Your Favorite Outdoor Training Sessions?

Hey Everyone! Wanted to open up another thread here and see how people prefer to do their outdoor workouts. Outdoor season will soon be in full swing for many of us in Northern US/Canada (if it hasn’t already began). I’m simply curious, and I’d like to hear about the sorts of outdoor workouts that you incorporate into your outdoor training - it’s also totally fine if your only outdoor training is a hard group ride :slight_smile:

Do you have a particular route that you use for race simulation, a particular hilly route that you use for hill repeats, or a flatter section of road for TT/threshold intervals? How do you take advantage of the terrain in your area to create outdoor workouts free of structure/timed intervals? For example, telephone pole intervals (e.g. After warming up, start by sprinting from one pole to the next and then spinning easily for 4 poles. Repeat 3-5 times., etc.)

Also, how do you personally manage following your workout(s) given the challenges of terrain, wind, traffic, stoplights, etc.? Do you go by RPE? Staring at your Bike Computer (hopefully not too much!)? Audio notifications?

Hoping you all can share some insight into some of your favorite outdoor workouts or simply how you personally prefer to work ‘impromptu’ workouts into your training. I’m curious to hear from you all and see the different workouts you like to do!

I’d be happy to share some of my favorites too :slight_smile: Cheers!

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In 2020 i did basically only solo training for the entire summer… I enjoyed a particular route with a set of hills and it was my goal simply to become faster on the course… i generally did non steady tempo riding… where would go at a non steady state but the averaging power would be in the tempo range… sometimes I’d shoot to do as many repetitions as i could in 90’ or try to push for 120’…

i revisited that single stretch of road almost every week. eventually i did a single lap all out test effort on that too where i got a gold breakthrough…

It was a valuable training tool because i learned how nuanced a seemingly simple stretch of hilly road can be… and how you learn a certain rhythm…

I’ve always had it as a long term goal to keep up with the peloton on an annual hilly road race… this was the highest specificity i could find to simulate hilly road racing

Now that I’ve moved, I’ll need to find another place to go do a little practice like that maybe…

To answer your question… i checked my 1’ average power periodically to make sure i was averaging out to tempo. But i tried to get a feel for it as much as i could to reduce how much i looked at the computer… and the only structure in the workout was that which was dictated by the road and how i was feeling on the day… practicing managing my energy stores so i don’t bonk. I did bonk one day going out there though

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Honestly a lot is plain old endurance where I have a good idea what power and / or HR I’m targeting and just ride. No single route (am lucky to have quite a few options nearby), depends how long I have / want to go for. And for hard-ish but below TP rides I can always just push a bit harder on the small hills or whenever really (hill or flat, doesn’t matter too much - have learned to ride ‘easy’ uphill so it’s nearly always a choice). l don’t do the really hard intervals on those longer routes

For hard rides I have some long-ish hills (10 minutes or so) which I use for rough intervals either 10 min or 2x5 min or so - there are a couple I can use as a loop. Occasionally those are ridden all-out but that’s for a BT rather than normal ride. Normally I have an idea of the power e.g. TP, and either go to the top, or know roughly where halfway is…

For even harder intervals I have some shorter hills which are about 5 min nearly all-out, and have a loop where they are reasonably spaced, leaving time for recovery needed from those tough efforts… so that’s another option.

And sometimes on a shorter, flatter (and quiet) loop I’ll do some micro intervals - more by feel than structure / target power… I find those more rewarding on the flat than on hills.

Nice @isaac124

A spirited group ride might also help replicate the specificity! Would be interesting to know the focus of those activities - it could easily replace a standard interval session.

Do you have a picture of the MPA chart that you could share from one of those rides? Is each one a little different? Sprints? Threshold-ish efforts? VO2max intervals?

IDK… the poarity ratio for the hard mixed GC specialist ride was 91:9. that means you would define it as “mostly endurance” type of ride? I’m referring to this other thread…

91:9 means it was 91 % xss in below-TP exercise and 9% above TP?

