Written by Jennifer Sharp of ALP Cycles Coaching
Unless you live in the tropics or some warm southern state like Arizona or Florida, chances are you’ve succumbed to the trainer this winter. While the trainer is better than not getting on the bike at all, you may experience differences in power output. I asked a bunch of coaches, from my fellow ALP Cycles coaches as well as my network of colleagues to see what their experience is with indoor verses outdoor power, and it turns out they all agree that for some athletes, there is a difference. But just how much of a difference is unpredictable at best.
It would be easy to make a generalization that indoor power numbers are always lower than outdoor power numbers, but for some athletes just the opposite is true. Unfortunately, the cause remains a mystery.
This article is geared toward those who find the trainer insufferable. The following tips could help next time you straddle the saddle indoors. Just remember – the quality time you bank now in the off season and during winter is where the biggest gains can be made for the race season to come.
Tip #1 – Get a fan. Riding inside can be hot. Really, really hot. Heat can elevate your heart rate, making those indoor intervals feel like you’re pedaling through the Mojave desert. Using a fan will help air circulation and keep you cooler.
Tip #2 – Do an FTP test indoors. If you’re really struggling to maintain power zones that coincide with your outdoor power zones, then it is time to bite the bullet and do an FTP test indoors. Especially if you’ll be on the trainer for an extended period of time. If you’re using your outdoor power numbers and have noticed a difference, then you could either be over training or undertraining. Take the guess work out of the equation and do a test. The sooner the better.
Tip #3 - Keep at it. Yep, training indoors can be a chore. Your attitude toward your trainer has a direct effect on how much time you end up spending stationary. Embrace the locked down nature of your trainer and challenge yourself to raise your indoor numbers every time you get on the bike.
Tip #4 – Calibrate! Make sure to calibrate your power meter and the power meter on your trainer (if applicable) to ensure you’re getting an accurate reading every time you get on the bike.
Tip #5 – Distract yourself. Want to stay motivated throughout your entire ride? Using programs like Zwift, TrainerRoad, Sufferfest Videos, or just watching some old bike racing footage can help keep the mind occupied while you’re putting in the time on the trainer.
Tip #6 – Keep it interesting. The quickest way to get bored on the trainer is to do the same level of effort all the time. Intervals are a great and easy way to combat the boredom. Have your coach create an indoor workout for you with various degrees of difficulty.
Remember – work counts most when no one is watching. It’s what separates champions from recreationalists. Strive for excellence every time you saddle up and success will be in your future.
How to do High Cadence Intervals:
How to do Muscle Tension Intervals: