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How to Structure an Effective Low-Volume Cycling Training Plan for Time-Challenged Riders

Updated: Mar 28

Unlocking Your Cycling Potential with Strategic Training

riding Low volume cycle training

Cycling is a demanding sport, and for time-challenged riders with limited hours to train, every minute counts. In this article, we'll explore a training approach that maximizes your cycling gains while respecting your time constraints. Say goodbye to the burnout caused by overdoing Sweet Spot training and discover the key areas where you should focus your efforts.

Low Volume Sweet Spot Plan: A Common Pitfall

Many time-crunched cyclists fall into the trap of thinking that they need to train harder due to their limited hours. However, riding exclusively in the Sweet Spot zone may not be the most efficient approach. It can lead to over training the glycolytic system, which relies on carbohydrates for energy, rather than promoting fat oxidation. To make the most of your training hours, it's essential to train smarter, not harder.

Lactate Threshold Training: The Power of Over-Unders

Lactate threshold training is a game-changer. By working on your ability to produce and clear lactate effectively, you'll be able to ride at threshold power for longer duration. Over time, you'll witness an increase in your threshold power, making what used to feel like "above threshold" your new normal.

Compared to Sweet Spot training, which primarily focuses on muscular endurance and strength, lactate threshold training is a more efficient way to improve your lactate threshold.

VO2Max Training: Elevating Your Aerobic Capacity

VO2Max training is crucial for reaching your peak aerobic capabilities. Even with only 6 hours per week to train, you can achieve significant results. Short, high-quality intervals can be integrated into your workouts to target your VO2Max.

Remember that more intensity doesn't always translate to better results. Start with one VO2Max session per week and progress from there.

Low-Volume Endurance Training: The Foundation of Your Cycling

Endurance training may seem counter intuitive when you have limited time, but it's incredibly beneficial. It forms the foundation of your cycling fitness and offers long-term advantages. While Sweet Spot training may feel satisfying, mixing in easier rides and higher-intensity workouts (Lactate Threshold or VO2Max) can be more effective in your time-crunched schedule.

Strength Training: More Power

Strength training is worth considering as it can boost your muscle mass, resulting in more power production. Additionally, increased muscle engagement during rides and greater glycogen storage translate to improved performance.

A 30-minute strength session can provide significant benefits. Whether you hit the gym or do bodyweight exercises at home, this addition can make a real difference.

Other Workout Options to Explore:

While we've highlighted the core training areas, there are additional workouts you can explore, depending on your specific goals:

  • Tempo and Low Cadence Cycling Training: These rides can enhance muscular strength and endurance. Low cadence, high torque tempo sessions are particularly beneficial for time-crunched riders.

  • Anaerobic Training: If you notice limitations in short, intense efforts, consider adding some anaerobic training. However, remember that your limited training time may be a contributing factor to these limitations.

  • Workout Variability: Keep your training fresh by rotating through six to eight well-executed workouts. This approach ensures you enjoy your training, see results, and feel prepared for upcoming events.

Creating Your Low-Volume Cycling Training Schedule:

Here's a basic outline of a low-volume cycling training schedule to help you find balance:

  • Monday and Friday: Rest days 

  • Tuesday and Thursday: High-intensity interval days targeting lactate threshold and VO2Max.

  • Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday: Endurance rides, with one day dedicated to sprints

Remember, endurance training is not to be underestimated, even if it feels less challenging. It forms the backbone of your cycling fitness.

Add Hours if you can: Every Minute Counts

Increasing your training time, even by a small margin, can yield substantial benefits over time. If you can add just one hour per week, you'll accumulate 52 extra hours of training over a year.

In conclusion, optimizing your low-volume cycling training is about working smarter, not harder. Focus on lactate threshold, VO2Max, and endurance training, integrate strength workouts, and explore additional training options. Every minute of training matters, so make the most of your limited hours to become a stronger, more efficient cyclist.

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