Who rides on their trainer in the middle of the summer? I can think of plenty of champions who do. I know for a fact that Andy Potts, Mirinda Carfrae, Jan Frodeno, and Ellie Salthouse ride indoors during the summer. I also know quite a few people in my neck of the woods that do as well (including the kids pictured above) and the results speak for themselves. As a coach, I see this as a summer secret weapon, a way to get a jump on your competitors. Check out this list of benefits below and why we consider this critical in our race preparation.
Improved Cycling Performance
With a reliable environment and use of one of the many web related riding apps (PerfPro, Trainer Road, Rouvy, and Zwift) you are bound to improve your training quality. Here’s why - when riding on a trainer, you have constant pressure on the pedals for the duration of your workout with no coasting. Typically, when riding outdoors, one could be coasting between 10-20% of the riding time.
In addition, you will easily be able to follow your intended workout plan without worrying about cars, traffic lights, and/or weather issues, ensuring that you will get the true physiological benefit from your workout.
Finally, monitoring your performance under consistent conditions means you can accurately measure your fitness gains from week to week, month to month and year to year. This type of accountability can provide valuable information to help you improve.
Improved Mental Toughness
Most people find riding indoors tougher than riding outdoors. While you ride indoors you are not distracted by the scenery, worrying about balance, watching for cars, or following the road. All you have in front of you is possibly a mirror, TV, or computer monitor. On top of that, there is consistent tension on the wheel and lack of rolling time forcing you to continually keep working.
And when preparing for long course triathlons, completing several long rides indoors provides practice for you to combat boredom and the long days ahead in and Ironman race. I personally found that after completing several 100 mile indoor rides, in preparation for IMAZ, the actual race felt like a gift.
On work days, it’s saves a lot of time because you don’t have to worry about daylight, weather, or spending time gathering up equipment needed to ride outdoors. It’s a hassle-free workout that yields quality vs quantity. I found the same benefit for longer rides when I wanted to get an early start. It was so nice knowing I could start at 4:30 am no matter what it was like outside.
There is not much to get in the way when riding indoors. You get to set up your bike, have your workout loaded into the app (if necessary) and away you go. What we have found here in Iowa, with our weekday workout sessions, is we can get a great 75 min workout completed well before we have to get our kids to school and off to work. Lack of light or inclimate weather is never an issue so we have been able to be consistent.
Improves Approach to Practice
The newer bike trainer apps have helped raise the level of focus for people while riding indoors. They are able to ride with more intention, bring quality to their work, and experience different types of riding. We have found a great summer balance - riding indoors during the week and then heading outdoors for the weekend. It’s the best of both worlds and keeps us mentally challenged and less complacent.
Improves Time with the Family
I know when my clients train for long course events they would like it to minimize time away from the family. Many decide to get up super early to complete a big portion of their ride before the family even wakes up. For example, being able to start training at 4:30 in the morning last summer meant that I would have 4 hours of my 6 hour ride complete before my family even woke up. I was safe, and I didn’t have to worry about riding in the dark or bad weather.
While indoors, one can work on the pedal stroke. It allows you to do one legged drills without tipping over, working to feel that complete circle while pedaling. It promotes less mashing and more circular pedal strokes. We can also get practice feeling the tension in the legs while at particular pressures. This is something we can then carry outdoors. It’s amazing how helpful that is for each rider.
Help with Race Rehearsal
For those unable to get to practice on their actual race course, there are some apps that include race courses for people to ride. I know with PerfPro there are thousands of courses to ride. It’s a great way to learn the race course and do some visualization. It’s not perfect but it does provide racers some time to get familiar with the course. I do know that for some race courses you definitely will benefit riding the course and that’s best. For example, the IMWI is one that is better to ride but not everyone can get there before their race. From my limited time riding Zwift, I got a better sense of the hills vs another app. Again, learning the course and visualizing were perfect for pre race work.
Improves Running Performance
I have seen many athletes who ride indoors show improvement in their running performances. The quality of their riding, engaging the glutes and building leg strength have resulted in many PR’s with their running. Just this spring we had several athletes set 8-9 min PR’s in their half marathon performance.
There is nothing like that first weekend ride outdoors after training indoors during the week. It’s like a dream! You’re getting faster and you can see that once you are on the road. It’s been a game changer here and with so many others.
So give this a valiant try and you too will enjoy the many benefits from riding indoors. And while nothing can replace what you experience riding outdoors, we can use indoor training to improve it.