Base building in cycling, for beginner cyclists

Cycling is, by far, one of the most popular sports in the world. And cyclists, being athletes, are not only dedicated to their sport; but also very passionate about bikes and bike training. In this article, having the beginner cyclist in mind, we’ll touch on how base building in cycling works; just to get them going. 

So if you’re indeed a beginner cyclist, keep reading to get down to the basics of this amazing sport!

What is base building in cycling? 

In a few words, base building in cycling is a training phase where athletes build a solid aerobic capacity; that is, before transitioning to the actual build phase. Generally speaking, the base-building period usually lasts 6-12 weeks; however, it can be extended, if there is enough time until the target match. In this phase, the duration of the workout is key to achieve the necessary basic adaptations for optimal aerobic fitness. 

If anything, the base-building period offers you the opportunity to focus on your strengths and weaknesses, as an athlete. This way, you can start building on your core abilities to prepare for the season; that is, while keeping your generic fitness building going. 

Take note that the base-building period can be divided into smaller mesocycles, known as base 1, base 2 and base 3. These mesocycles indicate a gradual increase in duration and intensity, and they can help you make a smoother transition into the next phase of your training. 

What are the benefits of the base phase in bike training?

As mentioned, the base-building period helps focus on your strengths and weaknesses, as a cyclist; and build on your core abilities. With base training, you’ll eventually improve in crucial aspects of aerobic performance. By enhancing your aerobic performance, you can safely move on to the build phase. There, things get more specific. That’s when you start to further develop the skills acquired during the base-building period. 

At a glance, some benefits of the base phase are: 

  • Builds aerobic efficiency — you can use the oxygen that you consume, much better 
  • Improves musculoskeletal durability — your muscles, tendons and bones easily adapt to the training stimulus; preparing you for higher intensities
  • Improves your ability to burn more fat than carbohydrates in submaximal intensities — your training can last longer
  • Builds mental strength — very important for long distances

The fundamentals of base building in cycling

To clarify something here, base building in cycling doesn’t mean you just ride your bike at a low intensity and that was it! If you want to effectively develop an aerobic base, you should consider the following basic rules:

1. Focusing on high volume with low-to-moderate intensities

During the base phase, most training should focus on low and moderate intensities. Most of your training volume should be executed at intensities below functional threshold power; mainly, in zone 2 (approx 55-75% of FTP).

2. Minding the Principle of Progression

The expression ‘the more the better’ does not apply here! Depending on your fitness level, and previous training history, you can start your weekly load at the lower end. Then, you can gradually increase your (external) training load by 5-10% per week. Don’t forget to dedicate a few days to rest; approximately, every 2 or 3 training weeks.

3. Applying a small proportion of higher intensity workouts

Although this is not the time to build race pace or VO2max, you should try to apply a small proportion of higher intensity workouts in your training. This way, you can maintain your VO2max and FTP at a decent level, and recruit fast-twitch muscles. Plus, you will be more prepared for the build period 😉.

4. Applying some strength training

The characteristics of base training allow for strength training sessions that, according to scientific literature, can offer a significant positive effect on aerobic performance; through improvements in the economy of movement.

5. Extending the base-building period

Indeed, extending the base-building period for more than 12 weeks is a rule of thumb; especially if your target race is far away. You can, for instance, train to develop an aerobic base for 18 or 24 weeks. Just keep the aforementioned rules in mind, too. Oh, and be careful not to burn yourself  out, mentally.

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Cyclists are in love with training; even more so with their bikes 😄! If you’ve just gotten into cycling, and feel inspired by this article, go for a ride today. And should you need an online platform to help you train better, you and your coach can always turn to Endogusto 💪🚵‍♂️!

Base building in cycling, for beginner cyclists was last modified: August 1st, 2022 by Aris Myrkos