Hey everyone, I’m a new user and love the TrainerRoad app so far. I broke my hip back in May (I’m in my 30s so I’ve been healing pretty fast) I just did my first week of TrainerRoad using the train now feature with 1 unstructured outside ride. One question I have is my FTP is down to 200 roughly from 280 since my injury so I expect the normal fast FTP gain, I’m currently waiting on the automated FTP detection.
Question How do unstructured rides work with training? I am the type of person who rides outside for fun so I often have big jumps from how I am training inside. I have a 2 on my endurance adaptation with 2 1-hour easy endurance rides. Last week my unstructured ride was 2 hours with 300+ watt 1+ min efforts in a small group ride. How do I train around this and listen to TrainerRoad or should I get creative after rides like this?
TR can’t use non-workout outside data as part of the AI yet but it does support workouts outside. I use a minimum 3 day/week plan, do those workouts and then do whatever I want outside of it. That way I guarantee the min structure that TR is asking for, but add a lot of extra activity on top.
For example, tomorrow I have a V02 max workout. I’ll ride that outdoors, and then continue at a endurance pace for the next hour. You can keep it all under the same ride, or a new ride.
They are working on the “Workout Levels Version 2.0” that is aimed at assigning Progression Levels to “unstructured rides” to include races, group rides or any other cycling effort imported to the TR career that is not a TR structured indoor or outdoor workout.
I really dislike the label of “unstructured” for riding outside. Riding outside, even if based on RPE, is structured. Maybe this is an unpopular opinion but every ride doesn’t need to read like an erg meter. If you push a little on an uphill so be it. You coast on a downhill, no biggie. Enjoy the ride!
I would say with respect to training/riding, “structure” is a deliberate choice (aka plan) by a rider to apply a defined effort over a given duration with intent of loading the body (and mind in certain emphasis) in an effort to drive a desired adaptation. It may also include defined recovery level and duration. This structure might be a focus on an effort or a particular route (with effort as a deliberate connection) for the goals mentioned above.
Hopping into a group ride with potential variability (known/unknown route, other riders present that may or may not have the same “goals”, etc.) often kill “structure” as I see it. There are certainly groups (mostly smaller ones from my experience) that can do structure with a stated plan that is actually applied. But many group rides and even solo efforts are just “rides” with randomonium ™ applied in spades that is not structure in my eyes.
If a person hits a given route with the same kicks and recoveries, and potentially repeats this with consistency during each ride, this is more “workout-like” and I can see that as structure. But that seems more rare than common in the descriptions of rides I’ve read here. Just going with the flow and making it up as you go along isn’t necessarily bad, but it is not the same as setting a real plan and following it. That is correctly called “unstructured” IMO.
Yeah I get that. I might be the only one that feels this way but to me “unstructured” has a negative connotation. Back in the day (as a runner), days between workouts were labeled “training run.” It was scheduled, considered a major part of your training (volume) and to me “structured.” I understand people feel different but I am more Rocky than Ivan Drago.
I see setting a day on a calendar for a workout as “planning/scheduling” while “structure” would be the actual effort timing within that given workout as covered above. Macro vs Micro in a way.
That calendar is just a road map of daily/weekly timing, even if you choose to identify it via some Zone or Duration markers. Without actually setting those via chosen course and related effort, just doing a “Threshold” or similar labeled workout doesn’t mean much unless it follows at least some form of a plan. That plan could be route driven, but should have some semblance of direction to be considered “structured”.
As to the negative connotation, that is largely context based to me. If someone is just riding for run and loosely aiming for “performance gains”, that may work. But if they are more target based (event or other physical metric of interest), then these rides you mention may fly in the face of rides with “structure” that could be done in their place, or ones around it within the week.
Even with certain goals and training plan in place, I do think “unstructured” rides can serve useful purposes. A simple break from structure could be the very most important reason for some people. Hitting Weekly Worlds group ride can also help by testing your mental and/or physical abilities in ways that are not easy to replicate in “workouts”. Holding wheels or efforts with unknown power level & duration is one that I know I value in these rides. There are other reasons as well (pack skills, bike handling, fresh air, etc.), so I think those need to be considered and offset the negative side you mention.
The exception for me though, is when these types of rides conflict with the broader training plan and weekly workout results. If you are falling short within the “structured” side as a result of the “unstructured” side, this could inhibit the intended goals and progression. That is the aspect I see pointed to in a negative light when people sometimes complain about lack of progress and such. At least some of the time it’s because those other rides are causing fatigue or other issues that prevent maximizing the structured work that is also taking place.
for me unstructured is you have no idea what you are about to do! Say I am able to hold a certain wattage or sprint a certain amount I think it would be cool to adjust my training based on the ride a bit.
This is at last what I have been thinking, saying and arguing for ages. (And getting annoyed when TR use “Unstructured”) Thank you @mcneese.chad.
This is exactly why I hate the expression “Unstructured” applied to all none TR workouts, whether inside or outside. I go out with DELIBERATE training intent, to train for long time trials using the terrain I have available or suits my races. Often a long SS session (Maybe 4x30mins followed by a z2 long ride (up to 70 miles) with a few hills to encounter. Very deliberate intent for body and mind. Often to make sure I know my pacing and feeding/fueling strategies. Very deliberate. Far from unstructured.
These are quite different to going out with the guys on a Sat morning and seeing how I feel, or following a faster wheel, or getting dropped. That is unstructured and unintentional (undeliberate).
Please, please, please, can TR (and @Jonathan@Nate_Pearson) start being a bit more precise in their language around deliberate outside rides that are not TR outside workouts.
This discussion around terms is important. I completely agree that using the word structure to apply to only TR workouts is incorrect. I’m not positive that’s ever been explicitly done but it has been implied
To me structure is riding with intent towards your training plan. So if I do a five hour endurance ride where I’m deliberately controlling my power to avoid spikes and zeros…that’s a structured ride. But if I do a coffee shop ride with my team that’s unstructured. Likewise a group ride or training race is unstructured
Adding a moderate effort (RPE) ride to your training week is a legitimate part of a training plan. You’re running example is right on.
However, TR is supposed to provide a complete plan - the athlete tells the system how many hours/week, experience level, etc and TR spits out a plan that doesn’t expect extra work. So, anything added truly is “unstructured” from TR’s perspective. And adding intense group rides should (in theory) have a negative impact on the prescribed workouts.
Some of us tweak the inputs to Plan Builder to allow for “unstructured” rides. Like I use LV through summer, because I want to do 1x weeknight group ride and a “free” Saturday to go ride as far as I want. But, over winter, I go back to MV and (mostly) stick to the plan.