More Training Questions Answered!

Dec 09, 2014

More questions asked by Cycling Tips readers!  and more answers provided by the Dig Deep Coaching team. Something in here for everyone.


Hi there,

I’m a 3rd cat rider with my current FTP at 265 (69kg). For the last seven months I have focused on racing crits at least once a week (without any form of success) and padded the rest of my training with turbo interval sessions. FTP hasn’t budged; if anything it has dropped about 5W.

In each race I find myself riding right on the limit before finished mid-bunch or getting dropped when the pace ramps up towards the end. I feel that another 40W FTP would give me the extra headroom for being competitive instead of struggling for survival. What should I do to get the bump in power for the next season?

Vlad Mereuta


Hi Vlad,

Thanks for your question and I am sure a new focus and direction over the pre-season will see you attain better results in the future. What you have to do firstly is look at what you have lacked in and the times you have really struggled in the race and target those areas of performance.

To give an example, perhaps when you are hitting dead turns in a crit and having to jump hard out of a corner from a low cadence, you are left lagging. Or perhaps it is the repeated short 200m ‘hill’ on a lap that needs you to go over your threshold each time that sees you struggling. What I am trying to do is make you understand more precisely where you are lagging come race day so as to focus this in training.

A higher FTP will help of course, but it is not the only priority when raising performance in crits. Athletes with higher FTPs are generally better all-round cyclists across most disciplines but this does not automatically make them good crit rider. Bradley Wiggins does not come across as a crit specialist after all (although I would expect a man of his talents would perform well in most disciplines).

Being a good crit racer is about more than just a high FTP.

So yes try and increase that FTP as much as possible as you approach the season — an increase of 8-12% over a three-four month period would be attainable with focused sessions and this will see a good benchmark to go from. I would also work on your tolerance to going over your threshold continuously i.e. repeated 10-second 600w efforts with short rest will help.

Try some five-minute blocks with 10-second sprints and 20 seconds off over the five minutes, these will not have a major impact on FTP but might help in some areas of performance you need to build on. Specifics to you are the key here.

Let us know at Dig Deep if we can use our experts to help you in the future. Safe cycling.

Answer by Stephen Gallagher.


What’s the best way to transition from the long road season to CX season? I feel motivated still to race, but should I take a break from intensity or riding or just try to hold on to my fitness as long as I can?

Jesse Siemen

Hi Jesse,

After a long road season it is advisable to take a break as much to rest the mind as the body. It depends on which discipline is your priority whether you decide to take a break now or after the cross season. As it sounds like you have completed a full road season I am guessing your priority is the road so I would take a week off the bike followed by another one-two weeks of unstructured riding.

You could include a cyclocross race or two in this period but I would try and stay away from a structured plan during this period so you are fresh and motivated to start training again in a couple of weeks. I find it’s important to switch off after one season before starting to focus on the next and enjoy the down time.

You won’t lose much fitness and it will soon return.

Hope this helps.

Answer by Dan Fleeman.



I’m a frustrated rider who doesn’t get much chance to get out on the bike anymore due to having a young family. I would like to concentrate on time trialling next year as that’s something that doesn’t require long rides to train for.

I have a Vo2max of just over 70 when at race weight (about 62/63 kilos) but am very skinny and can’t compete on flat TTs against bigger guys. When I used to race, I would often get dropped on rolling courses as I couldn’t match the power output up the small drags.

My FTP is about 300W and on a road bike with non-aero wheels, aero road helmet and aero bars I can do 40k in 1 hour 5 minutes. I’d really like to get that down to sub hour. It’s certainly not for lack of effort — I regularly average over 180bpm for an hour time trial when my max is 196.

For training I usually start with 2×20 at threshold and then move onto 15/12/8 at just over. I mix that up with a few longer road rides of up to three hours and some threshold sessions on the road for variety.

I don’t have a powermeter and judge my effort on heart rate and feel which mostly seem to work.

Are there any specific drills I can do to try and get my FTP up? I feel like I’ve hit a plateau of ability but I suspect the non-variation in my training isn’t helping.

Thanks, Dave


Hi Dave,

My first question would be: how often do you train in your TT position? It always amazes me how few people train in the position that they race in. For most people it’s much easier to produce power in an upright position on a road bike than it is when down on the aero bars. This takes practice so I would do at least two rides a week in this position year round. These rides also need to consist of efforts as again you need to practice this position under load.

The 2 x 20 session in Zone 4 that you are doing is a great staple to do a couple of times per week but I would also look at reducing the duration of the efforts and increasing the intensity on other days. 4 x 6 minutes at zone 5 would be a good start then over time increase this to 6 x 6 minutes. It’s also a good idea to work on your pacing so you don’t start too hard and so you can really ramp things up at the end. This takes practice and a certain amount of trial and error to find what works for you.

Good luck!

Answer by Dan Fleeman.

My question is on leg training with progressive resistance weight training (PRWT) exercises. For example, squats, leg extensions, let curls, leg presses, hack squats, calf raises, and so on. During my structured training period (which is roughly 66%-75% of the year) I am either working my legs or resting my legs every day of the week. How do I incorporate PRWT into such a schedule?

Thank you and love CyclingTips,

Bill Pfeifer

Hi Bill,

Thanks for your question. It is a juggle sometimes when you try and fit in cycling training (which is what I believe you mean by ‘leg’ training) and Progressive Resistance Weight Training (PRWT) when you perhaps already have limited time to train when fitting it around work/family commitments.

What we need to look at it is the best use of your time to bring about the performances you want to achieve, taking in consideration of your strengths/weaknesses and how to target these areas to achieve optimum results.

I would suggest doing your PRWT workouts in specific phases — i.e. focusing on these exercises and prioritising these training sessions for a six-eight week period. Then you could reduce to a ‘maintenance’ block of training with PRWT for a 8-10 week period, perhaps once/twice a week at reduced intensity/duration, and change focus to more on-bike training.

I would also try and have your heavy blocks of PRWT training at times when you are not competing much. Your main objectives should try and fall in line with the middle/end of your PRWT maintenance blocks as you will have had more time on focused bike training sessions.

This is a general guideline on how I would try and incorporate this into a periodisation plan on someone who likes to use PRWT training as part of their overall training. I would also stress that this sort of training may not be suitable for everyone.

Hope this helps Bill and all the best with the training.

Answer by Stephen Gallagher


I’m training for a 150km race. I can do two, three-hour hard group rides per week and one long ride at weekends. Am I best to ride the long ride at aerobic, or am I best to also try to hammer the long ride? I have suffered a two-month period of excessive fatigue which I believe was brought on from overtraining and illness, so I am wary of overtraining. Would it be fine with a slow build up to the distance?



Thanks for question. I think we need to play on the side of caution if you have already had two months off with excessive fatigue. Make sure you do not do the same habits which lead to that illness. This is the first point you need to take on board.

Secondly I would suggest two, three-hour rides and one long ride (4 hours ?) cannot all be done at ‘race pace’ as you put it. Doing this sort of volume weekly can cause some slight fatigue in many levels of athlete when fitting these sessions in around all other areas of life. The issue is it does not allow you to rest and recover optimally. So to add lots of intensity on top of this and doing this week on week will lead to a high level of fatigue which I expect is one of the reasons you became ill in the past.

To start off your training for the 150km race I would look at reducing the three-hour rides into shorter but more frequent rides i.e. 3 x 90-105 minutes during the week with intensity included. What the intensity is and how they are applied depends on many variables like weaknesses, goal race conditions/terrain, current fitness etc. along with maintaining the one big aerobic ride at the weekend (4hrs ).

Over time I would then increase the intensity within the shorter rides until you start to feel like you’re reaching a plateau. At this point include the three-hour rides into the week (dropping most if not all the shorter rides) and include specific efforts within the three-hour rides but do not increase the duration of the weekend ride, so as to avoid over training.

This routine may or may not fit in with your time availability but this should give you an idea of how I would approach your goal race if we have a number of months to work on it.

Good luck with your race and stay healthy — that’s your #1 priority.

Answer by Stephen Gallagher


I’m starting to train with a heart rate monitor and wondered the best way to work out and train in each of my zones. My long term aim is to become stronger and faster.

Nick Gayle

Hi Nick,

I would suggest doing a 20-minute test to establish your threshold heart rate. With heart rate in general there are lots of variables so this might not be an exact science but should be fine for establishing your zones.

I would do a good warm up of around 20 minutes easy pedalling then a 10-minute ramp slowly increasing the pace so the last minute is all out. Then do another five minutes easy pedalling before starting the test.

Set a lap on your heartrate monitor. The aim is to average the highest figure you can over the entire 20 minutes. It important not to start too fast as this could mean you fall away before the end.

Note down the average recorded for the 20 minutes then do a 15-20 cool down.

There are various zone calculators online but I would suggest using the Andy Coggan one.

Hope this helps and good luck.

Answer by Dan Fleeman.


I would like to maximize my strength, especially on hills, but I have never and may never do structured training – I prefer just to ride and I dislike the trainer.

To give you some context, a heartrate zone analysis from a recent ride showed that I spent 2% of the ride in zone 1 (endurance), 23% at zone 2 (moderate intensity), 46% at zone 3 (tempo), 29% at zone 4 (threshold) and no time in zone 5 (anaerobic). I’m not sure that I can put in much more effort than this. My max heartrate is 154, about five above the age formula.

Here is my question: what benefit am I missing because I’m not doing any structured training?

Don Macrae

Hi Don,
Thanks for your question and the detail provided. Firstly I would look at re-evaluating your training zones. If this is a normal weekend ride I can see that you spent a considerable amount of time in threshold which, for a normal ‘steady’ ride, looks a bit excessive. It would lead me to believe that your zones are ranged a bit low.

I would not advise estimating your max heartrate based on your age — from experience the zones given from this formula are extremely variable.

Secondly I would always advise using some sort of basic structure to your own personal training. This does not have to be overly scientific or detailed but it must have some sort of method behind it to allow you to improve in the areas which you wish to gain in.

For example, if you wish to improve on hills then you need to see where you are weak and build specific ways to improve into your own training. So perhaps your power/weight is not what it should be to perform on longer hills, so increasing this ratio will be critical. Also look at specific hill reps and performing efforts at different cadences so you are adapted to producing power at a different torque.

Making it progressive will also help you enhance and improve towards a goal. By simply ‘riding your bike’ it is a great way to be generally fit and aerobically adequate to perform at a good level but you lose the edge that you might have from not making your training specific. In this way you might never reach your true potential.

I hope this helps and that perhaps adding some structure to your training will assist you with future goals.

Answer by Stephen Gallagher.

Hi coaches,

What is the best way to use heartrate to get time-trialling/ hill-climbing fitness fast. I commute 30km each way 4-5 times per week. I was a very fit recreational cyclist before a traffic accident smashed my right lateral tibial plateau and fractured the medial tibial plateau resulting in almost complete loss of fitness over 18 months.

I’m not interested in racing other than for a bit of fun. I want to be strong and be able to go hard for 3-4 hours. My resting heartrate is 37bpm and my max heartrate is 195 (running or riding). I’ve been doing sub-80% riding with one day of flat out. The only tech I have is a Suunto Ambit 2.

Cheers, James

Hi James,

A 30km-each-way commute is great and gives you plenty of time to get in some good quality training.

I would focus on doing lots of Z3 or ‘sweet-spot’ (SS) work, where sweet-spot refers to 95-98% of your FTP (Functional Threshold Power). You could start with 10-15 minutes of easy riding then a 20-minute SS block, followed by another 10-15-minute cool down which should get you most of the way to work. Over time I would increase the SS up to 40 minutes.

Another session could be a simple five-minute warm up then ride Z3 tempo effort all the way, apart from the final five minutes which is a cool down.

The third session is again a good warm up of 15-20 minutes then five minutes at Z4 threshold, five minutes easy and repeat x 4 then 10-15 minutes cool down. Again you can add more reps over time.

I would cycle these sessions to keep things interesting and slowly ramp up the time in each zone and number of reps. Try doing two days on, one day off with the off day either an easy recover ride or no riding at all.

Hope this helps.

Answer by Dan Fleeman.


