Outside Workouts Mentally Draining?

With indoor training on my horizon I have decided to have another go with TR over the winter. I am getting into the swing of things by starting with some workouts completed outside, at the moment I am finding them more mentally taxing than physically demanding. Where I live and train it is always windy to varying levels and blustery. My training routes are undulating with a few direction changes. Trying to stay in the prescribed power zones is quite the challenge. Should I be changing workouts to ones with wider power bands that are more achievable? I find with 30-30’s for example I am overshooting for 30 seconds just to stay on top of the gears and not drop to 50-100w below target, then for the rest 30 seconds I am often unable to always get under the rest power zone because of headwinds and hills.

I have the same problem. My only solution was to do the important sessions indoors and the volume and less important, say Z2 endurance, outdoors. Otherwise I’d lose my mind just like you describe…

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Even with the low power workouts I seem to spend a lot of time spinning or grinding to stay in a tight zone. The perceived effort for a workout ride vs a free ride with the same average power is way up.

If you don’t have the terrain for certain outside workouts I wouldn’t try to force it. You’ll continue to be frustrated. I also live with rolling hills, stop signs, windy conditions and numerous gravel turns. I’ve realized that the only workouts I can do outside are z2 and tempo. Also, anaerobic and sprints, but those are far and few between.

I’d recommend doing your critical workout intervals indoors then ride outside after. This is what I’ve done or had to alter the workouts to my route.

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This is good advice - but also, sometimes you need to change your expectations on what a power file from an outdoor workout looks like versus the trainer. For a longer interval (8+ min) one trick you can use is to add normalized power to your screen, and keep that number within your target range. So if you have to slow down for a turn or something that is going to tank your average watts, your normalized becomes a more accurate assessment of your interval.

For your 30-30 example, I would shoot for all out, for the ons, and as easy as you can for the offs.

Finally - assuming your are training to improve performance of actual outside rides, realize that these are the conditions in which you perform. So while your intervals don’t look like perfect rectangles on a graph, realize that there is some specificity to the work that may be beneficial as well.

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I have good outdoor riding options but I still dropped these in favor of longer intervals. Whether you do that probably depends on the type of event you are training for. I’m training for a century ride and so saw little point in doing short intervals like 30-30s. That coupled with how annoying they would be to do outside led me to replace them with longer interval workouts.

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I think the consensus is that 30-30s (and vo2max workouts in general) you should do as hard as you can anyway. Where I live can only do 4 minute intervals, which works for vo2max, anaerobic and sprint. Z2 I also do but don’t really watch power, just heart rate. Tempo, sweetspot and threshold i do inside

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Sometimes I have to spend more time planning workouts and figuring out if I need to extend a warmup to get to a spot, where I’ll do loops to get in the intervals, etc., but I definitely don’t find outdoor workouts mentally draining. I find them to be the refresher that helps me get through the days I’m stuck inside on the trainer. We’ve had crappy weather several weekends in a row (this morning was 30mph winds) and I’m dying to get outside!

I used to try to get myself to follow the TR workout perfectly while outdoors and that lead to a lot of frustration trying to match the blue lines. Once I started planning the ride for myself, ensuring I got in the work for the time and zones prescribed, but accepting that I might need a longer or shorter warmup/rest/cooldown, and I might get stopped by a traffic light, or whatever, but would still meet most of the workout goals, get the training time in, and remain consistent, it completely changed my attitude toward outdoor workouts and eliminated the stress.

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I think this is because you are trying to do the workout the same you are indoors. You have to do it differently outdoors, it’s not ERG. My preference outdoors is to do longer 4-5 minute VO2 max intervals. Agree with others who say just go as hard as you can keeping in mind the number of repeats you need to do per set, and number of sets.

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I want to try out not using ERG mode for my indoor workouts this season. After last winter spent in ERG mode my “form” didn’t transfer to outside, which is another reason I am trying the workouts outside first. The high perceived effort vs average power may actually help when I get back on the indoor trainer?

If it’s its Vo2max stuff I wouldn’t worry about overshooting, power is naturally higher outside and you want to push into an oxygen based zone not a power one. Actually I wouldn’t worry about any workout, other than a complete Z1 or Z2 workout. For recovery intervals I wouldn’t over think it either ,just do what you can.

