Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Training Plan, and More – Ask a Cycling Coach 394

Just stopped by to say “please bring the intro back”…


Didn’t read all 80 posts so forgive me if this has come up.

Rather than “renaming” plans, what I would like to see from TR are plans based on available time with progressions that make sense. We know that time limitations to train are both: (a) major limiting reality for most people with so called ‘normal’ lives and (b) that more time in saddle is one of the best correlates to reaching your potential as a cyclist. Note - I am saying reach your potential, not reach some artificial number like 4 w/kg or 5 w/kg as those artificial numbers may or may not be a possibility for an individual. But we do want to get riders as close to 100% as possible.

Rather than SSB, Trad Base, Polarized, etc, with LV, MV, HV options (which are either 3 or 4 hard days a week with endurance added to make up the time), what I would like to see is for TR to develop “plans” which they feel are optimal based on how much time they have to commit to the sport. Don’t just add two hours of endurance on Friday to MV and call it HV. Actually workout the best way to spend those extra hours. I’d also like to see BASE programs in the 18-24 week duration range.

For example:

TR BASE 5 could be for the rider with very limited time to spend each week. These riders want to ride, they love their bikes, but life doesn’t allow more time. A base plan for riders in the group would have far more intensity than riders with more time. Five hours a week is still enough time for 3, 4 or 5 good sessions.

TR BASE 15 could be for riders without significant time limitations. These riders will benefit from time in saddle and ability to take benefits from the longer Zone 2 work (which is not only currently in vogue, but works darn well too).

Build, Speciality, etc can all follow a similar model.

Doing this has a few obvious benefits:

  1. TR can brand the plans and put their stamp on it. There are only so many ways to train and people keep reinventing them. So take your swing, incorporate what is known and call it your own.

  2. TR can use AT to modify the plans and personally them. Maybe if the data are deep and varied enough to train on (train the AI not the rider I mean). If a rider who cannot handle 15 hours chooses 15 hours, have the AI flag it and alert the rider that there could be a better solution. Heck, go crazy and offer a quick consultation from a coach and get that rider on the right plan.

  3. Rather than forcing everyone to choose from what are essentially intensity driven plans for time crunched (5-7 hour) riders, TR could be more expansive and inclusive of more riders (* see below)

  4. The big bonus is optimizing the training for both the amount of time, the needed intensity and the rider goals.

Take home is with a slightly different approach, TR can better own the training space and seriously differentiate themselves. Instead of offering a bunch of SST plan varieties to the rider to choose (guess) from, TR can say: We’ve read the science, we’ve done the math, we’ve made the plans and we have the AI – Input your goal and our platform will make you the best rider you can be.

(*) I suspect TR has crunched the numbers and found that the number of TR riders (use-cases) who consistently train more than 8 hours a week is very, very small and not worth spending time and resource on. That is a guess, but 8 hours a week is a significant commitment. Riders with more time are likely too few to bother with.

$0.02 and Happy Holidays TR Team and Forum Dwellers


PS - Bring the intro back.


Yeah, there are several ways to push this depending how far TR wants to reset thing. Short of the total revamp you are proposing, updated names are still useful in the current term because many are less than accurate or helpful in the present state.

If we push to a more “ideal” solution, we’ve touched on in various threads before. I offered an alternate approach in the Volume thread linked above that is parallel in some ways to what you suggest:

Adding in options like preferred “Base” approach and/or training methodology (Pyramidal, Polarized, Threshold, etc.) could also be useful, especially if you also offer it with respect to potential training phases.

But with programming like this, the more options you have, the more complex it gets. And considering how different this is from the current state, it would likely take some effort and time to rebuild in this or any other dynamic approach. I love a more tunable and unique approach like this could be, but also don’t expect it to be an easy or quick task.


I’d like to nominate this for one of the best posts I’ve seen this year :clap::clap::clap:


+1 on naming plans by ranges of hours rather than low, mid, high.

On that note…. some of us need more hours than even than the current “high volume” plan, which is more of a high intensity but still relatively low volume plan. I wouldn’t call it elite because I have not yet heard of an elite cyclist whose biggest week matches the hours of this plan. We learned in this episode that Alex, a working elite, has more time than that. So, although they might do the high intensity interval load of the “high vol” plan, I think they are adding in quite a bit of extra time in lower intensities.

I have more time available to train (no kids) and past experience training for longer than the high volume plan (12-15 hours/week during leadup to big goal events), but am not “elite”, maybe aspiring to be “sub-elite”, lol, and would not benefit from doing more than 2-3 hours of high intensity intervals on the trainer/week.

It’s also not obvious which plan matches my goal events, which are primarily MTB focused bikepacking races like Arizona trail race (300), Colorado Trail Race, and similar, which are the equivalent of like, 3-8 road double centuries in a row with higher intensity and less recovery. (And perhaps nobody in their right mind should be doing these things). There is also a lot off the bike that is critical for success in these crazy races. It’s an impossible task to serve every small niche, I get it. But allowing for higher volume with lower intensity is a big gap in the plans that might serve more riders, especially doing any type of longer events.

By that I don’t necessarily mean polarized, because I feel that sweet spot and tempo do have their place, just as do threshold and VO2. My training that helped me most when I worked with a coach ended up being mostly pyramidal.

