Finding the right route makes outdoor interval training much more effective. Match your route to specific types of workouts with these tips.

Match Workout Terrain With Outside Workout Structure

With outside workouts, you can take any TrainerRoad workout outside on your Hammerhead, Wahoo or Garmin head unit. While some workouts are definitely tougher to complete outdoors then others, most rides can be easily done outdoors when you have a route, or a segment, that allows you to hit all your power targets.

To find a fitting route, first you’ll need to categorize the structure of your ride. Once you categorize your ride you can choose a route or segment that works with that structure. You can categorize most rides by looking at the workout profile. Your workout will most likely fall into one of the following defining buckets: steady state, short rest, long rest or high variability structure.

Steady State Workouts

Steady-state workouts are workouts with intervals that only have small incremental changes in intensity. As you progress through a steady state workout, your target power will remain in a relatively steady state.

Because these workouts are relatively consistent, athletes should seek consistent terrain that doesn’t have a lot of variability. Steady climbs, flat roads, and gentle rolling courses are all great options for these types of workouts. These workouts are great for full loops. When you plan your route though, try to avoid rides with steep climbs and punchy sections. If you’re an off-road athlete try to avoid trails that have a lot of technical climbing sections. While a few are fine, too many will make it difficult to hold your power target.

Best Places To Ride: Flat Roads, gradual climbs and gradual rolling courses.

Workouts With “Long” Rest

A workout that has long rest is generally a workout with more than three minutes of rest between intervals. When you have a workout with longer increments of rest you have more opportunity to recover and reorganize in between intervals.

If you have a workout with long increments of rest try and find a hill or a section of road that can be repeated for the duration of the interval. When you do these intervals the climb gives you a chance to nail your power going up, and then rest and spin your legs out on the descent. Repeating a hill, or a flat, is also great because it makes your intervals consistent and gives you a chance to get into a groove.

Best places to ride: Repeatable hills and repeatable flat stretches.

Workouts With “Short” Rest

When you have a workout where the rest in-between hard efforts are less than two minutes, it doesn’t make sense to do segment repeats. In the time it takes to look across the street, turn around, look across the street and turn around again your rest will practically be over. Doing this can lead to more commotion than rest, and leave you feeling mentally and physically unprepared when that next hard effort begins. Above all, this can lead to safety issues, and no workout is worth that sort of risk.

For these intervals, it’s best to find a road or trail you can safely ride on without having to turn around with any frequency. When you have longer increments of rest between sets you can take that time to turn around and descend if you need to, but for the intervals that are stacked close together you should be riding on a segment that is long enough that you don’t have to turn around.

Best places to ride: Long flat roads and long gradual climbs that still let you drop the power enough to recover during rest intervals.

Workouts With High Variability

Workouts with lots of variability are where things get tricky. You might have some intervals where the rest in between intervals is short, and others where the rest is long. You might be dealing with some over unders, or you might have some mid-interval sprints to get done.

Highly variable workouts usually require that athletes get a bit creative with their solution and implement multiple structure strategies. For example, if you wanted to take something like Xalibu outside, you would want a repeatable hill that allows you to do five minutes of hard efforts. When you have those short intervals stay on course, and when you have those long increments of rest, turn around and cool down on the descent so that you can repeat that segment again.

Best places to ride: Repeatable hills or repeatable flat stretches.

Safety First

When you chose a route it’s important to consider the traffic, intersections and interruptions that the road or trail you want to ride on might present. Try to avoid roads that are heavily trafficked or have dangerous intersections.

If you ever find yourself dealing with too many outside variables or potential dangers, hit pause on your head unit, or wait to hit lap before starting an interval. This gives you a chance to take a break from your workout and safely navigate through any situations that would be dangerous to do a hard effort through. When it’s safe to resume your workout, hit start and continue where you left off. If you missed a portion of your interval, don’t worry about it. You can always tack it on to the end of the workout.

Outside Mountain Bike Workouts

If you’re a mountain biker you might be noticing that taking structured workouts onto the trail can be tricky. If you are looking for tips on how to effectively get your structured training done on a mountain bike you can read more here.

For more cycling training knowledge, listen to Ask a Cycling Coach — the only podcast dedicated to making you a faster cyclist. New episodes are released weekly.