Structured vs Freestyle training


With my courier job I get between 400 and 500 TSS a week with ~2h on the bike each day, 4 to 5 times a week.
Those ~2h usually include :

  • 15 to 20 minutes of Z1,
  • 1 hour of Z2
  • between 30 and 50 minutes of Z3+Z4
  • around 5 minutes of Z5 ( I usually get 2 to 3 shorts climbs which I’m forced to do above threshold )

Although it’s not structured training, do you think it is a good / decent way to build up my base ?
I’m having a hard time being able to compare training quality between structured training and “junk miles”.

If I add workouts, even with SSBLV, I build up too much fatigue and it gets too difficult to keep up.
So I don’t really have another choice than keeping structured training for build or specialty phase.

I’m only able to get 2, maybe 3 weeks a year completely off the bike ( at least 1 week during summer, and 1 week for christmas ).

Edit : With the 2h deliveries, and some on and off structured training ( in 2020 I did 2x 2 months of structured training : one time in february and one time in july, then some workouts here and there throughout the year ), I managed to get from 2w/kg to 2.7 w/kg in a year and a half.


is there any way to do an outdoor interval workout en route to your destination? I Know its probably impossible but if you can do that you’d get the best of both worlds :slight_smile:

In nicer weather I often take a one way ride and meet my wife at our destination, doing a structured workout on the way. The distances vary from 20 to 80ish miles, I’m lucky enough to usually be able to take country roads though.

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It would be too much to do the 2h of deliveries right after intervals.
As I said, I prefer doing intervals during build or specialty phase.
When I do plan a workout, I do it in the morning so I’m fresher for the 2h delivery evening.

My question is more about the quality of those 2h compared to structured training, and if it can still be reliable in the long run ( even though it’s less efficient ).

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See if you can improve the quality/structure of the sessions you can do. Focus on single zones (ie. Z2, Z3, Z4+Z2, Z5+Z2) within individual sessions as much as possible, limit the amount of coasting, be well fuelled for higher intensity days. You might need to change gearing if you have hills you can’t overcome with Z2.

Not that I’m any kind of expert, but I think you have a solid foundation. I think the thing you’re missing is uninterrupted time pushing on the pedals, but you have to be careful not to overdo it. I might add one longer SS/Thresh interval a week (20-30 min without stopping) and 1-2 hour session of uninterrupted Z1-2 once a week. I think your hill climbs can cover the suprathreshold stuff, along with sprinting at traffic lights!


Ah I see what you mean now. I’m honestly not sure but there are some very smart people here who can help :blush:

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Great tip, I’ll try to strategically focus on specific zones next time.

I already have a 50/34 on the front, and an 11/30 cassette. And I don’t think switching to an 11/34 would be helpful enough to me to get through the 10-13% gradient. Also I think I would be in sweet spot even on 8% gradient.

I’m just not fit enough to be able to go full Z2 during deliveries for now.

Sounds good, thanks !

I’ll try to add the sweet spot workout first and see how it goes !

i’m not sure if this is feasible based on your route schedule, but have you considerdy building in a progressive manner?

Have you tried focusing a block towards this unstructured z3. then do one z4, then the next with 2 sessions of z5 in there…dont do a TON of z5 first go around you know.

then drop back to z4 and see if you can put out more watts for same duration or same watts for longer duration.

so many ways to play with this, but if you create your own “unstructured blocks” based around time in zone, like your’e doing now, but with more focus, you’ll most likely see bigger results.

good luck!!


I want to be supportive, but I think your day amounts roughly to junk miles.

The problem is it’s highly unlikely you’re doing a lot of those zones uninterrupted. Maybe you’re coasting, then a little z2, then hammer a hill, coast again etc.

My suggestion would be (if the schedule you work allows it) ride all z2 and try and pencil in a couple threshold/vo2 max workouts at some point during the week. With the gearing you have, it’s entirely feasible to do an 8% grade at z2, you’re just falling in to the trap (and possibly due to delivery schedules) of saying, “must smash hill”. Hopefully then you will not be as drained after work and can nail 1-2 one hour workouts in more demanding zones.

Keep doing what you are doing if it fits in with your life/work commitments.

I have a similar issue where I am unable to commit to set days for whatever reasons and this stops me from following a structured training plan. The way I am training at the moment is I just complete the same 90 min workout each and every chance I get. All my stats are going in the right direction so this method is working for me. Granted I could likely make more progress on a structured training plan if I had the time to do so.

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Not yet, but I want to.
It’s not that easy though since the terrain pretty much dictates which zones I hit.
But I’m getting into trying this !

Exactly that. I try not to, but since I deliver food in a big city, there’s a lot of traffic and its gets hard to keep pedalling.

I used to just smash hills, but I don’t do this anymore. I’ve learned through the 3 times I got into over-reaching pretty badly.
I don’t know what to say, I honestly can’t. My HR Threshold is at 176bpm, my Z2 max HR is 157bpm and the minimum I can do on 8% is around 168bpm I think. I may be able to go a bit lower, but with a cadence of like 40rpm.

I’m getting better too, but I’m having a hard time to swallow the fact that I could do way better with a structured training.
You’re making me getting a new perspective though, I’ll try to keep in mind if I’m still getting better or not !

Hmm… In my opinion, for the time available you have, doing straight Z2 2h sessions at some point would start yielding nothing if there’s no volume or intensity escalation.

And for those who we haven’t +12 hour available, traditional base usually isn’t a big deal.

I freeride too, I do my 3-4h weekend rides at Z2-Z3, some long time at high Z3 and maybe some short 30sec-1min bursts. I dont fear to dont train perfectly fat metabolism, you still burn a ton of fat in Z3, and considering in summer I can do 15-18h, doing now a half of them now really doesn’t seem to me Z2 is going to build my endurance. Also, most events are paced in Z3. I found this rithm helped me a lot last year. And this one, combined with 2-3 SST trainer workouts helped me to maintain a good 20min power and even also close to PR strava times. And very little time over treshold, no stressed at all, I skip rides if I’m not in the mood, etc

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I didn’t mention it, but always being able to ride at Z2 the whole shift would allow me to do workouts in the morning. I have free time during the day.

I used to commute 9-12h a week, not quite the same as delivering but similar. I would encourage you to kick the z3/4 down to z1/2 so you can regard this bike time as your aerobic, endurance training time.

Then it should be easier to accomodate quality training sessions with TR in the morning.

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