The second wave of the polar vortex is bearing down on most of the country. Sorry about that, anyone-east-of-the-Rockies. I’m grateful to not have to deal with it: all there is to complain about in California chapped lips and the high risk of wildfires (i.e. extremely arid conditions brought on by unseasonably high winds and several years of sub-average rainfall). The sun still shines every day (sorry), the temperature rises from a “cold” 40ish degrees in the morning to the standard mid-70s in the afternoon (yeah, sorry), and the worst thing a cloudy afternoon portends is a beautiful sunset (really, really sorry).
My master’s team practices exclusively in outdoor pools. Every road out the front door has a bike lane –until you get to the climbs through the canyons, anyway. The running trails promise sights of coyotes, hawks, woodpeckers, rattlesnakes… maybe a show pony or two…. It’s bliss. All this said, and if you’re still reading, I bet you assume I train outdoors 100% of the time. Like this.
Please don’t kill me.
Please don’t call me crazy either.
I do about 80% of my bike rides indoors. Some people hate using trainers, but I actually prefer to. Yeah, nothing beats riding your bike on a beautiful cool-but-not-too-cool-and-not-too-early morning, which I have in abundance. However, when it comes to pursuing my goals, the trainer is where I feel I’m actually accomplishing something.
While in Chicago, I thought I trained indoors purely out of necessity: the weather sucks for bike riding at least five months of the year (don’t give me any attitude about this, twelve-month commuters!); avoiding stoplights = riding on the Lakefront = dodging tourists and clueless joggers = starting at 5am; and any “terrain” of note is at least a 45-minute drive outside the city. I bought my first trainer soon after entering my first triathlon because HOW ELSE can you get in any decent saddle time?
Well, I’ve spent the last ten months in California where none of these hindrances exist. Still, I asked Coach Steve to pretty please give me some hard bike workouts specifically for the trainer this “winter.”
The reasons are manifold: first, as I work my way back into shape, I need to up the quality of my workouts pending my ability to handle any quantity (so, focused intensity before volume). Plus, the so-called off-season is a good time to work on weaknesses, and one of mine is that I lost a lot of power on the bike last year. During the winter before my 2011 season, I rode four to six times a week on the trainer and increased my bike power significantly, so I know this method works for me. Also, it’s nice to have a controlled environment where there’s no temperature, traffic, or hydration issues to make me question the success of a workout. The numbers don’t lie, and the gratification is immediate. And another reason:
SEE THAT? I totally suck at riding outdoors! These are power tests. For the outdoor tests, I chose a flat-as-possible course and tried to pace myself well –well… as well as I could navigating the bumps and turns in the road while trying to keep one eye on my computer. The indoor tests are sooooooo smooooooth by contrast: I start out at or just below my goal Wattage, then slowly cranked to above my goal per perfect performance pacing. Hey, if you’ve ever asked “how do you ‘pace’ a five, ten, twenty or even ONE-minute power test?” CLICK HERE.
The same spazzy variability index seen in my outdoor tests is even more exaggerated in my outdoor fun/training rides and races. When I look at my power files, I stink at riding steadily by using my power meter to smooth out the bumps in the road. Though I DO ride conservatively up hills and refuse to coast downhill, my power files tell me I can do much better. So, when given a workout with specific targets in specific zones, in the interest of making sure I get the proper work done, the trainer is where it happens. As the season progresses and volume increases, I don’t doubt that I’ll do 90-minute rides on the trainer before running out the garage and rolling down the road for another few hours.
I know I’m not alone in recognizing the value of riding indoors, and hope I’ve made a convincing argument for why I personally choose to do so. I will, of course, have to learn how to ride well outside eventually. I’d love feedback about your indoor/outdoor training regimen! If anyone has any advice on how to learn to ride steadily outdoors, I’d love to hear it as well. Like I said, I understand the basic principles and am not terrible. Try as I might, though, I’m not great at watching the computer while watching the road, or maintaining consistent pressure on the pedals. Maaaaaaybe I actually enjoy riding outdoors a little too much.