How to get the most out of gwLtp

For those athletes not currently on a structured training plan, PRT’s Great Western Loop Training Program is a great option to start gaining race fitness this off-season. That program alone will not result in tremendous racing fitness overall, but instead should be a supplement to your primary aerobic base training.

If you’ve read the content on this page, you know that your most important ride each week is that long steady endurance ride. You also have learned the best way to nail that long ride each time out. If you haven’t read those two linked articles, start there.

While the Great Western Loop Training Program is fantastic race fitness training in a lot of ways, it should NOT be what you consider your “aerobic long ride” each week. Yes, the training is usually about 3 hours long, and yes, coach Kurt has said “at least 3 hours once a week!”… but the GWL ride is NOT steady work. The ride to the training ground is usually very mellow, the first interval sets are hard, VO2max-style intervals, followed by hard paceline or drill work, then another hard section “Anarchy” at the end, before a mellow ride back to the start point.

Bottom line: the Great Western Training Program should be one of your HARD sessions during the week. I recommend no more than two hard sessions per week for most athletes.

If you do an additional group ride or organized workout during the week, that should be your second hard session. You should NOT do any other organized workouts or large group rides in addition to those two sessions.

My recommendation for a weekly structure during GWL season would include:

  • One mid-week sub-threshold or threshold session (extending duration)
  • Long endurance ride (or Donut ride + easy base miles after, totaling at least 3 hours of STEADY ENDURANCE riding)
  • GWLTP session on Sunday
  • All other rides should be recovery (beach cruiser speed!) or low-end endurance work

On the PRT Great Western Training Program page, I posted a flyer including the supplement program I recommend for many of our riders and racers. I’ve also included it at the bottom of this page. That program is designed for a newer, Category 4 or Masters racer who is looking to further develop their aerobic base. The progression is very conservative; racers with more experience or a higher level of fitness may want to progress more rapidly and to a longer extensive goal.

Remember: this time of year, EXTENDING DURATION is more important than going harder or at higher power. Resist the temptation to do the intervals HARDER. If you’re feeling great, go a bit LONGER.

A quick word on strength training

Strength work is critical for most cyclists, but in particular, it is important for Masters riders. As we age, we lose muscle mass. Endurance athletes who burn more calories than they take in can also lose muscle mass in their torso. As we are not being paid to race bikes, sustaining muscle mass is important to our overall well-being and longevity. I strongly recommend against shedding muscle mass to improve your power-to-weight ratio in hopes of being a better bike racer.

If you are already doing some strength training, a four-week period in October or Novemer is an ideal time to focus on maximizing your strength gains. This means your heaviest lifting block of the season.

If you are periodizing your strength training in this way, and intend to lift heavy around the time of the Great Western Loop Training Program, I recommend AGAINST doing any supplementary work on the bike – simply ride easy on the remainder of your days, and ensure at least one of your rides is a long, steady endurance ride.


Maximal strength training – your heavy lifts – are particularly stressful on your body and require additional recovery time in order to achieve the adaptations you’re seeking. That is, if you want to get stronger, you need to rest and let your body adapt to the lifting.

I recommend two heavy lifting sessions each week. I further recommend a day off or only very easy riding for a shorter duration (1-2 hours) on the day after your heavy lifts. If you ride on the same day you lift, ride before lifting, and try to separate the workouts by four hours or more.

A sample structure for someone doing periodized MAXIMAL strength work alongside the GWL training program could be:

  • Monday: Easy 1hr ride, afternoon max strength session
  • Tuesday: OFF
  • Wednesday: 2hrs endurance riding
  • Thursday: Easy 1hr ride, afternoon max strength session
  • Friday: OFF or 1hr Recovery ride
  • Saturday: Long, steady endurance ride of 3+ hours
  • Sunday: Great Western Loop Training Program

Summary: If you are doing maximal strength work in the gym, these sessions need to count as “hard days”. If you are doing higher-rep, lower weight maintenance work, you may incorporate the mid-week interval sets. Let your body be your guide; always err on the side of additional recovery time!

As always, if you have questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to me!

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