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The benefits of training indoors for an event

Indoor Training
(Image credit: Zwift)

Winter is here and, as we found out with the finale of Game of Thrones, it’s often a pretty grim outlook. Not least when it comes to keeping on top of your fitness and training regime. Luckily, indoor training has helped provide a platform to get you through the cold, dark winter months ensuring you come out the other side well prepared for the next event.

With the advancement in technology and the introduction of smart indoor trainers, WattBikes and online training platforms such as Zwift, training indoors has become one of the most effective ways of preparing for an event.

One of the biggest misconceptions associated with indoor training is that each session has to be hard or fast. In fact, indoor training should follow the same structure and recipe as an outdoor session.

Training Indoors

Training for an event indoors can be effective as one can replicate any session that you are able to do outside on a smart trainer or WattBike while reducing the total time per session. As a coach, I personally allow for an endurance training session to be reduced by up to 25 per cent when performed indoors. For example, a two-hour zone 2 ride (easy endurance ride) can be reduced to 90 minutes when you have to do the session indoors, as this will still achieve a similar training stimulus.

I find the most popular indoor sessions are ones that comprise interval and strength exercises. Indoor training provides a safe environment to get the work done while providing consistent resistance to work against. This helps to ensure goal events are reached in optimal condition.

The benefits of training indoors

1. Time efficiency

The single biggest benefit of training indoors is time efficiency. A smart turbo trainer allows us to fit more quality work into a shorter time, which is a major positive for the time-constrained individual. When indoors, every second of your training session is spent placing the exact desired force and workload through your pedals. Outdoor riding, on the other hand, can result in as much as 30 to 40 per cent of the time spent producing little if any power at all, due to negative gradients, traffic lights and other road furniture.

2. Endurance

As mentioned earlier, the constant resistance of a smart trainer supplies a greater stimulus when performing the same session as you would outdoors. This is due to the constant effort compared to the freewheeling, stopping or drafting that occurs outdoors.

3. Safety

Training indoors removes all the outdoor-related dangers such as traffic, dangerous roads, or climate extremes, making it favourable for individuals living in areas not suitable to cycling outside at certain times of the year. It also provides an alternative to heading out alone in the dark in areas that are not completely safe.

4. Precision

Paired with contemporary smart turbo trainers, software is able to precisely control the resistance, which is increasingly beneficial when performing interval workouts. You are also not limited by local terrain. Smart trainers linked to online training platforms allow you to complete intervals using 'ERG' mode (you set the power you would like to ride at, and the smart trainer will keep you locked at that wattage, no matter your cadence), all you need to do is keep the pedals turning.

How to overcome the potential perils of indoor training

Heat

As humans, we are relatively inefficient (roughly 22 – 25 per cent) at converting stored energy into power. The remainder gets lost as heat, which has to go somewhere. When we ride outdoors our bodies keep cool through evaporative and convective heat loss. While riding indoors we are not moving through the air, which leads to a rapid increase in core temperature and copious amounts of sweat covering the body. 

Solution: Buy the biggest fan you can get your hands on, place it directly in front of your stationary trainer and turn it onto full blast during your workouts. Additionally, you should use an absorbent towel and be prepared for some heavy sweating.

Boredom

Riding indoors is one of the most mentally challenging aspects of training. Without the mental stimulation of routing and a passing landscape, it requires some real dedication to sit in one spot for what seems like an eternity.

Solution: Zwift has provided everyone with access to a platform that introduces a good level of entertainment. Sign up for a small fee and reap the rewards of group training rides, explore the various courses, challenge for a KOM or try to keep up with one of the many WorldTour pros using the platform.