My ideal plan would be what I did in the past working with a coach which was 5-6 days, with 2, at max 3 SS or higher intensity interval sessions of 60-90 mins max on weekdays, with short recovery rides between. Then on the weekends, at the highest volume weeks in the plan, 2 back to back 4-6+ hour rides that are mostly lower in intensity, maybe with some jumps, or a tempo block.

And also, as a mountain biker, I need something set aside in the overall TSS budget for sessioning skills, which is gasp - unstructured time on the bike! But skill sessions are just as important as structured training for mtb’ers to “become faster cyclists”.

And, I’ve heard over and over, “just add in your own Z2 workouts”. Sub the SS with a longer Z2, or, “Do a longer cool-down”. That’s not the point. The point of having a “plan” is, those time blocks are working well with the overall program, are there on your calendar. Mentally, for me anyway and perhaps others feel the same way, it can be more motivating than being left to your own poor judgment.

What I have been doing is making things up as I go with TrainNow, which is a nice feature! And using AI FTP, which is not only a cool concept but actually works really well evidenced by not failing workouts. But I want/need a plan with a real progression that meets all my needs and there isn’t one. The existing plans I have considered have some 2 hour weekday rides and 90 minute weekend rides, which is backwards and frustrating. If I have 2 hours to train on a work day, I would rather do 1 hour on the trainer and use the extra hour for going to the gym. If this is geared towards working folk, why aren’t the weekends not more utilized for more longer low intensity rides?

I heard that there might be new plan builder updates where we can choose our available time per day. I am hoping this might be the exact thing that I need. But if we’re still capped at 10 or so hours I might look elsewhere.


you killed your pitch for TR rolling out reasonable 8+ hour/week plans with that hypothesis :rofl: another possibility is that the majority of 8+ hours/week folks are simply riding a lot, or have a coach, or found ‘reasonable’ off-the-shelf plans on Strava premium or TrainingPeaks.

p.s. bring the intro back


All of my HV plans have been 90 minutes Tues/Thur and 2 hours Sat/Sun. Not sure what you’re looking at. Also, for higher volume I’ve added z2 before/after to Saturdays and swapped Sunday to 3-6 hours z2. During race season I generally just make Saturdays MTB.

The issue with this approach is simple; it only works for people who want to spend most, if not all of their time conducting structured training on TR (or following a structured workout outdoors).

At the moment, there is a plan for this; the HV plan (which isn’t really that HV at all). This is pretty much designed for the athlete (as explaind on the pod) with a real job but that needs the TSS burden of a pro rider and so, practically, has to spend all of their time in structure to make up the stress to create the adaptations.

The LV and MV plans offer a “core” of structure to which a rider can add as much Endurance riding as they can manage. You just choose; can I manage 3 structured workouts + my endurance work or 4 structured workouts + my endurance.

I also think your post is begging the question. What if the best way to train actually IS to do a core of structured scaling intensity and then as much Z2 as you can - rather than say, increasing the amount of intensity or the time spent at intensity. What do the pros do? (we’re moving now back into observational studies that show that this ends up in a reasonably polarised approach!). Why would an optimised 12, 14, 16hr plan have a particularly unique TIZ disribution?

In short; why is your mythical “TR 20hr plan” not just MV + 12hrs of Z2? (because that seems to be what the pros describe in interviews)


Right, 8-12 hours a week isn’t high volume. Its intermediate volume and with the right structure even somebody sixty (me) can do it.


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Hi @MI-XC - I just now brought up plan builder, selected high volume, put in advanced as my experience with interval training, and I got a build phase 1 with Tues/Thurs with 120 minutes each, then 90 minutes on Saturday (???) and 120 mins on Sunday.

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Huh, they must have changed the Build plans, because mine had 90 minutes on weekdays on my calendar. I just updated my plan and now its giving me 120 on weekdays. If you prefer it the other way, just use Alternates and chose a workout that is 90 on weekdays and 120 on weekends.

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I’m sure you’re already aware @dirt_cruzer , but just in case you’re not. You can drag those days around to put the long ones on the weekends.

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Just finished the episode… and wow, what a great show start to finish.

I just have one request: when @IvyAudrain does the CX vs. Hardtail comparison PLEASE record it and make an episode out of it!!!

Great show all!


Just caught up on this episode, and at about 38:30 @Jonathan suggests that if you’re targetting an Xterra style off-road Triathlon, then the Olympic Tri plan is great, because the Xterra mountain bike courses tend to be more sustained riding instead of punchy XCO-style up and down…

Does this mean that the Plan Builder “Off-Road Triathlon” plan should be selected for off-road triathlons with rowdy courses, and “Olympic Triathlon” should be selected for the kind of races that could be done on a gravel bike ? (Actually I’m seeing a couple of off-road tris that are allowing gravel bikes, so that’s not a bad comparison).

What is the real difference between the two plans?

I’ve sort of asked this before… and here’s a picture of the Off-Road plan selection :

Hi @IvyAudrain this is Exactly why I came to the forum. @Nate_Pearson said rolling Road race except for long duration gravel where centry would suit better? Makes sense with long duration pacing well under threshold is key.