Understanding Outdoor Workouts in TrainingPeaks


As much as The Minions hate to hear us say it, sometimes you have to step out of your Bike Torture Chamber and get in some good old-fashioned outdoor training. Many of The Sufferfest training plans available in TrainingPeaks incorporate outdoor workouts on the weekends, allowing you to work on your tan and still get a structured training session. The key to having a successful outdoor workout is understanding how to decode and read the  descriptions. When you click on a given workout in your TrainingPeaks calendar you’ll see a detailed description of how to perform the workout:


Each workout is broken up into 4 Parts:  

  1. Warm-Up
  2. Main Efforts
  3. Extra Volume
  4. Cool Down


This describes the riding that should be done to get your legs and lungs ready for the efforts ahead. While much of a warm-up should be easier spinning, most warm-ups also include a series of harder efforts.  

Main Efforts

This is the “meat” of the workout. The main effort description will include:

  1. Number of Sets - The number of times you go through a full “set” of intervals.  Not all workouts contain multiple sets, and there will always be recovery between sets.
  2. Rest Between Sets - This describes the riding that should be done between completed Sets.  If a workout has only a single Set, then you will see “N/A” here.
  3. Interval Repeats per Set - The number of times you repeat an interval to complete 1 Set.  Some Sets contain a single Interval, while other Sets can contain more than 6.  
  4. Interval - This describes each segment that makes up an interval.  Sometimes there is a single segment for the interval, sometimes there are multiple segments for an interval.  To complete a single set, you simply repeat the Interval Segments

Here is what a description for Main Efforts might look like:

4 sets 
4 repeats per set 
30 sec @ RPE 8.5 -- 90% of MAP (105-130% of FTP) 
2 minutes 30 seconds @ RPE 7 -- 90% of FTP 

Rest Between Sets 
10 minutes @ RPE 2 -- 45% of FTP

If we translated that into non-coachspeak, that means you would do 30 seconds hard, 2-1/2  minutes just below your FTP, repeat that 3 more times, spin easy for 10 minutes, and repeat that sequence three more times. The graph for the Main Efforts would look like this:

Extra Volume

This describes the riding that should be done after all sets are completed.  If a workout does not contain any Extra Volume, then you will see “N/A” here.


Cool Down

This describes the riding that should be done after all sets and extra volume (if applicable) are completed.  A proper cool down is a must, especially for some of the harder sessions. Do not neglect this part of the ride! 


Each section of the workout is divided into a number of segments of specific duration and intensity.  The description of each workout “segment” will include the following information:

  1. Duration
  2. Target RPE
  3. Target Power (expressed as a % of one of the 4DP metrics)
  4. Target Heart Rate (expressed as a % of your LTHR as determined by Full Frontal).


For example, a 20-minute long effort, with a target RPE of 2, target power at 45% of your FTP, and target Heart Rate that is less than 70% of your LTHR would be written as:

20 minutes @ RPE 2 -- 45% of FTP -- HR <70%


Workout Builder

You will also notice that each non-Sufferfest workout in your TrainingPeaks calendar will have a blue graph under the “Workout Builder” area of the description. Like the workout graphs in The Sufferfest app, these allow you to see at a glance what the day’s session has in store.

Many high-end cycling computers also allow you to import structured workout files directly from TrainingPeaks.   When you start the workout, you’ll be given prompts on interval duration and intensity, allowing you to follow the workout on the road without having to memorize it yourself.

For more information on importing workouts, check out this article from TrainingPeaks.


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