Structured workouts? Why do them?


I have done the 4dp, and found it useful and quite different than the automagic FTP calculators of Xertonline, and Zwift. I believe in the method. It seems WAY more accurate.

However, I am a very unstructured person that really dislikes being told what to do. So I do a workout to learn about say - cadence drills, or intervals - then I free ride in Fulgaz or Zwift attempting what I learned without the ERG mode or a training plan. I then apply it to crits and longer races.

This last season I bumped into a competitive class on Zwift for their WTRL racing with a team - and was told that I rely on standing too much and should learn to sit down and get more watts going for time trials instead of just my typical “attack and repeat”.

So I bought a month of Systm again, and found that there are no videos for the plan I created - and I don’t want to look at a wall while riding. Disappointing. Hoped for funny sufferfest videos with unicorns and such.

Can someone explain to me why structured training from an algorithm is somehow an actual good thing for a cyclist like me? Seems so automated, and I’m struggling with the concept vs doing a polarized free ride system of 80/20 Z2/Z4? I must be missing something, right?


What are your goals, and why did you find the 4DP useful?
What plan did you create on SYSTM?


Thanks for the reply. If I had one goal, its a 1200w sprint, as I just can’t seem to win a race without an amazing sprint. Otherwise, the goal is to be faster and more competitive.

I found the 4dp useful as it matches my 1,5 and 20 min outputs instead of the blanket FTP that say Zwift applies, which is just not accurate. There’s a big difference in the testing of 4dp vs your highest output from a race you almost died from, right?


Polarized training and structured training are not necessarily contradictory aims.

Structured training means that you have a series of workouts that are focused on achieving a particular goal, or set of goals. Polarized training is an example of a structured training plan which may or may not be appropriate for you.

People very often misunderstand what polarized training is, which I can elaborate on if you wish.

Which plan did you create that had no videos?

You could say you almost died from the FF. I think the final knockout count sequence sort of makes that clear :smile:


I just did the questionnaire - and there isn’t really a plan name attached to it that I can find. I included strength and mind training. Perhaps my lack of concrete goals is what is blocking my understanding of how to train.

I followed Iñigo San Millán’s 80/20 Z2/Z4 polarized work last year before race season, and it did me well. No pulled muscles through race season! But now, I find my patience for the long Z2’s a stretch and it doesn’t feel right. Also, with indoor racing - its all year so the old school concept of season based training doesn’t apply.

I find myself riding with pace partners in Zwift in Z3/Z4 to simulate racing conditions too often. I am sure I’m missing something big, and don’t even know the right question to ask?


You mention needing a 1200w sprint to win a race is this in a Zwift race, indoors on a track, an outdoor criterium or a traditional road race?

If you are having problem identifying a goal have you tried the mental training plan within SYSTM, podcast 2 is about working out what your goal is?

There’s nothing wrong with doing some sprints in a long Z2 workout to liven it up as long as you are managing your overall training load. Riding above Z2 does not magically take away the benefits of long Z2 rides, it does burn a load of carbs quickly so you just need to make sure you are well fueled.

How many hours a week do you have to train, its real easy to plateau and or worse burn out on just 4-5hrs a week if all you are doing is Z3/Z4 race simulations.


In the questionnaire, which discipline did you choose: Cycling, Multisport, Cross Training? For example, if you chose Cycling, Event Prep, Road, Time Trial - that would effectively be the plan name.

It sounds like you have concrete goals – to train for your race season. The goals would depend on the characteristics of your race. As @JGreengrass suggests, the Mental Training Program might help with that.

If you followed Iñigo San Millán’s plan, did you do, as he suggests, race specific training in the weeks before the race? Did you do pure Zone 2 training for the 80% and what was the duration of those efforts? For the race specific training, he abandons the 80/20 split.


The crit racing plans look pretty great with a good mix of endurance efforts and horrible short max sprint efforts. Most workouts seen to be Suf videos.


The reason for doing Structured workouts is so that Time in Zone(s) can be increased over the course of your plan, to provide you with progressive overload, to continually stress your body, (except on recovery/rest weeks/days…


One thing about doing increasing length Z2 work is it increases the size and capacity of your aerobic engine. That keeps more “matches” in the matchbook which translates to the ability to either attack and make it stick or to have the stored energy available to pull the 1200W sprint. One thing that appeared to be missing was the drain/sprint combo. In SYSTM it takes the form of AC workouts to Threshold. That gives you the ability to improve “refill”.

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Haven’t read all the responses, but I do structured workouts because I believe it’s the most efficient way to improve my cycling performance, if not the most enjoyable way. It targets my weaknesses wrt my goals and provides the most performance gain in the least amount of calendar time.


Thanks for your replies.

I race ZRL and crits on Zwift. I am on the cusp of B, and the team I have been racing with is B focused - and would like to see me there. I consistently make it to the end of the races in the top 10, then lose 10-20 places by not having a developed sprint. 500-600w is all I can get out after the efforts. My team captain has had me attempt to conserve more through the races with drafting and zwift tricks, thinking thats the issue, but its always about that sprint.

@Heretic - Yes, I did increase the training load beyond Z2 before last round. But not very scientifically. I chose the Cycling Road and probably “continual” as I don’t have a set yearly schedule.

I see your point @JGreengrass - as more than 7 hours a week is tough, and the plateau is in my face with the race sim. I understood metabolically not to practice sprints with my Z2 riding. However, the consistent timing of racing on Zwift confuses me as to what timing for base vs SS, etc.

I dropped of the WTRL roster for this round until i get this figured out. Your assistance is much appreciated!


I think you misunderstood me, metabolically there is no reason why you shouldn’t practice sprints during a long Z2 ride. The SYSTM library contains several such workouts. As long as you are recovered from previous sprint sessions that is, because sprint training is about 10/10 max efforts.


According to Iñigo San Millán you do have to be careful about doing above Z2 efforts.

He states that there should be at least one hour of continual (not average) Z2 effort from the beginning. There can be some variation in that effort, but not for an extended period. After that, you an go as hard as you wish.

To get the benefits of mitochondrial effort you need that steady HR Z2 effort.


Those efforts beyond HR Z2 some weeks before the race should be focused on what is needed for the event. Z2 efforts should not be totally neglected either.

If you chose Cycling/Road you should get more than No-Vid workouts, so I am not sure what you mean about “looking at a wall” while riding. I looked at several plans based on various answers to the questions, and all of them had much more than No-Vids.


Why do you have to be careful about doing above Z2 efforts?

There’s a deep div awaiting you @JGreengrass with that question! Here’s a video that gives a basic concept - but a lot of the info is shared in hours and hours of information.


@mollydespondent beat me to the answer.
The quick answer is that the increased processing of the metabolites that arise when you go above HR Z2 interferes with the development of the mitochondria.

If you want even more information with the biological detail (there is an index so you go directly to the sections that interest you the most):


I would point out that people like Dr. Andy Coggin disagree with this idea. I have not looked into this in detail myself, but may take a look if I get a chance.

He may disagree, but Iñigo San Millán is a world-renown researcher in bioenergetics, and a coach for Tadej Pogačar and his team.

I do not know of any cutting edge research that Andy Coggan has done recently.

In addition, you can look at the videos cited where Iñigo San Millán lays out the science. I do not know anywhere that Andy Coggan has done something similar.