Balancing Fun and Outdoors and/or Epic Rides with Structured Training

How do you balance training with good old fashion fun riding? Especially without racing availability.

I don’t do TR to win races (cause I am old and fat). I do it get fit, enjoy nature and the joy of crushing PRs. This year has been quite successful thanks to TR, but I don’t want to a slave to the structure either.

To match the spirit of TR, I tend to do “mostly” structure indoor rides during the weekday for outdoor rides. I try to look at the profile of the outdoor ride and do rides to mimic the profile (I have zero luck following the ride on my Garmin due to traffic, stops, crowding, geography, etc.). I’ll definitely be more indoor once the weather gets rainy, butI personally like to get outdoors regularly in the short Canadian summers. I also don’t tend to limit my rides to a 1 hour ride (typically 1.5 - 3 hours). Add some summer vacations and the volume also spikes.

The strict rules will likely be easier to follow when the weather sucks and I don’t want to sit on a trainer for 2 hours.

This week, as an example, I did a very hard ride. Lots of mountain climbing for 6 hours (2,000 meters/yards climbing). This one was a bucket list ride so I have no apologies training wise.

I don’t have any races in the next 6 months due to covid, so I don’t see any hard need to strictly follow the plan and I train to enjoy not enjoy training ;~)

I am curious. How do you balance Fun and Outdoors and/or Epic Rides with Structured Training? Do you just throw them in there where ever or do you have some “rules” to follow?

One final thought is that I mostly follow the low volume plan, but I do find it’s often not enough and find I want more.


This is an excellent question. I do the same thing. I do Trainerroad during the week and do a 2-3 hour ride at the weekend. Where I can, I will do the Saturday Trainerroad session outside, but add the extra time on at the end for the fun part. I don’t ride it as a warm down, just comfortable.

In the winter I do FulGaz rides on a Saturday. I either do a Trainerroad session controlling the trainer and have the FulGaz video following along, or I just do a FulGaz ride with it in control. Not many of them are pancake flat :slight_smile:. The enjoyment comes from doing rides I will never do in the real world.

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Struggled to do this with TR, it really seems like the plans are designed around indoor training. After looking around for ideas to modify TR plans, I found a couple of plans that designed outdoor rides into the structure. Tried one and got happier and faster.

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Business during the week - party on the weekend.

I do a low volume plan Monday to Friday and a long ride / two rides on the weekend. Sometimes I swap one of the weekday sessions out for a easier one if the weekend was too hard.

Probably not super ideal - but for me a good mix of fun and structure.

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I’ve been treating outdoor stuff as more of a treat for having worked hard with indoor stuff. In July, I was finishing SSB2 HV and swapped out the last hard workout for a century ride and then did a whole week of endurance stuff outdoors. This past week I finished short power build HV and did the century at the end of recovery week (did it on Saturday and gave myself Sunday and Monday off to be fully recovered for CX specialty). I’m hoping to do another century in a few weeks, not sure if I want to wait until the end of October for the end of the specialty or do it halfway through in the end of this month. In some ways it’s a bit crazy that I’ve wasted some great outdoor days by training indoors, but aside from doing really long rides outside or finding a great group ride (which aren’t really happening), it’s tough to justify some outdoor rides when I can get my quality workout done inside. But I agree that we have to have a balance of fun to go with the work, bikes are fun!


I have limited weeknight ride time so I do TR inside during the week. I schedule low volume plans & do 2 of the workouts & a Thursday night group ride & usually ride Saturday & Sunday. Due to a schedule change, I’ll be doing TR first thing in the morning sticking with 2 workouts from the plan & a light sweet spot progression during base. I’ll be riding my normal Thursday night ride, add an easy Friday night ride with my girlfriend & have Saturday & Sunday for fun. If I get too fatigued, the weekday sweet spot workout will get axed. For build & specialty I’ll try to stick with the TR plan but drop one of the workouts to a “minus” variant & see how that goes.

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What I try to do is look at the “spirit” of the ride instead of following TRs outdoor thing.

As an example, lets say TR is saying I’m doing 3, 20 minute near FTP efforts. I cannot find many places where I can get clear sailing for 20 minutes without cars and lights and safety, and and. So I simply try to get as many long efforts at FTP in as I can. I probably means some 10 minute efforts, lots of 3-5 min efforts, etc. Not perfect, but its what I can do outside.

These outdoor rides also tend to be much longer than what TR is asking for, so I try to get this in early in the ride. I don’t typically find these longer weekend rides tire me too much for the week day ones.


Why not arrange your own rides to replace the races? Then you get your fun and still have a reason to train.

I think you should be doing fun outdoor rides right now and supplementing some TR workouts when you can. Why not? But this subject is what we all try to balance; if you only ride outside with no structure, you’re bound to plateau, if you follow a TR plan to close to perfection you might maximize your fitness gains, however to stand to lose something in the way of real world grit, not to mention handling skills. Best to incorporate both, the challenge is how and that’s different for us all.

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I typically only would race about 3-4 a year. I will usually do outdoor rides several times a week in the summer. I’ve also been looking for ways to add volume to the low volume plan.