How do I correlate a “pure”/“mixed”/“polar” specificity with its polarity ratio? i don’t understand how to calculate that… if i do a road sprinter focus… the polarity ratio could be anywhere between 0:100, and 99:1? and do i also need to know the workout total duration in order to get some idea of how to guess what the focus duration is based on the polarity ratio and specificity?

there’s three words here in the XERT language… “specificity” “polarity ratio” and “focus duration”. How do they inter-relate?

i’m looking at my A races… and i’m realizing i should maybe not do too many road sprinter workouts… the focus durations for those was 6-10 minutes…
besides… i never see my athlete focus duration go anywhere near my target athlete type… Too much group riding and general training i guess… I might want to do well as a road sprinter, but my XPMC shows that my focus duration never goes anywhere beyond GC specialist… usually.

Polarity Ratio and Focus Duration / Specificity are related but different. FD/SR attempts to summarize how the training will affect your fitness and improvement. Polarity Ratio is just a ratio for interest and reporting.

Aside: We generally don’t just show ratios and other comparisons since it ends up being more of the usual “throw ratios and charts at the numbers until something sticks out that maybe indicates something useful” approach that has been used in training with power since the beginning. Any tool that overwhelms you with reporting and slice-and-dice options has taken this older approach.

We generally don’t do this but Polarity Ratio is an exception since it might provide some indication of how much overall high-intensity strain as compared to low-intensity strain you had in an activity or over a period. Personally I’ve never used it since it doesn’t inform any of my day-to-day decisions or assessment of performance or improvements.

I suspect you need to add in more High/Peak Strain as you progress into the season. Not saying that it has to be dedicated workouts, but might explain why your Progression Focus stalls around 7-8 min. It’s been something that I’ve also struggled with (getting Focus lower than ~8 min). I’m actually at a 8:00 progression focus right now, so now I’ve been working some HIIT in my routine to continue bringing it closer to 5-6 min focus. Not much group riding where I’m at currently, so most of my HIIT will need to be solo workouts/harder efforts outside.

Here’s one I did yesterday, 4 sets of 30/15’s that ended up with a ~6 min (mixed) Focus. I have a few longer, flatter sections of road where I can quite easily do micros like this:

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Is it actually the intention that weekly focus, or focus from progression chart (not sure the period for that?) actually reaches your target focus? If so, your high intensity focus on hard days needs to be much shorter than your athlete type to balance the endurance work you’ll still be doing (when yellow, and also in line with a normal polarization, even if you increase intensity you still do some endurance rides).

Otherwise you literally need to ride to your target focus every single ride…?

Generally I leave my settings at program type= continuous improvement, improvement rate = maintenance, athlete type = GC specialist. I just go with the recommended workout much of the time only making changes on rare occasions such as being fatigued, having a race to go to or having a longer period of time available than normal.

Workouts are generally outdoors which is why I will continue to press for larger numbers for the garmin app-having large numbers and a quick glance down is important since I am not trying to refocus my vision from far to near to see the screen and when conditions are less than ideal the screen is hardly readable, think rain or in the dark-both conditions frequently happen for me in the September-April riding conditions we have here.

I don’t particularly have a favorite workout. I figure they all benefit me in some way and I think the proof is that my numbers are at some of the highest I have ever had even from when I was racing seriously(though I am heavier).

Managing workouts outdoors. I have others who I have recommended xert and this is a frequent problem for them when riding outdoors. My answer is focus duration and xss are my go to metrics I am aiming to meet. I also do xert workouts on the mtb in the woods. Before the workout I review what I am looking to accomplish and start the workout. If there is an interruption due to traffic, poor trail conditions vs. specified effort I have a few plans, If the effort is short say 10-30 seconds I just try and get the effort in as soon as I can after the beeps or right after and look for the target MPA as the goal. If the effort is longer I don’t worry about short interruptions and just continue the effort as soon as I can.

