High Quality Training vs Empty Miles

High Quality Training vs Empty Miles

Don't just rack up "empty" miles

by Patricia Schwager

If you want to get stronger and improve your performance, then you should make sure your rides (or workouts) are high quality vs. just adding up a lot of "empty training miles" or "junk miles." Working with athletes shows me that workouts quality isn't always executed properly. How does one prepare for a ride or workouts? Do you read the workout instructions clearly or do you go out on your ride and loosely follow the workout instructions? Are you aware of your focus on the bike?

Below are a few things that one should pay attention to in order to make training more efficient. 

Before the workout/ride:

  • Read the workout instructions: Export the workout to your bike computer (if your workout is planned with the TrainingPeaks workout builder) or write stem notes if necessary. Ask your coach if you have specific questions that relate to the intent or focus of the workout.The idea is to relate your training to your fitness and race goals. Think about a good route for your training. If  you have intervals or efforts to do, make sure there is a good place/road to complete them within your route.
  • Weather: Check the weather forecast and dress accordingly.

During the workout/ride:

  • Cadence. Have you every looked at the cadence distribution chart in your TrainingPeaks account? If you check the cadence distribution chart (in uploaded workout's) you can see how much time or % of your rides are spent with coasting (0-5rpm). Coasting is empty training time. Sure there will always be some coasting in an outdoor bike ride but if 30% of your 3h ride was spent coasting, then you wasted training time and your workout was not high quality. It's important to keep your cadence up to respond to pace and terrain changes. It also helps keep your muscles activated and alert. Pay attention that you keep pedaling while riding in a group, sitting on the wheel/in the draft of a friend or while riding downhill.
  • Are you riding in your correct power HR, or RPE zone(s)? Pay attention that you are riding in the zone you should be riding in. If you are doing an active recovery ride, you should be riding in Zone 1 (RPE <3). If you are doing an Endurance ride, you should be riding in Zone 2 (RPE 4-5). Make sure you also complete your intervals or efforts in the prescribed zones.
  • Rest between intervals is really important. Make sure you are resting properly in-between intervals/efforts. This will make sure you are ready for the next interval and you will also have better quality in your intervals. Note that there are some specific workouts that won't give you a total rest in-between intervals so make sure to follow the workout instructions. 
  • Listen to your body: Cut your ride time shorter if you are feeling tired or extend a ride for a bit if you are feeling great. Do not go out for a workout or ride if you are feeling sick.

Post workout/ride:

  • Refuel your body. Refuel with a snack or meal within 30 minutes of finishing (ALP Cycles Coaching recommends having a recovery drink from NBS). Make sure you're getting enough protein for recovery.
  • Stretching
  • Upload workouts to TrainingPeaks:

Remember, riding longer isn't always the better option! It is better to do a high quality 2.5 hour workout/ride instead of a low quality 3.5 hour workout/ride. The same goes with how many intervals you are completing. It is better to do 4 high quality intervals vs. 6 low quality intervals. While most of your training is very structured, make sure you're having fun too! Incorporate an unstructured ride now and then to enjoy the bike. 

Happy training!


Patricia Schwager began cycling in 1998, racing as a junior. After racing on the domestic level and completing her Diploma as Pastry Chef, she got her first pro contract in 2006. 2015 will be here 10th year of professional racing. Patricia has a lot of experience racing in the European peloton. In 2013 she started working with Shawn Heidgen (Current ALP Cycles Coach) as her personal coach. In 2014 she changed her focus to racing in the US. Patricia is a 6 time national Swiss champion and has represented her home country, Switzerland, at the World Championships 12 times.