I almost always choose to ride outdoor when possible. Infinitely more pleasurable. I ride indoors because (a) I have to for some reason or (b) because a ride is structured in some manner it would be difficult to replicate outside.

I haven’t really had problems replicating the spirit of most TR workouts outside. Long intervals get challenging due to traffic, lights and other things that interrupt, say, a 3x20 SS workout. I’m also flexible with hard, short intervals and will adjust the rest intervals +/- to suit circumstances.

But in general, I find I ride harder, faster, longer and enjoy my workouts a lot more outside. I usually end up with higher TSS, higher power for intervals and yet feel fresher and happier afterwards!

I also throw in mountain bike rides with some riding partners from time to time. These are difficult, long rides that don’t fit into the workout schedule that well. But they are a blast. I try to do them on hard days on the schedule, and then adjust the following workout or two accordingly (easier, shorter, depending on recovery).

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Yep. TR has taught me a lot about riding with more intensity than I would have otherwise done on my own for sure. Like I said, in the summer, I try to follow “the spirit” of the TR ride and tend to be more structured in the rainy weather months when I am indoors. I have seen tons of benefits from TR this year and totally recognize the benefits of structure.

My approach with TR would be to select the low-volume plan, and schedule those workouts for Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Then insert a zone2 ride on Wednesday, and replace ALL of the Saturday workouts with an outside workout. Then work on progression - bump the Saturday workout TSS up every week (say by 30 TSS/week). And finally add in a Sunday recovery ride after the big Saturday rides. If it was TR low-volume sweet spot base plan I’d also rearrange to a classic 3 weeks on / 1 week recovery block (vs the 5:1 block). A lot of work… and that is when I threw my hands up in the air and went looking for a pre-built plan.

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I totally agree with your 5:1 block comment. I wish TR could handle a customized rest block setting. I am a bit older and while I can handle the 5:1 block better now, I find that when I am first starting a 3:1 or even a 2:1 worked for me way better.

Prior to this global C thing, I tended to train during the week and do leisure cycling at the weekend. Saturday would tend to be the more intense day and Monday a recovery day before starting another training week.

During the height of lockdown (jeez, I hate that term) the leisure cycling disappeared. Then before I got a new job I did a few rides with a Friday morning social group. Now its train weekdays and TT or social rides or random solo rides or more training at the weekend depending what is available.

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Hi there,
The key element is to increase the suffering in the outside rides. Here’s what I do:

  1. I was forced to start indoor training because air quality. Did 2 weeks of that and got a sense of the intensity.

  2. I ride outside 3 times a week, 10-12 hours 10k-15k elevation gain. I make sure I get at least 1 40-60m threshold effort per ride, usually a nice climb reaching for PR’s. The rest takes care of itself.

Let’s be honest, the only reason to do indoor is weather, time/geographic constrains. If you can, get out and do some real cycling!. H

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There’s a few things at play here that will make this harder or easier.

  1. The terrain +available routes around where you live
  2. How much outside riding you wan to do - just an epic ride every few weeks, or multiple rides per week

I live in the mountains, and have big climbs out the door. Here’s The profile of one of my go-to evening rides - about 1.5 hrs on the MTB.

I ride the uphill part as either a sweet spot or threshold workout, and the rest is fun.

I also have forest road or quiet paved road climbs that are great for VO2max intervals outside.

So I can do all my structured training outdoors. If I lived in an area with less access to favorable terrain, this would be a lot harder, and maybe not even possible.

As for epic rides, you can treat these as races. A, B or C depending on how epic! I have White Rim planned for late October. I’ll treat it like a B race. Train leading up to it. Taper. Especially since I’m riding with some friends who are stronger riders than me, and I’ll need to be on good form to keep up.

There are more reasons than that - structured and most efficient training to make you faster for example… but OK. Please don’t bring toxicity in this forum with statements like indoor cycling is not real cycling.

Is there any science behind that approach? How do you come to 40-60min threshold?

Don’t get me wrong. Do what you like and have fun. That is a possible approach. But what I appreciate about TR and why I use it is that the training plans are backed with science to make us faster in the most efficient way. Going 3 times a week out there on long unstructured rides and smashing PRs doesn’t sound like it.

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I didn’t think that I was being controversial. But do you realize indoor cycling is a simulation of the outdoor experience right?. Sometimes I get the sense ppl in this forum are confusing the map for the territory. No offense was intended.

I have to admit that I’m lucky to live in an area with a geography that lends itself for nice semi-structured rides. Some weeks ago, because of wildfires, I had to do a TR plan for 2 weeks. I have to say that I enjoyed it. I did a couple of the challenging threshold workouts and the most important thing I got out of it is the familiarity with the suffering in the simulated, controlled environment of indoor training. I got a power meter in my bike and now I’m able to repeat those efforts in my 40-60min climbs outside.

In about 4-5 weeks the weather will not be very friendly here, and I suspect most of my cycling will be indoor. I’m glad that I also have that option.


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Different people get different things out of cycling and find different aspects enjoyable. Statements like yours can come across as saying that your ‘version’ is cycling is correct and everyone else’s views are wrong.

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