"Feature" (lol!) Request: total overhaul of the workouts library

OK, so it’s not really a feature request. I know that I’m talking about some serious man-hours being put in, not just a line of code. But at the same time, I think there are some issues with the workout library and how it’s organised, and it’s overdue an overhaul of some sort.

  • There are too many. It needs a cull. There are 19 different options for “60-75 minutes of sweetspot intervals at .80 to .81 intensity”. Tweed is “4x5-minute intervals at 102% FTP with 5-minute recoveries between intervals” and Tweed +1 is “4x5-minute intervals at 102% FTP with 3-minute recoveries between intervals” - what’s the difference, really? Perhaps, like Marie Kondo, we need to throw out the ones that don’t bring us joy.
  • The rationale behind the workout variants is inconsistent and confusing. Sometimes the +1 and -1 are just shorter and longer, other times they’re about intensity. Baird, for example, has 5 variations (-1 to +3) that are all an hour long.
  • There are even worse anomalies, often because workouts used in training plans get updated and their variants don’t. This poor man thought he’d just reduce Dade+1 (75 minutes) to Dade (60 minutes), only to find the latter was an eye-watering 0.96 IF, 6% harder. Meanwhile, half the variations of Baird are gut-busting vo2 torture-fests while others have rest intervals long enough to make them a stroll in the park, as this user recently noted.

So anyway, here’s MY manifesto for a simpler, streamlined system.

  1. Make it so variants are all about duration, with the overall intensity staying at an equivalent level for whatever length it is, and the interval length and intensity staying the same wherever possible. This means that if you have a 90 minute workout and only have time for 60, you can just select the alternative, knowing that it will be the closest you can get to the same training effect as your original workout.
    (This means that for vo2 workouts, 90 and 120 versions will probably just add on endurance intervals at the end, rather than increasing rest intervals and bring your heart rate down too much. Workouts focusing on muscular endurance can probably increase rest intervals for longer versions without ruining the training effect.)
    This means that when I say “Baird” you know I mean “short hard vo2 intervals”, or when I say “Spencer” you know I mean “3 minute vo2 intervals”. It makes sure each name has a consistent identity and purpose. It also makes it user-friendly to the majority of TR users who are simply following a training plan and want to make easy substitutions without extensive research. You shouldn’t have to think about it.
  2. Get rid of the + and - naming system, and simply replace it with the number of minutes. So Baird 45, Baird 60, Baird 75, Baird 90, etc. (Thanks to @DaveWh for this great suggestion)
  3. In order to achieve point 2, carry out a cull so each workout only has at most one variant for each duration. There only needs to be one “Baird 60” - if the other 1-hour Bairds have a purpose, call them something else.
  4. Take out any workouts that are (a) not in any training plans, and (b) used very rarely. They could be stuck in a workout archive if anyone happens to be a big fan.
  5. Just to casually throw in another year’s work into the mix, this overhaul should be accompanied by a web-based and user-friendly custom workout creator, for those of us who like to tinker.

Anyway, that’s my vision, show me yours. All I would note before you do is that I’ve tried to think about it both from my point of view (bit of a geek, regular forum poster) and from the point of view of the average TR user (just wants to do a training plan and get faster). I know some of us would like it to be more like Golden Cheetah with a half-decent UI, but that’s not really what TR is about.

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I’ve got a lot to say, but not much time.

That extra 2-minutes of recovery can be the difference between completing or not.

I don’t find labeling total duration to be a serious suggestion.

At a fundamental level, intervals are about using intensity and time to target physiological adaptations and energy systems.

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The only part I agree with here is that the variants of a workout should be predictable in some way.

I never know if I’m going to get an easier version of a workout or a time crunched version of a workout when I go to a minus variant.

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In some workouts, perhaps, but both Tweed and Tweed +1 are .82 intensity overall. It was just an example pulled out at random, really.

But my point is, re-reading your linked post, that the variants shouldn’t differ in several ways.

There should be constants - %FTP of the intervals, length of intervals, overall intensity (give or take a bit to account for duration), that give the workout its identity across the variants.
Then there should be potential variables - number of intervals, length of rest intervals, additional endurance / tempo work - that are applied as appropriate to maintain the same training aim as the shorter or longer version it replaces.

Edit: to be clear, my suggestion is more than just renaming but also potentially changing the workouts to achieve the effect described.

There could be a bit more consistency in how the naming works, but I wouldn’t cull things much. I love getting small differences in which workout I use after five or more years of using them. Sometimes ten seconds difference in rest is a real difference.

I realize this is just an example, but it’s worthwhile doing deeper in so that it’s clear why this is a +1 workout. The IF is the same since the overall work is the same. Some of the rest however is moved from between the intervals to the warm down. So there is less recovery between the work intervals. It’s a +1 workout because it is more difficult.

