Indoor TSS vs Outdoor TSS

So I understand that not all TSS created equal. My question is, if you take the same rider and put them through the following will the results vary greatly?

  • Mid-volume TR schedule, Base Build, Specialty for a whole year
  • 10-15hrs of unstructured riding outdoors, longer rides where IF is maybe 0.75-0.85 for a whole year.

I recently had a discussion with my friend who wanted to know if he would get faster by following a structured training plan vs riding outdoors 10-15hrs a week.


I think part of it depends on what type of fitness you’re after. You can get good training stress form riding climbs, going hard outside, etc. The structure allows you to hone your fitness for a specific goal… i.e. bette short power, expanding aerobic base, raising FTP, etc. You also get more bang for your buck so to speak on a trainer vs riding outdoors. For me personally I went from 3-5hrs a week outside riding pretty hard with an FTP of 225 the first time I tested at 196lbs to currently around 280 at 174lbs. I saw the most gains when i followed the structure closely. Of course this is only my personal experience but I’m sure others here have much more in depth experience and knowledge.

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It depends what you’re after. Before TR, I used to do a lot of outdoor riding, 15h plus a week, and was ok fit for club rides, crazy long rides, etc. However I wasn’t especially race fit, I had good indurance, but little sharpness. It didn’t specifically made me faster.

If your goal event is something like a century ride, or a multi-day event, outdoor riding, as long as you have the time, is a good way of getting there. (Especially as it also helps with riding skills, dealing with the weather, pounding by rough roads etc). If you’re training to race, especially crits or cx, you’ll need to add more sharpness I think.

I have the same concerns here. I know this is an old thread, but I’m new to TR and have questions haha.

This year I did a lot of outdoor riding with a TSS of 500-700 depending on where I was in the month. I try to do one long ride a week of 100km-100mi. I averaged 8-10 hours a week on the bike. I would really like to get more fit though, and although I can “do the distance”, I’d like to be competitive in a longer road race / competitive gran fondo type event.

What concerns me is using plan builder with the mid volume plan (per my available hours), is the hardest week over a 6 month span is just under 500 TSS (if the plan is followed to a T). I am planning on ditching the Sunday rides on TR and doing my 100km-100mi like usualy, but it appears like my average TSS is going to be quite a bit lower than it has been.

I know all TSS isn’t created equal. Do you guys and gals think I will loose fitness doing this? Or should it work? Btw plan came out to SSBMV I&II, SPBMV, CRRMV. currently 3.8w/kg., would like to reach 4.5 by mid summer 2021

A successful training plan has so many parts to the machine: structure, time in zones, recovery within workouts, recovery outside of workouts to name but a few.

It is absolutely possible (and dare I say likely) to build FTP with structured lower TSS vs higher TSS with no structure, unless you are already highly trained. Try the TR plans with total compliance for a few months and let us know :wink:

Those are really good points about all the different pieces of structured training. I think you are probably right about that. No, I am not highly trained, in any sense of that phrase :smile:

But I don’t think I’ll do the TR Sunday rides still. Getting out for a long weekend ride is one of the main reasons I love to cycle and keeps me motivated. Do you really think exchanging one day is going to be that significant of a change in the final outcome? That seems a bit unlikely I think?

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I do low volume and then add outdoor rides as and when so I’m not best placed to tell you which Mid Volume workout to replace. However, if I understand correctly, it’s usually recommended to replace one of the shorter workouts since the long one of each week is the key workout.

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I always thought the idea of TR plans is they’re what you do IF you only have a limited amount of time to train. And the guys on the podcast are always suggesting ways to add a little extra volume here and there.

For me, in terms of long-term fitness, nothing beats going on a long ride. It’s how I got fit in the first place, just riding 100km every Sunday.

WIth a MV plan, I would tend to either (a) do a shorter but just as intense version of the Saturday session then make Sunday a long but entirely Z2 ride, or (b) do nothing / Z2 on Saturday and then introduce some intensity into the long Sunday ride.

The danger is that you do the full Saturday workout (usually quite tough) then go out for a ride with friends on Sunday and it gets a bit smashy.

ok cool, seems like we follow a similar format. I didn’t drop any of the “difficult” rides from TR, I had reorganized my calendar from the get go so those two are on T & Th. It’s only the longer Sunday ride that’s being dropped, which is designated from TR as “medium”. They average around 120-140 TSS for the ride, which I easily do on a Sunday ride (usually 200-320 depending on gain and distance). I’ll give it a shot for the fall and see how my fitness progresses. It’s just SSBMV I&II before repeating again in January, so I can make an adjustment there if needed and still have a full base, build, specialize routine to go through before A events

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When I started TR I went from 10-12hrs of indoor(zwift)/outdoor unstructured riding to 8-10hrs of LV++ (LV + 2 recovery days + 2 long z2 weekend rides.) Even with the reduction in time and slight TSS reduction my FTP went up and my ability to ride at pretty much all intensities improved. Since then I have increased volume, but the introduction of structure helped me in a number of ways: forced recovery days which I was bad about, forced recovery weeks, more specific workouts (threshold intervals, over/unders, etc.) that I wasn’t getting outside, increased mental fortitude doing difficult intervals and workouts.

I appreciate your perspective, thanks for adding. Definitely getting the message from everyone: don’t worry about reduced TSS, it’s relative. The structure will outweigh any losses in hours / TSS.

I appreciate the input from everyone. This has been on my mind for weeks haha

I’ve just completed six months of structured training with a coach since June. My Training Peaks weekly TSS has ranged from 500 - 750/week. My CTL is 83. I’m in the base phase of a low volume Gran Fondo Plan.
I decided to self-coach for a while and am using TrainerRoad to help structure my training. Almost all of my workouts have been outdoors but I have a Kickr I use when I can’t ride outside or want to do a workout that doesn’t lend itself to outside workout on our rolling terrain.
I do a couple of social pace (13.5 mph avg.) group rides/week usually somewhere around 35-40 miles. With one of the groups I’m the strongest rider and I’ll often hop on the front and pull the group for several miles when there’s a strong headwind. That’s a sweet spot or threshold effort, i.e. I don’t find it difficult but the TSS for those rides is in the range of 175 - 230.
On the other hand, my TSS for my TR workouts range are usually around 75 for a 1 hour workout and 125 for 1.5 hour workout. In contrast to my group rides, though, I find the TR workouts quite difficult. I think it’s the constant effort required in ERG mode versus the ability to vary your effort outdoors that makes the indoor workouts feel so much harder. But when I’m pulling the group into a headwind at sweet spot for 20 minutes straight, it’s also a constant effort. It just feels so much easier. I don’t understand why the outside constant effort feels so much easier then the inside equivalent.

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This is me to a T!

@55thSwiss I would love to know your experience.

Listening to the Podcast, and also during the sign up session, TR seems to encourage beginning with Low Volume plan for anyone who has never done structured training.

But like you, I put in a lot of 500-700 TSS weeks this 2021 Summer, a lot of long rides below Sweet Spot, but also a lot of 1-2 hour Sweet Spot-ish rides.

I’m coming in @ 173 lbs/78.5 kilos and an FTP of 300, which is right at your 3.8 watt/kg. Are you me?!?

So how’d you do? What did you choose? What kind of results did you get?