Traditional Base mostly outside : advice needed

Hello everyone,

Before anything, I would like to thank you for taking the time to read this and eventually to answer as well.

(I realised that reading the first part isn’t necessary to answer the questions so you can skip it. It can give some context though).

I’ve finished last week SSBMV1 last week, exclusively indoor. I’ve seen some gains but I had two major issues during this 6 weeks.
First one is I am doing terrible with high carbs. I was eating low carbs because of health issues before starting, and I gradually ate more carbs to help with the workouts. Sweet spot interval got easier at first, but it backfired at some point. That include, gut issues, insomnia, joint pain, night sweat.
Second one is I burnt out. I have history of chronic fatigue for several years, and I think the mental stress of indoor interval was too much at some point. And I really miss riding outdoor. I commute, but that’s not really the same. Both issues might be related though, sleep issues form carbs doesn’t help.

So, switching to TB outside when possible, seems to be the solution. Lower intensity means less carbs needed and less mental fatigue. I started cycling for fun in June, and long Z2 ride with a few PR attempts on short climbs was what I was doing before starting TR. Reading the topic about the advantages of TB vs SSB finished to convince me.
So I want to do low intensity high volume but in a structured manner I have to stick to the plan and I have specific questions :

  • It’s said that 1 hour of training indoor is more valuable than 1 hour outside because of the non stop pedaling. So, should the outside workouts be longer than the inside one ?
  • I can’t afford a powermeter at the moment, can I use heart rate Z2 instead ?
  • If for some reasons I need to do the workout inside (time or really bad weather), I think I would prefer an occasional SS sessions rather than 3 hours or more of Z2. Can I replace a long Z2 ride by a shorter SS session ? If yes, should I choose a SS workout with the same TSS, IF score than the endurance one to do so ?

Thank you for your help !

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I’d sort out the health issues first then worry about the riding/training.

SSBMV might be too much for you, switch to the LV plan and you can always add workouts. The HV plans are really for those who can dedicate the time and the proper amount of rest to them. I’m on the SSBLV plans but have moved all the workouts forward by one day so that the weekends are free for outdoor rides so I get the “best” of both worlds given the shorter, colder days at the moment in the northern hemisphere.

Indoor training is more precise than outdoor as you don’t have road junctions, traffic, gradients and the like to get in the way of whatever part of the workout you are doing - hitting a 20% slope just as you get to the end of an effort and should be in a recovery valley isn’t ideal.

HR zones are just as valid outdoors if that’s all you’ve got, particularly for steady state rides but be aware of things like HR drift.

I don’t think I could do a 3hr Z2 ride on a trainer, it’d bore me rigid! A short (1hr) SS or even Threshold session would be enough IMO and would give variety to your riding.

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Depends hugely on the workout. If you’re on roads where you can lay down power pretty much continuously then there’s really little or no difference. If you’re on roads where you’re frequently having to brake, coast or ease up for traffic, lights, descents, etc then yes it’s going to have an impact.

That and RPE. Assuming you have either a smart trainer or estimated power from a speed sensor indoors, so do a few indoor workouts at target power to help get a feel for what your HR/RPE are doing at those levels

Kind of. I find trading intensity for volume to be an effective approach. I’m not sure I’d use TSS to do it though, and certainly not IF. IF on SS rides is going to be higher because you’re working at a higher % of FTP for a shorter time. TSS might be comparable, but could also be misleading - e.g. a 3 hour endurance workout of TSS of 140 isn’t that hard. But a 2 hour SS session with 140 TSS is towards the harder end of what’s possible and isn’t likely something you can just drop into, you’d need to build up to it with progressive SS workouts over a few weeks.


I did a 4-week block of outdoor training akin to traditional base, I have a PM so I found that using time in zones really helped for understanding the workload, and consequentially it made transitioning to indoor training much easier. For example here are two weeks from my outdoor block:

On the left you can see my TiZ, 6-7hrs Z2 and 2-3hrs Z3.
Now looking at two weeks from my mostly indoor block:

As I do more indoor work the total time and TSS drop but as long as I pay attention to TiZ I can get the desired effect of training.

This all can be done with HR zones to a varying degree of effectiveness (due to conditions such as tiredness, caffeine, cardiac drift (decoupling), stress, weather… the list goes on). So I would also try to adopt RPE as a used metric to aid this process.

About the issue of lacking time for Z2 workouts, I plan to do tempo intervals in this case but a good tempo workout can still take 1,5-2hrs so SS could be an option. This all comes full circle to TiZ, If you understand the load and desired outcomes from a certain weekly duration spent in a zone then you can use TIZ to measure your work, but if you start asking the question about replacing Z2 with Z3(tempo) or SS then I would just look at TSS, with a large grain of salt. SS intensity takes a lot out of your body, it is muscular endurance and will probably require more fueling and recovery.

