I gave a presentation to my Development Squads this week on their Foundation Training Programme. I am coaching a great group of  23 riders with a specific goal of attaining a Gold standard medal for the team classification at the Tour of Wessex as well as individual standards. The event is a three stage road gran fondo covering nearly 550km and 7000m of climbing in the beautiful countryside of South West England.

Foundation, base or endurance training is a vital first step in the training year for anyone who has signed up to a long gran fondo, stage race or triathlon. Magazines have been full of articles stating that base endurance training is not relevant anymore and you can get as much fitness from riding a lot less miles in zone 3. Whilst this might be true for someone who is only looking to ride short distances, it simply is not true for anyone looking to build endurance and stamina and here's why...

General endurance is the ability to remain active over a long period of time, developing the ability to withstand the fatigue, stress and pain that would be felt in an untrained athlete. For my athletes training for the Tour of Wessex that means the ability to complete 350 miles/550km and 23,000 feet/7000m over three days, spending between 5-8 hours in the saddle each day and to actually enjoy the process!

The primary objective of foundation training is to improve aerobic fitness. An athlete with a good level of aerobic fitness can complete almost any endurance event.

Next we look to improve skill and technique - becoming more economical. Working on pedalling technique, body position, cornering skills and descending all improve economy and give you extra speed for free.

The third basic cycling ability we develop during foundation training is strength, both on the bike and if possible in the gym. Building strength will increase the force you can put through the pedals which, when coupled with speed training, improving cadence, delivers an improvement in overall bike speed.

Greater force with faster leg rotations - it is as simple as that!

Foundation training is always relevant as it actually encourages positive changes in your body which are good for any type of cycling.

  1. Decreased heart rate both at rest and for a given level of effort
  2. Increased size of the left ventricle of the heart increasing the amount of blood ejected by the heart per contraction
  3. Increased stroke volume meaning more blood is pumped per beat
  1. Increased blood volume - increased plasma reduces blood viscosity meaning its easier to get blood around the body
  2. Increased red blood cell volume - means more oxygen to feed muscles
  3. Improved cardiac output - more volume of blood with a stronger heart
  1. Increased mitochondria both size and number meaning more power to the muscles
  2. Increased oxidative enzymes which turn oxygen into fuel (ATP)
  3. Development of slow twitch muscles which withstand fatigue
  4. Improved capillary beds which increases blood flow
  5. Improved glycogen and fat storage and utilisation of up to x2.5

Foundation training improves the blood, strengthens the pump and makes body better placed to take advantage of it. What is not to like?

This is what it looks like:

Plenty of zone 2 mixed with a little higher intensity training.


In order for these changes to take place in your body you need to train at the right intensity. Train too hard and the body just burns carbohydrate which does not build any endurance. The harder you train the more you use fast twitch muscles which again does not bring about endurance adaptions.

Foundation training should play a part in all riders early season training. Even if you are a sprinter or criterium racer building a better engine is always going to be beneficial and will stop you burning out by increasing intensity too early in the season.

For those of you who have taken advantage of our FREE 8 Week Foundation Training Programme I hope that you enjoy easing yourself back into training from November or December. For those of you who have not taken advantage of the FREE programme you can download it HERE

Good luck and happy social winter riding!

Rob Wakefield is a fully qualified Level 3 Cycling Coach with the Association of British Cycling Coaches and founder of Propello, a cycling focused health and fitness business delivering Performance Training Programmes and Bespoke Coaching to cyclists anywhere in the world.

All cyclists who are looking to improve their speed, endurance or strength will benefit from a structured training programme. Propello Training will improve how your muscles, lungs and heart work and will enable your body to transport and utilise fuel effectively - making you faster and stronger for longer.

Click here to learn more about Propello.