Outdoor Interval Workout Tips

So I have done TrainerRoad interval workouts exclusively on an indoor trainer in ERG mode since I started using TR about two years ago. While I have done prescribed recovery, zone 2 days outdoors I never did a prescribed workout, with intervals outdoors before. I figured I would give this a shot.

Context: I live in a suburb county of Philadelphia where the terrain is very rolling. I have the option of using an extensive rails to trail system (Schuylkill River Trail and Chester Valley Trail) or a number of smaller, side roads that are very safe for road cycling. For this workout I chose the latter and had Strava make up an ~40 mile route with ~3K of climbing.

The workout: The Chimneys +3. A two hour threshold workout with over/unders:

The terrain of my route:

The result:

(This ride over two hours so that large pause was after the workout completed and I stopped by a convenience store to get more water :hot_face: )

I knew for the first time attempting intervals outside on a route that I did not design for said intervals would be difficult in terms of adherence and it definitely shows (plus it was 85+ degrees outside) but I am proud that I was able to make five distinct “bumps” that were my efforts. With that being said there is a lot to improve on.

I am curious what tips and tricks there are to doing outdoor interval work and the related planning in making it work?

Rather than a proper route, how about just riding up a hill for your interval and then cruising down for recovery?

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Thanks! I tried doing a quick forum search before posting so I am surprised I missed that thread.

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The first article above has a lot of good insight, some of which I use in my approach to outdoor workouts:

I know it’s not the most fun to just do single hill repeats, but for workouts like The Chimneys +3, I look at Strava hill segments near me that have taken me around the interval time (10 minutes, in this case). Then, I’ll do my intervals on the hill segment, recover on the way down, and repeat.

That being said, five repeats over two hours sounds like a pretty boring ride to me, so this is when I use workout alternates. I may do Rainbow -2 to get the same training benefit in one hour, but do some Z2 riding on the way to the segment and Z2 riding for an hour after. With how little time I have to ride outside, this gets me on the road, completes a workout, but doesn’t make the whole ride outside focus on the training. Keeping it both purposeful and fun gets the best results for me over time.

For sustained sweet spot efforts, I’ll try to find loops with few lights/all right turns and flat-ish roads.

For endurance, I focus more on what I want to experience in a mostly flat area. I’ll do a pretty, motivating ride, but I try to stay very strict about my power, specifically not surging.

VO2 workouts are the only ones I prefer to complete on the trainer. With lights and cars, those constant accelerations can get me into some sticky situations on the road, or I have to extend the recovery between intervals, taking away the point of the workout. Also, being 190lbs, most hills don’t offer enough recovery for me (I will practically stand still if I’m in Z1 on 5-percent-plus).

Of course, just be safe above all. I’m sure most of us have been tempted to blow through a right turn to keep average power on-point, but it’s just not worth it. Take a coasting second to be safe, and don’t worry if the interval NP dips. Get yourself to safety and then refocus your live power on the target.