Structured vs Unstructured: Finding the right mix

I’m currently following a low volume plan. I’d like to participate in my local group rides (unstructured - weekly - TSS 130) and a Sunday group ride (unstructured - weekly - TSS 175) without having to worry if I’m sacrificing gains.

Am I hurting gains by taking on these rides or should I just ride my damn bike?
How do you go about integrating these with an existing training plan?
Is it better to have a coach lay this all out vs following the TR set plans to the letter?

If you can afford the order of magnitude higher cost of a coach, it probably would be better …for most people I don’t think there is a “TR or Coach” choice to make.

To your actual question - go ahead and do those group rides and see if you can still nail the workouts from the LV plan by getting enough rest in between.

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I only do 2 structured rides a week… and just recently posted in the 5w/kg thread…so yeah you dont always need to go structure all the time.


In the past I’ve done a mix of unstructured and structured riding. Like you, unstructured was outdoor hard group ride, structured work was indoor and outdoor.

Depending on how hard the group ride is, you will get varying levels of “anaerobic work”. What I mean is group rides are inevitable “smash then coast”, “push then ease up”. No way around it. That means you need to primarily account for three things (off the top of my head):

  1. coasting/near coasting (basically 0w + <.45 IF, technically .55 IF but I think a lot of that .45-.55 can still be “counted”). Subtract this duration from total time. TSS accounts for much of this but not all (and can be inflated for these type of rides). Note kJ expended as well. So total duration pedaling, total kJ, and TSS will allow you to make an apples to apples comparison to other rides.

  2. take a look at Zone 6 Time in Zone. It will be surprisingly high. You are potentially getting a fair bit of “anaerobic capacity” (FRC) training from that, albeit not as effectively and with as much precision as structured training. But group rides are fun. Tradeoffs :man_shrugging:

  3. general/approximate Time in Zone for other areas. How much time did I spend doing sustained sweetspot or threshold intensity on this ride? Make sure you dig in and don’t just trust time in zone distribution charts. They do not account for the idea that you could do 60 x 30sec sweetspot power “efforts”, which simply means you pedaled your bike for 30sec at that intensity, then did something else in terms of intensity (likely coasting or smashing). It’s stochastic and you need to watch out for power charts “lying” to you with (for example) “20% - 30:45mins in SweetSpot”. So were those a bunch of effort of a few seconds or mins that just added up to 30:45mins. Account for the sustained efforts (>5mins), ignore the rest.

Sooo, what’s my point? I would do one more “hard/mid-intensity” session that week. Because of #2, I would leave out spikey sessions (like any workout under the “VO2max” and/or “Anaerobic” filter under TR → Workouts). You’ve done that work in the group ride, provided it is hard and not a social coffee ride (in which case it’s Z1/Z2/Z3, just not as efficient in terms of time).

I would leave in anything that is threshold/SST/tempo.


You don’t have to follow the same schedule year round.

Also, nobody sees gains year round anyway.


Thanks, this makes sense. The low volume plan doesn’t appear to include any “recovery” rides which I plan to add on days where the plan calls for absolutely nothing.

In this case, “recovery” would be basic Z2/Endurance riding (Pettit, etc.) Not Z1 Active Recovery. You’re not on enough volume (very few of us are) to have an actual recovery ride be truly needed.

Also in your chart, 4:35 + 27:34 ~= 32mins of not pedaling (or pedaling hard enough). That’s what you subtract from total duration…not just coasting.

Yep. add Zone 2 liberally as long as you can hit the key workouts. There is no magic metric for that. You just have to pay attention to how you feel.

Unpopular opinion, if you can afford to get a good coach, go with it.

I was on the Low Volume TR plan and I still use the TR platform.

TR got me from about 195 FTP to about 231 FTP, but I’m interested in seeing how far a coach can help me go this year and decided to work with a coach that has been successful in working with several riders I know.

Keep in mind, I am still using the TR platform and I’ll probably come back to TR full-time over the winter as I don’t see myself paying for coaching off-season… we’ll see… I’m also very interested in trying adaptive training once it’s out in full release.

In terms of balance training vs. fun rides… Right now I’m training:

-Tues, Wed, Thursday on the bike. So far I’ve got intervals Tues and Thursday with Wed ride being just Z2 and I can do them outside, which I like.

-Sat and/or Sunday I’m doing fun rides/group rides.

  • 1-2 strength training sessions each week.

On the TR low volume plan, you’ll have to play around. You could just move them around and see if you can hit all 3 but give yourself a day to recover before the group rides. You could always drop the 3rd workout and do / longer and harder rides on the weekend.

The fact that I really have no clue how to coach myself for endurance sports and not being sure about my choices and their impact made me consider getting coaching in the first place. I may be in a different situation further down the road and hopefully TR adaptive training become addresses this.


Not unpopular, IMO…anymore, at least. I have a coach.

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First, you do this for fun. If you want to do the local group rides because they are fun then absolutely incorporate them into your week.

Beyond that it is going to depend on your real world schedule, how long it takes you to recover from rides, etc. If you can’t handle the volume initially turn down the TR rides to the -1 versions or switch out one of the intensity sessions for an endurance ride.

You already have a coach; it’s you. If your current coach can’t work out the schedule then it may be time to find a new coach :wink:

Thank you very much for sharing these insights. Helped me form an option on how to move forwards when I plan to move to a structured/ un-structured plan to accommodate group rides in the summer.

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The low volume plans are built expecting people to ride outside at the weekends, so you’ll often find there is an “alternate” ride in the plan notes.

Or, just schedule your training around your outdoor rides which is what a lot of people do; TR Mon/Tue, ride outdoor Weds, TR Thu/Fri, Group ride weekend.

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