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Plan Overview:

Welcome, and thank you for your interest in the Build Me Up Flexible Training Plan!  This plan is 10-12 weeks in length and utilizes a 3 phase approach. Each phase is 4 weeks long.  Weeks 1 through 3 are progressive in TSS, and week 4 acts as a regeneration week to allow for supercompensation and an increase in your FTP!

Each phase will also progress in overall duration and intensity to continually overload your systems, with the end result of attaining those positive adaptations we’re after.  So, expect this to be a challenge, but it should be at times!

Workouts during the week are 60 minutes or less, and weekends feature longer and more challenging workouts of 90 minutes up to 2 hours!  The plan is structured in a way that everyone will have the best chances of maintaining consistency and compliance to it, no matter how busy they may be.

With Flexible Training Plans, you have a specific window of time to complete each workout – you’re not locked down to a specific day. Whenever you finish a session, the plan automatically adjusts so you stay on track. Accidentally skip one? Is your body craving a rest day? It’s all good. We’ll make sure you hit the most important workout of the week, so you don’t lose momentum.  -Zwift

Weekly Overviews:

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Week 1: 27 TSS/D | 3 hours and 30 minutes | 195 TSS | 4 workouts

Week 1 begins Phase 1 which is based mostly on sub-FTP efforts.  Week 1 is all about establishing accurate power training zones via the Pre-Training Plan workout, and getting your feet wet if you are new to structured training.  The easiest week of the plan 🙂


Week 2: 43 TSS/D | 5 hours | 307 TSS | 4 workouts

Week 2 exposes you to longer intervals at close to FTP as well as more difficult over/unders during the weekend to really stress that aerobic system. Expect to notice the increase of training stress from the first week!


Week 3: 47 TSS/D | 5 hours and 15 mins | 329 TSS | 4 workouts

Week 3 stabilizes the TSS and volume from Week 2 to slow the ramp rate and cumulative fatigue for those who are new to structured work.  If you are still feeling pretty good this week though, feel free to include an additional workout, just aim to keep it around 60-80 TSS (SST Short is perfect!).


Week 4: 27 TSS/D | 3 hours and 15 mins | 192 TSS | 3 workouts

Week 4 is our first regeneration week.  As such, expect the workout length and intensity to fall way off during the week, BUT don’t get too excited as you have the dreaded Purple Unicorn to get through over the weekend!


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Week 5: 39 TSS/D | 5 hours | 274 TSS | 4 workouts

Week 5 begins Phase 2 and is where we begin our supra-FTP work, focusing mostly in Zone 5.  Get ready to steadily increase the time at which you can sustain that high of a power output throughout this phase, as well as your ability to recover after a hard effort!


Week 6: 44 TSS/D | 5 hours and 30 mins | 314 TSS | 5 workouts

Week 6 is where things start feeling serious.  We increase the workout frequency to 5 days a week with 3 workouts during the week, and 2 over the weekend.  Also be prepared to feel some residual fatigue being carried over now as each week’s TSS total will be higher than any other week so far.


Week 7: 54 TSS/D | 6 hours | 384 TSS | 5 workouts

Week 7 is the first true overload week featuring a big increase of TSS from last week as well as the longest week yet in terms of duration.  Back to back 90 minute workouts above a .85 IF this weekend, make sure you are staying on top of your sleep and fueling this week!


Week 8: 27 TSS/D | 3 hours and 30 minutes | 192 TSS | 3 workouts

Week 8 is our second regeneration week.  As such, expect the workout length and intensity to fall way off to allow for supercompensation.  Continue to focus on getting quality sleep this week and give yourself the rest you earned!


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Week 9: 51 TSS/D | 5 hours and 30 minutes | 360 TSS | 4 workouts

Week 9 begins Phase 3…Prepare yourself to WORK these next 3 weeks!  We take our supra-FTP efforts one step further this phase and start working far above FTP with very short rests between to really stimulate that aerobic system.  Enjoy that extra rest day this week…You won’t be getting that again the next 2 weeks!


