"Base Training" and why it is not the best approach to your cycling

At this time of the year, there is a lot of talk about the “off-season” and “base training” or “base miles”.

Before I get into the Base Training, please check out the discussion on the real meaning of the “off-season”.

As I learned in my own experience with my own training and from my coach, retired World Tour Pro Tom Danielson, the time between the end of the outdoor/racing season and the next is best spent working to continue to develop our different power zones and systems. That means not neglecting structured training and, most importantly, spending time on ALL power zones. By doing “base miles” you will be left with a “uni-zone”, and a low one at that!

Why would you build all those power zones, develop a high level of fitness, to then burn everything down during the “off-season” by riding long, steady and easier? Why would you want to start from scratch again in the Spring and build your zones all over again, when you can continue to improve what you have already built instead?

What’s more, unless you have events that are longer than 3 hours right now, you don’t need to do long rides until 1-2 months before a long event (depending on the event and the cyclist’s experience and level of fitness). But even in cases where a cyclist needs to build endurance during the off-season because he/she is new to cycling, doing only one such long ride/week is sufficient when combining with intensity training.

Following a training plan year-around does not mean going super hard, ripping your legs off, crashing and burning (i.e., getting burnt out, fatigued or overtrained). In fact that is the very purpose of a training plan- to develop skills and fitness and avoid burn out/fatigue/overtraining. And “intervals” are simply a way to organize your efforts.

Here are a few helpful articles from other coaches on this topic:

This first one (from the co-author of “The Time Crunched Cyclist” is my favourite- and yes, “going slow makes you slow!”:


I agree with this. I rode long and easy for years. It never made me fast. It just made me good at riding long and easy. It did not translate into anything useful. Sometimes these rides can be fun just to hang out and socialize, but that’s it. And, riding long and tempo will only get you tired. If you want to ride long and tempo, throw in 20% of hard intensity throughout the ride and then ride tempo in between. Recovering at tempo after going hard really trains the tempo zone. Just riding for hours at tempo only makes you tired.


SUPER helpful, @Coach_Theia! Makes me feel even better when it’s pouring rain outside :wink:


Thank you for lifting this topic! I have a long race in August 20, a 100 km trail race, 70 % technical singletrack, rest is gravel/fireroads. It will probably be 6-7 hours in the saddle, I guess I will not worry to much about it before next year/sprin/summer :slight_smile:

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@Silje I have a gravel/mixed terrain 100K race in April and won’t start longer rides until Jan/Feb.

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… and now I ended up being mansplained in my IRL club group when I shared the trainingpeaks article :joy:


:woman_facepalming: @Silje Even Joe Friel in his 5th Edition of “Training Bible” agrees with the above.

As an example, he says “For older riders, I would likely have them to brief anaerobic endurance workouts year-around, as they help to maintain their aerobic capacities (a decline in aerobic capacity is a major issue for aging athletes).” These are obviously shorter and lighter than a higher volume of anaerobic workouts someone would do when preparing for a race.

I find it quite amusing when most of the riders in the area here just ride around all winter. I am actually suspecting they just don’t want to train, and use the “off-season” and base training as an excuse/justification.

Yes! I have a few friends who are super into base miles and long “training” rides and are constantly telling me that I need to get off the trainer and get outside for long miles. I did long tempo (group) rides forever and seemed to plateau at the same FTP and speed. This past few months I’ve realized that I have a base that is miles wide but I have no kick. I also seem to have aerobic capacity for days but no big power muscles. I integrated 20/40 and 40/20 workouts on the trainer into my weekday riding (when it is hard to get outside anyways) and all of a sudden I can kick it into gear when I need to and I’ve added to my average speeds, even on the long rides. Now, since really long rides (starting with a double century) are what I WANT to do, I’m assuming that I need to do the long training rides too. I’ve pretty much been doing intervals on the trainer during the week and long rides on the weekend, and I’m slowly seeing my endurance AND my average speeds creep up.


This is a great conversation. It’s helping me to appreciate that I’m doing the right thing in preparation for the rides I have planned next year! The combination of intervals for power and aerobic capacity on the turbo and the longer but still tough group rides we are doing on Zwift at weekends. Previously I’m one of those that’s thought that I need to get out and ride and ride for a long long time at a slow steady pace :roll_eyes:

Anyway the changing challenges of @Coach_Theia’s workouts and the fun of our little group’s weekend rides are definitely more interesting than going out in the cold and wet slogging away for miles and miles…there’s time for this long rides in the spring!