Structured vs Unstructured endurance rides

Hello folks!

So - Just to summarise; I don’t really get why there are intervals (duration associated with % of FTP) in the endurance workouts (Carter, Pettit, Fletcher, Beech, Volunteer)? Would going out for a long zone 2 ride reap the same or better benefits? Are there any benefits of adding structure to endurance rides?

I do endurance rides outside and really It’s just me staying in the small ring and just enjoying the ride! Are these workouts an outcome of replacing the longer endurance workouts that use to be in training plans but no one did them (I remember hearing from a podcast) and am I better off doing my own endurance rides which tend to be 3:30 + (100k) per ride.


If I change the Pettit to outside it becomes:

Ride for 5 minutes, gradually raising your power from 132 to 158.
Main Set:

  • 81 minutes in between 158-185 watts.
  • 4 minutes easy.

Sounds a bit like what you are suggesting, just a long relaxed ride on the small ring.

Long outdoor endurance rides in the small ring are definitely acceptable.

I suspect the intervals and slight changes in power are more to break it up for mental reasons, than anything about the physical effect of the changes.

Minute-for-minute, there are slight advantages to doing it on a trainer in that your legs are always moving (no micro-coasting, braking for lights, etc), but the mental engagement probably makes it easier to do a 3 hour outdoor endurance ride and enjoy it (and get more benefits from the longer duration), than a 2 hour ride indoors.

Do these rides outdoors when weather and time permit! It’s more fun that way.


The small ring doesn’t get me into zone 2.

Not so much a humblebrag, as an admission that I have compact rings installed.


It’s to break up the monotony and make them less boring. If you’re going outside, it’s already less boring. The advantages to doing endurance workouts inside are the same as the advantages to doing any other workout inside. If you’d rather go outside, go outside!

No, the podcast bit you’re remembering is about weekend sweet spot rides in mid- and high-volume plans (for example) replacing longer endurance rides (still inside) because nobody did them.


I suspect that the intervals are only there to break up the monotony of the workout. It’s not like they are work/rest interval training.
The one benefit you get from sessions such as Pettit are the form drills. Yes you can do them outside but staring down your knee is so much easier on the trainer!

I ride an expanded 53-60 in the front - Durianrider isn’t gonna know what hit him.

Actually very true! I now balance my longride every 2 weeks with a 100km zwift endurance/social rides (roughly 2.4 hours) and finding it much more taxing than an outdoor 4 hour rides! And discord is a nice touch to break up the monotony. ANYWAY; I think i found my answer. Thank you TR forum :slight_smile:

One of the things I’d recommend doing is looking at your time in zone for your outside z2 rides. If you are trying to maximize aerobic adaptions the goal I’ve heard from many coaches is to stay in z2 (or higher) and minimize time in z1. Most people get a surprising amount of time in z1 or not pedaling at all.

I have it down to about 15% (including bio brakes) and am trying to get it down to 10% (terrain permitting.). Before I started to focus on keeping power in z2 I’d be around 25% z1 / not pedaling for outside rides. For me this requires a lot of concentration to be always on the power and the fatigue really starts to set in after 3-3.5hrs. One side effect is that 3-4hr z2 rides on the trainer (done both TR and zwift) now feel about the same as outdoor z2 rides of the same duration as I’m < 5% z1 on the trainer.

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