Any suggestions on taking a workout outdoors?

I see the topic of bringing training outside in many posts in the forum.

I’m hoping someone may have suggestions for taking the Sufferfest training outside, (easily).

I’m setup on the 12 week all purpose road plan for indoors and out. Yesterday’s workout for outside was endurance, which was fairly simple to remember once I deciphered it, (although I can’t be sure I deciphered it correctly but I think it is warm up, stay between zone 3-4 and then cool down). Anyways… That’s what I did and it was easy to remember and just keep an eye on my heart rate zone on my bike computer.

But today’s workout is Sub-Threshold with Surges: 3 x 8 which is crazy technical in terms of trying to decipher it. I read the help article on trying to understand the outdoor workout plans, but it’s useless for me, cognitively I just can’t make the connection between the two.

Is there any easy ways to do this that others have found? Like maybe an app that I can input all the technical jargon of the workout into and then the app deciphers it and displays it on my phone, or so at least I could write it down and keep it with me on the ride for reference?


A lot of the outdoor workouts have an indoor no vid option. If you’re not sure how the workout is suppose to go, look up the no vid and it should help. There isn’t a Sub-threshold with surges: 3 x 8 vid, but there is a 4x12, but it should still give you a good idea. Alternative email the minions and they will be able to help.

I have used both Garmin and Training Peaks (free) to create outdoor workouts based on the SUF descriptions. They can then be exported to your head unit and selected as a workout once you’re on the road where you are gonna do it. It’s really very simple to do. Give it a shot yourself and if you’re stuck, check back in and I’ll see if I can assist.

Edit: I have heard that if you email the minions they may be able to send you a compatible outdoor workout for your head unit.


Are you sure you mean Zone 3/4 for an Endurance+ session? The easiest way to take those outdoors is to consider a HR limit of the top of Zone 2 / 30bpm below your LTHR. If you have a power meter use the reading from that as a ‘throttle’, staying around z2/3 or whatever keeps you below the heart rate cap.

For sub-threshold with surges, i would just do that on a climb using either HR or power if you have it. Don’t overcomplicate it, with all the small variations of riding in the real world you will naturally get surges. 3x 8mins at whatever your target is = easy.

Even most of the actual videos can be distilled into basic interval e.g. the rookie is 3x 10mins at threshold-ish.

Glen thanks much for the advice. I’ve got a Lezyne Super GPS Pro, so I was able to bring over the workout from Training Peaks and use it outside. Not sure I did it 100% correct and with 20mph winds and varying terrain keeping steady on the targets were hard, especially just using heart rate for the targets. That workout is way too complex to try and do by HR only.

It took me realistically about 4-5 hours to create the TP account, connect it to everything and have everything connect to it, etc. Setting up a profile was a nightmare because it seems to have it’s own ideas of heart rate zones that differ from Sufferfest.

Creating a workout manually and trying to use the workout information from Sufferfest was by far the most time consuming and confusing part of the whole thing.

Anyway it’s, done and one outdoor workout achieved although I can’t tell if it actually even came close to the targets because the only thing I can reference for performance is Strava. Any recorded stats don’t show up in Sufferfest or Training Peaks, which are essentially just calendars and the workout is marked as completed but it doesn’t show results.

I’m really surprised nobody has made an app for this yet. I have a feeling the complexity and time it takes isn’t worth the effort. I’m not sure what to do now with nice weather coming and a 12 week workout plan in motion already. The only thing I can think of is just back burner Sufferfest until next winter and maybe use it for some adhoc workouts during the week or during crummy weather.

Total bummer.

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The main thing that makes training outdoors palatable to me is having a power meter. Training to heart rate is rarely recommended as HR is delayed and varies for a very wide range of reasons (hydration, nutrition, temperature, etc) where power is much more repeatable.

There are apps that do somethings and apps that do other things and some do those things better than others. It’s definitely a learning curve but, like most things, the more you do it the easier it gets. In order to make Training Peaks more than a calendar and workout creating tool you’d need a premium account. If you really want to get into analysis, you could go with Golden Cheetah (completely free) but imho it’s got the steepest learning curve of any training software I’ve ever used.

I can create a workout in Training peaks or Garmin Connect in less than 10 minutes and have it on my Garmin head unit in under 5. But, I create the workouts based on a percentage of FTP and I have a power meter for both my outdoor bikes. Have you tried emailing the minions to see if they can send you a file for the outdoor workouts?

