Unstructured Threshold training in long rides?

I’ve heard about this approach prescribed by some coaches. It consists of accumulating a certain time in threshold (e.g. 45min) during a long ride without a structured plan. For example using the terrain inclination for climbing around your threshold. Obviously that would be classified as a Threshold hard session (not a long Z2 ride).
What do you think about that?

I’ve done some workouts like that before – I think they can be pretty good if you’re very disciplined about sticking to the right zones at the right times.

For example, I think it would be worth making a route that features a few climbs (or maybe just one climb you could do a few times), and limiting your hard efforts to that one section of your ride.

Otherwise, I’ve personally found that if I don’t make a plan for where/how I’m going to ride ahead of time, I just wind up riding pretty hard randomly over the course of the ride… and I often end up with much more training stress than I originally planned for! I’ll often end up pretty cooked from a ride like that, which impacts the rest of my training. :melting_face:

For that reason, I generally prefer structured intervals – but it wouldn’t hurt to try that method out to see if it works for you!


There are different adaptations depending on rest between the intervals, there is a time for threshold work with little rest, and doing them spread out (with more fatigue since the ride is much longer).

But if you have a 3-4 hour long ride, and do 10-15min threshold every hour, thats a pretty good ride :slight_smile:


Sure I’ve been also a victim of unnecessarily hard long rides which hinder your recovery for several days. It may help using as data fields in your Garmin time spent in Z4 and TSS so you don’t go over a limit. Also for Xert users there’s a data field that gives you the focus and difficulty level. Focus is the time duration of efforts where your workout is focused. If you’re doing threshold intervals it should be around 20 to 60mins.


Did quite a bit of this in my base 2 and build blocks early in the year. Once a week on my big weekend ride, I started with doing chunks of SS efforts ranging from 10-15 minutes starting at like 45 minutes and it progressed to 75 minutes, then it was Threshold during my build blocks. I think my total time at Threshold ended up being 60 minutes over the course of 4-1/2 hours. These were great fitness builders and fatigue resistance builders.

I noticed that I was ultimately able to handle a lot of work over the course of a long ride. It was perfect training in my gravel simulation rides because I could really get on the gas for certain segments and z2 it in between. I also pulled the plug on the efforts on some sessions when my rpe was just way too high for what the work was supposed to be.


I have heard of workouts that could fit the bill:

  • You ride mostly within Z2, but roughly every hour, you spend, say, 10–15 minutes at threshold or sweetspot. This worked very well for me and fit naturally with some of the routes I have ridden.
  • You ride in Z2 for x hours (or until you have expended e. g. 2,000 kJ) and then tack on a sweetspot or threshold workout.

Both are targeting what I think people refer to as “durability” these days. As @ZackeryWeimer pointed out, it is important to stay disciplined, though, both in terms of the zones you ride in and how much fatigue you accumulate at the end.


I used to live in the city and ride easy on the trainer for weekdays and do a 3-4hr long ride on weekends where I would ride threshold up 10-20min climbs once an hour or so, easy endurance pace otherwise. I became super fit on it, I recommend.


I do almost all climbs at sweet spot, have for a few years now.

I don’t really look at time in zone, and threshold would be a lot outside short rides imo.

1 Like

I do some of these as I get into the “Race Specific” specialty portion of my plan, but for me it’s usually more Tempo/Sweet Spot “Fartlek” type rides. I spend the winter doing VO2, Threshold, Over Under - build work. Then as I get into the warmer outdoor season, these actually become more frequent for me because I’m targeting long marathon events.

For example, what’s up for me now last weekend and next weekend is a 4-5 hour endurance ride, with 2-3 hours above 75% mixed tempo / SST, Generally working that time at 75% up to build fatigue resistance in that zone.

But, for building FTP, I think structured intervals are better.


Think of it this way - it could still be “structured” in the context of a block. One basic concept that periodization is built upon is GAS - general adaptation syndrome. In the periodized training model, during loading weeks you are challenging the body, then take an adaptation/rest “week” to send an adaptation signal to the body. How strong of a challenge, and how strong of an adaptation signal? Those are things you could (I’d argue should) be learning about yourself. For example I’ve learned something closer to step loading works better than linearly progressing intervals. The why doesn’t matter, what matters to me is that with a couple loading blocks I can make a bigger jump in both intensity and duration (which somewhat goes against the idea of reducing workout levels with fitness increases). I’ve seen that in both the gym and on the bike.


I mix in quite a few of these type rides in my training. Tues/Thurs is reserved for structured intervals, but Saturday is almost always a long ride with less structure. Sometimes it will include joining a group ride for 3-4 hours of the ride, sometimes it’s just a route with a bunch of climbing. I’ll keep an eye on “time in zone” buckets and typically target x minutes at threshold or higher (I don’t really focus on what the mix is). I’ll also have a TSS target for these rides. Early in the season, I might target ~45 minutes at threshold or higher and 300TSS and eventually work my way up to 90+ minutes in zone and 400TSS. I’ll also often work in a “tired 20” interval where I’ll do a ~20 minute threshold effort after I already have ~2000Kj’s in my legs. All of this is pretty decent simulation for racing, so group ride dynamics can be helpful here (ie - you don’t always dictate the effort). As mentioned by someone earlier in this thread, I feel like these type rides are great for building durability. And it’s also a nice mental break to just go out and ride pretty hard without too much structure.


and as long as you do the work, it is providing the challenge/stimulus within the current loading block. At least for myself, I can get more quality work completed, outside, in a semi-structured fashion. And therefore have seen better results versus just doing interval work inside. YMMV.

Idk, to me this sounds like a fairly structured plan. I think lots of people have too strict of a definition of “structured”. Obviously if you have 30/30s on tap then the structure is important for those intervals. But for threshold, as long as those ‘random’ climbs are over ~10min and you are targeting a final TiZ then I would call that a decently structured ride.

I don’t live anywhere with climbs like that but I have definitely gone out and done a 3+h ride with 10-20min tempo or SS or Threshold (depending on my current block) sprinkled in with as much rest as I want. As long as you’re riding the inbetween sections easy enough and you’re eating enough, it sounds like a pretty awesome workout.

Just this morning I did a 3h ride just around a park loop and ended up doing 53 min of threshold. It was 2x15min, 12min, 11min at FTP with rest between 10 and 20min.


Yep, both approaches can drive adaptations, we just need to be careful with the comparisons. 90" of threshold work done in small chunks over the course of a 6 hour ride isn’t the same as doing a 3x30" threshold intervals during a 2 hour structured training session. Both rides are driving adaptations as long as you keep ramping the stress, they just aren’t driving the same adaptations. Just like trying to compare buckets of TSS, all time in zone is not created equal.

1 Like

Sure, but doing 30 minutes every hour for the first 3 hours, then enjoying the last 3 hours could still be really strong stimulus depending on where you are at developing muscular endurance. I think you are getting ready for Unbound, but I’m taking a break and right now I’d settle for four 5-min jobbers over an hour, which I’m sure given your current fitness sounds like a warmup LOL.


Fascat (at least used to, not sure if they still do) had rides in their plans that would go something like “Ride as much SS as possible until you accumulate 125 TSS. This should take about 100-140 minutes depending on fatigue”. I love that approach and still do this on outdoor SS rides.


I’m going to repost something I wrote years ago, back in 2020:

“Based on my recent ‘fresh is faster’ / ‘less is more’ experience doing the FasCat 18-week plan this spring, it was surprisingly easy to go from doing short 12-18-minute mid-week sweet spot intervals and then on the weekend do freestyle sweet spot including the occasional 1x50-70 minute SS/threshold effort to verify my fitness/FTP (and feed WKO). Without an upcoming event, I was patient and stuck with the plan’s mid-week interval prescription to see ‘how low can I go’ (minimum effective dose) while secure in the knowledge that I was capable of doing longer intervals. Ended up with a higher FTP versus prior two years, and a surprising boost in short power, so in the end the ‘fresh is faster’ experiment was definitely worth it. For context that was my 5th season on a road bike and the same number of years training with (less/more) structure.”

That spring FasCat plan experiment was 4 years ago. I’m going to call that a variant of step loading - very little progression, and a block or two later, big jump in capacity to do much longer and harder efforts. Saw something similar this year with Coach Tim Cusick’s JoinBaseCamp.

Original post here: Sweet Spot Progression - #847 by bbarrera


So l did this today and l am quite satisfied with the results:
I was prescribed a threshold workout and changed it for a 3h alternate Eddy McKenney +3 with 5 intervals of 20min O/Us. Mostly zone 3 and 4 only tipping in low zone 5. I went outside over a hilly course and used the uphills to ride in zones 3/4 trying to minimize time in zone 5. Relevant Data fields in my Garmin were Power zone (preferred to power), times in zones 3,4,5, time, and IF. My goal was to complete 3hours with total time in these zones around 100min whith an IF similar to the structured workout planned. Zone 1 downhills and zone 2 in flats. The workout was a lot of fun and l managed to achieve these goals. Mentally it was refreshing. Using Power zone as data field for outside rides is less restrictive than trying to meet a power target and allows you to better adjust the effort to RPE and terrain inclination . For VO2max workouts l plan to do a similar thing then focusing on time in zone 5.

By the way, in the last CTS podcast they talk quite favourably about these unstructured natural type of workouts.

1 Like

Agree, that approach is the best of both worlds. I’ve pretty much switched all my interval days to long rides that work the intervals into the middle or early part of the ride and then add as much Z2 as time allows. My comments about comparing structured block to smaller chunks within a ride is really more about that purely unstructured ride where you might be getting the majority of the threshold work 1 minute at a time. Doing 60 1" threshold efforts over the course of a few hours isn’t driving adaptations like doing a couple 30 minute Z4 efforts.


yes, if you are referring to 1 minute efforts. Apologies but its driving me crazy - " is shorthand for seconds, and ’ is shorthand for minutes.

1 Like