You can find the toolbox I used for TiZ at:

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Thank you all for these answers, it’s really helpful !

@bhrylski it’s a great tool, thank you for mentioning it, I will definitely have a look at it.
@bobw I am trying to solve my health issues, but I struggle with it. Cycling definitely helped, but at first I was riding only for fun. I may have been carried away and I agree, SSBMV may have been too much too soon, especially because of the mental fatigue, training is much less fun this way. It’s deceiving because I spend less time on the bike than before.
I think in my case, I must replace intensity by volume, because I enjoy so much being on my bike outdoor, even with bad weather.
My goal is to race next season, that’s why I went into structured training. But being relatively new to the sport, I think I can gain by developing my aerobic engine the slow way.

@cartsman I will then use RPE and HR. The difference between zones 2 and 3 might be subtle but after 6 weeks of SS, I should recognize when I am in this zone and back off.

Your plan sounds like a good one. Go long and low intensity, ride your bike, have fun.

With lower intensity rides, even if they’re longer, you shouldn’t get too many nutrition issues.

If you find yourself occasionally indoors, just pick a workout from SSB that looksnok, and do that. For base building, getting out frequently is more important than what specific workout to do.

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Yes, I totally agree with this, my N=1 is that I actually feel better when I ride 6 days a week vs 4.

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I’d go with SSBLV 1 & 2 and see how you go. Head outside to do your zone 2 workouts at the weekend.

Trainer riding is harder than the actual time spent riding might indicate as you don’t get any of the rests that you do outdoors, hence the “indoor more valuable than outdoor” statements as there’s no wasted time. For that reason you don’t need as much time on the bike, basically you are just doing all the “best” most effective bits.

If you are wanting to race then I don’t think TB will be most effective for you in the timeframe you have given yourself. That does depend on you and how you adapt to training stress though. To race you don’t just need an aerobic engine you need some “pop” at the top end as well and you aren’t going to have time (because of your propensity to burn out) to do TB as well as the threshold and VO2max work that you’ll need, certainly not to do either well.

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Your commutes - how many times a week and how long?

Lower intensity rides build up over time, and thats one reason they are value to newer cyclists looking to build base. But so does just riding around a lot. In any case you’ll benefit from putting in a lot of hours per week, and the low intensity will (hopefully) leave you less tired and more able to put in the hours.

You don’t need a power meter, best bet is to figure out your lactate threshold heart rate (search for Joe Friel articles) and then set heart rate zones off that. While heart rate lags on short intervals, if you are doing long aerobic endurance rides then HR lag is not an issue.

Don’t get too wrapped up with time-in-zone and the efficiency of indoor vs outdoor. Just go outside and keep turning the pedals at a reasonable zone 2/3 heart rate and you’ll be fine.

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Perhaps the best type of exercise to accompany that is Z2 training.

Not sure what your health issues are but it’s been shown that Z1/2 intensity of exercise causes minimal disturbance in the autonomic nervous system. It’s also extremely light on the mental fatigue. Think health without the stress.

Much more important and valuable to hang on to this aspect while you figure out your ailments rather than attempting to train-to-race while being sick and end up hating riding your bike. What’s more important to you, racing (an unknown joy) or riding (a known joy)?

Good luck putting all the pieces together. :+1:

edit: from Alan Couzens, a good way to think about your cycling endeavours. As you can see, a foundation of health is required before any type of race training:



And conversely when doing base miles inside at zone 2 you don’t get small doses of intensity. Every single biggest bump in my own fitness came after doing structured work outside + inside. Our roads here are relatively safe. And I truly enjoy and need the mental health benefits of riding outside. So personally I don’t give much weight to the efficiency argument. But yeah, if I’m pressed for time or want to do some technical (short) vo2 intervals I’ll jump on the trainer. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

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Thank you, I will do that !

Thank you for your advice. I plan to do a build plan and a speciality one after TB, so I should get the VO2 max and SS work too. I was too tired in general, and this time of the year doesn’t help. It should be better around february especially if until this time I take it easy.

They are rather short. I have a bit less than 5 km from home to office. I do the round trip once or twice a day. Since I began TR plan, I go at the recovery pace, so I don’t think they add any fatigue.

For the rest, I fully agree with you, I think what you suggest might be the best. Think less, ride more !

You’re right ! I’ll focus on riding, hopefully I’ll be able to do both in a few months :slight_smile: