How to maintain fitness in summer w/ less structured training?

This is a question coming from commentary on the latest podcast. It was stressed that forgoing structured training in the summer months in favor of unstructured outdoor rides will cause a reduction in fitness. Intuitively I suppose this makes sense. I don’t want to lose fitness, but also can’t bring myself to train indoors when the weather is nice here in the Boston area. I’ve thought about using structured training outdoors, but there is now way around here to find roads sufficient to allow consistent efforts.

One point to note is I followed a low volume plan for the first time this offseason and was on the trainer for 3.5hrs/week. I made marginal FTP gains. From 255-265. With nicer weather here I do almost all outdoor unstructured rides. Some hard by myself and some easier group ones, but I am on the bike for closer to 4.5-6 hours per week.

How do I think about the ability to hold fitness in this context given time on the bike is significantly greater, but less structure. Do others deal with this same dilemma?


One of the best ways to hold / increase fitness is by increasing volume…which it sounds like you are already doing. Excellent.

Riding outdoors in an unstructured manner does not need to lead to a loss in fitness. As noted above, you can add volume which can actually lead to an increase in fitness. You can also structure your outdoor rides to resemble what your indoor week would be.

For example, my Tues / Thurs rides are very fast group rides, which usually come close to my prescribed TSS for the day. My Wednesday & Friday rides are easy recovery trail rides, etc. I don’t think I have ever “lost fitness” during the summer months…but since I rarely tested during the summer, it is hard to say for sure. With AI Detection, I should have a better idea, I suppose…but there is so much more to fitness than FTP, too.


With all due respect, all the peeps around here seem to ride more unstructured in the summer get faster and faster. The group rides get harder and harder, and leaderboards on Strava segments keep getting updates. :man_shrugging:

I guess a fitness loss is inevitable if you cut volume, or keep volume the same and do easy coffee rides. I don’t know anyone that does that.


In case you guys didn’t listen, there was discussion about how people THINK they’re riding hard outside doing hard group rides or chasing Strava times, but they’re not getting the same benefits as they would from from structured indoor training. As soon as I heard it, I went to the podcast post here to see if there was conversation on the topic.


Yeah, I think that is a fair assessment…but I wouldn’t necessarily equate that to “losing fitness”, either.

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I am sure that is the case reasonably often. My “hard” rides are mostly when I am riding alone. I can quantify they are hard based on power meter data. Not to say I am getting the same specific time in certain power zones etc., but I have an FTP of 266 and never had a TR ride where I averaged much over 200 watt avg. power on 60 minute rides. I will typically avg. between 190-210 watts on 90 minute rides outdoors when I want to go on the hard side. I understand benefits could be different, but making the point that intensity should be there. Typical group rides…even faster ones are fun but tend to be less power output given drafting etc.

Yeah, I’m not arguing the point. Just sharing what Jonathan said, which led to this post.

All the extrinsic types do summer group riding and probably accounts for why groups tend to get faster and faster as the summer rolls on. Meaning they push themselves more in group rides and therefore get more out of them compared to indoor riding. However, as noted, that doesn’t mean it’s the best thing for becoming better.

Also, people thinking FTP is the only way to track fitness, while an indicator, isn’t the only measure of fitness. I honesty feel most would benefit from ditching screen time for real time.


Agree with everything you posted, except for FTP being the only way to track fitness. There are other metrics. Its just that most people don’t find ways to track them.

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I need to edit. People seem to think FTP is the only way which I do not agree with is what I meant to write.


:+1: There are analytics that use power data from all rides, and give metrics beyond just FTP. I happen to use WKO5 but there are other analytic platforms. There is a pretty significant learning curve with WKO5.

@kosmo886 FWIW my experience has shown that I generate more power and power increases by doing outside workouts, gain fitness riding and doing intervals in the heat, and increasing volume appears to be the biggest factor in overall fitness gains. If you go from 3.5 to 6 hours/week, and have a good mix of hard efforts, depending on a lot of factors you may see an increase, or maintain fitness, or a decrease. I’ve only seen increases going from 3-4 hours/week to 5-6 hours/week. Power13 gave some good suggestions.

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It’s not a dilemma. It’s a false dichotomy. And TR folks are an interested party, they experience a significant drop-off in subscriptions during the summer.

Take these elements into account:

  • Volume is the most important variable that is going to impact your fitness. In general terms, you can ride a lot more outdoors than indoors.
  • Nothing is stopping you from doing intervals or hard efforts outside. Unless you have a ton of constrains outside.

I feel confident saying that you can GAIN MORE fitness outside, but it all depends what you do, how you do it. Look at your particular situation and assess.

I will build fitness up until my A race in early July. Then will focus on MTB and long, hard rides over the weekend. Then October comes in, I’ll do a high volume 6 block just before hibernation.


To add to that, you can’t build all summer and do high performance riding. Generally people start with base in the winter, and then build and try to maintain some kind of peak fitness through the season.

If you join TR in July, they will throw you in a plan and have you building in season. It might work if you put every group ride in plan builder as a B race or if your goals were in November.

@kosmo886 I’d think about doing one structured workout per week plus your outside rides. Or just don’t worry about it at all. As long as you keep riding and don’t have big gaps in training you’ll maintain fitness.

Agree with @AJS914 doing some killer structure on TR inside and then doing some work outside gets my vote. With that said, some do better with more in than out. Some better with more out than in. It’s all about what motivates you.

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One more thing that I think I have a unique perspective on…if you can keep a routine I know this helps keep fitness higher than lower. I’ll spare you my life but, needless to say there is NO routine and it can get tough to stay motivated…

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This is not true. If you join TR in July and have races scheduled throughout the Summer, it will have you doing Specialty training for the events you are doing, depending on how close the events are. Plan Builder knows to prioritize training phases relevant to your goals.


This comment implies that this discussion on the podcast was purely incentivized, and that misrepresents it. The discussion was focused on the very common experience that we see in performance data and hear directly from athletes that experience a decrease in fitness when they spend more time doing unstructured rides than the time they were spending doing structured rides.

It’s also very important to separate fitness and performance. Fitness is one component of performance on the bike, and structured training does a great job of enabling you to achieve specific fitness outcomes.

Those group rides and races play a key role in some of the other key drivers of performance such as pacing, strategy, nutrition, mental acuity in race situations, adapting to weather etc. That’s why we like having the flexibility of doing Outside Workouts, and we encourage people to select/adjust to a plan volume that allows them to prioritize the most impactful things that influence their performance.

We just want people to not lose what they’ve worked to build, and to find ways to get even more from it on the days that matter most to them. :slight_smile:


Good point on separating fitness from performance. This will be my first summer season while using TR for the full winter before. I was a little disappointed in performance gains over the winter, but I am thinking it could be due to the volume drop off from summer to winter…as mentioned previously low volume plan of 3.5 hours/week while I ride closer to 6ish hours/week in the summer. Said another way, TR plans really work if I can cut volume nearly in half and still improve my FTP!

In any event, I just can’t mentally bring myself to be inside during the nice months and the outdoor training is just not working for me given traffic, intersections, poor road conditions etc. in the Boston area. I will certainly be keeping my subscription and sprinkle in a few structured workouts when weather isn’t good.

I guess time will tell what the results are. Will FTP detection still update FTP if I am only doing outdoor rides?

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  • Yes, it will. They’ve said that AIFTPD can work without any TR workouts in play.

Indeed, I think your gut reaction may have been different that I would expect. You cut your training time in half but increased your FTP 4%. That’s a huge win in my book!