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Cycling Training Programs for Novices, Intermediates, and Elites

So you’re planning a 100-mile ride. Or how about a gran fondo? A race? Or how about a challenging gravel ride with some friends? Whatever your cycling objectives are, a well-designed cycling training plan can help you achieve them.

But, with so many plans, coaches, and ideologies available, how do you know where to begin when choosing a cycling training plan?

To begin, consider the following basic questions:

1. Do I require a training programme?

If you just want to ride for fun, are new to the sport, or don’t like a lot of structure in your rides, a cycling training plan may not be for you. If all you want to do on two wheels is cruise around and have a good time, don’t let a training plan ruin the fun. Similarly, if you’re new to cycling, understand that it takes time to improve. While a training plan can certainly help, many cyclists can make significant progress in improving their fitness simply by riding more! And if you are unable (or unwilling) to commit to following specific structures in your cycling training, then don’t!

Cycling is all about having a good time. While some riders find that following a training plan improves their cycling experience, others find it annoying or difficult to stick to a strict workout schedule.

Cycling Training Programs for Novices, Intermediates, and Elites

2. How much time do I have available for training?

While any cycling training plan takes time to master, not every athlete needs to devote the same amount of time to cycling. Consider the following factors when deciding how much time you’re willing (and able) to devote to cycling each week:

  • What is your occupation, and how many hours per day do you work or study?
  • What are your normal working hours?
  • What, if any, sacrifices are you willing to make in order to achieve your cycling goals?
  • What are your long-term and short-term cycling objectives?
  • Do you have any athletic experience, particularly in endurance sports such as cycling?
  • In the past, how many hours per week did you train?
  • How many hours per day do you ride?
  • What are your current life commitments?
  • What are your best training days?

3. What are my objectives?

Because each athlete has unique goals, training plans must be tailored to each athlete, athlete, and event. A cross-country mountain bike racer should train differently than someone training for a 100-mile gran fondo. Similarly, an athlete with only six weeks to prepare for a race or event should train differently than an athlete with 30 weeks.

Important Phrases

With all of that information in mind, it’s almost time to choose a training programme. But, before you begin, you should be familiar with a few key terms and topics. This scientific and practical terminology will help you get the most out of your training because these training plans adhere to the general best practises of cycling sports science. Let us review!

Please keep in mind that the following plans are all intended to improve general on-bike fitness and are not tailored to a specific athlete, goal, event, or discipline.

Training Areas

Designed to provide athletes with a “intensity guide” for each workout and interval. In general, keep the following training zones in mind:

  • Active Recovery / Simple: Low power and heart rate, just spinning the legs, almost no effort required.
  • Zone 2 / Endurance: The pace and power you can comfortably maintain all day, even while conversing.
  • Zone 3 / Tempo: Efforts that you can sustain for an hour (or longer), but not all day.
  • Sweet Spot: A challenging pace you can maintain for an hour that is slightly more difficult than tempo.
  • Zone 4 / Threshold: The maximum amount of effort you can maintain for a set period of time.
  • Zone 5 / VO2 Max: Extremely maximal, intense efforts that can only be sustained for brief periods of time, typically between 2 and 7 minutes.
  • What exactly is VO2 Max? The maximum amount of oxygen that athletes can use during strenuous exercise! Athletes who can use the most oxygen during intense efforts have a greater capacity to generate power at those intensities. Individual VO2 Max thresholds are primarily determined by genetics, but increasing VO2 Max power can also be trained.
  • Zone 6 / Anaerobic: Power bursts that can be sustained for 1 minute or less.
  • Zone 7 / Neuromuscular: High-intensity sprints lasting up to 20 seconds; recruits type II muscle fibres and relies on torque and force rather than endurance.

The Heart Rate (HR)

Your heart rate, as measured by a heart-rate monitor, can assist you in determining which training zones you are riding in. You can determine your heart rate for each training zone and ride from high-intensity intervals to low-intensity intervals by testing to determine your maximum heart rate.

Power

The amount of force you applied to the pedals in comparison to the time it took you to apply that force – measured in watts.

Revolutions per Minute / Cadence (RPM)

The number of revolutions per minute at which you pedal (typically from 60-100rpm). It is the number of full revolutions your cranks make in one minute, and it directly affects the speed at which your wheels turn.

Power at the Functional Threshold (FTP)

The highest power you can maintain for 1 hour of cycling—can be measured with a power metre using a variety of tests, up to and including a 1 hour-long “FTP test”.

Periodization

A series of well-planned training cycles that allow the body to build fitness (training adaptations) and properly recover from that workload before rebuilding.

Intensities

The level of effort required for a specific workout, repetition, or training session (for example, “endurance intensity,” “high intensity,” “low intensity,” and so on).

Intervals

Training at various intensities for a set period of time during a bike ride (e.g. doing three high-intensity intervals of 10 minutes each within an hour-long bike ride). Interval training helps to provide your body with a variety of stimuli, allowing you to increase your cycling power.

Perceived Exertion Rate (RPE)

How hard you believe your body is working during an interval, workout, or ride.

Days of rest

24-hour periods during a training week in which you relax, stay off your bike (no easy spinning! ), and take it easy to allow your body to recover from training!

Watts

The power measurement used to describe training zones.

Training Programs

Each of the training plans listed below covers one week of cycling training (without strength training or gym work, which is also an important part of cycling training and producing higher on-the-bike power). This week of cycling training should serve as a model for a well-planned training programme.

So, let us investigate! Three examples of cycling training plans are provided below. One plan is intended for beginning riders, another for intermediate riders, and yet another for advanced riders.

