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TrainerRoad Opens Up New Outside Workouts Feature, Outlines Bike Computer Integration

2018-09-18 18.38.34

Last week TrainerRoad semi-quietly announced outside workouts for some of their structured workouts. I say ‘semi-quietly’ as they announced it on their popular forums. It’s there that they detailed how it works, as well as allowed anyone to join the beta program.

The overall concept is relatively simple at first: Enable you to execute simplified versions of their structured workouts outdoors. Initially, that’s via providing a less complex version of the workout instructions that you can print (or read off your phone). Down the road though, that’s via legit technology driven instructions on your bike computer (first on Garmin, and then at some point on Wahoo) – just the same as other pre-planned workouts.

How it all works:

While the obvious overarching goal is to allow you to take one of their inside workouts outside, the nuances of that are more detailed.  For example, they’ve created ‘outside’ variants of hundreds of their workouts, aiming to simplify them to the realities of trying to execute a workout outdoors. While on a trainer you’ve got things like ERG mode that’s virtually robotic and automated in nature – pounding you to the second-by-second specifics, while outdoors you’ve got stoplights and cars to juggle.

Within their explainer guide they use the ‘Richardson’ workout as an example of one that they’ve simplified. To start (after enabling your account for the beta feature, something that 1,100 people have done already), you’ll see the workout on your calendar:

image

First, let’s see what it looks like with the ‘inside’ option selected:

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Put into plain words, the descriptor below the inside version of the workout says as follows:

“Richardson is 4×5-minute race-like efforts beginning with a 30-second surge at 165% FTP and closely followed by 4 minutes of repeats where you’re either working at 125% or “floating” at 88% FTP.

Each effort is separated by 5 minutes of recovery.”

And obviously, as expected, if you read through those words you’ll see it matches the jagged lines of the workout above it. All good, right?

Now let’s go back and toggle the workout to be ‘Outside’ instead. Here’s what happens when I do that. You’ll notice how the power-based description below it changes quite a bit. It no longer shows a structure below it (compared to two screenshots up from here), but instead just shows the now previous indoor version as a small icon to the left. Whereas on the right it shows ‘Mount Custer’.

image

Comparing those two workouts, again, here’s the text bit for the two side by side…err…one atop the other:

Indoor Variant:

“Richardson is 4×5-minute race-like efforts beginning with a 30-second surge at 165% FTP and closely followed by 4 minutes of repeats where you’re either working at 125% or “floating” at 88% FTP.

Each effort is separated by 5 minutes of recovery.”

Outdoor Variant:

“Warm Up:
– Ride for 10 minutes gradually raising your power from 142 to 228.
– During the warmup do 2×30 second efforts at 356 with 1 minute easy between.
Main Set:
3 sets of the following
– 3×2 minutes starting at 385 watts, and finishing no lower than 328. Aim for 45 seconds at 385.
– 90 seconds easy between intervals.
– Spin easy for 5 minutes between sets.
Cool Down:
– 8 minutes easy.”

And here I’ll try and give some (super simplified) quantitative differences between the two of them:

Warm-up: The indoor one has some 15 minutes of warm-up, building in 9 distinct power levels, including 2×15-second hard efforts, whereas the outdoor one is 10 minutes of progressive build where you simply do 2×30-second hard efforts mixed in there.

Main set: The indoor variant has four sets of 5 minutes each, with 18 power changes per set and mostly surging in 15-second increments. Whereas the outdoor variant has 3 sets of 6 minute intervals, where you’ve got 2 minutes at a harder effort indoors followed by 90-seconds of rest. Both have 5 minutes of recovery in between sets.

Cool-Down: The indoor variant has 5 minutes of cool-down, while the outdoor variant has 8 minutes of cool-down.

If you imagine buckets of different power zones, both workouts are aiming to have you fill the same rough quantities of power zone buckets. The difference is that indoors there’s more variability, whereas outdoors they make you hold each power level for a longer period of time individually. Both are targeted at improving VO2Max, but one is easier to execute on the road.

What you’ll have noted though in the outdoor variant is that it automatically converts the %FTP values to actual wattages using your known FTP. Again, see this snippet within that where I’ve highlighted the yellow:

image

Cool stuff, and nice touch (also from a geekery perspective semi-interesting from a programming standpoint how they mix and match whether to append ‘watts’ after it for each numerical reference).

At this point you can use a device known as a printer, which takes electronic things and puts them on a material called ‘paper’ (it’s not typically waterproof however). While rarely used in this decade, it ensures that in the event of a phone battery consumption failure, you can still read your workout.

Of course, you can also use your phone to look at these workouts as well, as the instructions are there too via the TrainerRoad mobile app:

2019-04-18 12.55.00 2019-04-18 12.55.04

Oh, and while everything above assumes a power meter on the bike, they also generated a [rate of] perceived effort (RPE) variant of that as well:

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Once you’ve gone outside and completed that workout, it’ll automatically sync back to their calendar and associate the two together. So if you sync from either Garmin Connect or Strava to TrainerRoad, then that magic will simply occur automatically, marking it as ‘complete’ on the TrainerRoad calendar.

