How Do I Do Outdoor Cycling Workouts From My Indoor Training Plan

Many of The SYSTM training plans 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 outdoor workout in your Calendar in The Sufferfest app you’ll see a detailed breakdown of the session:

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.  Don’t skip your warm-up, this makes the rest of the training session possible.

Main Efforts

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

  1. Interval – Made up of segments that are meant to be ridden at designated power, heart rate, and/ or cadence. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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

RPE stands for Rate of Perceived Exertion. It is measured on a scale between 1-10 with ten being an all-out effort.

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.

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%

Some outdoor sessions also have a corresponding NoVid workout in the SUF app.

Why are the power targets in the app different from the outdoor version?

For the outdoor ride, the goal is a higher average power (90% FTP) but if you are riding indoors it should be adjusted down to around 80% as seen in the NoVid workout. This is because most people will have a naturally higher power outdoors than indoors.  The effort will be similar.

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