These examples are intended for people who work a traditional Monday-Friday work week with weekends off on Saturdays and Sundays. A professional cycling coach should create custom plans that take into account athletic goals, events, work schedules, injuries, and a variety of other factors. While cross-training (running, weight lifting, swimming, or other sports) can be beneficial to your cycling training, cycling-specific training is the most important factor in improving your on-bike performance. That’s what we’ll concentrate on here!

Beginner

  • Monday: Rest day, no work – recover and recuperate.
  • Tuesday: 1-hour endurance / Zone 2 ride with two 10-minute power / HR efforts in the middle of the ride. Between the first and second intervals, take a 5-minute break.
  • Wednesday: 1-hour endurance / Zone 2 ride with two 15-minute tempo power / HR efforts in the middle. Between the first and second intervals, take an 8-minute break.
  • Thursday: 1- to 2-hour endurance ride in Zone 2. Throughout the ride, maintain a high cadence (spin your legs quickly). Maintain a comfortable pace. And remember to have fun in the saddle – this is an excellent opportunity to join a group ride or ride with a friend!
  • Friday: Rest day, completely off – recuperate and recover.
  • Saturday: 2-hour group ride – have fun and go hard when you feel like it!
  • Sunday: 1- to 2-hour endurance ride in Zone 2. Throughout the ride, maintain a high cadence (spin your legs quickly). Maintain a comfortable pace.

Intermediate

  • Monday: Rest day, no work – recover and recuperate
  • Tuesday: 1 1/2-hour endurance / Zone 2 ride with four 10-minute “sweet spot” power / HR efforts in the middle of the ride. Take a 5-minute break between intervals.
  • Wednesday: 1 1/2-hour endurance/Zone 2 ride with two types of intervals. Complete two sets of six maximal / VO2 efforts after a 30-minute warmup. Each effort should last no more than 30 seconds. Between each VO2 interval, rest for 30 seconds (spin the legs at a high cadence but low power). Rest for 3 minutes between the two VO2 interval sets. Then, after the second VO2 interval set, complete a 25-minute tempo power / HR effort in the middle of the ride. Then take a break.
  • Thursday: 2-hour endurance ride in Zone 2. Throughout the ride, maintain a high cadence (spin your legs quickly). Maintain a comfortable pace. In the second hour of the ride, complete five maximal-effort, high-cadence neuromuscular sprints.
  • Friday: Rest day, followed by 45 minutes of Zone 1 spinning – extremely easy, low RPE, high cadence.
  • Saturday: 3-hour group ride – have fun and go hard when you feel like it (complete sweet-spot pulls at the front of the group, put in some efforts up the climbs, etc.)
  • Sunday: 2-hour endurance ride in Zone 2. Throughout the ride, maintain a high cadence (spin your legs quickly). Maintain a comfortable pace.

Expert

  • Monday: Rest day, no work – recover and recuperate.
  • Tuesday: 3-hour endurance / Zone 2 ride with two 20-minute “sweet spot” power / HR efforts in the middle of the ride. Between intervals, take a 10-minute break.
  • Wednesday: 3-hour endurance/Zone 2 ride with two types of intervals. Complete three sets of six maximal / VO2 efforts after a 30-minute warmup. Each effort should last no more than 30 seconds. Between each VO2 interval, rest for 30 seconds (spin the legs at a high cadence but low power). Rest for three minutes between each of the three VO2 interval sets. Then, after the third VO2 interval set, complete a 60-minute tempo power / HR effort in the middle of the ride. Then take a break.
  • Thursday: 3-hour endurance ride in Zone 2. Throughout the ride, maintain a high cadence (spin your legs quickly). Maintain a comfortable pace. In the second hour of the ride, complete six maximal-effort, high-cadence neuromuscular sprints.
  • Friday: Rest day, followed by 90 minutes of Zone 1 spinning – extremely easy, low RPE, high cadence.
  • Saturday: 4-hour or longer group ride – have fun and go hard when you feel like it!
  • Sunday: 3-hour or longer endurance ride in Zone 2. Throughout the ride, maintain a high cadence (spin your legs quickly). Maintain a comfortable pace.

Putting It in Practice

So you know what a week of well-structured cycling training looks like. What comes next?

Use this information to help you with your own training!

Begin developing a training programme for yourself based on the principles outlined in this article. Conduct your own research! Remember that progress is not made in a single week of cycling training. These principles are applied to weeks or months of training in a row by a proper training plan.

Hire a professional, certified cycling coach to help you plan your training.

While these training plan examples can help you understand the fundamentals of proper cycling training, a cycling coach will create personalised training plans and workouts for you. A good cycling coach not only helps you plan your training around your job, schedule, and commitments, but he or she also understands sports science, can help you address injuries or overtraining, and can even incorporate other sports, such as running and swimming, into your training plans. Please use this form to contact me about cycling training.

Take precautions to avoid injuries and overtraining.

Take baby steps if you’re new to structured cycling training. Don’t rush into a high-volume strategy! Take rest weeks where you ride much less and go “easy” every fourth week of training. And if you’re feeling ill or suspect an injury is on the way, slow down and don’t be afraid to take time off to recover properly! Always follow the advice of medical professionals, such as your doctor.

Shara Evans

Shara Evans has been a cyclist from childhood. I live in the city but regularly cycle around the city area and faraway city areas. I use my vacation to cycle the world's most famous cycle routes. On Guillotine.in, I will write about Cycling for Beginners, Always and Forever. When I see beginner cyclists, I always try to help them with their journey. I helped a lot of my friends start cycling. And this inspired me to write on the internet about cycling for beginners. How to start cycling? Which type of cycle should you buy? Where to go for cycling in Beijing All of this will be covered in this section.  I will also write beautiful cycling journals of mine and my friends here, so you can also plan those routes.

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