Week 10: 57 TSS/D | 6 hours | 399 TSS | 5 workouts

Week 10…Ouch.  Prepare to lengthen those supra-FTP efforts and shorten those rest breaks even more.  We also now place a moderate workout BETWEEN 2 very intense workouts.  Be prepared to feel pretty fatigued entering next week…


Week 11: 75 TSS/D | 7 hours | 464 TSS | 5 workouts

Ah, week 11, the things that nightmares are made of…Seriously though, I hope you are ready to BRING IT this week, my friend.  The longest, most intense, and challenging workouts lie ahead over the next 7 days…Make it through this week, work hard, and earn that higher FTP next week!


Week 12: 14 TSS/D | 2 hours and 30 minutes | 100 TSS | 4 workouts

We made it!  Week 12, the easiest week of them all!  This week is all about letting that fatigue plummet, maintaining your fitness, and allowing that training stress balance to come up positive for Sunday’s FTP test.  Good luck during your test!

Workout Names:

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“Sweet Spot” based workouts:
Devedeset = 90 in Croation 
Halvfems = 90 in Danish
Novanta = 90 in Italian
All of the intervals in these workouts are based at 90% FTP and are also alphabetically ordered in terms of easiest to hardest.

Unicorn” workouts are based off of the visual spectrum (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet (purple)) with the same order of easiest to hardest.  So, Red Unicorn features the least TSS, Orange Unicorn the second, etc.

“VO2” based workouts are all about oxygen so,
#8 = Atomic number of oxygen
15.9 = Atomic mass of oxygen
LOX = Liquid oxygen used in rocket boosters which is how your legs will feel after that workout – Rockets!

Multi-zone workouts feature a “mixture” of interval lengths, intensities, etc. so, MishmashAmalgamBricolageMelangePotpourriMosiac.

Acronyms:
C.A. = Cadence Adjustment
HWBTWTDWH = Hard Work Beats Talent When Talent Doesn’t Work Hard – Always found inspiration in that quote.

The hardest workouts are meant to really push the athlete and test them physically and mentally: AspireExigentTenacity, Malevolent

Others:
Ham Sandwich = Hard intervals “sandwiched” between 30/30s.  aka the “Rapp Star” special 😉
Sneaky = The kind of workout that “sneaks” up on you, especially that last interval.
Tine = Intervals that gradually come to a “sharp point”.
Escalation = Intervals that “escalate” in difficulty as the workout goes on.
Method = Features lots of pedaling drills and lots of cadence work and changes to improve your pedaling “method”.
Uphill Battle = Another one of those workouts that gets harder as it goes on, making it feel like you are in an “uphill battle”.
Attack = Working on your ability to “attack” the group / peloton and hang on afterwards.
Spaded Sweetie = Starts off what a “spaded” interval set (looked like a spade shovel to me) and finishes with “sweet spot” based intervals.  “Spaded Sweetie” was the cute way to say it, I thought 🙂
Kirizuma = Intervals shaped like the famous Japanese roofs.
Cucumber = Improves your ability to deal with lactate and stay cool under pressure, aka “Cool as a cucumber“.
Hang Ten = Intervals that look like a wave.  Surfs up, “Hang ten, brotha!”
Circus = Micros that are seemingly random in terms of intensity.  Mostly named for this definition: “a public scene of frenetic and noisily intrusive activity”, I thought that was well fitting.
Baffling Beau = I came up with this one around Valentine’s Day, and it is a very tough workout, almost baffling at times.
Serrated = Intervals that come up to a very sharp point, looking like a serrated knife upon post-workout review.
Breakfast Returns = 30/30s that an athlete once told me (who worked out early in the morning and usually right after breakfast) always caused his “breakfast to return”, lol.
Thew = A hard workout that requires a lot of “strength” both physically and mentally to accomplish.
Renewal = Active recovery based workout meant to “renew” the body and mind.
Alpha = Leg openers, who’s the “Alpha” after those past 10-12 weeks of training now?  YOU!

Visual Representations of each Workout can be found on Whats on Zwift?

 

Not sure how to start?  Check out Zwift’s how to article.

 

Questions with anything?  Get in touch!

About the Author Shayne Gaffney

Shayne holds a bachelors degree in Health Science in Professional Development and Advanced Patient Care, is a USA Cycling Level 1 (expert level) Certified Coach, a level 2 certified Training Peaks coach, a USA Cycling certified power based training coach, USA Olympic Committee Safe Sport Certified, and a licensed physical therapist assistant. He is also the creator of Zwift's "Build Me Up" Flexible Training Plan. He can be contacted directly via info@gaffneycyclingcoaching.com for any cycling or training related questions.

