Taking Structured Training Outside

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At least for now, there are a few nice days in the forecast and our riders are excited to take full advantage of warmer temps. But what always seems to happen once our riders, and really all athletes, head back outdoors? The structure they’ve used all fall and winter tends to go right out the window. We take a look at how to incorporate structured training into your outdoor rides, both now while class is in session, and for the summer months afterwards.

It might make cycling coaches cringe, but you can’t blame riders for stepping out into nice weather and just enjoying the ride. Whether it’s just putting in long, slow rides, joining every single group ride on the calendar, or falling into the infamous ‘tempo trap’, stepping away from your structure can have some benefits, but a lot of consequences, especially in the spring. Many of our athletes have been in the Hive two or three days a week since last September, and they’ve invested the time to build along a series of sessions designed with specific outcomes in mind. These are a long version of periodized training, with previous efforts meant to build on what comes next. We work different types of fitness, different zones, and monitor the little details to make sure each block has you prepared for the next.

And that doesn’t change when the snow melts. Now more than ever, what you do between classes matters. In the fall, you have the ‘summer miles’ in your legs, a volume that helps your body deal with back-to-back-to-back efforts. In spring, most of us don’t have the miles in us to make riding three or four days in a row, hard, useful for training. At most, three hard days with rest or recovery before and after is the maximum that we can take on without sacrificing some of the benefits of those workouts. If your coach has been asking you to note your weekend and no-class days in your books, it’s because we want to know what your activity and intensity level is when you’re not in the Hive and to see how it affects your time with us.

Of course, there are plenty of ways to incorporate structured training outdoors, and this block might actually be the best for doing that. With long 15, 20, 30, even 45 minute tempo intervals, finding roads without traffic and  or stop signs is pretty tough. However, the shorter Power Intervals and Climbing Repeat efforts we incorporate into this block are easy. We all know a five to ten minute stretch of road (think Peninsula Drive) or a climb that offers a steady grade for those one, two, four, or even six minute efforts. So, instead of simply heading out and pedaling randomly, make the most of your time by adapting a Hive workout to the real world. Most of the weekend rides are relatively easy to translate onto the roads, but it is important that you have a way of measuring and recording your effort with a heart rate monitor or power meter.

Strava makes working in these efforts easy. You can simply search your surrounding area for hills or segments that match the length of time or approximate distance you’re training on. Using these segments to train makes it really easy to track metrics like your heart rate or power automatically, but also lets you establish a range of times that might help you gauge improvement. An important note, however; don’t let your training turn into segment hunting. Your goal should be to do the prescribed work, not go for the KOM or QOM every time. If you’re out for a ten minute tempo interval up Philosophy, do that and ignore any temptation to leave your workout zone.

What is so wrong with just going out and pedaling? Nothing! It’s important to have a goal for those types of rides, however. If it’s an easy ride, make sure it’s easy; find a heart rate that keeps you below tempo and stick to it, even on the hills. Staying under that cap will help your make recover without doing more to tax your system. Alternatively, if you’re going hard, go hard; pick a structured workout, find a stretch of road to perform intervals, or plan some concrete sustained efforts at tempo or steady state. The problem many riders run into is going only pretty hard, all the time. This ‘tempo trap’ find riders heading out and spending 40-60 minutes of every ride at about tempo effort, which only trains that one level of power. In effect, you’re teaching your body to do one thing really well, but it may not be something that helps you achieve your goals, especially if those goals include racing. You might find that intervals help keep your riding fresh, exciting, and motivating, rather than doing the same thing every single ride.


It’s also important to say no sometimes. With so many group rides in Traverse City, it’s easy to hit up every single group ride every night of the week. While there is definitely time to hop into TNR or tack onto the Muffin Run, remember to have a goal for those rides just as you would for your solo rides. If there’s an easy group ride, keep it easy. If there’s a fast ride that serves as a mid-week race effort like TNR or SOL, make sure those serve as your training and use other rides to recover.

Finally, work with your coach to establish a plan for summer. Lauri can help you map out what a four or six week program might look like to take you through May, June, or July and to be in top shape for your specific target races. You’ll be able to establish a certain amount of time you’re able to train, choose what races with consist of your A and B events, and work with what you know about your strengths and weaknesses to craft the right training plan for you. Structure can help you get more out of every ride, making your training more exciting and a lot more time efficient.