First outdoor workout - TSS much higher than expected

Hi Everyone,

On Thursday I completed my first ever outdoor workout. Setting everything up went smoothly, as did the ride. But, i ended up with twice the TSS i was expecting.
The ride i completed was Townsend, which is a 2:15 endurance ride when completed outdoors with an expected TSS of 60. The bulk of the ride called for riding between 143-167 watts, which I averaged 157 for the interval. The ride had an NP of 174 overall. By the time i got home again, I had 121 TSS.

During the workout I was conscious of trying not to coast. Could this be the reason for the high TSS? Do outside workouts expect a certain amount of coasting/soft pedaling, like on downhills? Or do I need to keep the NP in the target power range? That seems like it would be hard to do, since i followed the recommended screen setup for a garmin and it wasn’t suggested i use NP.

I got the impression that i could have done a ride outside closer to 90 minutes instead of the 2:15 that was given by the workout to get the 60 TSS. Has anyone else experienced this when completing endurance workouts?

The bottom line here is that the Outside workout variants can be inconsistent: some of them seem deliberately to extend the workout because of belief that you’re unlikely to pedal constantly outdoors owing to traffic, stop signs etc. Townsend is one of those workouts. While other workouts have an outdoor variant that is an exact facsimile of the indoor version.

This is explained in the FAQ at the bottom of this article:

So the approach you take is up to you…I’d suggest:

  • check out the structure of the outdoor variant compared to the indoor workout
  • see how your local roads are; if you really can ride uninterrupted (especially for harder interval sets) then there’s no need to extend your workout compared to the indoor version as you’ll be getting the same workout as you would indoors.
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I had this problem too. I changed my garmin display to show tss so I can check it during the ride. after a few rides you will know your tss for each route.

Good points above AND…

If you’re NP for the ride was 174w you rode a lot of it a lot harder than 143-167w!!!

NP is essentially the wattage equivalent if you had ridden the entire ride at a steady pace eg you effectively rode at the equivalent of 174w for the entire ride.

This is usually the effect of hills, where you ride over target, perhaps headwinds when you push harder for periods and the old classic of trying to keep up with your mates who aren’t riding to your wattage target.

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Looking at your ride, I see tons of micro-intervals, which you can also see from your heartrate bouncing up and down

Here’s zooming in on a 15min section from 2:04 to 2:20, where you’re hitting the climbs with 280+ watts, and then coasting back down. Your average power is 115 for that time, but your NP is 143.

All those little intervals are going to crank your TSS up. It’s hard to maintain power on a steep downhill, so sure, you’ll have to coast here and there. I think your chasing the average watt rabbit. Let’s say you want to average 150W for an entire ride, and you stare at that number on your bike computer. Average goes down on a downhill, so you bring it back up on the next uphill by putting out way more than your target wattage. Sure, your average looks good, but staying in your target power zone takes a nose dive.

For comparison sake, here’s my ride from yesterday, a short 1:20 Z2 ride. A couple little spikes here and there, but I don’t pay attention to my overall average, but I do look at my 20s, 1min, and 5min averages on the wahoo. It’s a pretty flat route, that helps a ton. Average power was 231, NP was 233.

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That seems very low - really hard to do a 2hr 15 ride at just about 50% of FTP - also not sure of benefits of such a ride in recovery zone, but too long for a recovery ride.

Also hard not to raise your power on an incline if you have a relatively low FTP (below 300W).

yep - dont chase the average power as inevitably you’ll end up putting in time well outside your target zone. Just accept that if you coast for a while that when you get home your AP will be a little lower, but on the ride you focus on the power you are putting in at that time and don’t try and adjust it to hit a meaningless number…

Years ago TR wouldn’t show the AP for an interval on the app and it was deliberate as I remember Chad and Nate saying on a podcast that they didnt want people chasing an average. If you go over or under then just accept it and get back on target moving forward :smiley:

When riding outside just try to keep your instantaneous power consistent with your target. Don’t try to ‘make up’ for past mistakes. Bike riding isn’t rocket surgery. For z2 you shouldn’t even need to look at your power meter very often… just get a sense for what z2 feels like (‘all day pace’, ‘talking pace’, ‘breath not at rest, but primarily through nose’, etc) and let it rip until you finish your loop/time.

Yes - it’s because the indoor version of Townsend is a 90min workout with 60 TSS, yet the outdoor version is the same intensity but 135min…but still claims to be a 60 TSS ride. As I say, the outdoor workout variants are very inconsistent in this respect - some are longer than the indoor variants, some are not.

well, that just seems daft!

