How do you organize your route/effort for trainerroad workouts outside?

I’m planning to get a power-meter to pace hills and keep training while outside, however, I have a doubt.
Most workouts seem to be 1hrs and a half or 2 hrs. Also, it seems to me that recovery time between intervals should stay as planned. So, my doubts are:

  1. For rides longer than 2 hours (say 80km), what do you do? Longer warm-ups and/or cool downs?
  2. I usually plan my rides around hills (the most fun bit for me), which means I tend to take it easier on the flats between hills, and push when the gradient rises. This will make a long interval easy to achieve (I guess), but it might make the following hill 30-40 minutes away. I know I could pause the work out until I get where I can complete the interval easily but… would it make sense to have such a long recovery time between intervals? (I don’t plan to descent and then repeat the same hill).


I live in the city, so navigating the maze is my warm up/cool down.

It depends on what your goal is. For interval work, I don’t think this is a good approach, at least not for most types of intervals. But I think there are good ways to bring purpose to outdoor work.

What I like to do is set myself challenges or jobs for outdoor rides. For example, on rides where I try to optimize pacing to maximize overall speed, I know I will have to reign myself in on the climbs a little and push myself on the flats. On other days, I don’t want my heart rate to go above 140 bpm (a Z1–Z2 ride). Or I pick one hill where I want to smash it and casually ride the rest of the way.

Thank you! This is very helpful.

I agree with you and imagine that very long recovery times waiting for the following hill are probably not ideal for interval work.
Taking the examples that you provide (overall speed ride, smashing hill ride, Z1-Z2 ride), would you say that those are doable based on RPE?

I was pacing on feel for 30 years, so yes! :slight_smile:
But give your rides some more purpose. You also don‘t need to do it every time, but I find it therapeutic to have a concrete goal.

You might have noticed that I also slipped in an example where the limit is a max heart rate. I often ride on my mountain bike for relaxation, e. g. pulling a trailer with my daughter in it. Since it does not have a power meter, I have to pace by feel or by heart rate.

Are you referring to those example above (overall speed, smashing hill, etc.) or are you suggesting to organize some routes around a workout once in a while?

I‘m just saying that before each ride, I often try to consciously come up with a goal that is in line with my training needs. You could be doing hill repeats on a short, steep hill to train your VO2max. You could train pacing, etc. Just pootling around in between hills on the flats and then smashing it to get up a climb might be fun, but if you want to use that time for some form of training benefit, I‘d do it differently.

The latest podcast has some good tips on planning TR outside workouts (episode 305).

My feeling for outside workouts is that you need to find the compromise between accuracy and ‘enjoyment’. Hill repeats will probably give you closest to the intended workout, but longer recoveries give you a varied route and are better for the soul…

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I think there are workouts that require you to design a route around the intervals (or even just up and down a single hill) and there are others that are more flexible and you can massage to fit into a route.

VO2’s are probably something that you should design a route around. The rest intervals are pretty important as you don’t just want to scatter 5 3 min intervals throughout a 2 hour ride.

SS workouts however are pretty good to fit into the “ride up a mountain then ride to the next one” type rides. You can split up the intervals and do 20min up one climb and then after an hour of endurance you can do another 20min up a second climb. The rest intervals don’t matter a huge amount with this type of workout and in the end the goal is just to get better at sub threshold efforts. And if you want/need longer intervals then just start going hard 5 min before the climb.

Thanks, this is more or less what I was looking for. So, in your opinion for SS work the recovery time doesn’t matter too much, meaning, if it’s longer than prescribed it’s not a big deal. Am I reading this right?

You’d be surprised at how hard you can push it on the flat. I hit my max HR on a flat section of a ride last year. Admittedly trying to outpace a chasing rider. But don’t assume that if it’s (the gradient) not going up, then you can’t hit Vo2 max territory

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If you are using the SS workouts to just generate some extra aerobic load then no I don’t think the rest periods matter too much. Just ride a steady endurance pace between without coasting.

I haven’t been doing TR plans this year but have been following FasCat plans. He’s the guy that’s credited with ‘inventing’ SS. He will frequently prescribe long weekend rides with prescriptions like “accumulate 45-60 min in SS range in intervals of at least 15 min”. So it’s very flexible. I live in a very flat area so for me it’s more about finding stretches with few interruptions than about finding long climbs but the concept is the same. I’ll usually do something like 20 min SS then 40min endurance.

This is a 3.5hr rides with ~50 min of SS intervals

This is a 3hr ride with ~70min of SS

I’ve found that since I started doing it this way I feel WAYY better putting out power 3 hours into a ride then I did before when my longer rides were almost all endurance. (especially this past year with no group rides)

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