12 Week Base Training Block for XC or Enduro Racers. 3 days/week. Heart Rate + Trail Optimized

Average Weekly Breakdown
Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Breakdown
Training Load By Week
Average Weekly Training Hours: 04:01

For many mountain bikers, training is a bit of a mystery. And a lot of us have the same kinds of questions for training.

What weaknesses should I be addressing in my fitness training? How should a typical week look? How many weeks in a row should I do this? When should I rest? Should I be training different for Enduro than for XC?

This plan is one 12-week block that addresses all of these questions, no matter what level you are at. These are the same kinds of workouts that I use with professional and beginner athletes.

The best part about this plan is that there are only 3 days of training per week! There are two structured rides during the week that you can complete in or outdoors, and then there is a fully flexible weekend MTB ride!

The main goal of this 12-week base plan is to make your engine more efficient and prepare you for more intense and regular MTB riding and racing. With this 12-week base foundation of fitness, you can hit the ground running for regular rides and races.

First, you will test your fitness. The plan then goes on through 3 full weeks of training and finish the fourth week with a structured recovery week and a post-training fitness test. This process repeats every 4 weeks, while gradually increasing in intensity and volume.

These workouts will not crush you or break you every session; the plan is designed so that you can train consistently and regularly, without getting overly tired or burnt out. Consistency is paramount for a strong season!

This particular plan is optimized for training with heart rate. You can also use your power meter. Each and every ride can be done on the indoor trainer if the weather or timing force you indoors. Since the intensity for each ride is specified you can recreate each ride inside. If you have a smart trainer, check out the same plan with downloadable files to link directly to your smart trainer for following the workout indoors or on Zwift.

This plan also allows for FUN MOUNTAIN BIKE RIDES -- because training should be fun!

The workouts are well-suited for both XC and Enduro racers.

Ideally you would start this plan 5-6 months before your biggest goal race, though if your aerobic fitness is your limiter, you can start this at any time.

Sample Day 1
1:00:00
TEST TIME TRIAL [Pre-training]

Welcome to the first day of your training plan! The first day is a test day to determine what your fitness is now and to offer you a benchmark for your future training cycles.

We will try to control this as much as we can so that we know we are comparing apples to apples. We'll make sure the lead in to test day is pretty similar, control the warmup, and it will be up to you to eat similar foods.
(PRO-HACK: write down what you ate in the post-ride comments after you upload your file)


In addition to helping you track your progress, testing will also help you to determine training zones as you start your program.

IF YOU HAVE A SMART TRAINER
Click on the option to do an FTP test and follow the protocol. the time trial portion is VERY hard, and the program will tell you your FTP so that you can set your zones and intensities for the following weeks of workouts.

IF YOU HAVE A POWER METER OR OTHER:
Choose a road nearby that is easily repeatable on a safe section of road with no stops. Do this on the same bike every time. Using a MTB is OK. If this is uphill you will be able to pedal more steadily (less coasting) but flat or rolling terrain are fine if there are no stops or changes of road.
Get in a 15-minute warmup as follows: 5min easy seated pedaling- 10s acceleration with high cadence RPE~7 - 2min easy pedaling- 15s acceleration with slightly higher RPE, high cadence - standing pedaling for 2 minutes with heavy gear @50rpm ~RPE 5 – 5s acceleration just below max – 5min easy seated pedaling.

Record start location and begin the test, shooting for a steady power at a maximal rate for 12-20 minutes. Record stop location, elapsed time, weather, perceived exertion, heart rate, bike and tires used.

IF TRAINING WITH HEART RATE
Follow time trial protocol as above. Take average heart rate from test portion only. This is a good estimation of your lactate threshold heart rate. Zone will be as follows (derived from Andrew Coggan, PhD):
Zone 1: <68%
Zone 2: 69-83%
Zone 3: 84-94%
Zone 4: 95-105%

(PRO HACK 2: you can enter these zones on your Training Peaks profile and the metrics from your rides will be appropriately calculated.)

Sample Day 3
1:30:00
56.7TSS
Easy Endurance Road Ride (Fasted)

Endurance power and heart rate zones (Zone 2). Keep pedalling and do not have big spikes in power. This is a great opportunity to get in a mid-week MTB ride if you get the chance, and this can be done on the trainer if preferred. The main objective is to keep the ride in Zone 1-2

Sample Day 6
1:30:00
MTB group ride

Choose any pace, have fun!

Sample Day 8
0:56:00
52.5TSS
Tempo with hard finish (HR)

Tempo is good to work on your aerobic efficiency. You'll do a nice long steady effort for 30 minutes, and finish with one minute hard. Start out steady so that your heart rate has ~2-3 minutes to get up to where you want it to be. This can be done on the trainer if preferred.

Sample Day 10
1:30:00
56.7TSS
Easy Endurance Road Ride (Fasted)

Endurance power and heart rate zones (Zone 2). Keep pedalling and do not have big spikes in power. This is a great opportunity to get in a mid-week MTB ride if you get the chance, and this can be done on the trainer if preferred. The main objective is to keep the ride in Zone 1-2

Sample Day 13
2:00:00
MTB group ride

Choose any pace, have fun!

Sample Day 15
1:00:00
57.2TSS
5x5 min @ 90% threshold with long recoveries

Threshold efforts are a really good bang for your buck! They are not overly hard, which means you can do quite a few of them. But they are hard enough that they will definitely stress your system. Your ability to improve in this spectrum will allow you do more hard efforts when you get out on to the trail since you will recover faster between sprints.

This is just 5x5 minute efforts in your zone 4, with 4 minutes easy between each effort. Start out steady so that your heart rate has ~2 minutes to get up to where you want it to be.Fantastic workout!

Dr Matt Miller
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MTB PhD

I specialize in MTB performance and support rad athletes globally. I have a PhD in Sport Science and have raced in every discipline including the EWS and UCI Elite XC since 2003. In early 2019 I left my university role to focus on coaching full time.