Workout of the Week: Freestyle Efforts

Add some spontaneity to your training to replicate sudden changes during a race.

Woman riding her bike out of the saddle through a tree-lined road

Workout prescriptions are often exact: Do X reps and Y Sets for Z seconds until you die of repetition.  

But that’s not how events, races, or town-line sprints with your friends work. In real life, efforts are not exact, timing is not perfect, and you don’t always know when the clock is going to call “time-out.” 

With my athletes I like to do “Freestyle Efforts—efforts that are triggered by an external cue that cannot easily be predicted. A simple version of this is to charge to the top of every climb and recover on every descent. In this example the athlete doesn’t know how long each hill is, nor do they know how much rest they will get. They must make an on-the-fly pacing decision, learn to embrace discomfort, and recover quickly.   

Be creative and go as simple or complex as you choose. There is no right or wrong, and if you clearly define terms and purpose then your freestyle efforts are likely to be beneficial.

RELATED: Finding the Best Intervals for You and Your Event

Workout of the Week: Freestyle Efforts 

  1. Define a goal for the workout—to be most beneficial there should be some structure and purpose.
  2. Define work durations and effort levels based on the goal. 
  3. Determine triggers that support the goal.  


  1. Goal: Improve response to attacks. 
  2. Duration & Workload: 30 sec. max effort followed by 5 min. @ FTP. 
  3. Trigger: Every red mailbox along the route or 15 min. (whichever comes first).