Structured versus Unstructured Intensity

If I understand Dr. Seiler’s research correctly, the most important predictor for adaptation for intensity workouts is the time of “work” near or above LT2 (“red zone”). Most coaches seem to have a strong preference for structured intervals. However, I find it much more fun and motivating to chase strava segments on my mountain bike, or ride in zwift races. Assuming one is mindful of progressive load, stress, and recovery, is there any down side to using unstructured intensity if the time spent near LT2 is similar?

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@robertehall1, there is something to be said for structured intervals. You can maximize your time and minimize additional undue fatigue. I think you can have a happy medium of using unstructured training if you monitor it closely. One problem I see with unstructured training is that it has the potential to turn into a lot of riding that’s kind of hard, but not hard enough in some cases. That will certainly help some athletes find success, but at some point more structure can be helpful. If you are monitoring your training load, distributions, etc. then you’re on the right track.

Personally, I also find unstructured training to be more enjoyable much of the time, especially on the MTB. When I was extremely time limited with our first son, I was lucky to have an hour on any given day, so it was a quick rip around the trails near the house chasing Strava segments. That played out well at that time, but I noticed the lack of structure. So it’s always a moderation thing that I come back to.

If you can find that enjoyment and motivation to push yourself with unstructured intervals, I’d encourage that. Just keep a balance and keep an eye on the metrics that are important to you in order to track progress so you are moving in the right direction.

Coach Ryan

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I’m thinking of trying a bit of this using the XERT Segment Hunter that ‘tells’ you the power output you need to get a PB or KOM. Otherwise I tend to do the same routes and intervals on the same hills, which is OK as I live in a hilly area with plenty of off-road trails to compensate for the repetitive nature. But thought it might be fun every now and again :slight_smile:

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