How important is it to stick to workouts during specialty phase? (low volume plan)

I’m in the specialty phase (low volume, climbing road race) and every workout is hard now. First time in my TR experience I was going to rate a workout very hard, and probably should have done so the last time.

The weather is nice now where I live though, and I want to ride outside. But my outdoor rides are never really easy. I don’t go hard, but it’s just hilly and yea I like to go fast at times, it’s just fun. This weekend, I want to do an outdoor ride and TR has rated my outdoor rides as pretty hard (last one was TSS 122). I would do something similar this weekend.

Tomorrow’s threshold workout looks very hard to me. I look ahead and see every workout during this phase really hard. In fact, I’m not confident I can complete tomorrow’s workout (would be the first time). But this hard phase seems extra important? Before I wouldn’t have minded skipping a sweet spot workout on the weekend for an outdoor ride because the exertion seemed similar. My progress is slowing but I’ve enjoyed the progress I’ve made so far, so I want to keep it going. But I also want to ride outdoor now. If I do both, would one recommend TR first and outdoor the day after?


Can you do your structured TR workout outside?

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You’re are not alone. I’m in the same phase and can relate. I haven’t figured it out yet so im awaiting other members experience.

Similar feelings. I am in that parent/work/life-balance stage and thus err on the side of fun. I want to ride hard, get better but I ultimately do this because riding my bike makes me happy. Just my opinion but if dropping a workout on a summer weekend to ride outside is good for your mental game and keeps you riding (consistency) than it’s better than grinding away and losing interest. Keep smashing those workouts during the week and enjoy your weekend!


Like @Jolyzara said.
Hit one or two hard workouts a week and ride outside, group rides or soul rides. Unless you have an event you’re trying to be ready for then i might do it differently. I sometimes hit the two during the week and get 2 long weekend rides. In the end it’s supposed to be fun.


Leading up to my climbing road race my Sunday workout was sweet spot. I subbed that for a long outdoor ride with hills when the weather was good. Race results were great so I would not worry about it.

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Do you have a power meter on your road bike. With a bit of thought of which route to take, i do 90% of my plan outdoors in good weather. The only ones i don’t do are like today which was Lafayette -1, lots of short 15 sec VO2 which i wont enjoy trying on the road.

Threshold or sweetspot though i find great on the road.


One workout won’t make a difference.

Replacing all the hard workouts with less hard workouts will probably mean you’re a wee bit less fit than you would have been, but not loads.

Either ride outside and don’t worry too much about the fitness gainz, or ride hard outside (doesn’t matter if it replicates the planned workout, as long as it’s similarly hard)

But definitely ride outside.


The speciality phase of the base-build-speciality progression levels off in TSS, so you should actually feel less pressure than under build.

Thus, I disagree with the notes above to an extend.

What are your goals?

Why are the workouts too hard? One of the explanations may be that your outside ride is to hard in the context of your weekly load, you can’t recover for the next quality workout. There can be many other stress factors - work, relationship, sleep, nutrition, alcohol…

That’s all fine if you don’t mind a bit less fitness. if you want to actually follow the plan, I’d think twice about if you can’t make your outside workouts happen but within the context of your plan. So maybe go a bit easier and make sure you can hit 1-2 quality workouts still without toning them down.

I don’t know if this is the OP’s concern, but I’m about to enter my first specialty phase (low volume gran fondo) and I’m dreading some of the threshold workouts too. During base and build I’ve mostly had over unders, and also some that are only unders (e.g. intervals ranging from 95-99%). My specialty phase is still a litlte over a week away, so it hasn’t adapted yet, but the scheduled workouts are all overs (looking at a few they seem to be mostly if not all intervals at 105%). It looks similar for the general climbing road race plan, but I don’t know what AT actually has the OP doing.

For instance, the first week currently has me scheduled before AT to do Threshold Dicks -1 (5x8 minute intervals at 105% FTP). For comparison, my VO2 workout that’s currently scheduled is Spidean (2x5 minutes intervals [with 30 second breaks halfway through] at 106%). That’s only 1%/3 watts less for the threshold workouts, but 3 minutes longer and without a break halfway through. I feel like I can do the VO2 max as scheduled (or maybe even a bit harder) but the threshold workouts just seem like they would be too much.

I’m going to wait until I see what AT does, but I’m seriously considering manually swapping out a different type of threshold workout (maybe more over unders). Maybe I’ll try one of these 105% threshold workouts and only afterward make my decision, well see.

You can choose an alternate with a shorter duration or even with breaks like your VO2 and work up (i.e. Jacks -2/+2/+3). My first go at 8 min reps @ 105% was tough. I’d get to 6 min and have to really dig deep the last two min. It took me a week to recover after that workout. Hindsight I should’ve started with 6 min reps and built up from there.

Good luck!

@brianngo There are some good points in this discussion to consider!

My first question would be the same as @KonaSS — can you do your workout outside? If you’re set on trying to follow your plan as best as possible, it might be fun to try and take this workout outside to get a stimulus as close to your scheduled workout as possible. Using RPE is totally fine if you don’t have a power meter — just make sure to select that in your workout!

On the other side, @Jolyzara has a great point. If dropping a workout to ride your bike outside without structure is going to keep you motivated to keep riding consistently, by all means, go that route. We have to make sure that we’re staying mentally motivated just as much as physically. We are just riding bikes, after all. It’s supposed to be fun!