I am structuring an off-season training plan with a focus on peaking in March 2015. My wife is expecting (twins!) in April so I basically have two weekends of racing next year before I go on baby duty. I will be going into my second year of racing so my body has a long way to go to get it where I would like to be.

We are going into the Fall/Winter months here in the northwest USA so a majority of my training will be done inside coupled with a weekend team ride (80-120 km) and commuting (20km each way) when weather cooperates. In addition to adding power I would also like to lose 6-7kg in five month to get me down to 81kg by the start of race season.

My current training schedule is as follows:

Monday – an hour on the trainer with DVD coach and a focus on sprinting
Tuesday – an hour on the trainer with two 20-minute efforts, one at high cadence (100-115rpm), one at 85. The second 20-minute effort is at zone 4.
Wednesday or Thursday – an hour on the trainer with DVD coach and a focus on strength
Saturday – Club ride

Is this adequate to achieve my goals? The races I will be doing in March are short (less than 60km) but I am worried that the time on the trainer might not be enough to achieve my weight loss/endurance goals.

Thank you,
Gordon Tangen


Hi Gordon,

Thanks for your email. Firstly with the weight loss I think you need to focus a lot on your day-to-day habits and eating patterns rather than trying to change/increase your training volume/frequency. You need to make good choices in your eating while maintaining adequate calorie intake if you want to perform your training to the best of your ability.

Looking at your current plan I think for the current time of year you are hitting many areas which needs to be worked on, so well done with that.

What I would recommend is that you make it progressive and that you plan specific rest periods as your training cycle progress. For example, every three weeks have three days off back-to-back or build in five days of reduced training volume. A lot of people neglect the necessity of building rest days into their plans and always focus on training days. Just make sure you have this in check.

Don’t underestimate the importance of rest when it comes to improving your fitness.

I would also adapt different sessions into the plan every three to five weeks (depending on how you progress and adapt) so as to continue your development in specific areas. Doing this, along with increasing your time spent in Z4 and reducing the strength work after the New Year and replacing this with lactate tolerance efforts or specific VO2 work, will help towards hitting a peak come March.

We wish you all the best with the new arrivals in April and enjoy the training.

Answer by Stephen Gallagher.


I’m a 35-year-old amateur cyclist, nothing special, local level rider (local rides and races). Winter is coming and I’m willing to prepare better for next season.

I would like to build a good base during the winter on the cyclotrainer. So my major question is how or when will I know that I have decent base? When am I ready to start building strength, speed etc?

Thanks, Vlad.

Hi Vlad,

Thanks for the question and I hope you are ready and motivated for the 2015 season. To build your ‘base’ can mean a few things. Typically its meaning is developing your endurance fitness before adding your top-end efforts which are more race specific.

To build an endurance base on an indoor cyclotrainer means that you will normally have less total hours to spend to develop this base as riding indoors for 3-4 hours can be a lot more mentally and sometimes physically laborious than riding outdoors. So I am presuming that you have a shorter amount of time to spend on the turbo — i.e one-to-two-hour sessions.

My advice is to spend the majority of your time in the ‘tempo’ zone. This is normally around 80-90% of your functional threshold heartrate, or 75-85% of functional threshold power. This is generally a higher effort than your traditional endurance ride which you would normally perform outside either with a group or solo at this time of year.

Spending blocks of time in this zone — i.e from 30 minutes up to one hour — during these indoor sessions will be a great way to build base and you can alternate cadences to help with leg speed/strength development.

You will be able to see adaptations when you find that your cardiac drift starts to flat line and not begin to gradually rise over the duration of the effort or overall session. This is very easily seen when using a powermeter as you can make sure that your effort is constant — e.g. riding at 230-250 watts for tempo effort — and that your heartrate starts to reduce the upward drift as you maintain a solid effort.

This begins to show that your body is adapting to riding at a constant effort and your aerobic system is beginning to adapt and not fatiguing or working as hard to keep this intensity. After you see this I would begin to start building the higher intensity work — threshold, VO2, anaerobic efforts but still maintaining this base fitness with solid rides in the tempo zone.

I hope this helps and good luck with the preparation.

Question answered by Stephen Gallagher.

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