Là où la science, l'expérience et la passion
pour l'activité physique, la performance et le plein-air se rencontrent

Entraînement - Équipement - Plein-air

An easy-to-follow off-season cycling training plan for Zwift, using our 3-2-1 Go ! app

This off-season training plan, lasting up to 21 weeks, is designed for cyclists (preparing for competitions or not) who are already used to training regularly and intensively.

The plan is based on interval training (HIIT) workouts from our 3-2-1 Go ! mobile app, and the Zwift web app.

It was developed to maximize the improvement of the three key performance factors in cycling :

  • Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP), which depends on maximum oxygen consumption VO2max,
  • Endurance,
  • Anaerobic Capacity.

With this off-season plan, you’ll be back on pavement (or trails) in better shape than when you left it at the end of the season.

To start, you need :

  • a subscription to Zwift, as well as a home trainer with power sensor,
  • to download our HIIT sessions in Zwift format, available here –> Our Zwift sessions,
  • to import the sessions into the Zwift app.

It is important to begin the plan on a Monday, so that all the sessions scheduled for the week or the weekend are executed at the right moment.

It is possible to follow the plan without Zwift : see below for details.

This is week #1 of the plan. The complete plan follows below.

The plan includes :

  • 11 of the 17 HIIT workouts of our 3-2-1 Go ! app.
  • Short and long unstructured sessions, similar to Fartlek sessions. It is up to you to set the duration of these sessions according to your profile and your availability. In general, a short session lasts about 30 to 60 minutes, and a long one can go up to about 2 h and even 3 h for some.
  • Test sessions : either a test to evaluate your Maximal Aerobic Power (MAP), or a 20-minute FTP test on Zwift. The results of these tests will assess the evolution of your fitness level, and will help you to set the right intensity of the HIIT sessions.

Unstructured sessions

During an unstructured session, do not try to maintain a constant intensity. Let spontaneity and the environment dictate the intensity. For example, you intensify a little on a false flat uphill, and a little more on a steep climb, while you let your legs turn effortlessly on descents. You can also let the intensity vary as you move through the pack, whether or not you’re taking advantage of the drafting, «attacking», slipping to the back of the pack, or taking part in sprints.

For your long sessions (Saturdays), you can participate in a Zwift group training of a hundred kilometers, without necessarily trying to complete it.

Overall degree of difficulty

For each day of the program, of up to 21 weeks (147 days), a number (on a scale of up to 10) indicates the overall degree of difficulty to aim for :

  • 4/10 is a very low degree of difficulty, generally associated with active recovery workouts ;
  • 5/10 is a low degree of difficulty, generally associated with workouts that can be performed several days in a row without accumulating fatigue ;
  • 6/10, 7/10 and 8/10 are high degrees of difficulty, generally associated with workouts that can hardly be done two days in a row ;
  • 9/10 is a very high degree of difficulty, generally associated with workouts where you end up feeling unable to continue without putting as much effort into it as for a grueling competition ;
  • 10/10 is a maximum degree of difficulty, such as that associated with competitions and maximum evaluation tests where you go all-out.

For example, 7/10 indicates that the workout should be performed by adjusting the intensity of the high intensity periods so that at the end of the session you will feel moderate fatigue corresponding to an appreciation of 7 out of 10 in the scale of degrees of difficulty.

As 7 out of 10 refers to a session with a high degree of difficulty but not maximum, you must «keep your foot off the gas» a little. Especially during the first bouts, when you have to be careful not to push yourself too much.

While performing your unstructured or interval training sessions, if you feel like the intensity is not high enough (given the overall degree of difficulty that is being targeted), wait a bit before intensifying, and do it gradually. If, on the contrary, you have the impression that the intensity is too high, reduce the effort immediately.

The degree of difficulty increases gradually over the first few weeks (Progression weeks), to accommodate cyclists coming off a yearly rest period or a moderate training. If you do not feel the need to follow such a progression (for example if your recent training is already intensive), start at week 5.

To adjust the degree of difficulty, you can either use the function that Zwift offers using the Zwift companion app, or reduce the FTP in your profile.

If you perform your unstructured sessions in a Zwift peloton, take advantage of the climbs and the moments when you pull the pack, or a breakaway to intensify, even if it means reducing the effort on the descent or when you take advantage of the draft, in the wheel of comrades.

At each session, do a warm-up of at least five minutes. If you want to lengthen your outing, you can do an active cool-down, but it’s not essential.

Do not necessarily follow the plan to the letter ! Consider your physical condition, your schedule and the opportunities to train differently with partners. Keep in mind the general idea of the program, and stick to the level of difficulty as much as possible.

Drop as many short unstructured sessions as you want if :

  • you want to train less than six times a week (this won’t affect your improvement much, as it is the structured HIIT sessions that matter most) ;
  • you do weekly weight training sessions (this has several beneficial effects, including improving pedaling efficiency).

You can change the weekly distribution of sessions, as long as you do not perform two high-difficulty workouts on two consecutive days. If you have to take a break from training for a few days, reduce the intensity and the degree of difficulty a little when you resume training. If you experience excessive fatigue, take at least three days of active or passive rest.

The complete plan (21 weeks)


Professional Coaches

The proposed program respects proven training principles. However, since each cyclist has his or her own profile and needs, it is best to consult a certified cycling coach to establish a plan and to adjust it when necessary or desirable.

Without Zwift

To follow this program without a Zwift subscription, simply use our 3-2-1 Go ! mobile app. which tells you when to increase or decrease intensity. You can do this by «playing» with your trainer’s resistance, your cadence and/or speed.

With the participation of Martin Cléroult, kinesiologist and coach.

Pour la version en français –> Le plan intersaisons

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Guy Thibault

Professeur associé à l'École de kinésiologie et des sciences de l'activité physique, Faculté de médecine de l’Université de Montréal, Guy a été, de 2017 à 2022, directeur des Sciences du sport de l’Institut national du sport du Québec. Ses deux derniers livres sont des succès de librairie : Entraînement cardio, sports d’endurance et performance ; et En pleine forme, conseils pratiques pour s’entraîner et persévérer.

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