Build Me Up (12-week training plan)

Hi @Nick_Tode, I am also in the second week of the Build Me Up and am a relative newbie to training. I follow the Trainer Road podcasts and videos and have thought about signing up with them, but they seem a bit more hard core than I am and it has scared me off so far. My goals include getting strong enough to ride with my husband in the great outdoors now that we are empty-nesters. So I’m not needing to win any races - I just want to get fit. I do love the Trainer Road folks though and am tempted.

So I was wondering what all you have read about training and which zone one should be in…?

For me, the amount of zone 3 is on the verge of being too hard - well, it is too hard… And I spend the days off desperately trying to recover enough to do the next workout. I’m hoping that you are going to say that you have read that we should spend a bulk of our time in zone 2 :sweat_smile:.

I did the beginner’s FTP Builder twice and picked this program because I wanted to do a little more, but still with about 5 or so hours of riding per week. I think I may have bitten off more than I can chew.

I’d be interested to hear what you think! Thanks, Beth

Have you done an FTP test? Because it sounds like the base level (i.e. FTP) of your workouts is set too high.

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Hi @Steve_Hammatt, That is exactly what I thought. I did an FTP test before and after my first FTP Builder and went from 118 to 132. I finished the 2nd round right before Christmas and apparently forgot to take an FTP test that week. I then rode the first Tour de Zwift route last week and was assigned a new FTP of 142 after that ride. That seemed on the one hand overly optimistic, but on the other hand, I did ride for the 50 minutes that it took to do the course at an average of 140W apparently…

Also, I will confess that I was a little confused about the zones when I replied above. I thought yellow was zone 3 since that is where I spent most of the time for the last workout last week and the first workout this week. Staying in the yellow is what is really too hard - and I guess that is actually zone 4.

Either way though I think I will bump the FTP down a tad and see if that makes things more fun and less stressful. Thanks for your response!

Hi Beth,

I’ve read a lot about 80/20 training which, to over summarize, says that you should spend 80% of your training in zone 1 or 2 with 20 % at or above zone 4 (and almost no time at zone 3). Look up a guy named Matt Fitzgerald if you’d like to read more. He’s written several books on the subject.

To be clear, I’m not an expert at all, and I can’t speak to whether 80/20 is better than anything else, and I don’t know if it’s the best for general road riding. However, after reading about 80/20, and then reviewing the build me up program, I was just surprised.

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Thanks Nick! I will check out Matt’s info then. I have his book on nutrition for endurance athletes and do like him. The 80%/20% thing sounds quite reasonable to me. Thanks for your quick response; I appreciate it!

Zone 3 training is generally considered very important. You’re not supposed to spend all your time at zone 4 and above, or it’ll just wear you out and won’t help build endurance. Fine of course if you’re a track racer, but I’m talking more generally here.

Beth, that makes more sense that it’s zone 4 that you’re finding tough. But do knock your set FTP back down a bit if you’re finding the workouts wiping you out, as you say. Even the FTP test is only estimating your FTP unless you do a free ride for an hour.

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Thanks @Steve_Hammatt!

It is helpful to confirm that zone 3 is where I want to spend the bulk of my time. Somehow the workouts were putting me at the very top of zone 3 and into zone 4 for what they were calling zone 3 segments, so I’ve taken your advice and have “turned down the volume” on my FTP.

I did the Halvfems workout yesterday evening and was able to work through from what felt like a position of power, as opposed to a feeling of being overwhelmed. With the slightly lower FTP I was able to finish strong, which at this point in my training is a really important mental aspect for me. I need to be pretty sure I can do it before I start otherwise it’s just stressful.

On that note, we’ll see how I manage the Road to Sky route this afternoon :sweat_smile:

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I’m on week 3 of this plan and I’m enjoying it so far. It’s been pushing me, but not to the point where I can’t do it. Tonight I did the “Ham Sandwich” workout and I think that was the most difficult so far. Lots of 110 RPM and 200+ Watt intervals.

I’m doing this too, after not a great deal of recent experience. I’m fairly fit but 38 and mostly my fitness is from walking, football (soccer) and other similar sports (lots of sports).

I’m on week 3 (yellow unicorn next) and the plan up to now seems very easy on the lungs and heart rate, but seems to be burning the legs out a bit (and I thought I had strong legs). It’s strange though, as the power doesn’t seem hard, it’s more like fatigue. I’ve not failed any intervals mind, but dropped a couple of stars going from high cadence and power, down to low and less power. Going back to back with 4 rides a week seems quite tough though, when you’re not used to the trainer, not enough intervals out of the saddle for me either!

I like the structure, and the forcing to do certain activities by certain days, but wish you could have a few additional days rest, dotted through the program, if you’re a little older as it takes a little longer to recover.

The 110 rpm+ aren’t good though, there doesn’t seem like anywhere near enough resistance at that cadence, it’s like not having a chain.

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Hi @MarcinMN,

I’ll be interested to hear what you think of the program after you get through the Yellow Unicorn and Amalgam. After doing those at the end of last week, I was seriously thinking about bailing on the program and I am certainly thinking about cutting some of the super long workouts short. I am 54 and while I want to lose weight and get fitter, I don’t have the drive to inflict the longer workouts on myself. Maybe if I ever get my bike fit dialed in so that I don’t have so much trouble with saddle pain, I would feel different about it. For now, an hour and 45 minutes is something I dread. And it’s not like I have any races coming up that I am trying to win :sweat_smile:. Maybe I need some more concrete goals…

Hi @Chris_Weatherall, I second the idea that there needs to be more rest planned into the program for those of us who are not so quick with the recovery anymore. On the other hand, I am at the end of week 4 and thoroughly enjoyed having more time to do other things this week. I did this week’s leg of Tour de Zwift one day and also did a recovery ride after the 30 minute workout earlier this week, and it’s been really nice! I have a rubber-banded meet up later today, which I am looking forward to. But then the Purple Unicorn is looming for tomorrow :flushed: - I haven’t decided what to do about that yet.

What did you guys think about the Yellow Unicorn followed by Amalgam?

Hi @Beth_Klawun,

I found Yellow Unicorn quite easy, apart from on the butt! There really should be more intervals, at higher power/ lower cadence, standing up for a minute as an option, at least 1 minute every 10 on longer rides.

I’m not going to to Amalgam, so going to let that one time out and see what happens, got a bit of built up fatigue and also a bit of a hamstring twinge. Ideally want to pause it for a week, but not sure what would happen if I just skip the week?

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I did the Amalgam on Friday and the Yellow Unicorn today (Sunday). I think the Ham Sandwich still worked me more, but these two were tough just due to their length. I too get saddle sore sometimes. It seems that any workout over an hour has a risk of that. Fortunately, it wasn’t too bad while doing the Unicorn today. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t ride yesterday. Or perhaps it’s just because there were enough opportunities for me to stand up for a few seconds. I know for that last over/under where the coach said to stand up as needed, I stood up a little bit each time the cadence was low. :slight_smile:

Looks like next week is kind of a “rest week.” Only three workouts and one of them is Pedaling Drills, which I can’t even do properly since I don’t have clip-in shoes or any other kind of setup to attach my feet to the pedals. lol

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To people who is curious about the results, here my stats:

Before build me up:
-Weight: 81 kg
-FTP: 260W
-Ratio: 3.2W/kg

After build me up.
-Weight: 76 kg
-FTP: 285 W
-Ratio: 3.75 W/kg

I only missed 2 exercies in total. One of them was in week 3 and the other one was in week 11.


Hi @Hakan_Ekinci !

Welcome to the Forums! Thanks for posting your stats - that is very interesting and helpful. I am in week 5 and keep waffling back and forth about whether to continue. I hadn’t wanted to do the Beginner FTP Builder for the 3rd time in a row, so I decided to take a chance on BMU. It is actually too hard for me as I really am a beginner, but reading about your improvement is very motivating… maybe I will stick with this a little longer. I find the workouts over about an hour and 15 minutes very, very difficult. Right at this very moment I am procrastinating on the Escalation Workout in week 5.

Great job in getting through the training program, and congratulations on your results!

