For the past three years I’ve been, um, “enjoying” The Sufferfest and the great results I get from it. My favorite type of races are the long, hilly ones, and so I’m naturally gravitating towards doing more volume. I know Suf’s specialty is HIIT work for time-crunched cyclists. But I actually do have the time to fit in 15 hours a week of training, and my CTL fitness is often up over 80. So, in order for me to not end up with my CTL/ATL form up at some silly number like 35 (and my CTL fitness dropping off a cliff) I’m finding myself doctoring my training plan to add volume. But it’s a guessing game. When I see Nine Hammers on the horizon , I’m never quite sure how much endurance riding I can get away with in the week before. When I was doing a lower volume of training and my CTL wasn’t as high, I loved the way Suf dosed out exactly the amount of punishment I could tolerate without burning out. I would love to have that same assurance while doing a higher volume of training. These days, with my CTL at a higher level, I feel like I’m spending too much time waiting around on fresh legs for my next hard-hitting session.
So, if you’re considering adding a “beyond-advanced” level to your fitness plans that calls for 12-15 hours on the bike per week, I would like to cast a vote in favor of that.
Good post, I think there is plenty of room for plans with a high volume option. The guys doing the triathlon, 100 miles, hilly gran fondos lejog and other silliness may jump at the chance of some higher volume training
A few of the plans already have volumes not that far off what you appear to be looking for, especially if you choose the advanced indoor/outdoor options and add in strength and yoga. Hilly Gran Fondo and Gravel Grinder plans come to mind. There are some fairly big weeks within those.
The most successful racers I know and ride with are out doing 15-20 hours a week. They win short crit races, long road races, CX races, time trials–you name it. The thing that stands out most for me is that they can go out and do a 60-mile after-work group-ride hammerfest on Thursday that leaves most of the riders barely able to walk afterwards, and then they’ll go out the following Saturday morning and win the Bear Mountain Classic. One of the guys I’m thinking of is 61 years old, and he’ll smoke the average racer half his age. The only podium finish I’ve had so far I got by riding with him until the final sprint. (I have a good sprint.)
Thanks for the info. I read up on the building block plans. It looks like they can add some flexibility. I guess I didn’t fully express my feature request. What I meant to suggest goes beyond just higher volume plans, but also periodized plans. Clearly, you can’t train at both high volume and high intensity (even the pros can’t do that). So in your off season, you train your body’s ability to recover from training by keeping your fatigue at a sustained high level for a long time. Then, when you reduce volume, your body is able to recover from training stress and go back to work more quickly. And that means you get to “enjoy” workouts like A Very Dark Place more often, and in greater number! More suffering = more speed when it counts.
I’ve most often used the Advanced Road plan. My weakness is VO2/MAP, and so the road-race oriented workouts that focus on the 1-minute to 5-minute intervals are what help me the most. That said, this year I can see that most of the early-season crit and road races are cancelled or pushed way back on the calendar, so I’m building FTP with the TT plan, instead. Since I have CTL fitness to spare, I’ll probably just add a few of the really brutal sessions (e.g. A Very Dark Place) just to start working on my speed, even though I might not really need it until later.
Have you thought about moving to one of the higher volume plans like the Hilly Gran Fondo or Gravel Grinder? I thought the Adv Road plan was great for winter training, but I prefer more volume building toward my summer endurance events.
Jason, and Peteski: That’s interesting. You guys are doing “reverse periodization”, which is the opposite approach I have started moving towards. I seem to acquire endurance naturally, so I don’t really need to train very much specifically for longer events. Weirdly, I also have a powerful sprint. In fact, Suf pegs my rider type as Sprinter most of the time. What kills me is my VO2 “hammer” weakness. Every time I have ever been dropped from a race it was because I blew up one minute before the end of a 4 to 5-minute hammer.
So, my preparation for racing is 100% focused on improving MAP. You can’t stay peaked all year round, and if I’m coming into late winter without high CTL fitness, then I have to spend a full week recovering from Nine Hammers or three sets of 3 X 5 hill repeats up my favorite outdoor location for that sort of “fun” . I do volume in the off season mainly so that high intensity doesn’t kill me as I’m getting ready to peak for the race season. My real ideal would be if Suf would add a series of training plans called something like “High-Volume Periodized”. I’m generally doing well just by improvising, but I occasionally overdo it. And then I blow up doing “A Very Dark Place”, which is important for me to get through, given my relative weakness.
