Should I count this outside workout as structured training?

Yesterday I wanted to do an outside workout to get in some structured training while enjoying my local mountain biking trails. I was aiming for 45 minutes of sweet spot with three 15-minute interals. While I was doing the workout I was aiming for time in zone staying as close to 200 watts as I could, monitoring my 3-second power and my lap average power, but if my average power was dipping, I did not try to drag it up, just tried to stay around 200 watts or maybe 210. This was uneven mountain biking terrain, but I chose climbs where I could try to sustain an effort for 15 minutes. I hit my average and normalized power targets–for example on the second climb my average power was 200 watts and my normalized power was 204 watts, but my power was bouncing all the way from tempo to VO2 max (~150-250 watts) because of the uneven terrain and despite my efforts to keep it steady:

I don’t plan to do this very often–but I’m hoping this could still “count” as a sweet-spot workout in my trainerRoad plan. I really want to hit my 3 structured workouts per week in my low-volume plan and don’t feel like I could recover from 3 structured workouts plus an outdoor ride like this. Also, from time to time I really like to get outside and enjoy the nice weather and my local trails. I appreciate your thoughts of whether an occasional ride like this can be substituted for a structured workout in my plan.

Also, for context, I am new to structured training and outside structured rides so I hope to improve my ability to maintain constant power with additional practice.

This question has been asked since the Dawn of TR, in various forms.

It’s up to you to decide if it counts or not. However you measure it, do feel like it was as hard? Do you feel like you can progress how hard it is in-line with the plan next week and so on? Maybe you use TSS, can you increase the TSS without big efforts outside of sweet spot next week?

Either way, it’s not the same. Whether it is good enough, is up to you. Try not to sweat it. Training consistently is more important than anything else.

Lastly, one key reason for choosing a sweet spot workout is because you don’t have time to do a longer, aerobic ride. If you do, then it’s only the progression I’d really think about.


Your body did the work. Whether you tell the computer to count it is up to you.

Personally if you feel it was a workout then I would count it. Especially mountain biking you’re going to get spikes. You’ll see it in races, you’ll see it in training. No biggie.

1 Like

Thanks for the thoughts. To answer your questions, yes It felt hard, and I felt like it was a solid training ride that would progress my abilities and help with future inside workouts. I plan on “counting” it but do t want to be deceiving myself.

1 Like

If the intend at the start was “yes” then I would say “yes”.


Its up to you but I’m wary of associating anything above Tempo and creating PL’s which are unsustainable indoors (its usually easier to deliver power outdoors). There finished now for the year but one of the local chain gangs has 3 increasing efforts with the last one (after circa 1h) finishing with a threshold lap with lots of VO2 max and I associate it with a tempo session.


I see clear intervals and recoveries, so the overall shape of the ride is clear.

Within each interval it’s also clear that there’s an intention to ride at tempo/sweetspot, albeit with some hefty variations above and below that you’ll want to work on to reduce as far as practicable.

Looks good to me.

1 Like

Thanks to everyone who has commented. I’ve taken some precautions to avoid over-progressing my progress levels including 1) offsetting my mountain bike power meter down 7% to match my indoor trainer, 2) associating the workout with a workout with a slightly lower progression level then what I was aiming for outside, and 3) doing this for one of my easier workouts and doing my harder workout for the week inside.

A benefit I see to doing workouts like this outdoors occasionally is that it’s already taught me how much my power fluctuates outside and it seems like a good practice to try to level out the power outside as much as I can, as I’m training for ultra endurance rides and it seems like that would be a good skill to have for race day.

The way I read it was the OP was simply going to personally “count it” as one of his hard days. But if looking to associate with a TR workout I agree.


This is the approach I adopt - or rather the reverse - I’ll attempt to do slightly more work than the planned workout called for. That way I avoid over-inflating PLs and getting served future workouts I can’t finish, and if I ‘super-passed’ it, well that’s just a bonus, and will likely be taken care of by finding the next indoor workout a little easier than intended and reflecting that in the survey.

1 Like

I think it counts:

  1. you did the work
  2. we train for real life, outside is real life

I think it counts as one of your three hard workouts for sure, but I think associating it with an SS workout will work against you. TR will think you can hold that steady level of SS and assign longer or harder intervals to your next indoor SS workout, which could be an issue. So, I would count it as one of my weekly 3, but I wouldn’t want it to say I had done the actual SS workout. I say this from experience and learning the hard way. Obviously, our bodies and strengths/weaknesses are all different, so ymmv.


Thanks for the insights everyone! As you’ve all pointed out, I’ll find out during my next sweet spot workouts on the trainer!

Already I’m finding some early evidence that workouts outside do tend to be easier to achieve than on the trainer, I’m adjusting my workout selections accordingly.

Also, I think this is why it’s been so difficult for TrainerRoad to make progress levels for outside workouts—they are much more variable than trainer workouts.

1 Like

Hey @Chiropteran81,

We generally don’t recommend doing this. There are some cases where steady endurance efforts could be matched with equally steady TR workouts when the effort is very similar, but there isn’t a huge benefit to this in my opinion, and there are some risks here as well.

The reason for this is that it’s really easy to miscommunicate information to the software. In this case, you’re looking to match this ride with our Pen y Castell workout which has a specific structure to follow. Although I can see where your efforts lie in your ride, the workout as a whole really doesn’t match the 4 x 11 structure of Pen y Castell workout.

While it’s true that you do have these 15-minute “intervals” where you’re trying to keep average power and NP around 200 watts, the Pen y Castell workout doesn’t have any 15-minute intervals, and your efforts between intervals are pretty unstructured and surgy.

Generally speaking, this looks like a great outside ride though! I like that you had specific goals and you executed them the best you could on the terrain you chose. This is all great! It’s really, really important in my opinion to get outside and enjoy the nice weather when you can.

There are certainly some benefits to be had from this ride which is what’s important. Gaining the PLs from this ride isn’t as important, and the focus here should be enjoying your ride outside on your local trails, and getting some good work in as best as you can.

Moving forward, I wouldn’t hesitate to replace a fitting workout with an outside ride when you feel the need. As I mentioned, it’s most important to enjoy yourself. Don’t worry about missing a workout to do some riding outside, and again, I wouldn’t focus on the PLs too much. Those are there to help keep your prescribed workouts in the right place, and it’s best to let the really accurate workouts inform the software on where to go next.

Following a TR workout outside is a great way to bridge the gap between indoor rides and outside rides like the one you’re referencing here. The benefit of Outside Workouts is that you’re following a workout that we can accurately analyze rather than trying to compare apples to oranges.

It’s not always going to be fitting to use Outside Workouts when time or the terrain gets in the way, and in those cases, I would just enjoy the ride however you’d like. Your PLs will change when they need to and you will continue to progress throughout your plan as long as you’re consistently doing the prescribed workouts and answering your Post-Workout Surveys.

1 Like

Thanks Zackery! That’s super helpful. I was trying to go with the approach that Jonathan mentioned in one of the podcasts. I knew I wouldn’t be able to come very close to matching a specific power profile of a trainerroad workout on this specific ride, and was aiming to “treat” myself by trying to get some structure while hitting some fun trails. So as a secondary goal, I was just trying to get about the same amount of time at sweet spot (45 minutes total) as a workout I had been prescribed. But I realize I wasn’t able to hit that target very closely, hence why I asked the question. Now I totally get what you mean and will not associate these kind of rides with a workout in the future to avoid biasing my progress levels.

I just hate to feel like I “missed” a prescribed workout, but that’s just something I’ll have to get over in my head. As I don’t think I really missed it, I just chose to do something different that has it’s own unique set of benefits, but is not the same as doing an indoor TR workout or an outside workout where I’m better able to match the power targets.


I have a follow-up question to you, @ZackeryWeimer. And apologies to the OP if my question is off-topic or tangential, or if TrainerRoad has answered this elsewhere:

If we are doing an outside workout that is in the spirit of an AT assigned workout (e.g. it’s a ~100 TSS threshold workout, like the one on my calendar) but doesn’t mimic the assigned structure, I get that we shouldn’t “associate” the outside workout to the assigned workout, so we don’t inflate our PL. But should we leave the assigned workout on the calendar, uncompleted? Or should we delete it?

For example, AT assigned me Moose’s Tooth -1. If I do a workout that’s focused on threshold and has similar TSS but doesn’t follow that specific over under schedule, should I delete Moose’s Tooth in my calendar or leave it?


1 Like

Hey @SeanInDC, you can leave it on your calendar.

It won’t change things either way, but I recommend keeping it on there simply for reference down the road. It doesn’t hurt anything! :slightly_smiling_face: