Effectiveness of Outdoor Workout

Since the feature to allow workouts to be completed outside was released, I had been testing it and have some concerns/questions about the differences noticed when compared to the inside version.

It’s not the best time to do workouts outside given the current situation but in the near future when ,hopefully, riding outside becomes a norm (and reasonably safe), I am looking to substitute sessions for outdoor rides again.

Device: Wahoo Elemnt/Bolt
Not sure if the workouts are the same on Garmin units (I assume they are.)

  1. Notice not all intervals match-up - would it be more effective to ride inside for these cases to optimize the benefits of the intended design of the workout? Are there workouts that should be more suited to complete on an ERG trainer inside?

  2. It’s near impossible to hit exact power values outside - is it best to hit the upper range of an interval given outdoor FTP is usually higher than indoor FTP?

  3. When substituting rides outside, I noticed the ride is not considered a TR ride and the analysis to check intervals against targets are missing. Is it possible to overlay the TR power targets prescribed against the laps of the outdoor rides.

Workouts that are more varied and precise are better suited for indoors (ie: Spanish Needle). Also if you don’t have the roads/terrain in your area to suit the workout then probably better to do inside.

You’re not hitting exact numbers indoors either, it’s just being displayed as more exact. If the workout is giving you a range, you are fine anywhere within that range. Reach for a number that feels appropriate and there’s no harm in the high end. However if you bounce in and above that high end you may exhaust yourself sooner as you’ll be don’t more work than intended.

@Nate_Pearson. I agree, this is a much needed feature that is missing in the current format. I’m not aware of any way to do this through TR.

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Related Feature Request

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We’re going to add this later.

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I’m finding it more effective because I can push more power outside than inside. If I can hold higher watts, I can only imagine the training return will be greater so long as I don’t overcook myself. Plus it’s realistic because power is never perfectly constant and the gradient is never perfectly the same so you always have to do constant minor adjustments within an interval. Similar to holding a pace, holding a wheel…etc in a race environment.

I’ve grown to like the range too. If I’m feeling good, I try to hold the highest end of it the whole time. If legs are a bit tired, then make the focus to hold it in the middle of the range. If I’m coming undone on the last sets, try to hold it above the bottom number and know that I’m still working the right energy/muscular system and it should still force adaptation.

Did Mitchell today outside and it took a lot of focus and a fair amount of shifting because the numbers jump around so much…but it was fine. I’ve done that workout inside on a dumb trainer and remember shifting a lot and trying to find the right gearing being a pain. Erg mode on a smart trainer is probably ideal there. Threshold and SS efforts are certainly great to do outside, as well as more static vo2 workouts where it’s a constant power for 2-3min then rest.

Either way, I’m a fan. Unless it’s pouring rain or ridiculously windy outside, I don’t plan on doing any TR inside workouts until the late fall.

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I’m certainly in the minority where I find it really hard to hold my power numbers outdoors.

I enjoy all the recovery rides outdoors and long endurance rides, but anything above that I find the trainer a lot easier.

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Responding in story form.

Once I had to do Spencer +2 (6x3min @ 120% with 4 minute breaks), but it was too hot for the trainer. I went to a local hill which takes about 3 minutes, ish. The gradient varies quite a bit, with some steeper pitches followed by flatter sections, so it’s really hard to stick to a steady power.

So I just went up it hard, 6 times, keeping an eye on my HR so that I didn’t go out too hard first go. The repeats just took as long as they took.

Then when I got home, I analysed the ride, and the intensity factor for the six hill reps and rests in between was exactly the same as the intensity factor for the 6 vo2 intervals + rests in Spencer +2. Job done.

What I’m trying to say is, if you want accuracy and analysis, stick to the trainer. If you want to ride outdoors, then look at the indoor workout, look at the outdoor workout, and figure out what are the overall goals of this session, the overall intensity or work you need to aim for, and figure out how best you’re going to achieve that on the terrain available to you.

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I agree it’s harder to hit the power numbers in certain cases. I just concentrate on the average watts falling in the specified range. I’m usually in the upper range as well when on a climb.

Given a choice between inside or outside, I’d rather be outside unless the weather isn’t too good.

Looking forward to seeing the interval analysis included in the future.

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Good point @martinheadon I think in TR or even zwift or wherever it’s easy to get too wrapped up in the exact numbers, when to a point they’re not that consequential.

The most important things are completion and consistency, as well as hitting the right energy systems. If you do the workouts, and continue them over months/years, you will get fast. If doing them outside causes you to not be able to hit the exact power number as precisely but the intent is there and you’re doing them to the best of your abilities, it’s probably not a big deal and that’s not your limiter in making you faster and stronger.