Sounds like you need a Custom Plan? Something to really challenge your MAP whilst ensuring that you don’t overdo it.
I am back in Sufferlandria after taking a vacation in Zwiftland. There, I was racing 7-10 races per week (thats 650 - 700 TS all over 0.90 IF). My body could handle it for extended periods of time, however, I wasn’t improving because I wasn’t recovering enough to be competitive. I am a sprinter too (although T/T right now because I screwed up the last NM efforts lol). I want to keep my volume up, but ensure I get the mix right for adequate recovery.
Whilst endurance may come naturally to you, don’t let this fool you into thinking that recovery (and more zone1/2) isn’t helpful!
I am looking at getting a custom plan next. I am hoping the minions will ‘get’ what I am trying to achieve and develop a plan that increases volume and keeps the sports science in check i.e. optimal recovery time, mix of zones, ensuring my MAP weakness is addressed etc.
I get that the minions probably won’t put a higher volume plan on here - too many people would end up taking a plan that is not right for them. Like TR’s sweet spot base high volume, which no mere mortal has any hope of completing without blowing up!
Jason: 7-10 Zwift races (FTP sessions–same thing) per week is crazy. Like you noticed, you don’t necessarily fall into the overtraining black hole, but that regimen just brings you to a level where you can’t even hold FTP for more than 5 minutes or so, and that’s about where your progress stops. You’re racking up TSS and CTL, but you can’t even touch any real intensity at that level of fatigue. At best you could classify it as “high volume in a hurry”.
But on the bright side, now you should have a CTL fitness somewhere up near 100. After you pull back and recover for a couple of weeks to get your form under control, you’ll have the freedom to crush something borderline suicidal like Nine Hammers multiple times in the same week (although the thought of actually doing that is almost too masochistic to contemplate).
This points up my hesitation about most TR plans: They’re focused on sweet spot, which is also called “the gray zone” or even “no-man’s land”. They’ll get you good CTL fitness, and if you only do time trials or triathlons, maybe that’s a good way to go. But you won’t be ready for draft-legal racing, which is mostly about repeated short surges far above FTP with lots of spinning at or below tempo in between. Getting you ready for that sort of thing is where SUF really shines, IMO.
Yes, I think that’s a good observation. I basically bought into the SUF idea that traditional high volume winter base training is a bit of a waste of time unless you can knock out 20+ hours of it a week. So instead I spent the winter on the advanced All-purpose Road plan to try and develop all my energy systems. My TSS was about half what I was doing over the summer months, but I still made some useful progress across the board.
Now I’m back into outdoor riding I will start to ramp up the volume in preparation for my main summer endurance events (100+ mile 4k+ climbing). Having not done a lot of volume training over the winter I now feel more motivated to knock out some longer rides. I’m about to start on the Hilly GF plan, which looks perfect for what I need.
I know what you mean about not over-doing the intensity all year round, but actually my events don’t really involve any high intensity efforts, they are all sub-threshold paced efforts over 6-8 hours. Maybe that’s why I’m naturally gravitating toward a reverse periodisation approach? It would be different if I was racing intense crits where I had to really stress my MAP and AC systems. For me those are strictly training only zones in sensible doses. My aim is to raise my FTP and more importantly increase the percentage of FTP I can hold for up to 8 hours.
Been there, done that! I now seriously limit my Zwifting as it’s a recipe for over-training! Like you I can go for months with big TSS numbers, but I quickly hit a plateau in performance because of the perpetual fatigue. SUF has been good for getting back into an improvement mindset, with more recovery and structured intensity. Sometimes it feels like I’m not doing enough work, but the really intense SUF sessions remind me why I need to go into them with fresh legs!
Wow! This is totally crazy! I just did The Shovel today, and it almost felt easy. This was after putting in over 300 TSS and 6.5 hours of endurance riding over the weekend. I can’t tell you how many times in the past I’ve put in the 6.5 hours over the weekend, only to face off with Nine Hammers the following Tuesday on halfway-recovered legs. I don’t need to tell you how that usually ends. If my next HIIT sessions don’t start hurting me more, I’m actually going to bump up my 4DP settings or just re-take Full Frontal, because now, in my third week of regular HIIT sessions that I came into with my CTL higher than I’ve ever had it before, my race fitness is absolutely exploding.