The Specialty Phase in your training plan is designed to apply the finishing touches to your fitness, typically in preparation for an event. This means that you’ll likely have some difficult workouts that target specific zones or scenarios. These can be intimidating, but I believe that you can get through them! If you’ve made it this far in your plan, Adaptive Training should have things dialed in. Some of these workouts might be very hard, but that’s part of the plan, and these productive efforts are a big part of how you get faster.

I’d trust the system, give each workout your all, and make sure that you fill out the post-workout surveys honestly in order to keep things on track. Adaptive Training will take note if one of your workouts was too hard and make arrangements moving forward.


One of the reasons I’m a little dubious of how good a fit TR is for me is that the training seems targets more at races than other events. Depending on the definition, my aims are close to if not fully in ultra endurance. (I’ve heard on the podcast I believe that TR doesn’t really have any plans aimed at ultra endurance–I like some of the other aspects of TR though I’m not sure how worth it TR is for me).

What this comes up against though, is that there aren’t scenarios that I need to train for when I’d want to be ready for suprathreshold. I’ll in fact want to minimize all time in threshold and above (and maybe sweet spot) so that doesn’t tell me anything about why I should be doing those specific workouts. On the flip side, I absolutely understand that training in higher zones can elevate my ftp which will help make me faster in the lower zones I’ll actually be cycling in/help me stay fresh longer at specific lower wattages. But here’s where I’m really hung up–technically the Gran Fondo speciality phase (low volume) has sweet spot, threshold, and VO2 max workouts. But the threshold and VO2 max workouts are so close together (only 3 watts apart) that those really are not different zones. Moreover, the scheduled threshold workouts make the VO2 workouts look like child’s play. I could maybe get doing suprathreshold intervals for the threshold sessions, if the VO2 max workouts were on the high end of VO2. Or doing VO2 max on the low end if the threshold workouts were over unders or some other option, but as it is, I’ll have two very similar workouts out of 3 each week when from what I understand, diversity of workouts is more likely to help me improve.

Ultimately, I’m already fiddling a lot with my schedule, (I’m riding 16+ hours a week on a low volume plan) so I’m just wondering why I shouldn’t change to a different type of threshold workout. I’m already adding on lots of time to low volume, to spend more time in the zones I’ll actually use–plus, because I don’t want to spend all my time doing intervals.

While I mostly like adaptive training, I have big questions about how progression levels really equate between different types of workouts in the same zone. For instance, I was doing really well on 30/15 VO2 max efforts, but I seriously stumbled when I changed phases and started doing 2 minutes efforts with longer recoveries. And then when I moved to longer VO2 max but toward the lower end, I found it easier. Similarly with threshold–I find workouts just under threshold to be easier than the over unders at the same PL. That’s not surprising, if you compare two workouts at 5.1 - McAdie 4x12 over unders with Mount Hayes with 4x12 between 95-99% (and slightly longer rest intervals, though also ramping up instead of going straight into zone). I haven’t done suprathreshold intervals yet, but I am extremely unconvinced that being able to do over unders at a certain level has actually prepared me to do suprathreshold at the same level. I like adaptive training in theory, but I do think this is a flaw in it. (I will acknowledge that the type of interval that one person finds easiest is not necessarily the type of interval that another person finds easiest since I’ve seen that come up on the forum–so perhaps there is no perfect way to do AT to cover all the varieties of workouts within a single zone). In this case, it seems like this is a flaw that I could work around by choosing a different type of threshold workout.

@buirechain we recommend our Gran Fondo plan to athletes who are pursuing ultra-endurance events. The specialty phase in this plan focuses primarily on muscular endurance, which prepares you for long hours of steady power. We’ve had athletes find great success in ultra-endurance events even while training with a low-volume plan, just as you are.

In regard to workouts in different zones having similarities, remember that each zone represents a percentage range of your FTP. These zones each butt up against each other, which makes it possible for a workout in one zone to have power targets similar to a workout from a different zone. We’re aware of this and utilize the range of options we have in each zone to create workouts with different difficulty ratings.

This might help to understand why certain types of workouts feel harder than others. You’ve mentioned that microburst VO2 workouts don’t feel nearly as hard as some Threshold workouts, which is likely how most people feel. Bump the 15 or 30-second VO2 intervals up to 2 or 5 minutes long, and it’s a completely different story! These hard workouts are beneficial, though, albeit in a different way than the microburst or any other style of workout, for that matter. It’s not about finding what type of workout is “easiest” for any certain athlete, but rather providing training stimulus in the way that best achieves that athlete’s goals. As you transition from one type of workout to the next in your plan, continue to answer your post-ride surveys honestly, and your plan will adapt to keep the difficulty at the right level. Using Workout Alternates is also a good option here. If your scheduled workout is one that you’re certain you’ll struggle with, you can always look through the alternates to find a replacement with a lower Workout Level.

When looking at training plans from a distance, you would see that lower-volume plans often tend to prescribe less low-intensity work in order to give the athlete the stimulus needed to become stronger in the smaller training window.

With the way that you’re describing your schedule, it sounds like you might be interested in checking out a Polarized plan. This builds your plan around a majority of low-intensity workouts with a small amount of high-intensity mixed in (between an 80/20 and 95/5 ratio).

It looks like you’re using a training plan to schedule all of your higher-intensity work and filling in the rest with unstructured riding. It definitely seems like you could get most/all of your riding to fit into a structured Polarized plan to follow, which would give you all of the benefits of using Plan Builder & Adaptive Training with all of your rides.

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