, which is obviously a comparison, but in the end we can’t control how others perform. Instead of focusing on the competition focus on what you can control.

As for the training…

  • Be Consistent. A prominent coach and physiologist once told me there are two ways to get better: go faster or go further. But I think there is a third… be consistent. This means not just how many days a week you train or far you ride, but also remaining committed to your training over multiple weeks, months and years.

  • Gradually build volume. Extend the “long ride,” build strength (this is done partly through increased volume but also hills and maybe some weights depending on age). Intervals are important, but is at the top of the “training pyramid” in my opinion. The bigger the foundation the higher the peak!

  • Periodize your training. You have a racing season so will need blocks of training geared toward performance at specific races or times of the year. You are here on the TrainerRoad forum so might have heard different terms like, “base,” “build,” “specialty,” etc. Different training programs may use slightly different terminology but most of the time use similar principles.

Personally I like a period of endurance followed by tempo & introductory VO2 work (i.e. 30-30s) before more formal threshold and longer VO2 intervals. I know there are not a lot specifics here but I don’t want to over-step what you coach may have planned for you. Not to mention training will also vary by how far your races are.

Best of luck to you!


NICA coach here as well, with at least one child–sorry, “student-athlete”–racing since 2017 (and with 6 more years to go). Agree with everything that’s been said
–Start with your team’s coaches–if none are experienced or feel comfortable with helping you with a program, ask them if there are any coaches in your league who work with athletes
–Depending on how serious you are, it might be worth exploring whether there are any non-NICA development teams in your area. These are a way to pool resources, especially for coaching, that can help with development outside of NICA. One of our local dads got some sponsors and started one, set up a contract with a professional racer/coach with local connections, and it’s been quite successful–the 3 oldest in the first cohort are all racing in college (and one is even on a leave of absence to race for the UAE development team)
–The advantage of working within NICA, or with a local devo team, is that you have people you can ride/train with, share rides to and from races, help with support at races, etc. If that’s not available, there are some coaches experienced with working with younger athletes who can work with you remotely, although unless you’re able to get a recommendation from someone you trust that’s riskier, and it’s going to be completely on you to communicate with the coach, complete the workouts, etc. I don’t think my son could have done that at 15.

One other thing to think about is that anything outside of NICA above some advice from an experienced local coach is going to have some costs associated with it. This is already an expensive sport, between bikes, gear, travel, race registration, etc, and coaching will add to that. Make sure as you explore options that you be honest with yourself and your family about what your goals are, what you’re willing to do to try to achieve those goals, what those efforts mean for you and your family in terms of time and money, and how you’re going to try to balance everything else (school, other social life, part-time job, etc)

Final advice is things change, and that’s OK. If it doesn’t work to have extra coaching this year, it might next year. If you and your family decide to give it a try and for whatever reason, you decide in a years time that you don’t want to do it anymore, that’s OK, too.


Nica and ACA (Alabama league) seasons both began early January (for practice) and our first race was late February and early March. I will look at the training plan, thank you very much.

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We are on different season cycles. GCA starts practice in July and the races are in September and October.

Does your season end soon?

One thing that you should always ask yourself with regards to training and racing is, “Am I having fun, do I enjoy this?”. I love the fact that you want to improve and are willing to put in the work in outside of the NICA practices and season to make it happen, but don’t let it go so far that you burn out or over train. You have many years to continue to develop and to become a competive cyclist, so don’t try to make it happen over night. Play the long game and it will pay off. Always make time to just have fun on the bike. You have plenty of races in your future to show how good you will become.

Other things to consider along with endurance training is improving your skills on the bike, improving your core fitness and strength in the gym, and improving your race craft. Spend time sessioning on the bike, especially cornering. Being able to flow through corners and maintain speed without having to sprint back to the group everytime will save so much energy. I actually use a coach for skills development and endurance training because as a 51-year old, I came into the sport late and my road skills and fitness didn’t translate to the dirt, and I ended up on the ground way too often. My coach currently coaches a young GCA cyclist that is an absolute monster on the road, but struggles to break the top 10 in GCA MTB races. It isn’t because he doesn’t have enough fitness or power, it is because over the course of the race he is sprinting out of 100s of corners to stay with the lead riders. By the 1.5 hour mark he just can’t continue that level of work to hold onto them. He will be a different rider this year after spending the past off season sessioning and working on bike skills. You are probably already a very skilled rider, but we can all get better.

Best of luck to you. I hope the rest of your season goes well.