Thursday, November 4, 2010

Indoor vs. Outdoor Winter Training

You don't have to do anything more than take one step outside your front door at 8am these days to know that Winter is right around the corner.  (That is, if you live in my neck of the woods.)  Just not great weather to jump on a road bike and ride- any distance.  Well, at least not for me.  Especially today, rainy 47 deg F..bleh.   I never really understood why some guys get up at the crack of dawn in the Winter when it's 30 deg F outside and ride their road bikes at 20+ mph on sloppy roads.  Maybe they think it hardens them? Are they trying to impress people?  Are they really having fun?  Do they really think they're getting a better workout than if they rode indoors on their trainers?  I don't know.  I just don't get it though. 

On the other hand, I'm NOT a fan of getting long endurance rides of 2-4 hrs. on a trainer indoors.  I just don't get that either.  But, yet I hear some guys training 2+ hrs. on an indoor trainer..bleh.

Here are the advantages to riding both Indoors and Outdoors in the Winter.  I'll start with Indoors.  The advantages of training indoors in the Winter are:
a. Ride any time you want.  You don't have to worry about available light or the weather...or the road conditions.
b. Safer.  Lets face it, it's bad enough riding outside during the Summer months, in the middle of the day with the sun out.  Cars aren't going to cut you a break in the Winter months when you're trying to avoid all the salt/slop/potholes on the side of the road.
c. Time Saver.  You're more apt to get a workout in on a trainer when it's sitting there waiting for you in your basement (or living room).  Plus, you don't have to get dressed like you do for outside riding.
d.  Control.  Indoors you have better control of specific workouts..especially interval workouts.
e.  Skills/Drills.  Along the same line as d. above, it's easier to work on drills such as one-legged pedal drills.
f.  Weather Control.  You can adjust the temperature indoors with a fan and you don't have to worry about snow/sleet/rain.
g.  Ride with Tunes.  You can ride with earbuds and not have to worry about hearing road traffic, etc. like you do outside.  NEVER ride outdoors with an iPod/earbuds/etc. unless it's turned down where you can hear road traffic, people, etc.
h. Variable workouts. Unlike outside, you don't have to ride out of your way to find hills to climb.
i.  Never get dropped.  If you train indoors with stronger riders, you never have to worry about being dropped.
j.  Mechanicals.  Don't have to worry about a bike mechanical problem or a flat tire.
k. Food/Drink. You have an unlimited supply of both.
l. Wear and Tear.  Don't have to worry about your bike rusting out from all the road salt if you train indoors.

Now, the advantages of cycling outdoors.  They are:
a. Specificity.  There is no replacement for training where you're going to compete...especially training on hills.
b. Hardens you.  Some of your Spring races may be in nasty weather.  Athletes that train indoors all Winter won't have that mental toughness that you have from training outside all Winter.
c. It's fun.  Lets face it, it's more fun riding outside in the fresh air, with beautiful scenery, etc.  Some of my best training rides were on my Mtn Bike in 2 inches of snow.  Plus, I have no problem riding outside in the Winter for 2-4 hrs.  I would NEVER consider that on an indoor trainer.
d. No trainer required.  Don't have to spend the extra money on a trainer if you ride outside.
e. Better feel.  There isn't a trainer made that can EXACTLY simulate the feel of the road.
f. Improve Bike Handling.  Can't improve bike handling skills on an indoor trainer.  Not to mention balance and coordination.
g. Wind resistance.  Yeah, I know that you can just crank up the resistance on an indoor trainer to take into account for the wind resistance you get outdoors..but I don't feel it's the same..just not realistic...especially side winds.
h. Fresh Air.  It just seems healthier to be outside in the cool/fresh air than it does to be couped-up in a stale/hot basement on an indoor trainer.  And, nobody said you had to ride your road bike at 20+ mph in 30 deg F weather.  You can always ride your Mtn bike.
i. Better Scenery.  Indoors the scenery never changes (it's boring)..unless you're lucky enough to have a real course video like I do hooked up to a Computrainer.  Even so, it's not the same (as good) as being outdoors.
j. Variety.  Outside you can ride a road bike, Cyclo-Cross bike, Mountain bike, fixed gear bike, etc.  Can't easily do all of that indoors on the trainer.
k. Won't quit as easily. I have NEVER quit on a ride outside.  Bonked yes, but quit? No!  Do you know how many times I quit on an indoor workout?  Many.
l. More Social.  Outdoors is more social.  You'll see more people. Pass fellow hard-core cyclists on the road, etc.  Plus, good excuse to stop at a cafe and have hot chocolate/latte/tea..not to mention a fresh baked cookie. :)

So, there you go..the advantages of both.  I purposely tried to find as many advantages for both.  Why?  Because I REALLY think that there are an equal amount of advantages to riding outdoors on your bike vs. riding indoors during the Winter months.  Personally, I do both and prescribe you do both as well...for the advantages listed.  It will keep you motivated and keep you training..and most's more fun to do both.  Variety is the Spice of Life. 

Power ON!  Coach Rob

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