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The Difference Between Riding and Training

2 ESR riders riding bikes

There’s a fundamental difference between riding and training.

When riders go out for a ride, they generally think about completing a certain number of hours or miles at self-selected levels of intensity. The goal being to get time on the bike and accumulate miles. On the other hand, riders on a training plan go out with goals based on specific time, programmed intensities and skill drills.

So, which one is better?

Riding will do it to start. As the GOAT Eddy Merckx once said, “Ride as much or as little, or as long or as short as you feel. But ride.” The most important thing is frequency and consistency. If you ride as frequently and consistently as your time permits, you will be able to enjoyably complete the ESR. Riding is good!

Training will do it better. Following a well-structured, specific training plan will maximize the results of the time and effort you put in on the bike and make you stronger and faster. And this is the key point I think that best distinguishes one method from the other. If you want to ride faster, you have to train right.

My ESR 22 Week Training Plan is designed to maximize training adaptations and make you a stronger and faster cyclist.

Getting Started on the ESR Training Plan

First of all, I want to demystify the “no pain, no gain” theory that we’ve all been programmed to believe. 

Training for cycling performance does not always have to be painful. The majority of your time on the bike will be in your Endurance Miles Zone (sometimes referred as Zone 2). There is no big pain here, but a lot of gain. You should be able to have comfortable conversation in this intensity zone. 

Don’t worry though, there will be periods of pain, too. At least 10-20% or so of your total training time will be hard and painful. Anywhere from uncomfortable conversation to single words, possibly 4 letters. 

Remember this: if you go too hard on the easy days, you’ll end up going to easy on the hard days. 

Please refer to Table 7.1 Workouts, RPE, and Breathing Rate to guide you to the right intensities.

The first 3-week block of training begins Monday, February 24. The goal of this block is to accumulate time in your Endurance Miles (EM) zone and begin to work on your pedaling efficiency with some Fast Pedaling (FP) drills. Refer to Table 7.2 Summary of the Six Key Cycling Workouts.

There will always be an easier active recovery week in between each 3-week block to give your body a rest and ready for the next block. 

The magic is in progression. Okay – that’s a bit exaggerated, but progression is really important. If you are not doing more work overtime, your body has no need to adapt. Doing the same thing at the same intensity over and over isn’t enough new stimulus to promote adaptation.

Don’t worry if the training feels too easy in this first block. The interval training that begins in the second block will satisfy your need for pain. Be patient and enjoy the journey.

One final thought. For those of you already doing more hours on the bike than this plan starts with but want to incorporate the intervals into your week, continue doing your level of volume in Endurance Miles intensity and begin following the intervals as prescribed. 

Please note that if you are interested in personal one-on-one remote coaching, contact me at
Be well!
CTS Coach Charlie Livermore

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