How to do interval training outside?

Cycling Tips

It may sound easy, but in practice doing interval training sessions outdoors is not at all that simple. Inside, on the indoor trainer, you can see your goal and performance at any point in time, because you don’t have to watch the roads and the traffic. In ERG-mode it’s only a matter of pedaling. You don’t have this luxury outdoors, but with good preparation and these tips you can successfully do your interval training outdoors.

Choose the right route

Decide in advance where you are going to do your intervals. Take into account the direction of the wind. High intensity intervals with the wind in your back is very difficult and dangerous in traffic. Further, you don’t always have to do a perfect loop. For example, if you have found a good and quiet stretch of road or a small, quiet course, ride it back and forth. This may sound boring, but it allows you to focus on the job at hand and will deliver better results.

Never shorten the rest intervals

Always make sure that you stick to the prescribed intervals’ intensity. It is fine to make the rest intervals a little longer, for instance if that allows you to reach a better location to start the next interval. But never shorten the rest intervals, but be flexible with extending them. Only in short intervals with many repetitions in a row the precise execution of effort and recovery is important for the right training stimulus. This applies, for example, to 40/20’s 30/15’s and 50/10’s with 5 to 15 repetitions. Here it’s all about not fully recovering before exerting yourself again. You should always try to complete these kinds of sets, which often last around 10 minutes.

You will also notice that the intervals are often scheduled in the middle of a training session. This is not really necessary and you can change that to suit your route, climbs or the wind direction. In general, it is no problem to move the very high intensity intervals to the earlier part of the training and move the lower intensity work towards the end. Just make sure the body is sufficiently warmed up before you start your intervals.

Sync with your bike computer

Back in the day when bike computers weren’t as sophisticated as they are today, it was still possible to do interval training! By knowing what your zones were and remembering what the plan for the day was, it was not that complicated. You could even write the instructions on a piece of masking tape and stick it on the top tube or stem of your bike. Of course, the bike computer is really helpful, but don’t become a slave to your Garmin/Wahoo and start intervals on locations where you really shouldn’t, just because your computer said so! (all of them have a “pause” button!).

Train in the spirit of the training

This tip also applies to more experienced cyclists. If you have been adhering to the training schedule meticulously, you can start playing around with the intensity a little bit more, for example in a group ride. If there are long tempo/D2 blocks scheduled, you can do them by doing some extra pulls on the front without paying too much attention to the length of the interval and the recovery time in between. You can try this when you are more experienced and have a good feel for what you are doing.

Make sure you have the right company

If you’re going out on a ride with other people and you’re planning to do interval training, make the other person aware of this. It is often assumed that the other person won’t join you in those efforts, but it is actually a lot of fun and challenging to do interval training together. A training session with sprints is even better to do together than on your own. Just let your ride mate(s) know well in advance, so that they can adjust the intensity of their training in the days before or after.

You do not always have to do Interval Training

A long, steady endurance training without interval training is often a good addition to short intensive work. The JOIN app also encourages you to do group rides, which the app takes into account and adjusts the training schedule in the days before and after. Just make sure you have the right balance, because if you never do intervals, you’ll find that over time you won’t improve by much.