How to hit your sweetspot for maximum training gains

The ‘comfortably hard’ zone may seem just right to keep fitness ticking over through these uncertain times – but it must not become your default, as Brendan Housler explains 

“I need a plan this year, otherwise I’m just going to end up riding around doing random workouts,” said my mate Chris as we caught our breath at the side of the road. It was a crisp day earlier this winter, and we had just completed one of those spontaneous sprints, the kind with no clear training objective. “At best, it’ll involve trying the latest thing I’ve read about. I’m just not sure what I should be doing at the moment.”

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As much as Chris loves riding and racing, he can’t currently justify the cost of a coach, so he started to look around at some online templates and training schedules, desperate for some structure. He was baffled by the number of different plans on offer, but one specific type caught his eye.

“I see a ton of sweetspot plans, so I’m going to give that a try. It’s the one I’ve come across the most, so it has to be good, right?” added Chris.

He’s right in one sense – sweetspot training plans are extremely popular, and understandably so during these uncertain times when many of us still don’t have any race targets on the calendar, but how much can we rely on this level of intensity to maintain and build our fitness? Let’s dig a little deeper to understand how you can use sweetspot training to get faster in 2021.

The first question is, why do I need to do sweetspot intervals? This intensity of training provides many of the adaptations that threshold intervals provide, but cause less fatigue and less stress on the body. Making fitness gains is always a balance between intensity and volume, and most athletes are able to do more volume at sweetspot than at threshold, simply because the stress is less and mentally it’s less forbidding. 

The rest of this article can be read in the March 18 issue of Cycling Weekly, on sale now in shops and available to order online. You can also subscribe for £28.99 for 12 weeks worth of issues.