Cycling training Plan: Training zone, plans for all level cyclists and how to use

Cycling training plan varies based on the cyclist’s fitness level, training zones, cycling training purpose, combination of cycling workouts and indoor or outdoor training for cycling. The plan is a structured and comprehensive program that spans over a longer period, like weeks or months, designed to help cyclists achieve a specific goal, such as preparing for a race, improving endurance, or achieving weight loss.

When comes to “Is cycling a good workout?”, yes, cycling is a good workout because it’s a low-impact exercise, providing a means for exercise that is gentle on the joints, thus being accessible for a wide range of fitness levels and ages. Cycling enhances muscle strength and tone by engaging major muscle groups, especially the lower body. Riding a bike elevates cardiovascular fitness, aiding in improved heart and lung health. Furthermore, it offers mental health benefits by reducing stress and improving mood. It encourages exploration and connection with the outdoors, contributing to a holistic approach to well-being.

Before starting your first cycling training session, understanding the 5 cycling training zones is essential. Knowing what is sweet spot training, heart rate zone, polarized training zone, threshold training zone, and what are the benefits of exercise in different zones are necessary for base training.

A study from the Department of Movement and Sports Sciences, Ghent University Belgium utilized various Training Impulse (TRIMP) methods to assess the relationship between training load and performance improvement in 11 recreational cyclists over 12 weeks. The study found that Training Intensity Distribution (TID) might be a key factor in cycling performance improvement training.

So based on TID, we present three cycling training plans for all level cyclists, a 4-week beginner cycling training plan, a 12-week endurance base training plan and a professional cyclists training plan.

In this article, we will explain the training zones for cycling plans, sample cycling training plans for beginners, endurance racers, and professional cyclists. Moreover, we discuss how to use cycling training plans to reach your specific goals, different cycling workouts to add to your training plan, cycling training apps, training books, and the benefits of cycling for everyone.

Table of Contents

Cycling Training Zones

Cycling training zones are specific intensity levels, designed to maximize the effectiveness of your training by ensuring that you work within target areas to develop various aspects of your fitness, typically ranging from Zone 1 to Zone 6. 

Training ZoneZone FTP RangeHRmax RangeCycling Duration
Active RecoveryZone 11-55% of FTP50-60% of HRmaxAs long as you want
EnduranceZone 256-75% of FTP60-70% of HRmax3+ hours
Tempo/Sweet spotZone 376-90% of FTP70-80% of HRmax20-60 minutes
Lactate ThresholdZone 491-105% of FTP80-90% of HRmax10-30 minutes
VO2maxZone 5106-120% of FTP90-95% of HRmax3-8 minutes
Anaerobic capacityZone 6> 121%n/a30 seconds to 3 minutes

Cycling training zones

Note: In cycling, Functional Threshold Power (FTP) refers to the highest power, measured in watts, that a cyclist can sustain through an hour of effort without fatiguing.

Training in different zones means aligning your exertion level, measured by heart rate or power, to distinct percentages of your maximum heart rate (HR max) or power, thus ensuring you don’t overcook your efforts and can step your training up in a structured manner. 

To establish your training zones and integrate them into a coherent training plan, cyclists often use a power meter or a smart trainer with a built-in power meter to ensure precise and optimal training outputs.

Zone One Cycling training-Active Recovery

Zone one cycling training is typically referred to as the “Active Recovery” phase, which encompasses effort levels between 1-55% of FTP or 50-60% of maximum heart rate (HRmax). 

This zone is characterized by low-intensity, easy pedaling that focuses on aiding recovery after high-intensity workouts rather than improving fitness per se. The physiological stress in this zone is minimal, providing an opportunity for the body to heal micro-damages, remove metabolic waste products, and rejuvenate both physically and mentally. 

The benefits of training in zone one include enhanced recovery, improved metabolic efficiency, and maintenance of cycling habits and routines without imposing significant stress or fatigue. It serves as a crucial component in long-term training by allowing cyclists to sustain a consistent training schedule, ensuring that they can approach more intense workouts in a recovered state, thereby maximizing the effectiveness of their training plan.

Riding in zone one is mentally less taxing and can be socially enjoyable, as the intensity allows for comfortable conversation during group rides, fostering a sense of community and shared enjoyment in the sport.

Zone Two Cycling training-Endurance

Zone two cycling training is often referred to as the “Endurance” phase, involving workouts that require effort levels between 56-75% of FTP or 60-70% of your HR max. The typical cycling training duration is 3 hours in zone two.

This zone is pivotal for building a robust aerobic base, which is foundational for both recreational and competitive cycling. Engaging in zone two training primarily enhances the body’s ability to utilize oxygen and improves the efficiency of energy production from fats, which are crucial for sustaining longer durations in the saddle without fatigue. 

What are the benefits of Zone 2 training?

The Benefits of zone 2 training include the strengthening of slow-twitch muscle fibers, improvement in fuel utilization, enhancement of capillary density, and increased mitochondrial production, all of which contribute to enhanced endurance. Moreover, zone two training aids in establishing a solid fitness foundation upon which more intensive training can be built, ensuring that the body is adequately prepared for physical stress at higher intensities. 

Though it’s often perceived as a comfortable and manageable intensity, consistent training in zone two is pivotal in progressively developing a cyclist’s aerobic capacity and endurance, providing the stamina required for longer rides and races.

