Steady endurance or tempo riding is a path to injury and fatigue

I was going through my old pictures and came across this amazing photo of my training peaks account from 2017. Notice the CTL and ATL (Chronic Training Load and Acute Training Load) compared to the Training Stress Balance. I was in balance at a CTL of 100. That’s pretty crazy and it was that way all year long.

Back in 2017 when I was training for Dirty Kanza, I did huge volume at Submax or Low Tempo. So much so that I developed scar tissue on the front of my knee. At least 4 days a week I would do some grinding session that was steady power between 230 and 250 watts.

The problem was I would get dropped in group rides when the pace picked up for short periods. I could not cover the repeated attacks. But I could ride steady for 5 to 8 hours and grind anyone into oblivion. But who the hell wants to ride like that?

Over the last year I’ve changed my training, and have gotten a lot stronger. I ride less, but ride much harder. I never ride steady. Ever. I hope no one falls into my trap of thinking, steady, repeated, endurance riding will lead to immense strength. It will lead to injury. And it will convert your muscle fibers to Type 1 and they are hard to get back to Type 2.


So are you suggesting not doing any of this type of riding? Or just limiting the amount?

I don’t do any of it. I suspect that @Coach_Theia might say it’s important as you build endurance and just general skills. Not sure.

For me, every workout is hard. Just different levels of hard.

Monday = Core + Plyos
Tuesday = Core + Hard Workout
Wednesday = Core + Harder Workout
Thursday = Core + Hardest Workout
Friday = Core / Plyos
Saturday = Hard Workout
Sunday = Hardest Workout

The workouts are not SO hard that I cannot go hard the next day. The entire plan is designed to be able to go hard every day and repeat that 5 days a week. I never do 3x12s or anything like that. Those destroy your legs and make repeatability the following day hard. Recovery between efforts is key, and I never go over the numbers because I’m playing for Thursday and Sunday. The goal is to hit numbers on the hardest days while just hitting numbers on the less hard days.

And just to be clear–because the terminology is not consistent, in my experience–what do you mean my “submax”, Drew?

Fat burning. A pace you can hold for several hours. I think of Submax as 5 hour power or 2mmol/l. But I was constantly pushing my submax into tempo. I don’t do this anymore. But I would take my submax HR (150 - 155) and push power up constantly while holding 150 - 155 BPM. It was really stupid and just got me tired. I would do it for hours and hours. It just tore up my legs.

in 2017 my Submax was 250w. I would hold that for hours and hours thinking it would make me stronger. When I changed training, and started to work the upper end, it naturally brought up that floor without even working on it. So by working the upper end, it gave me range and improved my submax floors. it’s a 2x benefit while working one thing. Riding steady only benefits one thing. Riding steady.

Got you. I do one long ride a week, ODZentury on zwift, which is at about 75% intensity. I guess that would be a “tempo” ride. I do this because the events I train for tend to be around that length. My next event is a 70 km “classic” style event, so I’ll need that ability to go for around 2.5 hours at varying intensities.

I love that ride and would love to join. I really do like steady efforts. I just need to force myself to focus on what needs improving.

I’ll try to drum up my range graph. It’s pretty cool for this thread.

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Check out this post:

You can see in the graph how I switched from endurance to more threshold / explosive.

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So many riders I see love to ride at around 80% of FTP for long periods of time. I believe there is more value on the non-steady ride and also in working on all zones. Each ride and workout should incorporate at least 2-3 power zones, along with changes in cadence and (as appropriate) body position. The zones to focus on will depend on the purpose of the workout/ride. And every ride should have a purpose- even if the purpose is to just “clear the mind”- but know what the purpose is…

Holding a given power (or ~10w power range) steadily for more than 15-20 minutes is of no value in my opinion and research shows that riding at “tempo” (around 80%) brings little to no change or adaptation from training. As Drew pointed out, riding steady makes you good at… riding steady. The only exception is when you are doing an easy (65% of FTP and below) recovery or base-building ride (new riders benefit from long rides as a way to build volume, at least at the beginning).

So if you need to build time on the saddle for a long event, incorporate blocks/intervals of 1, 4, 8,12 minutes working on different zones and cadences for the duration of the ride (2+ hours). And ride below 65% in between intervals. Also, keep in mind that you don’t need to ride for, let’s say 3hs, every week or consistently to excel at an event of equal duration. Shorter trainer sessions that work on different zones are more condensed and just as effective for experienced riders.


If I do “need” to do these longer rides—a commitment I’ve made to Pat—will changing cadence suffice as variability?

Changing cadence will help (big changes though- 55 rpms, 100+ rpms) with injury prevention and will add some stimulus and efficiency without varying power too much. Do you lead that ride every week?

