Problems with outdoor workouts

Hello,
the weather in Germany is slowly getting nice again. I would like to move my workouts outside and somehow I have no idea how to do this. I have a Gravel, Endurance and an Epic EVO MTB. All bikes have a Porwer meter with an Wahoo Roam v1 Headunit.

My Plan:
M: Rest Day
T: Tempo
M: 2h Z2
T: VO2Max
F: 2h Z2
Sa: Easy Group Ride
Su: Long Outdoor Ride

VO2Max units are easy. I do 4x4 . 4 min full throttle up a hill in the forest and then 10 min leisurely roll back to the start.

I have my problems with the Tempo and Z2 workouts. I don’t know how to keep Z2 constant. There are always bends, obstacles, descents or you just let it roll for a bit.

How do you do it? Does only the average interval count for the outdoor workouts?

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I would do it by having a target/ballpark TSS beforehand e.g. 1h Z2@70% = 49 TSS.

Then I would look a bit at the terrain. If it requires many accelerations, perhaps try to stay around ~68% IF (coupled with the accelerations bringing Normalized Power up might bring you somewhat close to the 49 TSS). If the terrain requires a lot of coasting or being in Z1, however, perhaps it’s even better to stay slightly above (like ~72% IF). E.g. if you coast or are in Z1 for a total of 5 minutes, then you ‘effectively’ did a 55-minute workout instead of an hour (which is still ~45–48 TSS), but you need an average of ~71–73 IF for it to be 49 TSS again (or try to make up for it by cycling a bit longer or perhaps in your other workouts).

You could try to increase the intensity slightly when going uphill or with a headwind and vice versa if your goal is to practice some pacing as well.

So there’s no exact need to keep Z2 constant/steady at something like a precise continuous value 70% IF (or even be 100% in Z2) for it to be considered an effective workout (like you could do more easily on a trainer). Nor do the short breaks/coasting in between for a couple seconds cause a significant reduction in adaptations or something like that.

Z2 I only do by heart rate. Z3 and up, I try to find a nice even long stretch (or with as few turns as possible), be as little aerodynamic as I can and just keep a constant cadence and gear

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I don’t plan Z2 routes too much except to avoid big climbs and descents for Z2, try to maintain constant pressure on the pedals, even if the power sometimes falls below Z2.

If you have unavoidable descents that you can’t or don’t feel comfortable maintaining power down then use your brakes to add resistance.

For Sweet Spot workouts, I find a long flattish road with no traffic lights, minimal junctions and just turn around before the start of each interval. My choice has a couple of roundabouts that sometimes mean coming off the power for a few seconds, but nothing to stress about.

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It takes some practice getting your power to be consistent for longer efforts when riding outside, but it is possible!

As @mikehhhhhhh mentioned, route planning is pretty key. Try to avoid sections of road where you’ll be starting/stopping a lot if that’s possible.

Once you’re out riding, try to keep your power as consistent as possible. Don’t be afraid to spin up your cadence if you’re going downhill to keep your power up, or to let your cadence slow down if you’re climbing up a hill in order to keep your power in check.

You can also mess around with the average power/power smoothing that’s displayed on your head unit. Personally, I like instant power/no smoothing. It can be a bit “noisy” for some people, but I find that seeing the instant, raw power data really helps me dial into my effort. Other athletes find that 3s/5s/10s etc. smoothing works better for them. I think playing around with those settings could help you out, too.

In any case, I’d always try to pay attention to what you’re doing in the moment when it comes to your power outside.

For example, if you’re aiming to ride steadily at 150W, but you notice your average is only 100W so you start riding at 200W, your interval is no longer a 150W steady effort – you’ll be spending time above your power target, which would make the workout harder than it would supposed to be. Always try to shoot for the power target itself rather than an average.

Here’s a ride I did a while back just to give you an idea of what you can aim for:

There are still obviously some spikes above/below what my target power was for that ride (about 200W), but I try to keep my power as close as possible to that target. If I go above/below the target for a moment, I don’t try to compensate – I just try to settle right back into the original target power.

Hope that makes sense and helps you out – feel free to let me know if you have any additional questions!

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Don’t over think it. Z2 rides are just comfortable rides.

I can make erg-like power outside, but honestly it reduces performance if I do more than one of those controlled efforts a week (on flat terrain). It’s better for performance, in my experience, to either do controlled efforts on rolling terrain or limit myself to 1 controlled endurance ride a week (the other endurance ride being in a group ride).

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