Zone Three Cycling training -Tempo/sweet spot

Zone three cycling training is identified as the “Tempo” or “Sweetspot” phase, where cyclists perform at 76-90% of their FTP or maintain a heart rate between 70-80% of HRmax. 

Zone three typically is recognized as the tempo or sweet spot training zone, it strikes a balance between intensity and volume, promoting significant physiological adaptations while still minimizing recovery times. 

Training in zone three essentially means working at a moderately hard intensity, where the conversation becomes a bit labored, but sustaining the effort for a considerable duration, such as an hour, is feasible. 

Incorporating zone three training into a cycling regimen augments a cyclist’s ability to maintain a steady, moderately high power output over longer durations, which is particularly advantageous in time-trialing and maintaining breaks in road races.

What are the benefits of Zone 3 training?

Training in Zone 3 is beneficial for enhancing sub-threshold endurance, improving the body’s ability to manage lactate – a byproduct of carbohydrate metabolism – and increasing the cyclist’s efficiency and power at their lactate threshold. 

What is sweet spot training?

The sweet spot training refers to training in the upper end of zone three, which provides notable training adaptations in terms of improved sustainable power and increased FTP, but with less physiological stress and required recovery than higher intensity efforts. 

Zone Four Cycling training-Threshold

Zone four cycling training is commonly referred to as “threshold” training, where cyclists operate at 91-105% of their FTP or maintain a heart rate between 80-90% of HRmax. 

This zone is closely associated with the lactate threshold – the intensity at which lactate begins to accumulate in the blood at a faster rate than it can be removed, often perceived as the effort level that divides a sustainable pace from a pace that can only be held for a shorter period. 

When training in zone four, the primary focus is to improve power output at the lactate threshold, which translates into enhanced performance during efforts that last up to an hour, often referred to as the “half saddle threshold” since it’s near the maximum effort that can be sustained for that duration. 

What are the benefits of Zone 4 training?

Benefits of Zone 4 threshold training include improved endurance at high-intensity efforts, enhanced carbohydrate metabolism, and increased ability to sustain higher speeds for longer durations, particularly vital for time trials, breakaways, and climbing. The challenging nature of zone four training makes it vital to manage recovery carefully to maximize adaptations and prevent overtraining.

Zone Five Cycling training-VO2 max

Zone Five cycling training is intensely focused on elevating an athlete’s VO2 max(VO₂ Max, V for volume), which is the maximum rate at which a cyclist’s body can consume oxygen during exercise, measured in milliliters per minute per kilogram of body weight (ml/min/kg). Riding at this zone involves performing at 106-120% of Functional Threshold Power (FTP) or maintaining a heart rate of 90-95% of HRmax. 

Training in Zone Five, or at VO2 max, is crucial for increasing the body’s ability to use oxygen, effectively enhancing performance during high-intensity efforts that last from several seconds up to roughly 8 minutes. 

What are the benefits of Zone 5 training?

The benefits of Zone Five training extend from bolstered cardiovascular function, improved anaerobic capacity, enhanced power during maximal efforts, and an increased ability to sustain peak speeds during short, all-out bursts. 

This type of training is particularly pertinent for riders engaging in criteriums, short climbs, breakaways, and sprint finishes, where brief but potent efforts are decisive. However, given its exhaustive nature, zone five workouts should be incorporated judiciously into a training plan to allow adequate recovery(Zone one or two) and prevent overtraining.

Zone Six Cycling training -Anaerobic capacity

Zone Six Cycling training is centered around maximizing anaerobic capacity, targeting efforts that significantly exceed the rider’s FTP and push beyond 121% of FTP. This training zone does not correlate with a specific HRmax percentage due to the intense and rapid muscular effort that quickly surpasses sustainable heart rate measures. 

Training in Zone Six demands sharp, explosive bursts of power and speed, such as sprints or short, aggressive climbs, that are inherently unsustainable over extended periods due to their reliance on anaerobic metabolic pathways. 

What are the benefits of Zone 6 training?

Benefits of Zone Six training include enhanced neuromuscular coordination, increased power output, improved anaerobic energy production, and the development of a rider’s ability to generate and sustain high-intensity efforts, particularly useful in race scenarios for attacking, counter-attacking, and sprinting toward the finish line.

Cycling Power Training Zones Calculator

Embark on a precisely-tuned cycling training journey with our innovative Cycling Power Training Zones Calculator, which can be called heart rate zone cycling calculator, meticulously designed to guide athletes of all levels in establishing well-defined training zones based on their Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and Maximum Heart Rate (HRmax). This user-friendly tool provides a clear visualization of your distinct training zones, ensuring that your cycling workouts are effectively targeted toward achieving optimal performance and fitness outcomes. Whether you’re a seasoned racer or a cycling enthusiast, leverage this calculator to elevate your training, optimize energy expenditure, and traverse your fitness path with confidence and clarity.

Cycling Power Training Zones Calculator

Cycling Power Training Zones Calculator

Training Zone Zone Definition FTP Range HRmax Range

Polarized training zones cycling

Polarized training zones cycling is a training model that typically involves spending a considerable amount of time training at low intensities (around Zone 1 and 2, focusing on active recovery and endurance) and a smaller, yet significant, portion of time at high intensities (around Zone 5 and 6, focusing on VO2 max and anaerobic capacity) while minimizing the time spent in the middle zones (like Zone 3 and 4, tempo and lactate threshold). 

