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I am starting to train again to achieve an acceptable level of fitness (for me). I raced from 16yo to 23yo (races where UCI points were given to have an idea of the level). Then I retired for 10 years. No biking what-so-ever.

3 months ago I was informed of a local race entry for locals only and I trained 1100km to participate. I was easy able to follow the bunch (50km avg 41km/h) and was involved in some minor breakaways.

Now yesterday I did my first FTP test: 315 Watt average on 20 mins weighing 89.2kg. (I am 1.93 m tall.)

Now is my question, to increase my level of fitness with limited time (short trainings in the evening 1 to 1.5h) what kind of training should I prefer? Doing blocks or just low heartrate rides?

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  • You're already at 3.5 W/kg, that is a long way away from couch potato status. What is your overall goal? Sep 16 at 7:43
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    @whatsisname 20 minute test has a 0.95 multiplier (some argue it should even be a lower multiplier) = its only ~3.35W/kg
    – Andy P
    Sep 16 at 7:52
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    Actually, "only" 3.35 W/kg is already quite good. It won't put you in the front of a race group, but it's more than good enough.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Sep 16 at 12:39
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    Honestly, if you're asking SE for training advice, the best advice is to get a coach. There's nowhere near enough information to truly answer this without making too many assumptions. 3.35 W/kg might be a solid FTP, or it might not be; it's entirely context dependent. But beyond that, there are too many shortcomings with a singular number like FTP to be able to use it as a determinant of where to go next, beyond some very basic guidelines. Exceptions abound.
    – Ealhmund
    Sep 16 at 16:27
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    @Ealhmund: Coaches are overrated. My sister is a professional rider and has had many disappointing experiences with coaches and physiotherapists. Even if you work with a coach it’s very beneficial to have an understanding of training methodology and physiology. At the very least read through Joe Friel’s “The Cyclist's Training Bible”.
    – Michael
    Sep 20 at 8:32

3 Answers 3

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First of all, happy to hear you got the passion to ride back.

The quick answer to “ Doing blocks or just low heart rate rides?” is: both. They both provide benefits. Blocks/intensity provides training stimulus to increase your power over a broad range of efforts. Low heart rate rides provide some recovery and training effect as well as build base.

The more specific answer depends on what your goal/goals are. A FTP of 300W (315W x 0.95) is a great base to continue from regardless.

Are you interested in continuing to compete? Road racing, cyclocross, MTB, gravel (fondos), time trials/triathlon? Short intense events (crits) or longer, multi-hour efforts? Or just a general improvement over all disciplines? As you can see, it is a wide open arena. Focusing your training to your interest can be motivational and effective. And the training for one discipline can be vastly different from another.

This day in age, there are plenty of training tools that are easy to access and can provide tried-and-true methods to obtain improvements. There are several indoor training tools (TrainerRoad, TrainingPeaks, The Sufferfest/Wahoo SYSTM, Zwift, etc.) that allow controlled training regimens and all of these have access to structured workouts and multi-week/month training plans to structure your training to build your fitness to your specific goals, and even target specific events to peak for if you are interested. Some of the some of the workouts can be done outdoors as well (for example, longer endurance/base rides) are much more pleasant outdoors if the weather is cooperative. One more benefit to these indoor training plans/programs is that each workout is geared to your ability/FTP. The harder workouts will leave you completely spent, but the benefits are reaped after some recovery and repetition.

A very simple "plan" is a three-week build, with the fourth week easy for recovery. Typically you have 2-4 days of short work (45-90 minutes each) during the week from Monday to Friday or Tuesday to Friday (Monday is always a rest day). These are usually harder, more intense workouts, intervals with recovery between hard efforts. But it is important to mix it up. Maybe one day with two hard 20 minute intervals (2x20s) and another day with shorter but harder intervals 15 times 1 minute intervals (at about 1.25 times your FTP) with 1-minute recoveries at 0.4 x your FTP. Then on the weekend, one or two longer rides at an endurance pace. Three weeks of the hard stuff, then on week four, maybe just two workouts during the week, not as hard as the previous weeks, and one moderate length ride on the weekend. Then just repeat the four-week cycle again.