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As others have said, the ability to do an effective outside workout is highly dependent on terrain, traffic, etc. That said, I think it can be beneficial when the terrain forces you to adjust gearing/cadence during your interval. I don’t know if there is any science to back that up, but I find it useful (at least from a skill perspective) to stay in a power band despite changes in grade. I’ve got a couple spots where I do intervals where it varies between 5-20% grade and even mixes in some flat or slight downhill spots. Staying on top of your gear and keeping power flowing during those undulations not easy and a skill I find that transfers to racing. I suspect the cadence variation may also have a training/fitness benefit, but not sure.

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It’s definitely practice in an increased cognitive load. I second what @grwoolf said. To expand, should you choose to perservere you’ll start to see an undulation in the road or a pinch on a switchback & instantly know things like how many gears to change over a distance to keep both power & cadence in the same ballpark, all whilst processing the usual things out in the wilds. Check out @Jonathan’s strava for some outdoor ride power target sorcery. Nails it despite varying terrain & surfaces. Definitely something I aspire to!

Whilst flat or very lightly undulating roads are more versatile (you can do pretty much any interval structure you like), a hill around 4-5% will give you a lot more mechanical advantage over headwind gusts because the climb demands a lower gear, & lower consequence for deviating offline with crosswind gusts. A circuit closed to general traffic will let you practice holding power targets without worrying about safety. Do you have access to anything like this? If you have a bit of a commute [edit: to your location for intervals] then :person_shrugging: call it extra endurance work. Pick your workout & extend the warmup & cooldown. Or do the commute as the start & end endurance segments of a workout like Starlight -2

Otherwise yes to endurance rides outside because the power target is wider & you don’t have give so much attention to keeping within it. Or 30-30s where you can just go pretty much all-out.

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Unfortunately no access to a closed circuit. But to your comment on inclines, Hill repeats could be one option for particular workouts.

Totally understand, I find it very stressful most of the time. The least stressful is hill repeats in my area, I’ve found a few hills for 2,3 or 4mins at vo2.

On my commute, 4x3mins is probably the max intervals to safely execute.

What is harder is ensuring progressive overload. Am I really increasing by the right amount the second time or third time I do that workout outside?

For endurance rides I don’t think there’s much value in focussing on holding power. I would say 1.5hrs plus simply avoiding big efforts is good enough, crawl up hills but don’t worry about putting some time in tempo if needs be.

Long sweet spot and threshold I can’t find routes for, and they are least safe due to the routes and traffic in my area. Better indoors for me.

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Longest uninterrupted close by quiet road I have is 20 mins for sweetspot / threshold. It works both ways, and thus can do out and backs for multiple intervals of that duration.

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I much prefer to do my workouts outside. I do them inside only when I have to. But I also do them on a dumb trainer so the power profile has some similarity to an outdoor workout.

Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.

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As the OP is heading into winter and assuming there’s no planned events in winter, I’ve not seen anyone suggest, take a break for a few weeks.
It’s good to give the body a physical rest and you mind a rest too. In the Autumn/ early Winter months, riding a bike should be because you want to, not because you feel you have to.
Focus on the strength training for 12 weeks then base build. Easier said than done. I know.
Next season; stronger mentally and physically, oh and most importantly faster.
My 2¢ for what that’s worth.

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I’m new to TR and had the same thoughts recently. I set my upcoming workout to outside and didn’t hit anything, no PL - that’s fine.

My training plan is set for 3 days. 45mins, 60mins and 120mins. I don’t work Fridays so plan on doing a 2-3 hour ride most Fridays with the occasional 6-8hour ride. I was looking through the workouts and for the longer workouts there are some that look just like a regular power output from a ride (apart from the times coasting here and there). Here is a list of some of them that you could change your workout to, instead of the prescribed when venturing outside.

Hines
Rumsza
Sky Rock
Balcony -1
Laverty
Rafferty
Town Hill
Appalachian

I would think that in general, you’ll be hitting the majority of these intervals without too much issue. I plan on not even looking at the workout data screen and just riding then doing these.

Good luck with it.

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I agree with a lot of what is said here. For longer intervals, there is always a “commute” to get there before the intervals start. This means extending my warm-up and cool-down.

I also have a 15-20 minute commute to a couple hills ranging from 3-5 minute long hills for VO2 or short threshold repeats.

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