The purpose of base training is to establish a foundation of fitness that will allow cyclists to build towards their physiological potential for a goal event. It may seem counterintuitive to revert to base training every year after reaching new heights of performance, but this strategy pays dividends come race season.
Much like a pyramid, our fitness is built in a hierarchical fashion, with the initial work serving as a critical foundation that will eventually support a higher peak. This foundation is achieved through effective base training in which cyclists raise their fitness levels. During this phase there are various transformations happening on different levels, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll just focus on the efficiency of muscles to transform energy into speed on the bike.
As you focus your training on developing your aerobic capacity, amongst other useful adaptations, you train your body to become more efficient at turning fat into energy and producing energy aerobically regardless of its fuel. This transformation takes place within the mitochondria (the powerhouses of the cell ) in your muscles. So, as you spend more time stressing your aerobic energy system, your body adapts by creating more efficient mitochondria. This adaptation will benefit you throughout all portions of your power curve because mitochondria are involved in turning energy into speed at all different intensities.
Takeaway: By following a Base training plan, you will establish fundamental aspects of your fitness capabilities. The primary focus is on aerobic endurance, muscular endurance, and form/speed/power capabilities.
Sweet Spot Base vs. Traditional Base
So it's time for base, but you can't choose between Sweet Spot and Traditional... what do you do?
This is a guide that will help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of each plan
Sweet Spot Base
This take on Base training integrates a bit more variety than the Traditional approach. You will see a lot of Sweet Spot work as you would expect, but the plan also contains VO2 max intervals and neuromuscular bursts in the Low and Mid Volume Plans. The reasoning behind this is that most amateur athletes, when training at a low intensity, will run out of time in their schedules before they really tax their endurance muscles to the limit. Through Sweet Spot work, and a mix of higher intensity work, it allows you to attain sufficient training stress to initiate adaptation in your limited training time.
- This plan is best for 99% of our athletes.
- This plan initiates general fitness gains much faster (can expect FTP increase in 6-8 weeks)
- If you have less than 10 hours per week to train, this plan will be more effective for you
- If you're still thinking about it, just choose SSB ;)
The Traditional Base approach to Base requires long, low intensity hours in the saddle. There are a few key demographics that this approach is best for
- Those recovering from injury will benefit from the gentle approach of Traditional Base
- Those very new to riding and with minimal athletic background might find Traditional Base to be a more appropriate difficulty for them
- Athletes who have large amounts of time before their target events. By planning their season well in advance of their race days, riders afford themselves the option of cultivating a wider base of fitness. Completing Traditional Base prior to a Sweet Spot Base circuit is one way to build this huge, substantial base.
Takeaway: For most applications, Sweet Spot Base is the better choice.
Can I Skip Base Training?
Typically, we do not recommend athletes skip any training phases. You will get the fastest if you work through all three training phases in order and to completion before moving onto your next phase of training. However, every rider has different time constraints, as well as different levels of fitness and cycling backgrounds going into their structured training. Here are a few common reasons that athletes want to skip Base:
- Riders with heavily experienced backgrounds who are familiar with the level of base training they have at that point in the season. These riders can decide to bypass or reduce the duration of the Base phase, and move straight into a Build phase if they have been doing structured Base outside of TrainerRoad.
- Riders with mid level or minimal experience, whose target event is less than 28 weeks away (the time it takes to complete Base/Build/Specialty). We’d suggest s/he complete the entire Base phase of training and move as far along through the Build and Specialty training plans as time will allow. See our article "Not Enough Time!" To further explore how you should structure your season with less than 28 weeks.
- Riders who are mid-season and have already peaked for en event, but have 16 or fewer weeks until their next event. These athletes should first consider a low-intensity training block but can absolutely skip base and jump back into Build. This is what we call a 'rebuild' and you can learn more about how to structure around this in our "Peaking for Multiple 'A' Races" article.