Keys:

  • Mix it up. Variety keeps you motivated.
  • Recovery is important. Overdo it or work a recovery week too hard and you will not be as fresh for the next hard three-week block.
  • Get a goal, or goals to work towards. A goal is a target to aim for, and is also a motivating focus.
  • A structured training plan is almost guaranteed success. Without a plan you are just riding for fun. Riding for fun is ok, and it is nice to break from the rigor and rigidity of a plan, but if you are focusing on a goal or a key event, a training plan of some sort is where it is at.
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    +1. However i'd argue that all the major training platforms push too much intensity in their plans. Few people (especially as they get older) can recover well from 4-5x intense sessions per week.
    – Andy P
    Sep 16 at 8:15
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    Also 15x1 @150% is insane, i doubt many people can complete that. You'd more typically see that workout at 120%
    – Andy P
    Sep 16 at 8:16
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    @AndyP - that 15x1 (or 1 min x 15) is taken from a Sufferfest workout called Revolver. I just researched it and you are right FTP x 1.25, not 1.5. I personally dread it and only hit it about once a year during a 10-week build during the winter. The Sufferfest actually is pretty devious and in this workout they mess with your mind. They extend one of the intervals to about 75 seconds, and then when you get to the end (15) they give you one more for good measure. I have to say, they do make it interesting, which for indoor training is an important key.
    – Ted Hohl
    Sep 16 at 8:25
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    I actually find revolver one of the easier sufferfest workouts. Vice grips on the other hand left me ruined for a week! And yes, I agree, for an indoor training platform providing something interesting is certainly an important component
    – Andy P
    Sep 16 at 8:26
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    @TedHohl my goal is simple. This years local race was me mostly just following the pack and watching the best 4 riders take off. Next year I want to be able to go along with them (I can position myself well enough to do so) or make them work for the lead they are now given, by making some pace in the pack and hoping others will join. 2 days ago
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Now is my question, to increase my level of fitness with limited time (short trainings in the evening 1 to 1.5h) what kind of training should I prefer? Doing blocks or just low heartrate rides?

Having raced at a very high level in the past i'm sure you are aware of the importance of training volume and building aerobic base.

Being a bit older and with limited time, you now face the problems that a great many recreational cyclists face; limited time and slower recovery.

There's a huge number of articles and training programs out there all designed for the 'time crunched' cyclist. Each of them will claim their particular method is best. Many cyclists have shown improvements using all these different methods.

After many years training myself and spending far too much time reading about training methods i'd argue that maintaining consistency and doing the 'basics' are by far the most important.

A typical week might look like:

  • 2-3 interval sessions (depending on recovery/freshness)
  • 2-4 aerobic base rides
  • 1-2 rest days (resting is when we adapt and get stronger)
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    Many cyclists have shown improvements using all these different methods. It's difficult to not show improvement on any training plan when you get back to riding after a long layoff. Sep 16 at 15:19
  • I know how to train when having almost unlimited time to do so. But now it's a different approach and I want to make the most of the very limited time I have; Is doing interval preffered to just riding hard for 1hour? I did a ride on RGT yesterday 1 hour and going full gas where possible. It was fun but I think maybe not the best approach :D 2 days ago
  • I consider intervals superior since they can be tailored to have the exact effect you want. Also, when you just go and ride hard for an hour most people never truly go HARD on such a ride. That said, it's always worth maintaining some 'fun' rides in a training program because it helps keep you fresh mentally. If you enjoy going and smashing for an hour you could do a short race on a virtual platform once a week in place of an interval session.
    – Andy P
    2 days ago
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Most training plans have at least one long&easy (2 hours or more) ride per week to focus on aerobic fitness.

Unfortunately for you, cycling is (except for short sprints and attacks) an endurance sport which benefits a lot from training volume.

The “advantage” of having less time for training is that you have more time for recovery. That means that each training session can be more intense. If you have an hour each day you could do an intense interval training or strength training (weight lifting) on one day, then an easy 1 hour recovery ride the other day.

If you only have an hour every few days the best you can do is to use it for intense training since you have all the following days for recovery anyway. Doing a 1h ride twice a week at fairly high intensity with a few faster “intervals” in the end should still give your body a lot of stimulus to adapt to. With cycling it’s relatively safe to do this without slowly building up to it (for comparison, if you started doing intense 1h running workouts without building up to it would be a pretty sure way to an overuse injury).

Depending on how restricted you are I’d try to include beneficial exercise in your day-to-day life. Can you use the bike to commute to work? Can you do some stretching while you wait for the bus? Do you have half an hour somewhere you can use for strength training? Can you spend time with your family on the bike?

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    Actually, the OP strongly implied they were in a road race. Anaerobic capacity is actually critical in road racing. Naturally, you need to be able to stay with the pack, but otherwise, you need to be able to put down a searing attack to win, or else you need a bunch sprint capability. Also, if the OP were mainly doing criteriums, then I wonder if a lot of volume actually won't benefit them.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Sep 16 at 16:59
  • @WeiwenNg I won't be racing any long races, these days are in the past since I don't like to be just one in the pack. The race target is +-50km but from what I see from this years results they are very high speeds. 45km/h average speeds are not uncommon. 2 days ago

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