The 12-week Improvers’ plan is suitable for a variety of cyclists with the common end goal of completing a 100 kilometre (60-mile) sportive or ride. To start the plan, you should be capable of riding for 90 minutes.
Weeks 1-4 Introduction
The priority in Week 1 is to conduct a successful Threshold Test to determine Functional Threshold Heart Rate (FTHR). From this you will be able to calculate accurate training zones and, as the plan progresses, track your progress. Use the first ride of the week to get comfortable on the bike and to try and get some idea of the effort you will be able to put into your test. For tips on sticking to your heart rate zones and loads of other great advice, check out our Training Plans FAQ’s.
Week 2 is all about establishing your routine and, with a Zone Build session and Tempo Intervals midweek, getting used to the training zones you set last week. You should also have decided which cross training activity to do. Don’t forget this can be something restorative such as yoga or Pilates. For your longer weekend ride, get into good nutritional and hydration habits right from the start.
Week 3 is similar in feel to the previous week with the same Zone Build session and Tempo Intervals midweek. This pattern is fairly consistent throughout the plan, where you will regularly perform similar workouts two weeks in a row. This allows you to become familiar and confident with a session, learn how to pace it and see improvements. The weekend ride gets a bit longer, another trend that you will see throughout the plan!
Week 4 gives you a lighter workload with both the Spin out session and British Cycling 20-minute warm-up light workouts. This allows you to recover from the three weeks of training you have done and is when your body adapts and becomes quicker. Find out some tips for maximising your recovery. It is also a chance to rest up before tackling a 50 kilometre ride at the weekend.
Weeks 5-8 Introduction
How was your 50 kilometre ride? Did you pace it well? Did you fuel and hydrate correctly? Were there decent cakes and coffee at the café stop? Week 5 increases the intensity, so make the most of you rest day on Monday and maybe give yourself a DIY massage with a foam roller. The mid-week sessions, Sweet-spot Intervals and Pyramid Intervals 1 , are a definite step-up but don’t make the mistake of attacking them too hard. Try to raise your heart rate progressively. Your weekend ride will probably be a bit shorter than your 50 kilometre ride last weekend but try to correct any mistakes you made.
In Week 6 you get to repeat the Sweet-spot Intervals and Pyramid Intervals 1. Try to pace them better than last week and, on the last effort, to squeeze out just a bit more. How is your cross training? If you are finding it tough with the increased intensity or that it is compromising your riding, try something gentler, such as some flexibility work or take an extra rest day. Do some research on the terrain your goal event will cover and try to mimic it on your weekend ride.
In Week 7 we increase the length of the intervals you are riding with two 3 X 10 minutes sessions. Be slightly conservative with your pacing the first time you try the workout and then, if it goes well, push on for your second go. Include some longer climbs in your weekend ride and try to ride them at a consistent Zone 3 level. Don’t forget, you will be riding with other people on your event so it is a good idea, if you have mainly been training on your own, to get out with a club or some mates and learn vital group riding skills.
Congratulations on reaching Week 8 and your second recovery week, you should really be noticing improvements in your fitness by this stage in the plan. Two light mid-week sessions, British Cycling 20-minute warm-up and Spin out session, will allow you to rest up and prepare you for your 60 kilometre ride at the weekend. You have definitely got the fitness, just don’t forget pacing, fuelling and hydration.
Weeks 9-12 Introduction
With a rest day on Monday to recover from your 60 kilometre ride, your first session of Week 9 is to re-do your Threshold Test. Don’t worry if your FTHR hasn’t changed, this doesn’t mean that you haven’t improved. Testing for Threshold is to set training zones, it is not a fitness test. Your second midweek workout is a classic, 2 X 20 minutes. They are long intervals so accurate pacing is essential which is only possible with recently tested and accurate training zones. Your long weekend ride, Endurance with long tempo efforts and sprints, is the first time you have had specified efforts within a long ride. You will need to spend some time planning your route to ensure you are on suitable roads for the efforts.
Week 10 is probably the toughest week of the plan but, once you are through it, you start easing back and tapering towards your event. It starts off with a repeat of the 2 X 20 minutes session, try to improve on last week’s performance. Next are V02 Intervals, pushing you up into Zone 5. Don’t go off too hard, build through Zones 3 and 4 during the first minute rather than trying to ramp it straight up. You finish the week off with a 75 kilometre ride, your longest so far and a dry run for your event.
Week 11 and you are probably feeling pretty tired after last week but you have got one more hard session to tick off. Get this week’s V02 Intervals done, give it your all and then you can start to enjoy your taper. Your second midweek ride is a really easy Improvers Recovery Ride, if anything you will probably struggle to take it easy enough! Just a couple of hours to ride at the weekend, it will seem really short.
Week 12 is event week and the focus is resting up but preventing your legs feeling stale and heavy. Two Spin out session workouts during the week will keep you ticking over and an extra rest day gives you plenty of time to ensure your bike, kit and equipment are ready to go. You will head out for a short Improvers Pre-event ride on Saturday. It might seem counterintuitive to ride the day before your sportive but, especially if you had to travel, it can help to loosen your legs off and prevent them from feeling stale and heavy. Sunday is your big day, enjoy it and don’t forget pacing, fuelling and hydration.