31 comments

  1. Hi Shayne, I have just started your workout plan and it’s great! Thanks for your awesome work!
    I just have one question and I don’t seem to find it anywhere as regards to the Zwift training plans. What if I am at week 5 for instance, and I catch a cold. Have to stay off the bike for a week. What happens with the plan? Will I have completely lost that week (screwing up the training plan) or can I somehow just start where I last stopped, so to say?

    1. Hey Johan! Great to hear you’ve been enjoying the plan so far. So, as of now, if you miss a week due to illness, you can’t pause the plan and will lose that week. However, I know Zwift is always trying to make improvements to the flexible training plan infrastructure, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw a pause option from them in the near future. Cheers!

  2. Hey Johan, I race vets and the races are around 50km or so over lumpy terrain with the occasional hill. I was wondering which Zwift plan would be best for me?I am looking for a boost in FTP and hopefully a boost in 1-2 minute power. I think your Build me up one would be but what do you think?

  3. Hi Shayne, just started the 12 week Build Me Up program on Zwift. So far, so good. My biggest issue is staying motivated throughout the whole program, and I fear that I’ll eventually become demotivated or lazy. What’s the best way to not lose focus and keep going? I’m eyeing the regeneration weeks already.

    1. Hey Michael – the program is designed to defeat that by having lots of on screen text guidance, regeneration weeks, and lots of varying intervals, on bike positions, and cadences. Goal setting is also key to keep motivation alive, you need something to work towards to keep pushing yourself. Something short term (say finishing the plan) and something long term (say completing “x” event, race, ride, etc.) https://gaffneycyclingcoaching.com/2016/03/02/8-tips-to-keep-motivated/

      1. Hi Shayne, I’m happy to let you know I’m currently in week 11 of your program, and have 3 more workouts left before week 12 recovery. I must say that the experience has been very rewarding, and despite some very challenging workouts, I’ve managed to push through them all (so far), albeit sometimes at a lower cadence than prescribed.

        I do have a couple of questions:
        – How much does cadence matter? I find I’m sometimes grinding or spinning super high cadence at the end of a long/difficult effort (sometimes I cannot hold the 90rpm).
        – What is your opinion of the step test to determine a person’s FTP, instead of the usual 20min test? Any chance to get out of a grueling 20min effort would be great.
        – After establishing my new, hopefully improved, FTP, what’s the best way of maintaining my fitness level? I would restart the program at the new FTP, but I’ll be going away during that period so I couldn’t keep up with the workouts.

        I must thank you for sharing your workout on Zwift, it has been great and I look forward to doing it again in the near future.

      2. Hi Michael – Great to hear the experience has been rewarding for you, and you were challenged by it. I hope the challenge and being pushed leads to improved fitness for you.

        Cadence is important for a few reasons, check this post out for more details: https://gaffneycyclingcoaching.com/2017/10/06/why-does-cadence-matter/

        Choose the FTP test that will push you to your absolute limit, and the one that you “want” to repeat. Most have adopted the ramp test since Trainer Road changed their methods. This is fine, BUT you must push yourself to absolute failure for the test to be reliable. If you struggle with doing that, then a more evenly paced, yet challenging, 20 minute FTP would be better: https://gaffneycyclingcoaching.com/2018/11/10/pitfalls-of-using-ftp-common-testing-protocols-and-software-modeling/

        Fortunately, maintaining your fitness is relatively “easy” compared to building it. However, you still need to be consistent and be pushing yourself at least a few days per week. I’d refer to my “time crunched athlete” series for some ideas here: https://gaffneycyclingcoaching.com/?s=%22the+time+crunched+athlete%22

        Cheers!

  4. Hi Shayne,

    Your plan looks promising! I’m about to start it next week.

    Coming from TrainerRoad I’ve a question regarding FTP. In TrainerRoad I had to do an FTP test every 4 weeks because it would potentially have increased. I can see that you’re plan is divided in 3 phases. Should I do an FTP test before a new phase starts? And if so, how should I incorporate it into the plan?

