"It's sad to see anyone inside on the trainer." That was the comment attached to an article about riding outside all winter long. And yes, there is a certain joy to being outside in the chilly air, getting fresh tracks on a snowy trail. The terrain changes under the snow and old trails become new. But with the changes in terrain come the hazards associated with winter - ice to mention one. Like with everything, there is a time and a place for both outside rides and inside workouts. Instead of demonizing the athletes who choose to take the workouts inside, we all might gain some perspective if we really think about why.
Here are just a few of the benefits for taking workouts inside during adverse conditions.
- Time savings. There's no bundling up in three layers of clothes to ride inside, nor the extra time required to wash all those extra clothes. In order to get a quality workout inside, you just need to throw on bibs and jersey. You can be pedaling in 5 minutes after walking in the door after work, freeing up more time to do other things.
- Monetary savings. Not everyone can afford the fancy clothes to ride outside, or the lights required for safety on a cold winter night. If you haven't tried doing a hard workout without some of the breathable gear, it's a challenge. There's only so far zipping and unzipping layers can do to keep you comfortable and dry. The same goes for running, although a treadmill or gym membership is a little more of monetary commitment then a simple trainer.
- Safety. Ever try doing a hard workout on a sheet of ice? Doesn't work so well, does it? It only takes one small patch of ice hidden under the snow or camouflaged by dirt to derail not only that ride, but possibly the entire season. Riding a fat bike doesn't always protect against the ice either. And for running, trying too hard to get outside under those conditions can mean wearing traction devices. Those are great for shorter runs, but frequent and continuous use can affect gait pattern leading to injury.
- Ability to do workouts at any time.Very few people work at a job where they can take a long lunch to be able to run during the warmest part of the day. Taking a few of the workouts inside means that you can still get the ride or run done before work, regardless of weather conditions or road conditions.
- Ability to do focused workouts. Some workouts, like single leg pedaling drills, are best done inside anyway. You can isolate one leg more effectively and safely on a trainer then outside. Speed workouts on the treadmill can be targeted for specific paces, without the risk of injury associated with running on a track
- Training for early season races. Heat acclimatization takes some time and is very important for early season races in warmer climates. Taking workouts inside allows the body to start to acclimatize to heat effectively, thus improving performance at the early season races.
Naturally, some things can't be translated to inside workouts - like the ability to ride on packed snow for the winter ultras, or testing gear for cold weather races. Riding inside all the time also does not improve bike handling skills or technical riding ability - it just addresses fitness. But with judicial use of the trainer or treadmill for workouts, there can be the perfect balance of safety, quality training and fun adventures.
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