The philosophy behind this approach is essentially to polarize or distinctly separate the easy and hard training days to maximize adaptation while minimizing the risk of overtraining and injury. The low-intensity sessions facilitate recovery and build an aerobic base without placing undue stress on the musculoskeletal system, whereas the high-intensity sessions significantly challenge the cardiovascular system, thereby enhancing aerobic capacity, power, and race-pace efficiency. 

By largely avoiding the middle zones, cyclists using polarized training seek to mitigate potential fatigue and ensure that hard sessions are performed with maximal effort and focus.

Why is it harder to raise the heart rate to the proper training intensity with cycling?

It’s harder to raise the heart rate to the proper training intensity with cycling because cycling is a non-weight-bearing exercise, meaning the body expends less effort and energy compared to weight-bearing exercises like running, leading to a generally lower heart rate at similar intensity levels. Additionally, when cycling, especially in a seated position, the muscle mass involved is relatively limited, particularly in comparison to full-body activities, which can limit the heart rate elevation. Lastly, factors like cycling efficiency, technique, and even bike setup can reduce the cardiac demand, making it sometimes challenging to reach higher heart rate zones without considerable effort or higher intensities.

Cycling Training Plan

Cycling training plan changes for different levels of cyclists and fitness goals, from beginners training for weight loss, experienced riders training for the Century endurance event, or professional cyclists training for UCI racing. Based on these factors, we give three-level cycling training plans, from which everyone can find their own suitable workout schedule.

Cycling Training plan for beginners

Cycling training plan for beginners is designed for cycling beginners who just started riding and looking for a base training plan to get into cycling while building a certain entry-level fitness and overall health condition.

This plan is aimed at 6.5-8 hours of cycling training time per week to slowly build up riders’ endurance with a consistent low-intensity pace, then gradually we add short training in Zone 4 and Zone 5.


Week 1

(6.5 hrs)

Rest30 min easy ride30 min easy rideRest30 min easy ride1 hr steady ride (Z2)

WU: 10 min

MS: 1 hr steady ride (Z2)

CD: 10 min

Week 2

(7 hrs)

Rest40 min easy ride40 min easy rideRest40 min easy ride1 hr 15 min steady ride (Z2)

WU: 10 min

MS: 1 hr 15 min steady ride (Z2)

CD: 10 min

Week 3

(7.5 hrs)


WU: 10 min easy

MS: 3×5 min brisk (Z3) w/ 5 min easy

CD: 10 min easy

1 hr steady ride (Z2)Rest

WU: 10 min easy

MS: 2×10 min brisk (Z3) w/ 5 min easy

CD: 10 min easy

1 hr 30 min steady ride (Z2)

WU: 15 min

MS: 1 hr 30 min steady ride (Z2)

CD: 15 min

Week 4

(8 hrs)


WU: 10 min

MS: 4×5 min hard (Z4) w/ 5 min easy

CD: 10 min

1 hr 10 min steady ride (Z2)Rest

WU: 10 min

MS: 3×10 min hard (Z4) w/ 5 min easy

CD: 10 min

1 hr 45 min steady ride (Z2)

WU: 15 min

MS: 1 hr 45 min steady ride (Z2)

CD: 15 min

Cycling Training plan for beginners


WU: Warm-Up

MS: Main Session

CD: Cool Down

Z2, Z3, Z4: Zone 2, 3, and 4.


Week 1 and 2: Focus on building a base with low-intensity rides.

Week 3: Introduce some higher-intensity rides with “brisk” (Z3) efforts.

Week 4: Further introduce high-intensity sessions and slightly longer steady rides.

  • Ensure to hydrate and fuel during rides longer than 1 hour and to adjust based on how your body responds to increased training load.
  • Feel free to swap days if needed, but try to stick to the overall weekly training volume and intensity.

Remember, always listen to your body during training. If you feel overly fatigued, consider adjusting the plan and allowing additional recovery as needed. If possible, consult with a certified coach to ensure the training plan is tailored to your individual needs and goals.

Average cycling distance for beginners

The average cycling distance for beginners who start engaging cycling training plan, weekly cycling distances typically range from 50 km to 100 km, distributed over multiple rides depending on the initial fitness level and comfort on the bike. 

Initially, rides may be short, approximately 10-15 km, focusing on building an aerobic base and getting accustomed to the saddle. Gradually, these rides can extend to 20-30 km, especially on weekends, to gently build endurance. 

The key is to prioritize consistency, gradually increasing the distance while ensuring adequate rest and recovery, thus ensuring a foundation that supports sustained efforts and helps in averting injuries or burnout. This approach facilitates a smooth adaptation to the physical demands of cycling, promoting progressive improvements in both strength and endurance

Cycling training plan for endurance

Cycling training plan for endurance is designed to systematically enhance a rider’s stamina and resilience, preparing them for long-distance sportives and strenuous journeys. With an average commitment of 8-10 hours per week, this plan combines various training elements over a 10-week period to build up stamina and boost resistance to fatigue, particularly focusing on long weekend rides of 5 hours or more which are pivotal in acclimating the body to prolonged physical exertion. Utilizing cross-training techniques can introduce varied stimuli to enhance muscular strength and aerobic base without overstressing the cyclist’s system.

Within the framework of this plan, an emphasis is placed on steadily developing a robust aerobic base, the foundation upon which higher aerobic efforts are built. This base-building helps to optimize the body’s ability to burn fat as a power source to lose weight and support prolonged activity, enhancing the cyclist’s ability to sustain energy over extended periods. Ensuring a keen focus on cycling cadence helps to regulate effort and ensure that muscular strength is gradually built without predisposing the cyclist to injury or excessive fatigue. These collective approaches pave the way for successful long-distance cycling and enhance the rider’s overall fitness, endurance, and performance on the saddle, ensuring they are well-prepared for the rigors of an intense cycling endeavor.

1-2 (Establishing base)Rest1 hr Z1 (Easy spin to promote recovery)Rest1.5 hr Z2 (Building aerobic base)Rest2 hr Z2 (Steady ride to build endurance)3 hr Z2 (Long ride at a conversational pace)
3-4 (Increasing Intensity)Rest1 hr Z3 (Include some moderate intervals)1 hr Z1 (Easy spin)1.5 hr Z2-Z3 (Mix of steady and moderate efforts)Rest3 hr Z2-Z3 (Gradually adding more moderate efforts)3.5 hr Z2 (Steady long ride)
5-6 (Building volume and intensity)Rest1.5 hr Z3-Z4 (Include several hard efforts)1 hr Z1 (Recovery ride)1.5 hr Z3 (Moderate intensity ride)Rest3.5 hr Z2-Z3 (Adding more time to your long ride)4 hr Z2 (Steady endurance ride)
7-8 (Introducing higher intensity)Rest1.5 hr Z3-Z4 (Include some intervals near threshold)1 hr Z1 (Easy spin for recovery)2 hr Z3 (Sustained moderate efforts)Rest4 hr Z2-Z3 (Continue building endurance)4.5 hr Z2 (Maintain a steady, conversational pace)
9-10 (Sharpening phase)Rest1 hr Z4-Z5 (High-intensity intervals)1 hr Z1 (Easy recovery ride)1.5 hr Z3-Z4 (Maintain intensity with some hard efforts)Rest4 hr Z2-Z3 (Balancing endurance with some moderate efforts)5 hr Z2 (Long ride at a sustainable, steady pace)

Cycling training plan for endurance

  • Weeks 1-2(Establishing Base): Focus on maintaining a consistent cycling cadence and incorporating cross-training sessions for overall physical conditioning.
  • Weeks 3-4(Introduction to Intensity): Incorporate brief bouts of higher intensity to gently introduce the body to more strenuous effort without compromising the endurance-building process.
  • Weeks 5-6(Building Muscular Strength): Increase the duration and intensity slowly while including varied terrain to challenge and build muscular strength.
  • Weeks 7-8(Enhancing Aerobic Base): Focus on longer steady rides to enhance aerobic fitness and fuel utilization.
  • Weeks 9-10(Fine-tuning and Longer Rides): In the final weeks, emphasize longer weekend rides and refine the ability to sustain slightly higher intensities without compromising form and efficiency.

This cycling training plan is generalized and may need to be adjusted according to individual needs, fitness levels, and responses to the training load. Ensure to pay attention to how the body reacts to training, ensuring enough recovery, and adjusting intensity and duration as needed to avoid over-training and promote optimal performance gains.

What is cycling base training?

Cycling base training is the initial phase of a training program, focusing on building a foundational aerobic fitness level by engaging in steady, low-intensity rides. This foundational phase is crucial for enhancing the cyclist’s endurance, efficiency, and muscular adaptation, providing a platform on which higher-intensity training can be effectively built in subsequent phases. 

Both beginners and seasoned cyclists can benefit from base training, as it establishes and reinforces the physiological and muscular underpinnings that support sustained, longer-term performance across various cycling disciplines and distances.

How long should base training be cycling?

Cycling base training should be approximately 8 to 12 weeks in duration because it allows sufficient time to gradually build aerobic endurance, muscular strength, and prepare the body for the more intense training phases that follow while minimizing the risk of overtraining and injury.

Century Ride training plan

Century ride training plan is a structured schedule designed to prepare cyclists to successfully complete a 100-mile ride, commonly referred to as a “century ride.” It typically incorporates a mix of long, steady rides, shorter, higher-intensity sessions, and ample recovery to progressively build the rider’s endurance, strength, and stamina over a specified time frame, often ranging from 8 to 12 weeks or more. This plan is suitable for intermediate cyclists who have a basic foundation of cycling fitness and seek a structured approach to prepare for the physical demands of completing a century ride.

Below is an example of a 12-week century ride training plan.

1-3: Establishing BaseRest or light cross-training1h Z21h Z2-31.5h w/ efforts in Z3-4Rest or light activity2h Z21h Z2
4-6: Building EnduranceRest1.5h w/ 5-min intervals Z41h Z22h Z2-3Rest2.5-3h Z21-1.5h Z2-3
7-9: Increasing IntensityRest1.5h w/ 10-min intervals Z41.5h Z22h Z3Rest3-3.5h Z21.5h Z2
10-12: Sharpening & TaperingRest1.5h w/ 2×20-min Z41h Z21.5h Z3Rest3.5-4.5h Z21h Z2

Century Ride training plan

16 week 100 mile cycling training plan

16 week 100-mile cycling training plan is a systematic regimen that gradually enhances a cyclist’s stamina, muscular endurance, and aerobic capacity, tailored to enable them to complete a 100-mile ride, often referred to as a Century. This plan spreads the training across 16 weeks to permit a more gradual build in intensity and duration, and to minimize the risk of injury or overtraining.

Expanding the previously given 12-week plan to 16 weeks can include additional weeks for further establishing the base, building endurance, and a longer tapering phase to ensure full recovery and peak performance on the event day. Below is the expanded 16-week 100 mile cycling training plan example.

1-4: Establishing BaseRest or cross-training1h Z21h Z2-31.5h w/ efforts in Z3Rest or light activity2h Z21h Z2
5-8: Building EnduranceRest1.5h w/ 5-min intervals Z41h Z22h Z2-3Rest2.5-3h Z21-1.5h Z2-3
9-12: Increasing IntensityRest1.5h w/ 10-min intervals Z41.5h Z22h Z3Rest3-3.5h Z21.5h Z2
13-16: Sharpening & TaperingRest

1.5h w/ 2×20-min Z4

(less intense in the final week)

1h Z2

1.5h Z3

(shorten to 1h in the final week)


3.5-4.5h Z2

(shorten gradually in final two weeks)

1h Z2

(easy ride or rest in the final week)

16 week 100 mile cycling training plan

Cycling training plan for professional racers

Cycling training plan for professional racers is designed for those who compete in races ranging from 30-150 km and involves a meticulously structured regimen, often spanning over a year to optimize performance for key race events. 

This proposed 10-week plan is ideal as a pre-race phase, where athletes already have a robust foundation of training. In the first 5 weeks, the focus is on mastering changes of pace, improving response to attacks, negotiating tough terrain, optimizing sprint performance, and maintaining a high-speed group pace, all while enhancing their anaerobic threshold. The last 5 weeks training prioritize work on short bursts of high-intensity efforts, ensuring effective recovery, producing strong power outputs, and reaching peak performance in VO2 max and anaerobic systems to target specific race demands. 

Both phases are crucial to cultivate the holistic development of a racer’s abilities, merging sustained efforts with explosive power to navigate the multifaceted challenges of professional racing.

160 mins Z24×5 mins Z4, 5 mins Z1 recovery90 mins Z2
260 mins Z25×5 mins Z4, 5 mins Z1 recovery120 mins Z2-Z3, 3×5 mins Z5 bursts
360 mins Z23×10 mins Z4, 5 mins Z1 recovery150 mins Z2, sporadic Z4 hill climbs
460 mins Z24×8 mins Z4, 5 mins Z1 recovery180 mins Z2-3, strategic Z5 sprints
560 mins Z26×5 mins Z4, 5 mins Z1 recovery180 mins Z2-Z3, occasional Z5 sprints
660 mins Z210×1 min Z6, 2 mins Z1 recovery120 mins Z2, 2×20 mins Z4
760 mins Z24×10 mins Z4-5, 5 mins Z1 recovery180 mins Z3, 3×10 mins Z4
860 mins Z23×15 mins Z4, 5 mins Z1 recovery150 mins Z2, 3×5 mins Z6 bursts
960 mins Z25×4 mins Z5, 4 mins Z1 recovery180 mins Z3, 3×3 mins Z5 sprints
1045 mins Z23×2 mins Z5, 3 mins Z1 recovery30 mins Z2 [Race Day]

Cycling training plan for professional racers

Week 1-5: Building and Sustaining Pace Changes & Endurance

Week 6-10: Maximizing Power and Enhancing Recovery

Additional Tips for Each Week are listed below.

  • Long Rides: At least one long ride each week to build endurance and mimic race distances.
  • Rest Days: Ensure at least one full rest day for recovery and adaptation.
  • Active Recovery: Include easy spins post-high-intensity days to aid recovery without completely resting.
  • Nutrition: Keep hydration and nutrition in check, replicating race-day nutrition during longer rides.
  • Mindset Training: Develop race scenarios and mental strategies to handle varied paces and terrains.
  • Cross-Training: Incorporate a day of cross-training, such as weight lifting or yoga, to enhance power and flexibility, respectively.

Each session and week must be finely tuned and adjusted based on individual responses, ensuring overtraining or burnout is avoided. Moreover, integrating a holistic approach, which considers the mental, nutritional, and physical aspects, is pivotal for a racer’s success. This plan integrates specific racing scenarios and ensures that the racer is well-versed with pace changes, power outputs, and recovery to navigate through the demands of professional racing. Always adapt the plan according to the feedback from the body and performance outcomes to ensure it stays individualized and effective.

Marathon cycling training plan

A marathon cycling training plan is devised to prepare a cyclist to cover long distances typically ranging between 100km and 200km, ensuring that the rider develops the necessary stamina, strength, and nutritional strategy to successfully complete the event without succumbing to fatigue or injury. These plans generally incorporate a blend of long rides, intensity sessions, and recovery periods to holistically prepare the body and mind for the challenges of a marathon ride.

Below is an example of biking marathon training plan based on duration, endurance, intensity and recovery trainings in the plan.

1-4Rest or Cross-Training1h Z21.5h some Z3 intervals1h Z2Rest or Cross-Training2h Z21.5h Z2-3
5-8Rest1.5h some 10-min Z4 intervals1h Z21.5h some Z3 intervalsRest3h Z2 (increasing distance)2h Z2-3
9-12Rest or light activity1.5h hill repeats/Z4 intervals1h Z2-32h challenging terrains Z3-4Rest4h Z22-3h Z2-3
13-16Rest1h short Z5 intervals1.5h Z2-31h Z2 or RestRestLong ride, 4h to 2h1.5-2h Z2-3, reducing final week

Marathon cycling training plan

How to choose and make your own training plan?

To choose and make your own training plan, first establish a clear and attainable goal, defining what you aim to achieve, whether it’s increasing your endurance, speed, or preparing for a specific cycling event. 

  • Begin by determining your current fitness level, which can be measured through variables like Functional Threshold Power (FTP) or heart rate (HR) — metrics pivotal in establishing your training zones from Active Recovery (Zone 1) to Anaerobic Capacity (Zone 6). 
  • Allocate time commitment precisely, ensuring you have a balanced blend of intensity across different training zones to optimize development and recovery, utilizing tools like a power meter or HR monitor to maintain prescribed ‘Zone’ adherence. 
  • Employ the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) or Borg scale as an alternative or supplement to gauge and regulate effort levels, especially when technological tools might be unavailable. 
  • Your plan should flexibly align with your everyday life, progressively increasing workload while incorporating adequate recovery periods, ensuring a steady enhancement of your aerobic base, muscular strength, and other vital capacities. 
  • Periodically assess your progress by re-testing your FTP or functional threshold HR, modifying your plan as required to reflect improvements or addressing areas demanding additional focus. Lastly, involve varied session types such as interval training, long slow distance (LSD) rides, and tempo workouts to ensure comprehensive development of both your aerobic and anaerobic systems, making adjustments for consistency, and always attentively tuning into your body’s feedback to mitigate risks of overtraining.

Road vs. mountain bike cycling training plan

Cycling training plans for road bikes and mountain bikes are different because they are tailored to meet the distinct demands and terrains of each cycling discipline. 

Road cycling training plans typically focus on building sustained power, speed, and endurance over longer distances on smoother terrains, often emphasizing time-trialing, group riding dynamics, and steady-state efforts. Mountain biking training plans often prioritize building technical skills, burst power for short, steep climbs, agility, and anaerobic capacity to navigate through variable, rugged terrains and handle rapid changes in intensity and speed.

Indoor vs. outdoor cycling training plan

Indoor and outdoor cycling training plans are different because they address various environmental, psychological, use different cycling equipments, and logistical factors unique to each setting. 

Indoor cycling training plans often focus on controlled, targeted efforts and precise interval work, leveraging the stable environment to hone in on specific power zones and cadences without the variables of outdoor riding, such as weather and terrain. Conversely, outdoor cycling training plans may emphasize real-world cycling skills, such as handling, navigating through different terrains, and adjusting efforts in response to variable weather conditions and elevation changes, offering a holistic and varied training experience.

What is FTP cycling?

FTP cycling is a term referring to Functional Threshold Power, which is the highest power a cyclist can maintain through an hour of effort without fatiguing, serving as a critical measurement to determine training zones and monitor performance improvements in endurance cycling. It’s a common cycling glossary for either indoor or outdoor cycling training. 

You can get an FTP test with an indoor training app like Zwift easily by running a ramp test.

What is TSS in cycling and how to measure TSS?

TSS in cycling means Training Stress Score, a metric that quantifies the workload and physiological stress incurred during a ride by considering the duration and intensity of the workout, with higher scores indicating increased stress and fatigue levels.

TSS is measured by comparing an athlete’s Normalized Power(NP) output and Intensity Factor (IF) to their FTP, and then multiplying it by the ride duration in a specific formula: 

TSS = (sec x NP x IF)/(FTP x 3600) x 100

NP (Normalized Power) is a calculated number that represents a power that could have been maintained for the same physiological cost if the power had been constant, rather than variable. IF (Intensity Factor) is calculated by taking the NP of a ride and dividing it by your FTP, giving a relative intensity of the ride compared to your current fitness level.

For example, if during a 1-hour ride (3600 seconds) an athlete maintains an NP of 200 watts with an FTP of 180 watts, the IF would be IF=NP/FTP=200/180=1.11


Cycling training tips

Cycling training tips are essential nuggets of advice that can enhance your preparation and execution of effective cycling workouts and events. From setting practical objectives to ensuring your body is well-conditioned and nourished, these pointers can significantly influence your cycling performance and experience.

  • Set a Realistic Goal: Set a tangible and realistic goal to keep your training focused and structured, ensuring that you choose an event that aligns with your cycling capabilities and provides a challenge to work towards.
  • Endurance Training: Invest time in long base training rides, even in less-than-ideal weather conditions, to build aerobic endurance, as there are no shortcuts to developing the stamina needed for extensive rides and events.
  • Outdoor Skills: Developing specific outdoor skills, such as riding in a bunch, climbing, and descending, can enhance your power-to-weight ratio, allow you to navigate through hilly terrains effectively, and ensure safe group riding.
  • Threshold Training: Focus on elevating your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) to efficiently utilize lactate, an energy source produced from glucose, and to enhance your capacity to maintain higher power outputs for extended periods.
  • Rest: Allocate at least one rest day per week and one easier training week per month to facilitate recovery, allowing your body to adapt and become fitter in response to the training stimulus.
  • Diet (Eat and Drink): Ensure adequate carbohydrate intake during longer rides and stay hydrated by understanding your personal sweat levels, aiming to replenish fluids lost and providing your muscles with the necessary energy to prevent any catastrophic energy dip.
  • Pre and After-Training Stretch: Integrate pre- and post-training stretching to enhance flexibility, avoid injury, and support muscle recovery, ensuring that your body is adequately conditioned to manage the demands of both training and events effectively.

Cycling TRAINING Tips

Remember, consistent, and well-rounded preparation is pivotal in navigating the road or trail successfully.

Cycling interval training

Cycling interval training is a workout method where periods of high-intensity efforts are alternated with recovery periods because it enhances both aerobic and anaerobic fitness, efficiently improving overall cycling performance. 

30/30 Interval cycling training

The 30-30 interval cycling training involves 30 seconds of intense effort followed by 30 seconds of recovery, efficiently enhancing anaerobic capacity and power. 

80/20 Interval cycling training

80/20 interval cycling training adheres to a principle of conducting 80% of training at low intensity and 20% at high intensity, ensuring optimal balance between workout stress and recovery. 

Watt-based cycling training

Watt-based cycling training is a method that employs power output, measured in watts, to quantify and guide training sessions, allowing cyclists to precisely target and maintain specific workloads, optimize energy utilization, and enhance both aerobic and anaerobic conditioning.

How to find the increasing interval?

To find the increasing interval, gradually augment either the duration of the high-intensity effort, the number of repetitions, or the intensity of the effort while monitoring your ability to recover adequately between intervals.

Strength and weight training for cyclists

Strength and weight training for cyclists are essential to enhance power output, improve endurance, and prevent injury or knee pain by specifically targeting muscles used during cycling. 

Strength training for cyclists includes functional movements like squats, lunges, and core exercises that mimic and support the cycling motion. 

Weight training for cyclists includes using free weights, machines, or body weight to build muscular strength and endurance, typically focusing on the lower body and core to support sustained pedaling power and improve stability on the bike.

Cycling hill climbing training

Cycling hill climbing training is a specialized regimen that emphasizes developing power, enhancing muscular endurance, and improving cycling technique to efficiently and effectively navigate inclines during rides.

Cycling training plan for weight loss

Cycling training plan for weight loss is strategically designed to maximize calorie burn through a mix of endurance, high-intensity intervals, and steady-state rides, ensuring that you efficiently utilize fat as a fuel source while building muscle. In general, you can lose 1-2 lb a week by creating a deficit of 500-1000 calories per day through a combination of diet and cycling, ensuring that you are burning more calories than you are consuming while maintaining a nutritionally balanced intake to support your training. It’s crucial to remember that proper nutrition and consistency in training are key to successful weight loss and maintenance.

Garmin Connect Cycling Training Plans

Garmin Connect Cycling Training Plans include a variety of pre-made training schedules(6 different plans include Century, Gran Fondo, Metric Century, Mountain Biking, Race and Time trial) designed for different cycling goals and fitness levels, which can be synced directly to a Garmin cycling computer or watch, enabling cyclists to follow structured workouts that guide them through specific intensities and durations, while offering real-time data tracking and analysis to monitor progress and adjust training as needed.

How to use a cycling training plan and what to know

To use a cycling training plan, a bike rider needs to understand what muscles biking works, cycling intensities for training, different cycling workout combinations, necessary cycling training apps, books, and the benefits and disadvantages of cycling.

What muscles does biking work?

The muscles biking works include predominantly those in the lower body like the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles, as well as muscles in the upper body, such as the biceps, triceps, and shoulders, when maintaining stability or during standing riding positions. Biking provides a low-impact aerobic workout, which can be beneficial for enhancing cardiovascular fitness without putting excessive stress on the joints. Furthermore, the core muscles, including the abs and lower back, are engaged to balance and stabilize the body during cycling, aiding in both power generation and efficient energy transfer.

Cycling training intensities

Cycling training intensities refer to different levels of effort exerted during cycling training to target various energy systems and build specific aspects of fitness and endurance. Typically measured through heart rate zones, power output (watts), or Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), these intensities range from low (focused on building aerobic base and endurance) to high (targeting anaerobic capacity and power). The variation in intensities is crucial for optimizing training, enhancing various facets of performance, and preventing overtraining by providing periods of stress and recovery.

Cycling workout

A cycling workout is a structured exercise session for a cycling training plan that is designed to improve various aspects of cycling fitness, such as endurance, strength, speed, and technique, by engaging in different types of riding, like steady-state, interval, or hill work. 

These workouts can include different phases like warm-up, main set, and cool down, each with specific objectives and intensity levels tailored to target different energy systems and adapt to the cyclist’s goals and fitness levels during bike training. 

Cycling workouts can vary in duration, intensity, and format, adapting to indoor or outdoor settings, and may focus on particular skills such as pedaling technique, handling, and pacing to enhance overall cycling proficiency and performance.

