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Outdoor Workout Substitutions Q&A

A series of common questions regarding outdoor rides routinely crop up over the course of each training season, so here are a few answers to some of the more frequent inquiries:

Q: Can I do some of my workouts outdoors?

A: Yes, but the more technical in nature the workouts are, and the more difficult and intense they become, e.g. VO2 Max, Anaerobic; the more likely it is that you'll get much higher workout quality by performing them indoors in a more controlled, distraction-free training environment. The more general and lower in intensity, e.g. Endurance, Tempo; the workouts are, the easier it is to effectively accomplish the work outdoors.


Q: Will the quality of my workout suffer if I choose to do it outdoors?

A: In some ways, yes. The number of distractions thrown at you when you're on the road can have a noticeable impact on the quality of even your easier workouts and you can end up seeing less work, i.e. training stress, thanks to the forced downtime you'll experience at stop signs and traffic lights as well as interruptions that can come at you in many forms and from all directions. So if you're really intent on matching the indoor workout requirements, consider inflating the ride time to 1.3-1.7x the duration of the indoor intervals or overall duration depending on how distraction and interruption riddled your ride becomes. For example, a 1-hour indoor Endurance ride might need to be as long as 80-100 minutes in duration depending on how many times you have to slow or stop your bike.


Q: What if I don't have a power meter but I want to train outdoors?

A: This can actually be an excellent opportunity to start to learning to relate your perception (RPE/Rate of Perceived Exertion) to your power output and grow your ability to ride by feel. As you accumulate more indoor workouts with instantaneous feedback, your knowledge of sensation relative to exertion will grow. Put another way, you'll start to learn how a VO2 Max interval at 120% FTP feels, how it feels to stay under 85% FTP for an entire ride, what it feels like when you're pushing nearer and nearer to your FTP and your legs start to well up. This is the path of the well educated power-based rider, one who can estimate - with increasing accuracy over time - power output based on breathing, effort and muscle sensations. You can also train by HR, but letting a slippery metric like HR dictate your ride is an iffy proposition and HR should still be coupled with any other available information, e.g. RPE.


Q: Is there a way for me to upload my outdoor rides to TrainerRoad such that I can track my TSS through my Career page?

A: Not at this time, but it's certainly one type of functionality we're eager to bring to our users (and ourselves!) and it's only a matter of time. And while we can't say exactly when this feature will be implemented, we can say we're as eager as you are to have this capability.


Q: Can I count a race as a workout or should I do the workout after the race?

A: A race will almost always suffice as a replacement for a high-intensity workout and there is seldom (never?) a reason to do 2 intense workouts in the same day. Consider your race or truly demanding outdoor group ride as that day's high-intensity intervals. Also, be conscious of the type of stress prescribed by your indoor workout. If the workout calls for 6x3 VO2 Max intervals and you're racing a Tuesday night criterium or road race, make yourself attack the field or group 5 or 6 times for roughly 3 minutes. Not only is this the sort of stress that often results in winning, or at least impactful, moves but it's also a great way to explore your current capabilities in the context of the very thing for which you train - racing! Similarly, if the workout is 3x20 minutes of Tempo at 80% FTP, do your best to sit in and avoid the wind. Instead, practice positioning yourself in order to minimize the work, practice anticipating the movement of the field by watching the riders ahead, and learn to do only the bare minimum amount of work necessary to stay with the field or group.

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  • Avatar
    Darren Eaton
    Just to clarify a point with outdoor rides adding 1.3 - 1.7x the stated ride time, as this could mean a lot of variance (and I don't like to throw away unnecessary minutes, haha!).. Likely up the volume for a long weekend ride around 1.3x if route is flowing, with minimal interference and/or stops, and more likely up to 1.7x if you were riding along a popular beach road or high traffic volume route where multiple 'stop & go' incidents are likely to occur.. I want to replace my Saturday rides with outdoor sessions in the full distance Tri plan, so volume increases at the meatiest part of the plan could be significant!
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    Mike Stead

    Come on guys, it's a YEAR ON and it's still not possible to do this? I understand you make money with people glued to turbos, but some of us have serious training goals AND want to ride outside a few times per week. Three hours on a turbo is just stupid, if it can be replicated outdoors, with caveats. Let the riders decide. Give us the option. Seriously, if you don't fix this soon I'll just give my money to TrainingPeaks.

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    brook anderson

    I agree with the comments from Mike above . Wanted to upload an outside ride today.

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    Daniel Lavoie

    How about giving us a realistic time frame to expect for the availability of "upload my outdoor rides to TrainerRoad" functionality? Is it really this technically challenging to implement?

  • Avatar
    Nicholas Kanwetz

    @Mike Stead, @Brook Anderson, @Daniel Lavoie:

    Hi all, we hear you guys and are very excited to say that we're working hard toward getting you this functionality soon. As far as getting y'all a definitive ETA, we're still not there yet. But I can assure everyone that the team is working to have the ability to import outdoor ride data in the coming outdoor season (N hemisphere). Our primary focus of 2016 was to revamp and redesign all platforms of our app, and now that we've completed that hefty task we're excited for what the new year will bring!

    Thank you all for your patience and continued support with us here at TrainerRoad. Looking forward to being extra fast for 2017! :)

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    Yavor Gerenski

    It would be awesome if you can also create downloadable .fit files for users to upload to their Garmin units when preferring to do outdoors workout. I do understand indoor training is much more precise but I like other users would love to spend as much time outside as I could when possible. Thanks.

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    Jocelyn Chappell

    Mmm, should imagine implementation of road part of trainerroad would allow for difference between ftp indoors and on road, such as is acknowledged elsewhere eg TrainingPeaks. For what its worth, I use a number of tools to measure training data, each offer key insights to different aspects of training.

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    T G

    Nicholas, as your team codes the function to upload outdoor rides, pls ensure we can upload previous rides, i.e., rides completed earlier in 2017. That way TR can become the "master" app for all my rides starting in 2017. Otherwise, a complete annual picture will not be available until 2018. Looking forward to this new functionality and hoping it arrives soon.

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    Ray Waugh

    Need an outdoor ride calculator that allows us to manually enter and substitute for indoor training rides. Very frustrating to do 4-6hours outdoor riding on the weekends not be be able to include in my training log.

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    Sandy Doull

    +1 this needs to be fixed I want the training plan I follow to include all of my workouts even non cycling would be good if only a basic tss comparison.

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    David Harris

    With spring on the way, it would be a real shame to not be able to upload longer outdoor rides to see my overall training results. For me this is critical functionality that needs to be addressed and open to all as soon as possible, even if it requires some debugging afterwards....

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    Reint Kunst

    Fully concur - I really hoped i could use trainnerroad as: the "master" app for all my rides starting in 2017"". Now I have to resort to strava, trainingpeaks and trainerroad...

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