Making MTB routes work for sweet spot training

I am new to structured training plans and I am finding it challenging to make my local trails work for staying in prescribed HR zones. I’m afraid it may lead to doing a LOT of riding up and down gentle dirt roads rather than cruising the lovely singletrack we are blessed with in Western Montana.

I’m wondering how strictly you stay with the workout plans in terms of time in zones vs. total workout time and any other x-factors that come up. How do you all balance the requirements of the training with your terrain AND doing interesting rides? How close do you stay to the script, and what training penalties do you pay for straying?

I hope I don’t have to become a roadie! Thanks - Dave


Ha - we’ll try to keep you from coming over to the dark side. Little known secret tho - mtb’ers train on the road for certain workouts.

Which workout are you talking about? I could see you using fire roads or paved climbs for your structured Tues/Wed workouts but then trails for your zone 2 and long rides on the weekends.

Yes, I am talking about the structured intervals on Tuesday and Wednesday. Maybe that just needs to be done on the roads? I think I am OK with that.

I wonder about your advice for how precisely to follow the prescribed workouts. Eg. if it’s advisable to “make up” for a missed interval later in a ride, or later in the week? Or take part of a workout easier if I worked harder than scheduled the day before?

I understand that a big part of this sort of training is in the sequencing and pacing over time. Just wondering about how best to be flexible to circumstances without messing up the finely wrought program.

Thanks - Dave

I just finished the 18 weeks of SS and did a lot of it on the MTB. It was much easier to do the prescribed workouts on the road. On the MTB, I’d usually WAY overshoot the TSS. and then be overtired for my next workout(s). The singlespeed MTB was even worse.
So, I ended up mainly doing road or dirt roads during the week and then hitting the woods on the weekend for the freestyle or “group” SS workouts (which I did alone, obviously).

Thanks Finbarr, That all makes sense.

Did you adjust workouts within the week to do any trail riding, or stick precisely to the schedule? The road riding around here is less than awesome, so I am struggling a bit to find safe and enjoyable options.

I get up real early (5:30-6) for the weekday road rides to avoid cars and people. I live near a nice bike path too, so that helps and I can go fast at that hour. I will sometimes ride trails during the week, but keep it to real gradual climbs so I can keep my HR in track (tough to find a 5 min climb around here so I have to be creative).