Taking your structured workouts outside with Outside Workouts doesn’t just benefit your fitness. You can also use your Outside Workouts to reinforce technical skills, work on outside conditioning and prepare for the specific challenges of your events.


For more information on Outside Workouts and structured training check out Ask a Cycling Coach Ep 256.



Structured Training Outside

Finding the perfect place to do intervals outside can sometimes be tricky. The variable conditions of some roads and trails can make it difficult to make every interval “perfect.” While accuracy is important, perfection isn’t the goal. In fact, sometimes those less than perfect riding conditions can work to your advantage. You can use the outdoor conditions, the terrain, and the variability of a route to sharpen your bike handling skills and train your ability to ride in tough conditions. As long as you can do your workout safely, stay in your power zones, and train the right energy systems you’re nailing your intervals.

Finding conditions, trails and skills work that are applicable to the events you train for can be an integral part of your preparation for an event. Integrating skills work and conditioning into your routine can be as simple as choosing a route that reinforces your workouts while addressing the conditions and technical expectations of your event.

Adding in Skills Work

Taking your structured workouts outside gives you an opportunity to sharpen your bike handling skills and increase your confidence riding outside. Whether you’re an off-road athlete training for a XC mountain bike race, or a road cyclist training for a Gran Fondo, your ability to safely navigate the terrain of your course is important. Here are ways to integrate skills work into any interval workout.

Terrain Specific Skills

If you can, it’s a good idea to practice riding on the trail or road conditions you’ll be racing. This may not be an option if you have to travel for your priority event, and the conditions you train in are vastly different from the conditions you’ll race in, but if possible try and find terrain that mimics your race course. For example, an athlete training for the Leadville 100 might want to find a road with some loose rocky conditions to practice climbing and descending on.

Outside Tip: If possible, take some of your structured workouts onto trails and roads that mimic the conditions of your event.

Descending

Outside workouts are perfect for reinforcing downhill technique. For a number of interval structures, we recommend taking your intervals onto a road or trail that you can safely repeat. If you have a road or trail that also allows you to work skills on the descent, then that’s all the better.

If you’re a road athlete, focus on maintaining form and body position while you’re resting on the descent. Take that time to focus on your breathing and your body position, as opposed to riding down as quickly as possible. Reinforcing good habits while you recover from an interval is great practice for the descending you’ll do during races.

If you’re an off-road athlete it might be difficult to find a trail you can loop with a steady state uphill and a fun descent. But if you can this is the perfect formula for off-road intervals. If you don’t and you find yourself repeating a fire road or double track, focus on body position and technique while you descend.

Outside Tip: Focus on reinforcing good technique on any downhill you descend during interval workouts. Even if it’s not a downhill that requires a lot of skill, focusing on body position and good technique can increase your confidence and abilities on the tough downhills you do encounter.

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Adding Skills Work

If you don’t have an overtly technical course to ride on, simply spending time on your bike is good for your skills. But if you want to work specific skills while you’re outside, finding a place after your workout to do some skill drills can be all you need to sharpen up your technical skills. It’s easy to tag ten minutes of skills work onto the end of your ride once you’re already out there.

Outside Tip: If you don’t have a trail or a road that allows you to work skills while effectively doing the workout try spending ten minutes at the end of your workout doing some drills in a grassy area.

Weather Acclimation

Are you preparing for an event that happens in a really hot place? A really cold place? Wet conditions? Or wind? Depending on where you train and where your events are, you can use your outside workouts to acclimate to outside weather variables and conditions that will likely play a part in your event. For example, an athlete training for Kona, a course that’s notoriously hot and windy, would greatly benefit from doing a few Outside Workouts in hot and windy conditions. Doing so not only offers a physical benefit but a mental one as well.

Outside Tip: If possible try taking a few of your structured workouts outside during times that replicate the weather conditions of your race.

Extra Tips for Outside Workouts

While a bit of variability can be good, it’s still important to make sure you’re doing a safe and effective workout. Here are some tips on how to safely and effectively navigate terrain during your Outside Workouts.

Load the Workout When You Reach Your Destination

You don’t have to load your structured workout from the moment you begin pedaling. If you have a certain place you’d like to ride you can pedal to your destination and load your structured workout when you’re ready. A little extra time spent in your endurance zone before your workout is easy to add to your workout and shouldn’t harm the integrity of your workout. 

Pause Your Workout 

If you’re navigating less than optimal conditions remember that you can always pause your workout. Whenever you find yourself in a position where you need to focus on your surroundings more than your workout, pause your workout and navigate to a place where you can do it safely. 

Read the Weekly Tips (Before You Ride)!

Before you head out for your workout read the weekly tips for that workout. The weekly tips provide information on the goals and expectations for that particular workout.


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.



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Meghan Kelley

Meghan Kelley is a writer, XC MTB racer and trail enthusiast. Her years spent racing XC and working at TrainerRoad has translated to a passion for all things cycling.