It’s quite simple, spending more time cycling will improve your FTP. Increase your current riding volume by 10-15% will see some good gains. Allowing time in your week for a long aerobic ride is very important. It helps to build and maintain the base for all the quality work you do.
Generally the longer the ride the better, but keep in mind the distance in which you are preparing for. There’s no real need to do 5-6hr rides if training for a sprint triathlon. Also, for a time-crunched athlete spending 4-5hrs on a long ride might give some great gains, but not at the expense of missing a lot of your other weekly sessions due to not enough time. Consistency is always the aim of the game, ride frequently.
Low cadence work, the bread and butter in my opinion for endurance. It’s very hard to sustain your speed if you don’t have the strength to cope with the fatigue that occurs when racing. Riding hills are your friend, focus on a low cadence without rocking. Drive the power from your core into your legs. If you experience any knee pain increase your cadence! Low cadence work around 65 RPM can be a good starting point, go lower if you want to increase the muscular load. Try not to go above 70 RPM for this specific type of work.
Example strength session:
4 repetitions of 6mins at 85-90% FTP @ 65 RPM with 4mins easy spin
After a few weeks of adding some low cadence strength specific work, you’ll start to feel the increased strength in your legs. For runners coming to triathlon, these sessions are key!
Sweet spot training
Whoever came up with the term sweet spot obvious loves feeling uncomfortable, as that’s what sweet spot is. You can sustain the effort for quite a long duration, but it’s not very pleasant. Great bang for your time spent and can teach you what you’re capable of come race day. Sweet spot training comes in many forms and involves under threshold work. It’s a good opportunity to practice race day cadence and find what works best for you.
Example sweet spot session:
4 repetitions of 5mins @ 90% FTP, 5mins @ 80% FTP.
Your heart rate will climb riding at 90% FTP, and slowly start to decline at 80% FTP effort. It’s a tough session as the 80% FTP may look like some rest. However, you still need to put in a fair amount of effort. This session is great for building your speed endurance, and although it feels hard doesn’t cause a huge amount of fatigue, maybe this is why it’s called sweet spot.
Don’t overdo it (consistency)
Training hard with lots of quality can lead to great gains in fitness. However, this type of training creates a high load on your body. Over time, too much training load can lead to being overtrained and not being able to maintain the quality of the sessions. With this approach, even with maintaining a high amount of effort in your training, the result is a plateau in fitness, or even worse going backwards.
A better approach is a consistent approach where not too many quality sessions are completed. It is much better to be a little undertrained and recovering well as this is how you improve. This creates an environment for consistency over time, which will see large gains in fitness over time.