For the time being, I am the go to for the 3.0 ride. As I start getting closer to my main event for spring, I’ll be doing less of the Sunday ride so I can focus on my own stuff.
What do you mean by “injury prevention”?

Riding for extended periods of time on the trainer can cause overuse injuries (Drew’s knee scar tissue example). And if you ride at the same power and cadence for that long period, the higher the chances of such overuse injuries. Great discussion on this and related topics in this podcast, with the latest science of training indoors if you feel like geeking out:

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I’ll give this a listen when I’m on the trainer tomorrow. I’ll be doing a version of the zone 2 with high cadence drills. Trying to keep it light tomorrow.

Drew what is your CTL now? Planned summer CTL? is CTL a bit less important now? I suspect you are running it 20% lower and way stronger.

I’m finding the short workouts In the Labs have been effective at making me very fast and strong without long drawn out rides. I’ll be able to feel a lot fresher for the times during the week when you really have to lay it all out.

I also find my Sunday team ride is Ok but it makes you great at riding 19 mph for 3-4 hours and makes you so tired you suck on Tuesday nights Crit or the short intense workout you really want to do well at.

if I ride a two hour ride with a couple Hill sprints on Sunday, I head into Tuesday nights training crit and lay down record-breaking numbers. This particular training Race is a one hour all out event

My point with my local team has always been a long hard ride or ride which is never really that fast, makes you good at going not really that fast. I always encourage us to ride with really hard efforts in fun critical spots like a climb or a section of road with a pacwline and sprint. Then recover in between. Go dam fast or sit up and recover.

That’s what I prefer.


Exactly Dean. You make great points. And this is the problem with most group rides. They don’t make you stronger.

I don’t look at CTL / ATL anymore. It’s showing between 75 and 80 now, but my FTP is set at 400 so the numbers are wrong. Which is great because the numbers use to dominate my life and focusing on increasing these numbers only gets you tired.

Something sticks in my head from our coach. Going semi-hard between efforts only makes it more difficult to hit the hard numbers. So go hard when it’s time to go hard, and go easy when you are not going hard. Going medium hard will never drop someone so why train it?

Focus on repeatability. Don’t crush yourself one day, and then struggle the next. I did that all the time. Crushfest on Saturday and then DEAD Sunday. You guys should try to do a hard Saturday and then a HARDER Sunday.

Awesome Drew thank you. Tomorrow I will do our SST work out outdoors. I plan on riding easy up to my 7 mile traffic free time trial peninsula. I will lay down the 7 mile course modestly hard. Probably a little bit harder than SST because in real life it’s just fun to let it rip. I will set up and take a nice easy ride home for a total of about 35 miles. It’ll be a perfect work out for Saturday.

Sunday I’m in the mood to provoke my real life group ride with some attacks up the hills and some fun sprints. I’ll also make sure we all sit up and laugh in between efforts because I hate it when we go medium hard in between the real hard efforts. But my gang is a little smaller now and very experienced so they are all really cool to work with.

Looks like the weather will be good enough for both rides to be outdoors this weekend. I also think I’ll do Saturdays ride on my time trial bike.

Ride on!


I listened to about 2/3 of that podcast, @Coach_Theia. Definitely food for thought, so far. Other than my Odzentury ride, I don’t think I have too much to worry about with trainer overuse. However, I do rely on my trainer a lot because of my circumstances. Family and work means that I’m riding long before the sun is up, and living in rural Ontario means the weather is against me somewhat. I had to laugh a bit when the one host was talking about how snowy and cold Toronto is: we consider it tropical, lol. Regardless, for the time being, I will vary cadence and even fiddle with my weight on the go to be able to vary my efforts while keeping the group steady around 3.0. Monday is traditionally my rest day, so perhaps this has also been a factor in avoiding overuse injuries to this point.


Sounds like a good plan, Marc. I spend all winter on the trainer as well, Chicago is a lot like Ontario I suspect… But the EL workouts have enough variation to keep it all balanced while indoors.

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Ok so I listened to the podcast and I have questions. I like to do long trainer rides but anything over 3 hours sounds like a bad idea. But these long rides help me through long Minnesota winters since I don’t do winter sports and I don’t have a winter bike (yet!). Also, I have it in my head that they keep me ready so I can jump on my bike in March or April on a suddenly nice day and ride 100 miles no problem.

I am planning on trying randonneuring in 2019 so lots of long rides outdoors. The calendar isn’t up yet, but I think the first 200k brevet is at the end of April or first weekend of May.

So, I guess I am asking for help to understand how just doing lab workouts and no long trainer rides on Saturdays (at least 3 hours and sometimes 4 or 5 hours) will be enough for me to be ready to do long rides outdoors as soon as the snow and ice melts. :grinning: