How often do you take a break from structure?

I love structured training, but I’ve noticed that after a few months of it I start to get mentally burned out. I currently have about four weeks left of the Build phase and I know I’m going to need to take a “just ride your damn bike” break before jumping into Speciality—be that outdoors, on Zwift, or a mixture of both (with a little TR thrown in for recovery rides).

Anyone else get this way? It could also be because at this point in the year I’m usually mixing in more outdoor group rides, but given the circumstances, I’ve exclusively been on the trainer for months now. A few weeks should do the trick for me—just having fun riding my bike for two or three weeks is usually all I need to refocus.

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I never ride without a plan of some sort (goofing around can be planned) and I’m always mindful of the overall long term plan but in terms of a break from structure i.e. rigid sets of specific watt targets for a specific times, I do that at least twice a week. In better times those were outdoor group rides, now its Zwift. I plan out how long I’ll ride, how hard and what zones and TSS I want to hit but no hard structure per se. Might be a free ride, a group ride or a race as the case may be.

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I believe it’s important (for me) to have at least one day per week that is un-structured. This is especially true in the warmer months where outdoor riding is easier. In the winter months I’m 100% structure given I don’t ride outdoors. Come spring and summer I never want to be a total slave to the trainer, watts, numbers, etc. as I find this goes entirely against the reason why I ride a bike. Pleasure.

I also make sure that I have a couple of really focused rides per week to keep building and reaching a higher level of fitness. However, some of these come in the form of “kitchen sink” rides where the main goal is to go out and touch on all zones.

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Yes, this happens. Sometimes I’ll take a 1 week break between ending a block and starting the next. Usually I’ll do some fun stuff, lately been interesting group rides and races on zwift. Or I’ll knock out a longer route badge than I can get to in my normal workouts, maybe plan a century ride. I usually won’t freestyle for very long though. A week, two at the most.

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I’m not going pro, so if I’m not having fun on the bike why am I riding? Having fun sometimes means I work hard to build a better base or see an increase in power, but usually it means that I can go do group rides with friends on a whim and ride well in beautiful places. To achieve that goal, I need to put in structured training time year round, heavier in the winter and off-season, so typically I’ll do a block of training and plan for a week or two of doing whatever I want riding before jumping into another training block.

I also ride road, MTB, and gravel, so if someone asks to ride a different discipline together that doesn’t fit in my training plan, I’ll probably scrap my plans and go ride with that friend. If that means I sacrifice a long road ride to spend a morning goofing on the MTB, so be it, I love the camaraderie more than I love the individual achievement.

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I’m on a 100% “just ride your damn bike” plan and it works as well as any structured plans I’ve ever done.

I still have a plan in mind each week, rest every 4-5 weeks and monitor TSS/CTL but day to day I do what I feel like based on my goals for the block. I’m not staring at interval targets, but I am mindful of the work I’m doing and it’s purpose.

My biggest take away has been don’t spend much time coasting or in Z1 and don’t spend too much time in Z4+.

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Every week!

Group rides and races normally, Zwift group rides and races currently. Normally about 2-3 unstructured rides, 4 structured rides.

Same as you, couple of months of structured training burns me out mentally. So rather than going through cycles of burning out, going totally structured and repeating, I figured it made more sense to get a weekly dose of unstructured training to keep me fresh.

Note that unstructured doesn’t mean totally unpredictable. I’ll have a pretty good idea what kind of TSS and intensity a ride or race is going to be and therefore be able to fit it into the plan. Just during the ride itself I’m not really looking at watts or trying to follow a plan, I’m just enjoying myself, going by RPE and reacting to what’s happening around me.

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I almost always have a 1-week break between plans. Still plenty of TSS, but I ride/run/swim however I feel like on any given day. It’s a nice break from the 6-8 week rigid structures.

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Well in the current situation - until there is a prospect of racing so maybe next winter…I did my base and SPB was feeling pretty fit but with no UK tt at present I can’t see the point - if I keep going with a structured plan I will not fancy putting in the hard work next winter. I’m just riding in the admittedly lovely weather we are having in the UK at present - all zone 2 with one short easy (ish!) VO2 session a week - like Baird to keep the legs fresh. If racing starts we have to have a months notice because all of them close to entry 10 days before so if that happens I put in some threshold/VO2 work…but I can’t see it - even if it’s safe to race they won’t while other groups are still restricted so I think that’s it until 2021 - mind you can get in a lot more high volume zone 2 than I ever would have done racing most weekends so it may make me a better ride in the long term

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How often do I take a break? Every time a global pandemic hits us. The rest of the time I actually enjoy the process of structured training.

Currently plenty of no man’s land zone/ happy hard riding. We can still go outdoors, no traffic at all. I have time. Happy hard for hours.

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My plan is less structured and feels more like your plan! More motivation, training harder, seeing all the gains and then some, having fun :tada: :biking_man: :tada:

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I find that fun is quite enjoyable as well.

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When you guys take a break after structure is that just your recovery week when you go and do whatever you like?

To really reap the fruits of your labour, I’d want to recover and then let rip and have some fun the following week. I did that after Build, but as a result started my next block a little tired as I did a bad job restraining myself!

I kinda agree. And it will be worse in a month or so without the outside targets.

I tend to watch a boxset/film whilst I train, with subtitles on. If I need a mental boost then sometimes just picking an old favourite, or something brand new, is enough to wake me up.

Not easy staying motivated at the moment though.

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I am new to TR and have only completed SSBLVI and SSB LVII. I had one break where I was sick and another to just ride for fun for a week after recovery week. I am starting build now and just completed the ramp test last night. I specifically chose LV to not get burned out. I want to be able to go out and at least have 2 and maybe even 3 easy outdoor rides a week while getting 3 hard structured workouts a week.

I don’t race and just like to have fun and I think that taking the LV route so I have 100-150 TSS per week to “play” outdoors is the way to go for me. I am getting faster while doing it too.

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2 weeks a year…after my last A race of season. Never really ‘just ride’, get bored without structure…although do enjoy recovery weeks which are light

TR has discussed this on the podcast. We are not robots on a machine. We need to have that occasional itch scratched to just get out and ride the bike, with no agenda. The trick is to allow yourself the break, but not derail off of the structure to the point where you’re no longer on any plan.

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100%. I’d suggest planning these days off though so that you take 1-2 days off as opposed to 2 weeks.

It’s not going to ruin you to do that plan you’ve stated, but will be more optimized and efficient if you’re not ALL or NOTHING.

find a nice balance.

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@ciarrai Absolutely agree! I will scrap my plans in a minute if someone wants to do a group road ride or go shred some sweet singletrack.

I used to get irritated with my friends who where total slaves to their training programs and wouldn’t budge an inch. I understand more now that I am a trainer road user and I’m much more of a trainer rider used to be I remain flexible.

I choose the low volume plan so I have flexibility. When I want more structured training I add in one or two of the rides from the mid volume plan as well. It also gives me the flexibility to take several or more days off and then I can adjust my calendar and still fit the rides in and catch back up.

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A perfectly timed post. I was thinking the same. I just took a 1 week break (last week) off the bike entirely (didn’t even look at the bike). I had been training for 20 weeks straight with no break between modules (low volume). My legs appreciated the break. This is my 1st time ever doing structured training.

This time of the year, I would normally be doing group rides on Thursdays (hill workout) and Saturdays (long rides), but given the circumstances that is not happening. I do plan to start the Thursday rides on my own. I just started the Century Specialty phase (low volume) this week and only train 3x per week and don’t get burned out by being on the bike too often. The low volume allows me to add some rides without upsetting the high intensity workouts, like the Thursday ride. I also plan to get some MTB rides in to break it up some.

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