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Right, so this is the TR reasoning:

Why are some outside workout equivalents longer than my scheduled TrainerRoad workouts?

Riding outside is less efficient. Things like terrain, stoplights, and weather have to be taken into account when heading out to ride. Riding inside controls all of these external factors, and therefore allows the workouts to be incredibly precise. To account for these external factors, many TrainerRoad outside workout equivalents will be between 15 and 60 minutes longer (depending on TR workout length) to ensure you are getting the same training benefit while riding outside.

So the general point is fair …I.e. depending on your roads, you may or may not be able to ride consistently without traffic etc. But the reality is that some outdoor workouts seem heavily padded to account for this, and some are not. So before you use an outdoor workout, you just need to look and see how close it is to the indoor version so you know what you’re in for.

But as discussed above, on rolling terrain there is also a technique to riding a steady Zone 2 - especially being careful to avoid power spikes on the hills.

I live in a pretty flat part of the UK and like to do longer sweet spot sessions outdoors, but I still have to pick my route carefully to avoid hills and sharp junctions.

Thought I’ve read somewhere else that TR is going back and fixing the outdoor versions to match indoor time again. They saw the data did not support providing an extended versions to hit the same tss - folks not stopping as much as they expected. Can’t find the post now. Though I’d expect the changes to be a little while yet as they try to get AT rolled out.

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Thank you for the responses everyone.

My main takeaways are that i probably went too hard, and that sometimes the outside workouts don’t match that well with the indoor ones.

All in all, I’m happy with how everything went, just surprised by the result. The NP of 174 was still within my endurance zone, even though it was near the top end. It is also very difficult to keep my power in there around where I live. There are lots of short inclines to crest, as since I’m not the lightest in the world, i have to surge to get over them. Next time i could perhaps take it a bit easier on the downhill sections to compensate for the uphill bits. I’m fortunate that i can ride in the countryside without many stops, which also may have not been entirely expected by the workout.

I think if I do this workout again, I would shorten it to about 90 minutes and see how that goes. I’m not sure i need the almost extra hour to pad the work, especially on a recovery week!

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Also watch for ones like bays where you’ll not just get inflated time at Z2, but also additional sprints in that time. TSS will go through the roof compared to plan.

Forcing everyone into these extended versions based on an assumption that some people can’t train outside correctly was silly from day 1, it was finally acknowledged, and this should have long been fixed. Outdoor workouts are super effective when executed correctly and great training for real world power pacing.

It’s so much easier to fix than other problems - why does it still drag on for a year unaddressed? :thinking:

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This is well documented.

Assuming you’re able to ride outside on a loop/route where your pedalling will be relatively uninterrupted, and ideally without significant gradients, I’d look to add on no more than 10-15% to the indoor versions of workouts.

NP can be slightly higher outside; starts from lights, a slope where it’s just not possible/practical to put out .65W, wind, etc. But there is also a skill to staying on/below power targets; I got a lecture this evening from my coach for not doing that!

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Well, I’d do exactly the opposite: take it way easier on the uphill (even if it feels ridiculously slow) and try not to let the power fall on the downhills.
It’s all that “trying to compensate” that rises the NP and the TSS, and at the end you are doing lots of small bits of z3/z4/z5 and too much Z1 and coasting, so exactly the opposite of how it should look like.

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if you have lots of inclines then get in the smallest gear you have and spin up at walking pace if thats what it takes to stay in the zone…you have to learn to let go of the ego and let the grannies on shopping bikes come past you :rofl:

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When moving a ride from inside to outside, I always take a look at what kind of Time in Zone the inside ride is prescribing - for instance, Pettit is about 50-60 mins in my endurance zone. I then shoot for that Time in Zone outdoors. The TR Indoors–>Outdoors conversion sometimes over-estimates the increased time that is needed for stuff like stoplights and coasting, which I am lucky enough to not have. For some, it may be appropriate, but for me, it always does the same thing as it did to you - outdoor ride prescription overdoing it.

Wow, how condescending is that statement.

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What are you on about? Not condescending at all. Just a simple fact of physics. And I am speaking from personal experience given that my FTP has never been anywhere near 300W and is currently probably about 160W as I struggle with a long recovery from Covid. Hence when I hit any kind of incline even in 34/28 it is hard for me to stay below my FTP let alone below 70% of it.
Anyway, thanks for your valuable contribution.