How Easy Is "Easy"?

I get asked this a lot and people are often surprised when I tell them how easy an easy ride should be. Thought I’d get a conversation going on the subject. And to start us off, here’s a picture I took of my screen on Zwift. I did the same climb on back-to-back days. The first day was an easy ride, the second day was a workout. I think it paints a very clear picture of how different easy and hard should be:


Doing the easy ride on Zwift is cheating, as you are unlikely to fall over or get passed by a granny when you’re hooked into the trainer :rofl:

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@trevor, this is a perfect example!

But the big question is - what was your trainer difficulty set at?! :joy:

Thanks for starting this thread! Great topic!

Oh, I’m pretty sure I got passed by a few grannies. What you don’t see is that I was doing the Tour of Watopia group ride and I’m pretty sure I was 255th our 260 riders.

Trainer difficulty - definitely below 50%.

all, thanks for this. Also, check out as evidence from other endurance sports:

Taoufik Makhloufi is an Algerian Olympian who runs a 1:42 800 (this is fast). What you can see from his training data is:

  • his easy runs (of which there are many per week, plus a longer day or two) can be as slow as 10 minute mile pace (easy jog). If this guy is running 10 minute mile pace, how on earth am I to say that i need to run faster on my easy days?)
  • although he runs fast 5 days a week, most of these sessions are things like strides and drills which might be fast but are not particularly taxing
  • his taxing interval sessions are very intense but are few and far between

So if you only looked at it as, how much intensity is there, it might not look that polarized, but if you were to look at, how many sessions per week are there that actually tax him, i think you’d find it very much is aligned with polarized concepts.


Great take-home point. It speaks to the necessity of ignoring that leaderboard when doing a Zwift ride. There are always so many carrots to chase, but teaching yourself to be disciplined is so crucial. When you can get to the end of an “easy” ride on Zwift and be proud that you are nearly dead last, it’s all going in the right direction!

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Hmmm… after a compliment like that, maybe I shouldn’t tell @ryan that I was killing myself… (just kidding Ryan.)

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I’ll just add I was on an outdoor easy ride this lunch time. There are a couple of hills where I deployed the granny ring and dropped cadence right back.

I’ve just loaded the ride to Strava. On a few uphill segments where I have a few recent ascents, today’s effort was my second slowest out of 25 ascents. Proud of that. Wouldn’t it be great if Strava had a reverse leader board where to be at the top you had to be the slowest without actually stopping.

I’ve now calculated the heart rate distribution for yesterday’s ride. It comes up at 71% below where I think LT1 is (125 bpm ish) based on DFA1, with 29% in @stephen.seiler’s Zone 2. That’s the problem with riding an “easy” ride close to your LT1, it’s easy to pop over it on a hill.

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Hi Phil, love the attitude! I was crawling up a hill myself this weekend trying to keep my cadence high and heart rate low. So I completely respect what you’re doing.

Looking at your profile, I think it’s a great ride. We’re not machines - trying to keep it perfectly under LT1 is admirable but not necessary. The fact that it looks like you didn’t go over 140 BPM and the bulk of your time was within 115-125 BPM tells me it was a well executed ride!

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I was pleased with it. It’s a route I can do from the house and has no traffic lights and is a quiet route. There’s a bit getting in and out of town. But in general even those bits are consistent. I know where I went over LT1 and since I can do it regularly, lowering the intensity of those bits will count as improvement for me. It was 1 hour 23 mins ride time. A good duration for my mid week lunch time low intensity rides.

The 5 bpm buckets round upwards. In other words 125 sums time at 121-125, 130 sums 126-130, and 135 sums 131-135. Max HR of session was 135 bpm but not for long. I find HR distribution buckets tell me so much more than average and max HR.

I also like to apply a saying from my work “Don’t let perfection get in the way of delivering good enough right now”.


Executed the same low intensity ride over same route as last week.

Here is today’s heart rate distribution. I’ve reduced time over 130bpm to less than 1 minute from it’s previous 5 mins. I’ve reduced time over 125 bpm from around 18 minutes to around 11 mins. Time in that 115 to 125 bpm block has increased, with over 30 mins in the 125 block. Improving my execution of the easy ride week by week. Ride time gone from 1:23 to 1:31 which is perfectly fine.

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That’s impressive @Phil! I’m pretty particular about my rides and I’m not sure I keep my distribution that pure in zone 1

I find focusing on the execution , maintaining the discipline, a great challenge. I will be on my 2.5 hour circuit tomorrow. Be interesting to see how I go on my longer easy ride.

Fully get it! I have an athlete who tries to get his variability index to as close to 1.0 as possible on his long rides. I keep reminding him that that is not something I require at all, but he always responds by saying he enjoys the challenge.

I’m not obsessed about perfect numbers but the challenge of balancing that heart rate on the uphills is a good way to get a feel for where my limits of easy are. It also gives me good comparisons on regular routes if I’ve been disciplined with heart rate in between my monthly tests.

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Here is the HR distribution from yesterday’s ride of 2 hours 5 mins. A grey drizzly day and road covered in skog. These easy rides are perfect for it, where you get neither too hot nor too cold, but keep that perfect temperature. A bit more in that 126-130 bpm area as route a bit hillier than my other circuits. I like to vary my routes for interest. I don’t have the discipline to get off and walk hills. But I will pedal as slow as I can where possible.

Here is todays heart rate distribution for today’s easy ride. I was aiming for 3 hours and came in at 2 hours 52 mins ride time. Very pleased with that as route not preplaned other than my knowledge of the lanes.

A large amount of time spent in that 116 - 120 bpm bucket. A total of 68 mins there. Then approx 30 min each in the 111-115 and 121-125 bpm buckets. Just 12.5 mins above my estimated LT1 which I currently put at about 125 bpm. 93% below LT1.

One of my best executions of my easy rides to date.

Well done @Phil… I think you’ve got it perfected!

I wouldn’t say that but I’ve got a good feel for it. One thing is for sure is that I have to do these easy rides solo. No matter who I ride with, I’ve yet to meet anyone else with the discipline not to ramp the effort up on hills.

Here’s my heart rate distribution with a friend who has to hit hills hard. I kind of expected this so treated it as such and marked as a hard effort. Clocked up 17 minutes above 85% of my max cycling heart rate in 1 hour 19 mins. About 20% of the outing in my Seiler Z3 plus more time in that Seiler Z2. Same route as my usual 1.5 hour easy ride route, but completely different HR profile.


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