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Yeah, that’s an excellent observation. I’ve thought about this before and I suppose you’re right. I’m usually only able to bring my progression focus down to ~GC Specialist/Rouleur. As you mentioned, maybe ‘overshooting’ the Athlete Type in the final weeks of peak/taper would be a good idea…

I’ve been neglecting my Sprint training since outdoor season has arrived. Decided I’m going to mix in some sprints again once per week. I used Xert EBC to perform the SMART - Dirty Little Secret workout outside and it went pretty well - I have plenty of flat/open roads that are great for intervals like this.

I think I’m going to slightly tweak this workout from using SMART Power intervals (fixed duration) to SMART duration intervals (fixed power, variable duration). This will allow me to simply ride hard/all-out for the 20s sprints, and then recover at a very easy pace (~100 W) until I hear the warning ding from EBC that the next sprint interval is approaching. Very little need to be staring at my bike computer during the workout, and knowing that I’m still getting a very efficient workout in!


Is it possible to adapt the SMART trainings in such a way that I can manually control when the intervals should start? I am training outside only, mountain bike only. And I need to get to a path where I can safely put down some Watts w/o risking to break my neck or run over some hikers :wink:

Pretty sure you can pause, skip forwards and backwards with some of the Xert players eg in iOS. Not sure for Garmin anymore.

That would give you some flexibility eg to start when you hit the right part of your ride.

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As @wescaine mentioned, there are ways to skip forward and back using the EBC app (for my outdoor training sessions, I’ve been using EBC on an Android device). You can also simply start riding for the warmup and then start your workout/intervals at a later time, which is how I usually do it. 15 min free-ride/warmup and then jump right into the SMART intervals.

The Garmin workout player has the ability to pause, but that won’t record any data during that time.

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As I am only training for roughly 2y now in a structured way (if we call xert structured), I am still a beginner. As with 45y now I was much more a strength than an endurance type I struggled a lot with this sport. So I spent 99% of my time trying to adapt slowly by noodling along outdoors while getting overtaken by everyone, trying to not overwhelm my body (which still happened once in a while).
Now I am able to hold around 80 TL long term and try for the first time to build some high training load. Again, I intend to progress rather softly to not mess myself up.
I set myself the simple challenge to get to an average of 1xss/minute per ride. Given that I ride in the mountains (not much flat terrain anywhere close by) that means I need to compensate all time spent on decends by going over LTP on parts of the climbs.
I am not there yet where I could sustain that for every ride, maybe half of them. But I try to get there.

Just one obersavation: It seems practically impossible to build any high training load from scratch by following the XATA. Reason is that it always puts you in yellow just long enough that your gained high TL reverts completely before returning to blue. So I decided to ignore it for now.
I think you should be looking into this at some point.

I think that’s a valid point & something for us to consider. It may vary from user to user… if an athlete is routinely doing some sort of high-intensity ride (e.g. a hard club ride, zwift racing, pushing for PR/KOM’s on Strava segments) then they will likely have some High/Peak training load on which to build.

Something that I found worked well for myself this past winter was to keep 1 HIIT day per week, usually consisting of a 4-6 min focus workout (Puncheur - Rouleur focus type) and 1 sprint workout once per week. I would manually choose workouts on those two days (sprints on Mon, HIIT on Thurs), then use XATA to fill in the rest of the week. I could also use my training status in Xert to know if I was too tired to do the sprint or HIIT workout and reschedule, if needed. At the end of the winter, I had a significantly higher High/Peak training load than usual, so HIE and PP were a bit higher than usual in the spring, since historically I would do mostly base/endurance workouts with limited (or no) high-intensity.

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For me its really that if I try to do any high intensity (which for me still means significantly less than_any_library workout with focus >= climber would demand) to even only slightly increase my high-TL, I get stuck in yellow for all eternity (well, at least long enough to safely revert any gains made):

So my high-TL only started to increase once I decided to ignore XATA and go beyond TP more regularly ignoring my yellow status

I will see if I reach a point of adaption where I can reach blue again while holding my H-TL.