"Sweet Spot" vs traditional base building
I'm sure everyone's seen this article before:
Basically, it seems to be saying that "sweet spot" training gives you the best bang for your buck in terms of fitness adaptations that matter to a cyclist. That is, all of supposed benefits of the traditional base-building approach (super long hours in zone 2) can be had in a much more time-efficient manner through SST, with the added bonus of a greater improvement in FTP.
So, it makes me wonder... Why do people bother with "long slow distance" zone 2 rides at all? Why not "build base" exclusively with, say, 2x20 sweet spot intervals 3 or 4 (or even 5) times a week instead of noodling around for 15-20 hours?
Long Distance Cyclist
LSD does not stand for Long Slow Distance ... it stands for Long Steady Distance. In other words, riding at the fastest pace you can maintain for several hours.
And as for why people choose to do something like that ... it depends on their goals. I'm a long distance cyclist. In order to ride long distances, I need to ... ride long distances.
But I can't help but wonder: What are you getting out of long rides that you couldn't get out of shorter sweet spot rides? Don't get me wrong, I'm not criticizing your training method (I'm way too new to the sport to be critiquing anyone). I'm just genuinely curious about this whole sweet spot thing.
Originally Posted by Machka
just another gosling
I was writing quite a long post from my experience but I deleted it. I think The Time Crunched Cyclist covers it. One gets more from more hours, but the returns diminish. Even riding LD like Machka, and just talking about physical conditioning, I think one gets more bang from mostly sweet spot training, with some zone 1 and 5 also. I've never done training rides of more than 80 miles while training for brevets and events, and the majority of my time on those training rides is in the sweet spot. Other than hard training rides, I mostly do recovery rides or cross training. I use a downloading HRM, so I keep good track of my time-in-zone.
That said, I think that specificity is important. If one wants to do road rides, one should ride hard group road rides. If you're not staying in your sweet spot, you need a faster group. Learning to pace in the ebb and flow of terrain is important, more important than structured intervals, I would say. OTOH if you want to race crits, race crits with a structured prep program. If one wants to ride LD, one is going to have to do longer rides. I'm just saying that those long rides don't have to be, and probably shouldn't be steady.
The above comments only apply to getting faster. They do not necessarily apply to any other goal.
Long Distance Cyclist
1. Saddle time ... getting used to being in the saddle for long periods of time. My long distance rides start with the imperial century (100 miles) and go up from there. Roughly 10 days ago, for example, my husband and I rode a 300K randonnee (312 km). I like to do a long (or longish) ride just about every weekend to maintain the endurance. If I let that go, the next time I do a really long ride, it is more of a struggle than it needs to be.
Originally Posted by Hookflash
2. Bicycle fit. You can ride around the block or for an hour or so on just about any sort of bicycle, even if it doesn't fit very well. But if you're going to be in the saddle, as you say, for 15-20 hours ... on a Saturday or Sunday, you want a bicycle that fits very well. The long rides I do in preparation for the really long rides ensure that everything fits properly and is comfortable. And just because you've locked in a good fit one year doesn't mean it will always be a good fit ... your fitness level makes a difference, as do things like body weight, injuries, or the way your saddle is breaking in.
3. Bicycle familiarity. Carrying on from bicycle fit is the process of becoming very comfortable and familiar with the bicycle and its unique little quirks, and all the gear on the bicycle. Included in this is the process of trial and error as you decide what equipment to bring, and what to pack the equipment in, and how to best carry it all. Have you got everything you need to change a flat on the road? Is your jacket choice the best one for the conditions? Do you need better lights for the night portion of the rides? And again about the familiarity, I discovered early on that it was best for me to pack my things the same way all the time so that when I needed to dig out a particular thing in the middle of the night, I knew where it was.
4. Nutrition and hydration familiarity. If you ride for 2 hours or less, you really don't need to worry too much about nutrition and hydration. It's good to have a bottle of water on board and maybe an emergency energy bar, but other than that, you can eat normally and be fine. But once you start riding more than 2 hours, you need to start thinking about when to refuel and what to eat, and about your hydration. The longer distances you ride, the more critical that becomes. For some (like me) the longer the distance, the greater the struggle with eating ... the digestive system starts to shut down. So there can be quite a bit of experimenting required to find out what simply won't work, and what will work.
We have people coming in here telling us that they are planning to ride their first century on Saturday ... and asking what they should bring to eat. That puzzles me because in the process of building up the distance in order to ride a century, they should have been experimenting with nutrition and hydration and should know exactly what to eat and drink.
5. Experiencing a wide variety of conditions. My long rides take me up and down hills, along flat ground, into the wind, through storms, into the heat of the blazing sun and into the chill of the dark of night. Because randonnees and 24-hour races often run right through day and night, and because riders will encounter whatever nature throws their way, it is a good idea to get out there on a long ride to experience some of that before the actual event. By experiencing it in training, riders can work out what they need in the way of lights, clothing, etc.
6. Adventure, exploration, seeing new places, getting away from it all. Yes, this is in answer to the question, "What are you getting out of long rides that you couldn't get out of shorter sweet spot rides?" One of the main reasons I ride long distances is to go places, to see things, and especially to see different things. I bore easily if I ride the same route too often. We have a shorter evening route we do most evenings in the week, and that's OK. It's convenient for recovery spins, or faster rides, or whatever. But on the weekends, I like to go somewhere else, and being able to ride long distances allows me the freedom to be able to cycle quite some distance away from the usual. And that's good for my mental wellbeing.
So for me, riding long distances is not about training to be faster ... my hill climbing rides and shorter evening rides help with that. Instead, I get a lot of other beneficial things out of it.
Last edited by Machka; 12-20-11 at 12:09 AM.
Go read The Time Crunched Cyclist by Chris Carmichael. He said that you don't get all of the benefits. Yes, one can gets peak performance (or at least close to it) with less hour training but the penalty is that the peaking period is shorter. Once it passes you are pretty spent.
BTW, this is nothing new.
Last edited by hyhuu; 12-20-11 at 06:33 AM.