Next, in addition, if you’ve added a TrainerRoad training plan to your calendar, you can specify a given day of the week as outside (or multiple days). This is great for those of us that like to ride our bicycle contraption outside our living rooms at least once a week.

image

And thus behind the scenes they’ll automatically ensure the workout for that day of the week is an outside variant.

What about bike computers?

Of course, if you’re like me, then the first question you’d be asking is ‘Well that’s great, but I don’t get it. Who really wants to print out workout instructions when most people have fully capable bike computers these days?”

(No, really, that’s exactly what I sent to the TrainerRoad folks two weeks ago when they first outlined this)

Well, the good news is that they’ve got plans to do exactly that (push them to bike computers). See, you may remember last week’s Garmin Connect IQ Summit, and the news announced of a new Training Plan API.  This enables companies to automatically push any .FIT file workout to any compatible Garmin device (even devices upwards of a decade old).

image

(Note: The above slide shows logos of sport companies connected to Garmin’s platform, not of the Training Plan API bits. It’s just the closest photo I could find in the bucket of photos Garmin has of the event. As such, photo not mine.)

While during that event I got to see the TrainingPeaks implementation of that, the reality is that other companies have also been working on it behind the scenes – and one of those would be TrainerRoad. Unfortunately, they just couldn’t say as such until Garmin announced their bits. Once Garmin did though, TrainerRoad took to their forums to note the same.

The way that works is that once you link your TrainerRoad account to your Garmin account, they’ll automatically populate your Garmin Connect calendar with scheduled/planned workouts from TrainerRoad. If you make changes on the TrainerRoad side (such as moving a workout to a different date), it’ll automatically update on the Garmin Connect side. In turn, it’ll then push those workouts to your device and keep them in sync.

When TrainingPeaks demo’d this functionality to me, the sync/change process occurred within seconds. Pretty cool. Of course, TrainingPeaks has a bit more experience with creating structured workouts for Garmin devices specifically, so that’s an area we don’t have a lot of clarity on from TrainerRoad. Nuances such as how you set targets in a structured workout matter (for example, do you set a target power 270w, or a range of 265-275w). Minor things, but stuff I expect we’ll probably see TrainerRoad iterate a bit on once they start pushing that out.

The most important part of the Garmin Training API that TrainerRoad is leveraging is that there’s no Connect IQ limitations (in fact, Connect IQ isn’t used at all). This means as long as your device supports structured/planned workouts, it’ll work. Even going way back to devices like the Edge 510 or Edge 500 should work just fine. Super cool.  Keep in mind however that if you have something like the Vivoactive 3 that supports structured workouts, but doesn’t support power meters – that doesn’t change the lack of power meter bit. That piece still won’t work, but RPE would.

While TrainerRoad hasn’t announced a specific date yet for when this will be implemented – I don’t expect this to be a long-term wait. Given they were already working on this prior to Garmin’s announcement, I suspect we’re talking weeks and not months. Though, we’ll see.

Still, it’s super cool – and right in time for the warmer months. Here in Amsterdam, today marks the warmest day of the year, with the next week of weather scheduled to be warmer temps outside than inside (which is my basic definition for a warm day or not). So looking forward to transitioning more rides outside for sure.

With that – thanks for reading!

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35 Comments

  1. Neo.e92

    I guess i’m now really cancelling my Zwift account after this…

    • Anirudh

      Zwift never had good structured workouts anyway. Their advantage was always – and still is – group rides and group races.

  2. Fon

    sorry for english, I did spend some time converting all the trainingroad workouts (of the plans i was using) to garmin connect workout but i guess i am not going to need it anymore, i wasn’t so happy about it because Garmin uses zone and hard to match to specific percent wattage so happy to go back on official way! link to imgur.com

  3. Robert

    The obvious next step for TrainerRoad is to do the same with the (still quite limited) running workouts they have. The concept of selling a wide range of training plans that you can execute on a trainer or on the road, with coaching advice along the way and a centralized data collection point is pretty good in my opinion.

  4. Gary

    In the past, I’ve put my TR account on standby for the outdoor riding season. This will giving me a reason to keep it active year round.

    • Chader

      That and the existing ability to track your TSS over time, with linked workouts from outside (like Strava) already importing into the TR Calendar. These new outside workouts help broaden the offering from TR to become even more full-featured.

  5. FrankJ

    So, what about Wahoo?

    • We’re working with Wahoo to get workouts on their head units. We want to get this done ASAP.

    • Runninmatt

      Nate, this is great news and I really appreciate the way that as CEO Of a company you still take the time to monitor and personally respond to comments from your customers. Kudos to you

    • Andrew

      😍😍😍

    • AJ

      Just started a subscription! Very excited to see the Wahoo integration. I’m assuming it’ll be using the regular Wahoo structured workout mode with Elemnt Companion app integration with TrainerRoad for loading the workouts?

    • Rémy CLOUARD

      I’ll definitely watch this space for such a feature too, great job guys! I hope Wahoo will be able to integrate TR as nicely as they do with their other partners.

