When times get busy and the weather is unpleasant, consider time on the trainer instead of missing a workout
With technological improvements, especially in the past 5 years, it has become much more feasible and even beneficial these days to add regular indoor cycling sessions into your training. Wondering how and why you could add a bit of indoor training into your life? Keep reading…
For the sake of this article, we’ll be focusing on Zwift. There are of course many other applications out there beyond Zwift, but it is at this time the most popular one with the most features, really only lacking a more robust training planning & tracking engine. And since we utilize TrainingPeaks to do exactly that, Zwift has really been a perfect add-on for colder months and busy days.
Let’s start with all the positive things we can get out of indoor training. The most obvious benefit: we are not exposed to mother nature and don’t have to fight cold temperatures or rain. I know that can be a downside as well, but more on that later. A controlled climate brings the possibility to test and try different variables.
In terms of nutrition, you can measure your sweat-rate, practice race nutrition, train your gut or work on heat acclimatization (even if it’s winter outside). Great! Way easier than dealing with all of this outside.
In terms of performance, it’s so much better to not fight with traffic or lights while doing intervals. I like to call this the safety aspect and I recommend most triathletes to do their interval training inside (unless you have a race coming up soon). Their intervals are usually longer, and the TT position can be dangerous. For road cyclist indoor intervals are great as well, but to be honest we need some handling and outside experience. The ability to precisely control the power with the ERG mode let’s my nerdy heart go wild. And as a coach I can exactly control the workout of my athletes. Even if they live 10.000 miles away.
And then there is indoor racing. You might want to call it e-sport, but with real sweat and tears. Because Zwift racing is not just fun and giggles. There are a ton of teams, who race in different leagues and take this sport more than serious. If you check out Zwift, you’ll be able to see multiple races each hour that you can participate in. Theoretically you can race 24/7. As you might imagine in a sport, which tends to feed addictive character traits, this may be more dangerous than good, if not managed well. Nevertheless there are a few racing leagues that have a big international following and I coach some Zwift racers, that successfully apply road racing tactics to e-sport.
Beyond performance output, there are a plethora of mental power benefits as well! Just imagine not having to put on layers and layers of clothing in the winter, not having to worry about if the road has ice in the shaded corners, being able to ride safely when it’s dark out, and being able to ride with someone else, no matter the time of day. Bathrooms, water and fuel are always nearby and if you have kids, it’s just more doable than being gone for hours at a time. Not bad, right? AND, it’s easier to squeeze in a trainer session, especially during the holidays or busy work days, because getting ready barely takes any time at all. By adding one or more trainer sessions a week, you’ll be able to add valuable time back into life, something most of us could use a bit more of!
Things to look out for
You might have heard a doubtful undertone in the benefits section and yes, I’m a bit worried. I admit that being on the trainer has never been my most joyful riding. Even though I’m an outdoor guy, I recommend training inside occasionally. And if you pay attention to the following things, you will get the most out of your pain chamber experience.
Make sure you pay attention to the basic principles of training load. I’m talking about resting and taking a break. Zwift can have a video game character and just because your avatar won’t hang over the handlebars, it doesn’t mean you are made of pixels. So don’t race too often. Or would you drive to a road race 5x a week? It can be hard to listen to your own body while you are on a team and there is pressure to race, but don’t fall into the trap of “always on”. Fuel well and take enough breaks.
Riding inside is safer, but your bike handling skills will suffer. Use it or lose it… Make sure to ride outside at least once a week to keep the skills alive and honestly some harsh conditions are part of the biking experience.
Something for you to try...
Over the next week, track how much time you spend getting ready for and finishing up outside rides and how focused you feel during your structured workouts outside. Could you benefit from a bit of focus in your workouts? Or maybe a bit of extra time at home?
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