This is amazing. Next year, I’m doubling down on this idea. I will have even more time available after this summer, so 12-15 hours of winter base training with a weekend CX race here and there can become 15-20 hours. I know that sort of thing gets boring, and it’s a lot of time spent for diminishing returns. I also get that most people don’t have the time for that. So yes, in that case, cut to the chase and stay focused on your HIIT. But those diminishing returns are still real returns. So, if you have the time for high-volume, periodized training, I can recommend it. I’ve never felt this strong before.
It sounds like this approach is going really well for you. But I don’t think it would work for me on a number of levels. The weather is not good enough here to put in long road rides and I prefer to ramp up my volume closer to my summer endurance events. If I did high volume through the winter and then ramped up intensity going into the summer I think I would be out of sync with my events. I follow the principle of my training sessions gradually becoming more and more like my events the closer I get to them. So for me that means ramping up to 7 hour full pace endurance rides by early June, which doesn’t leave a lot of reserve for any additional HIIT work. So I do most of my short intensive training over the winter months and then just try to maintain my MAP and AC gains through the summer. I still do some HIIT sessions, but less so on weeks were I’m doing big weekend rides.
If my summer events were shorter, more intense races I would probably take your more classic approach.
Just out of interest my CTL was in the 80s last summer and then dropped into the 40s over the winter. But all my 4DP metrics actually increased (especially AC/NM) during this low volume period. In some ways I also found the low volume HIIT harder and required more recovery. Maybe that’s age related (I’m 53) or just my personal genetics. But I’m actually looking forward to increasing volume with less intensity!
It sounds like you do ultra-endurance events. The opportunities I get to race are usually short crit races, and there are a few longer, hillier races in my area, which I prefer. I don’t like swimming and I stink at it, so I don’t do triathlons. If I wanted to do an ultra-endurance, non-triathlon event, I’d probably have to travel to Colorado or California.
But yes, as you noticed, when you do the type of long, consistent endurance work that gets your CTL really high, your race fitness goes down. Then, as your training volume goes down and intensity goes up, you get the type of fitness in the shorter intervals that’s critical in draft-legal events like crit races. For me, building a high CTL isn’t the end goal. I’m finding that, once I have it, it helps me to really nail my HIIT, and then recover from each session quickly and do the next one sooner (and suffer less physical pain in the process, as I think you’ve noticed). If you look at how the Coggan model works, you’ll see why. Tomorrow’s ATL number drops proportionally in time to your current absolute ATL number. Your CTL both rises and falls much more slowly, however. So, if your ATL and CTL are both high, then knowing that tomorrow’s form equals today’s CTL minus today’s ATL, you can see that a person who rides a lot recovers more quickly from a hard training block.
Once you reach a certain level, you can’t improve both base fitness and also MN, AC, and MAP fitness at the same time. That’s like someone who wants to be both a sumo wrestler and a marathon runner at the same time. So periodization is a choice you make as to what type of events you’re training for. I can clearly understand how traditional periodization helps a person who wants to crush intensity during the summer. From my understanding, the main benefit of intensity during the off season for an ultra-endurance athlete is that it allows you to maintain a reasonably high CTL without putting too big a dent in your schedule. From the Coggan model, other than time-efficiency, I’m not seeing any specific benefit to an ultra-endurance athlete from off-season HIIT.
And I’m right with you on lousy weather and training. I live in Upstate New York, where we have both miserable winters and also surprisingly insufferable summers (from the incessant humidity). In terms of race-readiness per dollar spent, my indoor trainer is the best investment I’ve ever made.
For me it’s really just a way of avoiding spending the entire year doing really long rides!
I’m not by any means an ultra-endurance athlete. The longest rides I do are all day Mountainous Sportives. These are usually around 160 km with 4-5000 m climbing. The thing is I don’t do any short crit style races, so I don’t need to focus on intense efforts. It’s all about riding as close to threshold as I can for 6-8 hours. I’m finding SUF good for raising my threshold with a relatively low volume, which then seems to make everything below threshold easier. Then I find it’s just a matter of gradually increasing volume as my events get closer.
I’m going to base my next 12 week training block on the Advanced Hilly GF plan, but slightly modified with some longer weekend rides and less HIIT to compensate. I think the longest ride on the GF plan is 5 hours, but I will extend that to 7.5 hours and bump up all the shorter weekend rides proportionally.
I also love going for longer, hilly rides. I have some pretty good climbs within 100 miles of where I live, and it’s very rewarding to me to go out for 10 or 12 hours bagging a long series of them in one ride. It’s just not very relevant to my racing.