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4 Tips for Working with Pre-Made Training Plans

By Jiri Kaloc

Pre-made training plans are an excellent choice for those who don’t have the option to work with a coach. In this article, we explore several common mistakes cyclists make when following these plans. Fixing these can improve your overall training experience and help you achieve better results.

Be realistic with how much time you have

When people choose a workout plan, they often overestimate the time they actually have. They pick a plan based on how many hours they would ideally want to train, not what’s really possible. They believe that if they commit to it, they’ll somehow find the time.

But what usually happens is they try to squeeze it into their already-packed life for a while. Then, everything starts to go wrong. Family or partner gets upset, boss or co-workers notice their work is suffering, and they begin skipping workouts to keep everyone satisfied.

When selecting a plan, be more cautious. Choose something based on time, distance or workload that’s achievable in your current schedule. Consistency is important, so a lighter plan you can stick to is better than overcommitting, missing workouts, and increasing stress. And if you happen to have extra time, simply extend your endurance rides and enjoy the feeling of occasional overachieving rather than constantly struggling.

Sometimes you need more rest than prescribed

Pre-made training plans and apps are great for consistency but sometimes they make athletes push on when they really need a break. Some AI-powered plans try to tweak future workouts based on past training data and info from wearable devices. These auto-adjustments will get better over time but they still rely on how accurate the data is. Right now, using sensor data alone to modify future training has its issues.

No plan or app knows you better than you know yourself. It’s super important to understand how your body reacts to stress and fatigue. Life stress, getting sick, and feeling anxious can all make you need more rest and recovery but it’s tough for sensors to spot and consider these things. That’s where a coach can help a lot. They can objectively see how you’re handling both training and regular life and help you adjust everything as needed. But if a coach is not an option, keep in mind that including some more rest when your body is really asking for it is a great skill to cultivate.

Cycling Training
The smallest unit of every training plan is a single workout. It sounds simple but there is a lot to consider if you want to make your workouts effective. © Profimedia

Include your subjective feedback

People using pre-made training plans and apps often don’t upload their training data. They might mark workouts as done but that’s it. The problem is that when athletes don’t record how they felt during the workout, like their mood and perceived exhaustion, they are missing really valuable data. That’s also where you spot early signs of progress and tiredness.

Even if you doubt the value of recording how you felt during training, give it a try for a month. After that, look back at your notes. You’ll probably find some useful insights for future training. Having a whole season of feedback can help you adjust the pre-made training plan for next year.

Input your weight correctly

Pre-made training plans are very popular on indoor training platforms such as Zwift or Rouvy. These apps rely on body weight to appropriately adjust the resistance on smart trainers. Inputting the wrong weight is considered cheating in esports cycling competitions but there’s a more common problem when it comes to weight. Amateur cyclists often put in their goal weight rather than the current weight. It’s not done in order to cheat, it’s simply a result of aspirational or wishful thinking. The problem is that it’s affecting workouts and integrating inaccurate data into the overall training record.

It’s much better to use accurate weight in all your training apps. Keep in mind that your weight can fluctuate around 2 kg day-to-day because of things like hydration status, muscle glycogen stores, hormonal changes, and other things. Only update your weight in the app if you’ve gained or lost more than 2 kg and kept it that way for at least a week.