    1. Hey John – Instead of doing a formal FTP test, if the workout feels easy, bump it up a bit (say 5-10w) and if it is just right or challenging, leave it be. Doing an FTP test every 4 weeks is overkill, IMO.

  5. Hi,
    Im a bit confused on the order of the workouts in Zwift.
    I just started week one on Monday and Zwift told me I should do the pedal drill by Wednesday and the pre training plan by Saturday.
    So I began with the pedal drills, but the description of the workouts let me think that the pre training plan should be the first?

    Greetings
    Matthias

    1. Hi Matthias – Zwift will have you start with the pre-training plan depending upon what day of the week you begin the plan on. All plans start on Monday which is why you started with the Week 1 workouts instead of the pre training plan. I’m unsure why it says to do the pre-training plan by Saturday though when you’ve already started week 1. Maybe submit a ticket to Zwift for that?

  6. Hi Shane, I don’t have the time for the 9 hour pw winter plan, what’s your view on doing this (with 2 x 4 hr club rides every 3 weeks) to take me up to Jan and then doing a speciality plan 12 week plan to get me ready for the ‘19 season?

    1. Hey Conn – I think that sounds like a great plan to me. This plan is perfect for athletes working on their aerobic capacity in their base phase.

  7. Hi Shayne

    How does this training compare to/complement the GC Coaching Virtual Training Powered by Zwift? Is it similar to Phase 1?

    Thanks

    Jorge

    1. Hey Jorge – The training principles are the same, but the level of detail and overall immersion in the workouts are vastly different.

  8. Hi there, I’ve just started the Build me up plan and am finding the workouts quite tough. My current FTP is one that was set at the end of last season, and I think it is a bit higher than it should be now. Is it better to keep reducing the workout intensity inside each workout (90% seems to work well) or to reduce the FTP value that Zwift uses? I am reluctant to do another FTP test right now 🙂

    1. Hey Sara – If your previous test was that long ago, and you’re really struggling to complete all of the workouts, either one of those options you mentioned will work. These workouts should be tough, and some a challenge to complete, but not all of them. You may want to do an FTP test during one of the rest weeks to get a more concrete number.

      1. And thanks for the reply shane, I can usually push through workouts but felt that these were just a bit too tough (especially as there are 12 more weeks to go yet!) I’ll dial down the Zwift FTP by 10% and see how the workouts feel then.

  9. Hi Shayne,
    Thanks so much for offering this set of workouts to Zwift…I always find your workouts interesting (and sometimes amusing!)

    I have two questions:
    1. If you were designing a plan for a specific age group/gender, would it look just like this, or would it vary more in terms of volume/intensity? I realize that these are sort of customized based on FTP, but I do sometimes wonder if they are designed with, say, a 30 yr old male in mind.
    2. If I am feeling enough accumulated fatigue that I can’t give the next workout a solid effort, am I better off doing a short recovery ride and skipping a workout? I hate to do that, but I also want to do what is best/safest for me.

    Sara: I’m in the same boat as you. I decided to adjust my FTP (which I also think was too high based on Zwift bumping it up every time I did a big climb last year). I think it is more discouraging to have to dial it down every time than to just reset the number and forget about it!

    Joanne

    1. Hey Joanne – This workout plan is designed to hit as many demographics as possible, and really not 1 in particular. The big change for Masters athletes is the amount of recovery they require, especially after intense workouts. If you feel like you aren’t recovering well after the Zone 5 or Zone 6 based workouts (in Phases 2 and 3), or just from the accumulated training stress of the sub-threshold workouts, then taking another recovery day is fine. You can also work off a 2 weeks building, 1 week recovery scheme as opposed to a 3 weeks to 1 week like this plan utilizes. As long as you are being challenged, and creating that overload stimulus, your body will supercompensate for it!

    2. Thanks for that feedback Joanne, your point about dialling it down every time is a great one, so I’m planning on reducing my Zwift FTP (which is already quite low) by another 10% to see how that feels. Thanks so much.

  10. Shane, I’m on W2 of your program. So far, I like it. I’m a natural grinder (70-80 RPM), so the cadence prompts will pay dividends as well as the structured program. I’m coming off around a 8 week hiatus of 3-5 hours/week riding. Prior to that I was steady 10-14 hours/week for the previous 5-6 months. I like to try to ride 5-6/week. I guess adding in other rides will really mess with the designed TSS build you have in the program. Any tips on how to add in additional workouts?