If I were you, I’d stick to the SUF plan during the week and just do longer rides outdoors on the weekends not worrying too much about the targets but just getting time in the saddle at a reasonable effort. Or, if the plan calls for an outdoor ride with say, sprints, over a couple of hours, I’d just do sprints, cool down, for 10 minutes or so and do some more.

The main thing is to be clear on your goals, then figure out the best way to make those goals come to fruition and not forget to have fun in the meantime.

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Sorry, I’m not sure what you mean Condiec. It’s nearly impossible to figure out what to do with the outdoor workout plan because it’s written in a special sports code, that doesn’t relate to anything to do with what can be setup or monitored while riding outside as far as I can tell. I tried inputting the info in training peaks to upload the workout to my bike computer, but honestly had no idea if it was correct, because the manual workout setup in training peaks is extremely confusing and Sufferfest doesn’t have any way to download or transfer a planned workout to training peaks for decoding and turning into a useable workout. Same with the profile setup for training peaks, there’s no way to transfer over the Sufferfest info for personal stats like HR, etc. It’s got to be done manually in TP and their way of measuring is way different.

Sorry for the rant, nothing to do with you. Sufferfest was going along great for me and I loved it, but it doesn’t seem like it’s pragmatic to try and incorporate outdoor workouts because there’s no good way to do them outside and the weather’s getting nice. I’m a week into a new 12 week training plan that included indoor and outdoor workouts, but now I’m going to have to scrap that 12 week plan and either ditch Sufferfest for awhile and just ride outside, or start the 12 week plan over from scratch and only train inside which is stupid.

Did you try this article? Understanding Outdoor Cycling Workouts in Your SUF Training Plan – Sufferfest Support

It’s linked at the outdoor training descriptions.

Thanks Brian. Yes I read it many times and it makes zero sense to me. I understand what the article is trying to convey, but the SF workouts don’t include anything except the fancy sports code formula for the session, which doesn’t do me any good if I’m trying to take a workout outdoors. It cannot be simplified like the article implies and then written down or plugged into training peaks so it can be uploaded to the bike computer.

Can you give an example of what it is you don’t understand about the “fancy sports code formula”?

It will be easier to help you if you are more specific.

Hi Titanicus yes this is an example. If an outdoor workout is on your calendar and you click on it, then it will show “workout details” which look like this and need to be deciphered and then a separate manual training peaks workout created to match it. (Training peaks workouts can then be uploaded to bike computer).

Which bit don’t you understand?

To take the warm up:

25 minutes @ RPE 3 — 55% FTP — HR < 75%

That is, 25 minutes at a Rate of Perceived Exertion of 3 (out of 10).

If you have a power meter, this may be equated to 55% of your Functional Threshold Power (FTP).

If you are using a Heart Rate Monitor, keep your Heart Rate below 75% of your maximum.

Personally, I don’t recommend trying to mix these measurements. That is, only use RPE, or only use your power meter or only use your HRM.

Does this make sense and help?

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To keep it constructive… I do think the outdoor workout description could be improved.

Something like a visualisation of the efforts might make it easier to interpret?
e.g. that session you have screenshotted looks like this:

I also wanted to get outside and ride now that it is bright enough to ride without lights after work and more importantly that the snow has finally melted on my local hills. I can’t afford a power meter, but I do have a HR monitor, cadence sensor, IPhone and a Quadlock mount.
I downloaded the app, selected the workout and played it with video, sound and power targets turned off. I left RPE, HR and cadence targets turned on so that I could see how hard I should be working. I mounted the Iphone on my bike and hit start. After a whole winter of riding on the turbo I have a good feel for RPE based targets and was able to use HR as a check. I did 2 workouts in “Real mode” as opposed to Level or ERG last week.
I recorded the rides on my Elemnt and uploaded them to Strava to see how the outdoor effort compared to indoor

This was my attempt at G.O.A.T in “Real Mode”

compared with G.O.A.T in level mode on my turbo 8weeks earlier

FTP progression 1: 5x6 in Real Mode

There is lot more noise when riding outside, especially on a MTB with ever changing gradients, wind direction, surface etc. But specificity is key to any training so I think as almost all my outdoor riding is offroad, its best done on the MTB.

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That’s why I suggested looking at the No Vid option right at the start, you can visually see what the workout should look like which can help put it together.

I agree with only using one metric for the workout. I’m lucky enough to have a power meter so only look at that, but you could do it with HR only or RPE (which could be helpful if they’re very short intervals).

One other piece of advice that I assume some (especially the coaches!) might disagree with… just mostly ignore the instructions for the weekend outdoor rides. DO try to get close to the time requirements and mix in some of what it’s asking for, but don’t stress about hitting exactly what the workout is calling for.

For me it’s either too hilly or too much stop and go to successfully execute outdoor workouts with any degree of real accuracy.

Next weekend I have a 1 hour 3x3 MAP interval ride on my calendar. Will I follow that exactly? Not really. Instead I’ll do my loop that takes about 1hr 15min, hit 3 hills really hard, and take it easy the rest of the ride. That’s close enough to the prescribed workout for me and a little extra volume to boot.

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Hi Titanicus, The part I don’t understand is pretty much any of it lol except the duration and sets.

While I used to have power meters on my bikes, I’ve sold those bikes and on my replacements I never did put them on again because honestly they’re an expensive accessory. Better than a bell, but as an accessory they didn’t really help me much outdoors. It was cool to have them and see my output, ride below threshold, (as long as I was below about 185 I was good for a long while), outdoor FTP, etc. but in a group ride, pleasure ride, crit race, bike trail and so on, it doesn’t really matter because there’s too many variables. If you need to maintain a certain MPH or chase, or lead it didn’t matter. It was a good indicator of at what point I’d blow up, but at the same time a distraction knowing that bit. But that’s a different topic, and while now with a legit training tool it would be nice, but without one it puts me in the same position as 99% of most riders, so I think this is fair to make the comparison with training outdoors and apps, software, and structured workouts.

Okay so the choices are use the “workout details” however they don’t translate into the training peaks custom workout creator too well, as they have a range or target setting, and it’s one or the other power or heart rate you can choose for those. The zones don’t seem to translate either, because SF has 5 and TP has like 9. Lastly, the heart rate and other personal settings in the profiles are different. TP comes up with entirely different heart rates for the zones. I even tried putting in a bunch of older workouts from Strava and having it try to automatically calculate, but that was a fail as it didn’t match SF then.

RPE I’ve got no clue how to use that while training. I mean, that changes with your mood and how you feel at the moment right? So in a headwind or up a hill, or an angry driver in a car, a dog walker, sweat in your eyes and so on, anything else that messes with your head can change that. Plus there’s no setting it training peaks for “RPE” parameters.

Onto the less than, greater than… I didn’t grasp them in elementary school over 40 years ago and I still don’t, (even with the help of Google). So combining them with percentages just compounds that problem. In the end, for me at least, it’s all just a guess whatever numbers in putting into training peaks custom workout that will be uploaded to the bike computer.

Trying to do the same thing but in an index card or something would be just as useless to me, since I don’t grasp the formulas.

That being said, I saw another post in this thread that someone was able to use their phone and Sufferfest for the NO VID workout… That’s a game changer and one I’ll need to try. I’ve got a good phone with one heck of a battery, 4g and a phone holder, as well as a bluetooth speaker that’s plenty loud that I usually play tunes on.

So… If I just use my phone and click open an outdoor workout it’ll run on my phone and I don’t need to worry about the 5 hours of suffering trying to create a custom workout based on the Sufferfest workout details that would be AWESOME! (that would be something worth mentioning in the knowledge base articles)

TP zones are customizable

Yes. That’s part of the point of RPE. It’s how you feel and not what any digital measuring device tells you.

I really don’t think I can help with this.

Do you understand that, for example. 140 is less than 180?

Do you understand that 175 is greater than 152?

JGrengrass, can’t thank you enough. I’ve got a phone holder, good phone, a loud bluetooth speaker and my bike computer uploads my ride to Strava so that might just work! I didn’t know you could do that. It didn’t say anything about using your phone outdoors in the knowledge base articles, or in the workout description.

That would help immensely, although it still won’t transfer the ride or stats to Sufferfest I’m guessing, so whatever happens outside stays outside and it doesn’t translate into meaningful workout tracking in Sufferfest uses to adjust and track training?