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I did my my first outdoor workout. I don’t think TR workouts work on Garmin 510. I can’t get it to work on mine keeps saying error. Any who I set up my screen and did the prescribed workout on my own. It is much harder to whole watts in the range but as our goal is to be faster outside I found it to be a good learning experience and will help to not be all over the place when I ride outside. It also helped me learning the feel of the speed in a certain zone on differing terrain. I prefer the trainer but will try to incorporate outside workouts to help build the skill of riding with power outside.

That’s usually my plan, I aim and can usually hit the top end of the given range. I think that’s the simplest solution for the indoor/outdoor FTP difference most people seem to have.

Pleasantly surprised to see this working now.

Thanks. :+1:

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I’m happy to find this thread as I wanted to post exactly the same question. Got a PM over the winter but as it is on the TT bike only had a chance to test it now in training with the weather getting good.

I took four sessions out:

  • Laurentian (2h15, IF 0.70) - rode by feel, ended up with IF 0.67
  • Longfellow (4h, IF 0.67) - rode by feel, ended up with IF 0.67
  • Mist -1 (1h15, 3x3min 118%, IF 0.93) - rode by power, ended up on the low range for all intervals at target 314W: 306, 284, 299, 307, 304, 310, 316, 305, 298. the same session I would have done at >305W per interval indoors.
  • Gibraltar (1h45, IF 0.80) - rode by power/feel, ended up with IF 0.82

FTP is set to indoors.
this nicely shows @MI-XC’s point - the longer rides were good to do outside. I wouldn’t do the VO2max. outside again (the results come close but are more variant. also, when I do that on the TT bike I go above 50km/h, not entirely road safe)

A big lesson for me is that it’s currently better for me to ride according to RPE outside rather than power (checking with HR). I know what it should feel like. I guess that emphasises @martinheadon’s point.

When I did Gibraltar outside RPE version (an old outside version that I had built in TP prior to wahoo integration; the current one is changed), I have the long sweet spot session divided in intervals of ~5min that go between RPE 6 and 7. I can totally feel the difference of that and it’s nice. With power, it just showed the same range for each interval. of course I could decide myself then, but I preferred the old RPE version. the current RPE version also just says ride 100min RPE7. so it may be a totally different topic.

@TonyLPowell what is working for you now? I can’t see target at any point

On Wahoo’s head unit, the planned workout page shows the target range, e.g. 180-200. I have average power displaying on the same page and that’s what I use for keeping on track. I must be getting better at it because today I managed to keep the average at the low end on one of the intervals and on the high end on another interval. The route I chose was a big help with keeping the power numbers in check. I’m planning on doing the same route Friday for the over/under workout on the schedule. Should be “fun!”

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Are you in Amsterdam? Try riding into the wind to reduce speed. And I am going to challenge some of the unstated assumptions in your post… Racing and riding outside will exhibit more variable power versus training inside. If you believe in specificity, it may in fact be better to train vo2 efforts the way you actually race them (outside). Has anyone found research that performing intervals inside is more effective versus outside? If research has concluded inside is better than outside, then a) I would think the trainer companies would use the evidence for marketing trainers, and b) pros would do interval work inside and low-intensity base miles outside. Inside work is certainly more time efficient. Efficiency and effectiveness are not the same. Food for thought.

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So true inside work may give more controllable results than outside, but outside is the real thing and you will learn far more from it than on a trainer set at erg mode. It is nice to complete workouts 100%, yet you probably learn more from failing a workout and over time getting there

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It is so hard to say which is more effective. As individuals we can’t easily do our own A vs B experiments. I’m definitely more motivated outside, there is more specificity, and I’m more likely to dig deeper. But that isn’t true for everyone.

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I’m in Amsterdam, yeah - good one with doing the intervals against the wind (it’s as much mountains as we get around here, with the downside that there’s no mountain top).

I appreciate your challenge, it’s a good thought to be going outside in terms of specificity! as you say, indoors for sure is way more time-efficient, and it made much of my tri training possible given other obligations (it takes me >20min to get out and back from the city plus kitting up, washing the bike). another big downside to outside is - even with good roads and segments, still - road traffic/running out of road/stoplights. and overall safety at high speeds on open roads.

another huge plus to outside is that you go places and experience nature!

all in all, I was actually surprised by how close I came to the actual session goals in terms of NP.

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Yes, I think both inside and outside have their place!

In the Central Valley near SF Bay we have similar terrain and wind as Amsterdam. A nice 2 mile Strava segment nearby is named “Gale Force Sprint” and starts 5’ below sea level and ends on top of a levee. On a really windy day you can be putting out vo2max power and speed is less than 10mph - for a mountain top finish at 10’ / 3m above sea level :rofl:

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