Outside workouts- chasing averages

Hi there
Can anyone advise? Indoor training in the summer in London is hard so I try and go outside.

I use a flat-ish loop with no stops ( Regents Park Inner Circle). .Looking at the power files I seem to spending a lot of time outside of my desired Sweet spot zone but I keep the average lap power at the right zone.
My question is do I keep chasing average power?
Do I have to accept that outside workouts are just not as efficient?
Thanks for any replies

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I don’t think outside workouts are any less efficient. Don’t stress about slavishly following the numbers. As long as you are within the right ballpark you’ll be fine.

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yep - it will always vary that is why TR on a smart trainer is more efficient in the winter for less time when it is dark. That said you get 99.9% of the benefit and you are more likely to do it outside in the sun…winter is long enough on the turbo without wasting good days for outside riding :+1:

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I’ve been doing outside workouts a lot this year and although I don’t always hit the power numbers prescribed, I feel much stronger (and faster) than just doing inside workouts.

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No, it’s really hard NOT to do mentally, but if you listen to the podcast they strongly advise against doing this.

Basically the premise is that if you chase average power in a SS session, you potentially end up doing a lot of time outside of the SS zone…as you describe. Say, for instance your FTP is 300, and your workout is 3x15min at 270 (90%). You get through the first 5 minutes at 270, then come up on a stop sign…you gotta coast up to it, slow down to 8mph, look both ways and coast through, then get back on the gas. Look down and your average power is now 255. In order to get it back to 270, you increase your power to 300 for the next 3 minutes and it slowly creeps back to 270…then you fall back to doing 270. Because of this surge, 270 feels a lot harder than it was before and you spend the last 5 minutes of the interval barely holding on to 270. Or maybe you hit another stop sign/light and this cycle happens again. Now instead of doing a sweet spot interval, you did a mild over/under interval that taxed different systems which may not be quite as repeatable the next day.

I believe the best advice is to a) find a better section of road that you can do the full, consistent interval on without interruption…and/or b) disregard average power completely and only focus on hitting the target power in a given moment. You can even edit your bike computer screen so it doesn’t show average lap power if you can’t avoid the temptation to chase it. If you have to stop pedaling or slow down for something or do a sharp turn or little downhill or whatever that causes you to not pedal, that’s okay. Get back on the gas as soon as you can, and go right back to hitting the target power, but not above. It’s slightly less perfect for muscular endurance than riding inside and having to pedal constantly for the entire duration, but it’s better than turning a SS workout into something that it’s not.

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I may be stating the obvious here, but if you are falling just a bit short I would try to stay at the higher end of the recommended power zone for the rest of the interval. Any more than that and you would be basically doing a different workout.

If i need to step off the gas for 5 or 10 seconds because of a stop sign or people crossing the street, I stop looking at average power and try to stay positive about the fact that NP will still be inside the prescribed zone. This is just my 2 cents though…

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@Jonathan mentioned on a recent TR podcast that he switched his power readout on his headunit to read 10s averaging to help smooth things out and avoid chasing the ball as much.

I usually use 3s power averaging for normal rides outdoors, but recently did try 10s and I thought it worked really well for longer steady intervals.

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I agree on the 10s avg. I was using 3s and chasing numbers. I don’t get bent out of shape if my Garmin says below or above target average. I try and keep my power 10 watts on either side of the target as much as possible. Had to open a gate today during 3 min VO2 intervals. One interval looks off when I reviewed my ride then I remembered the gate. I still got a good portion of work in those 3 minutes from looking where my heart rate and breathing capped out. Don’t sweat the small stuff, go outside and ride!

I usually just have the Garmin workout target screen displayed. A power range to be in. When I get back I’m usually pleasantly surprised by the average speed but I don’t chase it, it is what it is :slight_smile:

What head unit do you use? I recently changed my workout screen on my Edge 520 per Jonathon’s recommendations:

Target Power
10sec smoothing
Interval lap time

Chasing an average is not only a terrible experience, it’s also not optimal, you tend to end up pushing hard, outside of the intended zone often to bring up the power average.

If you change to the target power, and 10s ave power it’s closer to that familiar indoor TR experience, only better because you’re in your natural habitat.

Do you find RP Inner Circle flat enough for intervals?

I’ve always struggled a bit to keep power high enough on the 1/3rd of the lap or so which is downhill - it’s flattish, just not flat enough for me (though is probably the best thing we’ve got in Central London without lights etc.

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It a 1000 I have, the simple 3rd screen is default for a workout

You can go into setting and change that screen, or subsequent screen to add a specific power target as well as 10 sec avg power, and any other useful field you need.

Hopefully someone that’s familiar with the 1000 can help. There’s a TR blog post on the topic as well.

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Do you find RP Inner Circle flat enough for intervals?

yeah its weird isn’t it? What I try and do now is really increase the cadence for that downhill bit. I’m thinking that maybe the way to do it so to make the power 30 secs average instead of 10. Like you I can’t find a piece of road anywhere else that works for me. Richmond Park is 30 mins away and makes a SS session really long.

this is actually part of getting better at a cyclist, using the machine properly. I work with a lot of new athletes on the actual execution of intervals.

So yes, continue to focus on drilling in those watts so they stay within the prescribed zone. While it seems really difficult at first, practice practice practice. It is key to being able to do this!

Outdoor workouts should be just as dialed as indoors with the right practice and route selection.

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I have been trying to do all my workouts outside recently. In my experience, I don’t “nail” the zones the same way I would inside, but I feel like I am getting 90% of the intended benefit, plus it’s way more fun. Also, as others have mentioned, being able to hold somewhat steady power over varying terrain is a skill that could come in handy in a race.

Here are two similar workouts (5x10 sweet spot), one outside and one inside. They look pretty similar to me.

Outside

Time in Zones:

  • Tempo: 12:13
  • Sweet Spot: 16:26
  • Threshold: 20:04

Inside

Time in Zones:

  • Tempo: 13:18
  • Sweet Spot: 21:57
  • Threshold: 15:31

It looks like I am spending more time in Sweet Spot and less time in Threshold inside, but it’s pretty close. That being said, when I go into Threshold, I’m pretty sure I’m on the low end, which is still pretty close to Sweet Spot, so I doubt the training effect / physiological impact is that different.

My only concern is that after a few weeks of accumulating more time in Threshold than intended, I may wear myself out and have a negative impact on subsequent workouts. We shall see!

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My experience is that outdoor training delivers better results, for various reasons. In other words, indoor training gets 90% of the “intended benefit” versus outdoor training.

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What reasons would you attribute that to? When you say better results, do you mean “faster” or “fitter?” I’m curious.

Ultimately, I enjoy outdoor riding a lot more than indoor riding, so +/- 10% in either direction won’t change my approach if it’s reasonably nice outside.

Outdoors you’re actually riding a bike and everything that entails, mental and physical.

Indoors, you’re pedaling a bike that’s on a fixed stand with zero outside influences and distractions.

The macro level training and practice benefits of dealing with all the non pedaling stuff outdoors is part of what you get outside and it does have a mental (large) load and even a physical load too…

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