Beth_Klawun you need some Z2 “long” effort for build you heart and muscle to hold long time workout, maybe Build me Up do not working enouth this zone :wink:

After this and if u want more vivacity and explosivity, it’s time to work at Z4/Z5 and Z6, short intervalle


Hello @Yann_Marsal ,

Thank you for writing this!!! I think you are right, and it is the piece that I have been struggling to accept and figure out. Last night I did (tried to do) the 1 hour and 35 minute Escalation workout. After about 30 minutes I thought - Wow, this is great! What a great workout! I feel strong! And then I looked at the side bar and the clock and realized I had only done one third of the workout. I tried very, very hard to finish well, and I did ride to the end of the time (only because I didn’t know how to quit without losing everything), but I slogged through the red zone parts at the end, pausing the workout after each burst of 150% of FTP because after that I could not even do the 30 seconds at 65%… For the final 5 minutes of 150% I just turned the ERG mode off and rode at about 40 Watts.

After the workout I was just lying on the floor staring at the ceiling… Thank goodness my husband put some frozen chicken pies in the oven, otherwise there might have been no dinner. Today I am walking very slowly.

How long does one work on the Z2 before being ready for the vivacity and explosivity? Maybe until I can ride for between 1 and a half and 2 hours without it being a problem?

Thank you again for your kind and helpful post :smiley: . I think it is time for me to look for a different training program that is better suited for my current level.

Ride On!

I know it’s almost 6 months later but great summary Craig. I’m sipping some coffee getting ready for Tenacity and Aspire tomorrow. Was here looking for how to do those 5” intervals!

For me this last week the fatigue has been as much a challenge as the actual workouts - though they are challenging.

Looking forward to these last few workouts.




About 12 weeks ago, I was wondering what might be reasonable training objective for the BMU plan and stumbled across this page. To help others who may also be in this position, I now include my stats to provide another data point along with some context to help the stats make sense.


I’m a 48 year old male based in the UK.

Although I was relatively fit in my 20s, for most of the last three decades, my physical condition has suffered as I always prioritised work over training. During that time, I would have the odd fitness spurt, but nothing sustained. I went into the training carrying a little bit of flab which I wanted to lose, but I wasn’t grossly overweight, and I saw weight loss as a side benefit to my primary objective of improving cardio function and stamina. Cycling-wise, I’ve haven’t done anything competitive although when I lived in South Africa in 1998-9, I did enjoy a few weekend fun rides back then, but nothing serious at all. I’ve always enjoyed aerobic work, but have never particularly excelled. Life over the last 25+ years has largely been sedentary.

So, the stats:

At outset:
FTP / Weight = 202 / 93.5 = 2.16

After a month:
FTP / Weight = 229 / 93.5 = 2.45

After end of BMU:
FTP / Weight = 257 / 91.7 = 2.80 (+29.7% from outset)

I used the shorter FTP test and in all of these tests (including the first one), I gave it my all. My tank was empty at the end, I was in Z6 and my heart rate ended at 100% of max for the first two, slightly lower for the last one.

I felt that the early weeks of BMU were too light and not having much of an effect. That changed a little when I did the re-test after a month and then, as time went on, I became too scared to do a re-test as the latter runs were certainly challenging enough for me. I only had to “bias down” once, and that was for the last 10 minutes of one 90 minute session when the cadence changes were killing me. I got used to the constant aching leg feeling, and took some form of masochistic solace that it the training must be having some form of positive effect.

Throughout, I didn’t focus too much on my nutrition – I reckoned (rightly or wrongly) that giving the body at least what it needed to recover was probably key – and I wasn’t focused upon losing weight. My slight weight drop in the last session was probably due to the more intense training of phase 3 plus a reduction in the amount of booze which I was consuming. No doubt, others could do better on this front with a more rigorous and scientific approach.

So overall, I’m very happy with a 30% improvement in W/Kg over the programme, most of which has come from an increase in power. Admittedly, this figure is probably over-inflated as I was unfit right at the very start but had some a little cycling in the dim and distant past.

Finally, thanks to Shayne Gaffney and Zwift for publishing and enabling the plan.

I hope this is of interest.

Now, what’s next…?



Awesome work, @CJC!

It’s been great to follow along with everyone and their progress, I’m so happy for you all! :heart:

Hi Thad

Glad you found it useful. These plans can be quite challenging - and the fatigue does take hold - but the effort is well worth it. Please post your stats when you’re finished.