Cycling pre-workout

Cycling pre-workout is a preparatory phase before a cycling session, which includes activities and strategies to enhance performance and prevent injuries, such as dynamic stretching, a light warm-up ride, and ensuring proper hydration and nutrition. It includes mental preparation, ensuring the bike and gear are in good condition, and planning the workout route or setting up the training space, to create an optimal environment for the training session ahead.

Indoor cycling workout plan

An indoor cycling workout plan is a structured schedule that encompasses various cycling exercises that can only be performed on a stationary bike or turbo trainer, and it includes a combination of endurance rides, interval sprints, hill simulations, and targeted resistance workouts to enhance both aerobic and anaerobic capacities. These plans can be tailored to meet specific training goals such as improving fitness, losing weight, or preparing for a competitive event, with the convenience of mitigating outdoor factors like weather and traffic. It integrates structured intervals, guided sessions, or virtual rides to provide a comprehensive and engaging training experience, catering to cyclists of all levels.

Stationary bike workouts

Stationary bike workouts are indoor cycling training sessions that allow cyclists to engage in structured exercise, focusing on specific fitness goals like endurance, strength, or interval training, without being affected by outdoor conditions.

HIIT bike workout

HIIT bike workout is a high-intensity interval bike training regimen on a bicycle that includes short bursts of intense, all-out efforts alternated with lower-intensity recovery periods, focusing on rapidly improving both aerobic and anaerobic fitness in a compressed time frame.

Tabata bike workout

Tabata bike workout is a high-intensity interval cycling training protocol that involves 20 seconds of maximum effort followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated eight times for a total of four minutes, emphasizing cardiovascular improvements and metabolic boosts in a short period.

Cycling for abs workout

Cycling for abs workout is a form of cycling training that, while primarily engaging the legs, it works the core muscles by requiring stability and engagement of the abdominals, especially during intense or upright riding sessions.

Cyclist upper body workout

Cyclist upper body workout is a targeted fitness regimen designed to strengthen the arms, shoulders, back, and chest, complementing the leg power and endurance built through traditional cycling training.

How to improve anaerobic capacity?

To improve anaerobic capacity in cycling training, incorporate high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and sprints into your regimen, which push your limits and increase your ability to perform at peak levels without relying on oxygen as an energy source.

How to improve cycling speed and endurance?

To improve cycling speed and endurance in cycling training, blend consistent long, steady rides with specific interval sessions targeting different power zones, progressively increasing the intensity and duration over time.

Cycling training apps

Cycling training apps include a variety of platforms designed to enhance both indoor and outdoor training experiences for riders of all levels. Indoor training apps like Zwift, TrainerRoad, Wahoo System and Tacx training provide interactive and structured workouts, virtual riding environments, and the ability to race against others from around the world from the comfort of home. For outdoor rides, apps such as Strava, MapMyRide, and Komoot offer route planning, tracking, and sharing features, creating a social and interactive element to your cycling adventures.

Indoor cycling apps

Indoor cycling apps are focusing on providing an immersive and engaging riding experience by combining training, virtual environments, interface simplicity, and a global community of cyclists. Applications like Zwift offer virtual worlds where cyclists can ride, train, and compete with others in real time, while platforms like TrainerRoad and Rouvy prioritize structured training workouts and cycling training plans tailored to improve specific aspects of fitness. These apps create a motivating and interactive training space, enabling cyclists to maintain and build fitness regardless of outdoor conditions.

Outdoor cycling apps

Outdoor cycling apps focus on enhancing the experience of riding by providing real-time data, training feedback, navigation, and social interaction during outdoor rides. They offer various features such as tracking cadence, power, heart rate, and providing route planning & navigation to aid in exploring new routes while ensuring the rider stays on track. Popular apps like Strava offer route tracking and planning and introduce a competitive and community aspect by allowing riders to compare their performance with others, participate in challenges, and share their rides and achievements within a global community of cyclists.

Best cycling training books

Best cycling training books are books that focus on providing comprehensive insights into cycling training, ensuring a balance between physical exertion, strategic planning, diet, recovery, and mental health. They often encompass a wide range of topics from basic cycling mechanics, detailed training plans, and nutrition advice, to sharing experiences from seasoned cyclists and coaches. 

The top 5 best cycling training books, often recommended for their depth and practical advice, are “The Cyclist’s Training Bible” by Joe Friel, “Training and Racing with a Power Meter” by Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan, “The Time-Crunched Cyclist” by Chris Carmichael and Jim Rutberg, “Cycling Science” by Max Glaskin, and “Bike Fit” by Phil Burt, though the best book can depend on a cyclist’s individual needs and level of experience.

Benefits of cycling

The benefits of cycling encompass a wide array of physical, psychological, and environmental advantages, including aiding in weight loss, bolstering muscle strength, flexibility, and stamina, enhancing balance, posture, and coordination, improving joint mobility, promoting lung health, boosting the immune system and defense against cardiovascular disease and cancer, alleviating fatigue, elevating sexual well-being, assisting with pregnancy, extending lifespan, enhancing mental health and brainpower, providing relief from anxiety and depression, improving sleep quality, expanding social circles and fostering family moments through cycling activities, heightening spatial awareness and creativity, saving time, allowing indulgence in guilt-free snacks post-ride, and importantly, minimizing your carbon footprint to promote a sustainable environment.