Posted On:
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Coach Tip Tuesday: Pick a Course That Sets Your Workouts Up for Success

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A view down a paved path that is carved through red rocks in Henderson, Nevada.

Once again, it’s time for Coach Tip Tuesday!

Today, I want to talk about workout course selection.

As the athletes who work with me/have worked with me know, I often include specific workouts in athlete training plans.  This includes (but is not limited to) specific time intervals with specific targets (which might be pace, power, RPE, cadence, or a combination thereof, etc.).  I often get post-workout comments from athletes that resemble the following:

“I wasn’t really able to follow this workout because there was XXX, YYY, ZZZ (insert something like hills, flats, intersections, a lot of stoplights, etc. here) that hindered my ability to do this workout.”

When I get feedback like this after a workout, I often make the following suggestion:

Consider the terrain and route prior to doing the workout, and pick a course that is suitable for the workout.  It may not be a glamorous course, but it if allows you to execute the workout well, it's the right course.

So, for instance, let’s say you had a workout where you were supposed to be going for speed (not RPE - they ARE different ;) ).  A flatter course is probably the best option to execute this workout as planned.  But let’s say that you don’t have a “course” that you can ride that is flat, or maybe you typically use courses that have a lot of intersections that interrupt your workout.  Maybe you have a section of path or road that IS flat (or maybe you have a section of path/road that is a decent length in between intersections).  So, you might end up doing 180º turns on that road/path and getting all of your speed intervals in on that one section.  Sure, this doesn’t give a nice, looped course.  But, it enables you to achieve the objective in the workout.

If you live in an area that is flat and you are training for an event that has hills, you may need to seek out the best option near where you live.  For example, in places like Florida, this is often a bridge.  So, you may end up riding the bridge over and over again just to get some elevation into your workout.  Again, not super-glamorous, and maybe not a TON of fun, but you are giving your body the best chance it has to adapt to the terrain of the event that you are training for.

If you’re an average age-grouper (which is most of us), then of COURSE we don’t want every single workout to feel like “work.”  So, being sure to include workouts/courses in your training that are not “super-serious” is important (i.e. including courses that are fun, allow you to explore, etc.).  However, there are often key workouts in athlete training plans that are included to help you reach the goals that you’ve set for yourself.  And perhaps these might be best executed if you re-frame your thinking about what you do to complete them.

This week, I encourage you all to look at your training plans and see if there’s a workout on the schedule that you might be able to optimize by picking a course that really suits the workout’s intent and description. Give it a go and see if you feel like you got in a smarter, stronger workout! :)


Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at

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