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I’m sure you’re right, but to bang this particular drum again, you shouldn’t need to “go deeper”.

In my system, the variant of Tweed would maybe be “Tweed 75”, perhaps with 5x5 minute intervals and a longer warm-up.

I can’t understand trying to evaluate variants solely on Intensity Factor and total duration. Putting the total duration into name doesn’t cut it in my opinion, as it misses the point in particular on vo2 work where tweaking the rest intervals will impact the total amount of time at high aerobic uptake.

Hence my note in the original post…

the rest interval duration is independent of adding some endurance work at 65%

Indeed. I don’t think we’re actually disagreeing all that much here.

My basic proposition is that BECAUSE creating an equivalent 90 minute version of a 60 minute workout is a complex business, and needs to be approached differently for vo2, sweetspot, and endurance, that TR should do all the hard work so the user doesn’t have to.

I’d start with saying this isn’t the goal or use case. Your post starts with an assumption about solving a problem. I’m going out on a limb and going to say you are wanting to solve this problem:

  • how to easily swap out a workout on the calendar, for another slightly more/less difficult workout that is aligned with the same training benefit

(and I’m ignoring how more than one of those might impact the progressive overload aspect of the 6-week or 8-week plan)

Overhauling the workout library is a brute force approach to the problem. And going down that path I would argue that each workout should have exactly one + variant (if you are up for something harder), and one - variant (if you need something less hard).

But I don’t think a brute force, complete overhaul, is the only way to achieve the objective. The problem could be solved by TR in other ways, for example a “Workout Swap Wizard” that when you pull up a workout you can easily swap for a + or - version (or perhaps even a ++ or – version).

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I’d guess that “lack of time” is the most common reason for swapping out a workout. And if you want something easier / harder, the +/- intensity button is always there.

I like this idea too. But it might still need some extensive work cataloguing and analysing all the workouts to make sure the wizard was pulling the right options out of its hat.

What are you trying to do that you can’t do now?

As far as I can see, a majority of people shouldn’t need to be concerned with the depth of the workout catalog. Just select a plan and follow it.

That approach won’t work for everyone however, so to cater for scenarios where “just follow a plan” can’t be done, you have the ability to mix and match workouts from the catalog. Thus the need for workout variants arises. It’s impossible to know why someone is deviating from the plan. For some they may be time constrained and need shorter workouts with more intensity, or perhaps they’re not feeling it today and need a workout that is the same duration, but easier, or … or … or … [infinity]. I personally love that the workout catalog is so deep. I also appreciate that there are so many ways to filter and sort the catalog to find the workout that best suits my need. In my opinion, when the naming convention was introduced that provided the +1 for harder and -1 for easier was so helpful. What the platform is trying to do is make you a stronger cyclist. That comes from progressive stress, so intensity is more important than duration. The fact that a workout is longer or shorter isn’t as important as whether it’s harder or easier in my opinion.

If you see several workouts that all look the same, great just pick one and it’ll work for you. I would venture that to someone else, they would see a meaningful difference between those rides and the ability to choose one over another.

Agree, lack of time is one reason.

On the flip side if you are feeling strong then adding intensity is not always the best approach. Instead you might be working on extending the amount of time doing VO2 or sweet spot work, which means more intervals.

I would return to a couple of points in the original post. Firstly, that most users aren’t as interested in getting in-depth as you or I. Secondly, that for people like us, a user-friendly custom workout creator is the pot of gold over the turbo rainbow.

To be able to look at today’s workout from the training plan, think “well I’ve not got 90 minutes THIS evening”, and select the 60 minute version knowing that it will be the ideal substitute for the one scheduled.

Currently, you don’t know without investigating if the -1 of your scheduled workout is (a) the same length but easier, (b) the same intensity but shorter, ( c ) shorter AND easier, or (d) shorter but harder.

That’s true. This is where your “workout wizard” might help in this scenario. Like when you go to replace it, you can ask for a list of “longer”, “shorter”, “easier” and “harder” options.

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Another vote for some sort of variant naming protocol or at least some explanation of what are the differences. I’ve been doing a lot of variants late (shortening b/c of time) and its takes some study to figure out what is going on. Its complicated enough I can’t do it on my phone pre ride, I need to spend some quality time on the computer with a note pad . . . .

(It might also be helpful to point out alternative workouts vs variants. My hunch is often it is better to do a different workout than vary the one assigned if time is an issue).

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Well stated, thanks.

I like this idea better than culling the catalog. Just improve the interface to make it easier to find what you want. Some kind of a “Give me a workout similar to [ ], that is easier/similar/harder and/or shorter/the same/longer”. I think that would be really good.

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