  6. fisao

    I am so seriously happy about this, they seem to hit so many of the demands that they are asked for. I guess the forum feedback helps to filter and crystallize some of the users’ most wanted features.

    I am a very happy customers of theirs, now if only I could integrate some video service (à la Fulgaz or similar) whilst doing their workouts without jumping through too many hoops, it would near perfection for my needs.

    Thanks Ray for the rundown and explanations!

    • BryceTR

      You’re absolutely right, the forum has been a huge help in focusing our energy on the features that matter. Having Product Managers that are both Pro level cyclists doesn’t hurt either 😉

  7. Don

    Will they use Polars now available api to integrate with flow?

    • BryceTR

      Our focus, first and foremost, is to get the Garmin and Wahoo head units up and running as smoothly as possible. When we finish optimizing the user interface with those two manufacturers, we will look into other head units, but this is will be further in the future.

  8. Todd

    As a newbie to power meters, how do you find outside roads that are conducive to the workout intervals?

    Or is the point to match the targets regardless of the road?

    • Anirudh

      You will have to ask your local cycling club to find quiet, low-traffic roads. It’s been difficult for me to match target power, but at-least on Garmin head units, you get a tolerance band around your target power.

      I find that shifting gears leads to my output power being too high or too low, so I need more experience maintaining a target power.

    • hdb

      Not knowing where you are it is hard to say, but I find that crit circuits or outdoor velodromes work best for flat efforts (in Melbourne at least). Climbs are a lot tougher to handle outdoors – consistent hills that last 3-5 minutes are rare and I’m often going too hard or running out of up before the effort is supposed to end.

      You are also likely to find that you will see higher peaks and a lot more variability in general outdoors. Coasting, accelerating away from a stop, wind and downhill momentum all contribute. I find it best to use laps for each effort and focus on the lap power instead of the 3s/10s power – you’ll feel like a dog chasing his tail if you purely react to those numbers.

    • Anirudh

      I’m in southeast Michigan in the US. It’s pretty flat, and there’s a stretch of road which I can use for intervals. I’ll try lap power next time I’m outdoors – thanks for that suggestion 👍🏽

    • hdb

      Anirudh – I grew up in Western PA near Pittsburgh, not so much flat there 😉 The other trick with outdoors can be making sure to keep the recovery segments between efforts easy enough – I often find my power and/or HR are above where I should be and the later efforts suffer because of insufficient recovery.

  9. Craig

    Question for TR – are you pushing hard power numbers to the head unit or % of FTP numbers (then letting the head unit calculate power numbers)? I usually have a slightly higher FTP set on my Garmin vs my FTP set in TR. Just curious to know how the workout numbers will translate.

    • Anirudh

      TR has clarified that they will only support one value of FTP, and not separate values for indoor and outdoor training.

      You should reduce the FTP on your Garmin to match whatever you have in TR. TR will push hard power numbers on your Garmin (in the same manner as structured workouts that you make on Garmin Connect).

    • Anirudh

      Clarification: hard numbers will be pushed once head unit integration is complete.

    • Anirudh is right, we’re going to be pushing target power numbers to the head unit instead of %FTP. That way we won’t have to worry about syncing FTP values which we can’t update at the moment.

    • Eric

      I do the same since I ride rollers and keeping power on rollers seems to be hard than the road. (for me)
      I set my TR ftp to my outside FTP and then do a lot of TR workouts at 95%.

  10. O.Tan

    Looks like I’ll need to get some Garmin head unit!

  11. joan r.

    Will they ever sync workouts from Training Peaks to TrainerRoad?
    I have a coach and he puts my bike workouts on TP so if I want to do it inside I have to:
    download the .erg file
    open TR workout editor
    publish
    open TR
    click workouts
    switch to custom tab
    sort by date ( it doesn’t save sort prefs )
    open the workout.

    It would be so convenient if my TP workout of the day just showed up on my TR calendar!
    I doubt that I’m the only one with this user case. I understand that TrainerRoad is trying to compete somehow with Training Peaks, but right now if you do triathlon, and have a coach, TR cant replace TP completely.

  12. Ann Walling

    Any hope this can be done with sufferfest workouts…

  13. Ty

    I find it impossible to do power based workouts outside due to variances in terrain. I live in an area of rolling hills, you just can’t sit on 200W say and ride.

  14. Marvin

    Why dont you just use the TP IQ app on the garmin? You don’t need to do anything

  15. Egor Pravilov

    Is there a way to download .fit file of the outdoor version of a specific WO? While automatic sync to head units is in development it could be a workaround to manually put file on a head unit to follow up.

    • Chader

      No. There is no option like that.

      It sounds like the Garmin option is very close to release. They are finishing a fuller 1:1 match for inside to outside workout options, and will release when that is done.

    • Guys and gals trying to push workouts to your Garmin now, you can actually do this now from ERGdb with over 4000 Open Source workouts. See a short video here on how this works. It’s very simple.

      link to ergdb.org