Cycling training plans for beginners are steeped in differences of opinion and jargon. Long slow distance. Fasted rides. Sweetspot. Cyclo-cross. Cross-training. Block periodisation. The array of training approaches can be mind-muddling.
Every approach has its advocates (some startlingly strident), and many of the approaches can help if applied carefully and consistently. But which beginners have the time (or confidence) to figure it all out when they’re faced with their first block of fitness-building?
That’s where we come in. This cycling training plan has been designed to give you a simple, predictable, progressive approach to rebuilding your cycling and raising your general conditioning. Be that between your end of season break and the start of spring, or any time you’re at the beginning of your journey to prepare for an event.
The plans include intervals based on maximum heart rate, functional threshold power or effort. We’ve explained how to set your ‘zones’ using these methods in this introduction to the training plans.
The three four-week blocks of this plan build on each other to create a secure foundation of aerobic conditioning. The first block focuses on gradually increasing the total ride time from a starting point of one-hour rides and introduces some work at high and low cadences as well as some short pushes into Zone 3a. The second block extends the time in Zone 3a into longer blocks as well as continuing the gradual increase in the length of your long weekend ride.
The third block sees you step up the intensity again, this time to Zone 3b — the sweetspot that’s so central to improving your overall cycling fitness. Every fourth week is easier to give you some pre-planned recovery time, and weeks 4 and 12 include Functional Threshold Tests that you can use to refine your training zones and assess your progress so far.
This plan is for you if…
- You’re embarking on your first block of regular training
- You’re returning to riding after a long break
- You want a cautious but progressive general conditioning programme
- Your haven’t yet settled on next season’s goals
Surging into Z3a (and later Z3b) again and again over a series of frequent short rises seems to raise lactate threshold power and improve lactate clearance while still building underlying endurance and efficiency. Focus as much on holding a strong base effort at the top of Z2 as on pushing the climbs.
High-/low-cadence blocks help improve efficiency by improving your body’s ability to generate high torques without excessive strain. Working on a range of cadences also helps you better handle changes in terrain, as you’ll be less likely to stall suddenly because you’re in too big a gear or run out of momentum because you’re spinning out.
Long rides help improve blood-flow in the working muscles, fuel efficiency and overall fitness. Following the same route (or similar) each week helps refine your pace judgement and encourages you to maintain a consistent effort from week to week.
Steady-state work at the top of Z2 should push your sustainable power output up from below and increase your fitness and endurance. Keep the effort as even as possible in these rides, avoiding surges or freewheeling.
Cycling training plan for beginners: block 1 – building basic volume
Click here to download a high resolution PDF of the beginner’s training plan: block 1.
Cycling training plan for beginners: block 2 – adding controlled load
Click here to download a high resolution PDF of the beginner’s training plan: block 2.
Cycling training plan for beginners: block 3 – slightly increasing intensity
Click here to download a high resolution PDF of the beginner’s training plan: block 3.
Oliver Roberts is a level two coach, specialising in cycling and triathlon, who works with PBscience.com.
Over the past 10 years, he’s created training programmes for the Race for Life 5K running series, had three training manuals published and has coached athletes of all abilities, from novices to national champions, World Championship contenders and a National Ironman record holder.