    1. Hey Tyler – It’s great to hear you are digging the program so far, I hope it pays dividends for you. Feel free to add additional training into the routine, just aim for mainly Zone 2/3 riding, and be sure to respect the rest week every 4 weeks. If you follow that, you’ll be golden!

  11. Hi Shayne, I dropped my FTP by 10 and just did the Zone Benchmarking workout, which was super helpful in confirming that the new value is much better. That session was so useful, I wish I had done it last week as it would have saved me asking so many questions 🙂 I reckon I could go back up a couple of points, but will leave it where it is. Looking forward to the rest of the program, thanks for your help.

    1. No worries on the questions, that’s what I’m here for! 😊 Good luck on the rest of the program, I hope it helps you 💪

  12. Hi Shayne. I feel I should apologise for swearing at you so heavily during the last interval of the purple unicorn (week 4), that was one difficult workout! I tend to sit up straight (hands completely off the bars) during the recovery sections, I noticed during this workout I was having difficulty getting my heart rate down during those 5 minute rests, which is what made the workout so difficult towards the end of each interval. Is it possible that sitting up (which feels like a break to me) could be affecting my ability to recover in these harder workouts, or am I just soft :-).

    Thanks for putting the program up, I have already started to notice the difference on the road.

    Cheers
    Mark

    1. Hey Mark – It’s great to hear you’re being pushed with the plan. I hope it will pay dividends for you in a couple more months!

      Sitting up had no correlation to your recovery ability. You were just pushing your body more than you were used to during this workout, plus coming to the end of a 3 week building block. This results in a less rapid recovery, especially at the workout progresses.

      Nothing to do with being a softie at all 🙂

  13. Comment: Hi
    I have just started the build me up program over the winter,my plan is to to do some club 10s and maybe 25s next year,do you think this plan will benefits me ?
    Thanks Patrick

    1. Hey Patrick –

      Welcome to the Build Me Up community! Great to have you partake in the plan, I hope you gain a lot out of it.

      This plan is designed to improve your aerobic capacity and aerobic power, so it will definitely help with your goals of doing some club 10s and 25s. As the season gets closer, doing some more specific training would be a benefit, but this program will be a great launching pad for you. Good luck!

  14. Hi Shayne,
    Just started out on your plan and i’m really intrigued as to what i see and expect a lot from this.
    I have two issues with the pedaling drils:
    First its not possible to do the clip out drill with single sided powermeter, as Zwift will go to a halt when you unclip that side and nothing will happen. Minor detail.
    Second, why are you instructing pedaling in circles for better efficiency. This myth has been busted in so many studies over the last 10 years. The best riders have dead spots, but they excel in the downstrok over lesser riders, this gets more noticeable as you go up in ranks to the pros vs lower tier riders. Love the concept of learning to spin and work at lower cadences, something other programs i seen dont. But i’m keen to know as to why you have this in the plan rather then a general workout.

    Regards Peter.

    1. Hi Peter –

      First, I unfortunately have no control over the single sided power meter issue, but this has been brought up to Zwift by other participants in the program. I am not sure what they can do to remedy that problem, but I can assure you that they’re aware of it.

      Second, in terms of the efficiency argument, yes you are correct in saying elite riders have less up-stroke and more down-stroke while pedaling and the majority of your power comes from the down-stroke. However, keep in mind that this program is designed for a multitude of different ability levels, and some riders may be just starting with clipless pedals and may be unaware they can actually pull the pedals up until they perform a single leg drill.

      Finally, I disagree in saying the best riders have dead spots. They may have differences in pressure applied to their down-stroke versus up-stroke, but they’ll be able to perform a 1 leg drill as smooth as silk and be able to apply force through the entire stroke.

      If you have issues with applying force throughout the entire pedal stroke and experience deadspots during single leg drills, you’d receive benefit and become more “efficient” at applying force to the pedals, as well as be able to utilize different muscles that are a part of turning the cranks, in my professional experience. However, if you are a professional, or elite level rider, single leg drills aren’t going to be of a tremendous benefit, but still something I do with my athletes at the beginning of their season.

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