I know that a lot of people are going to disagree with this next sentence, but here it goes: I miss 2016. This could be highly controversial, especially in the cycling world, but last year was warm. The winter here in Vermont was dry and sunny and I rode my bike outdoors for almost every workout. It was awesome. This year, no so much.
In past blogs I have talked a lot about training indoors and the importance of having a good space, of having music or Netflix and of course a strong fan and towel. But as the winter drolls on (and on and on) this year I get more and more comments from our riders about the perceived differences between indoor and outdoor training. In the olden days of yore, we just suffered through it all, but with today's power meters and high tech data collection, every single pedal stroke can be tracked and analyzed.
When I was first starting to ride indoors, Reagan was President (!) and we were all just dumb jocks but now all of the bike racers are smart and stuff and finish high school and some of them even have amazingly advanced college degrees. A bunch of over achievers, really. With that knowledge often comes the stress of comparing numbers and watts and the unneeded pressure and judgement that accompanies it all. Before we going any further, let's make something perfectly clear:
Bicycles are meant to be ridden outdoors.
I know, radical thought huh. I am crazy like that. The breadth of indoor trainers available nowadays is pretty amazing though but they are still limited to their performance quality and the maximum amount of watts that can be applied and absorbed by the trainer. Add into that things like tire slippage on traditional flywheel type trainers and those numbers go down a little bit more.
|A little out dated but you get the idea.|
But seriously, some of our clients get really upset when their "numbers don't match up" and the reality is that to a certain degree they are correct. You know who you are. Below is a chart I ginned up on the amazingly adaptable WKO4 software that shows a power duration curve and compares the month of January between one of our mid-Atlantic region athletes who has mixed weather and switches from indoors to outdoors every few days.
|Indoors versus outdoors power curve|
What you can really easily see from this graph is how for the very short duration there is in fact a noticeable difference between the indoor and outdoor power numbers, all the way to about 40 seconds. Even then, this rider is still crushing 1000 watts for his pMax value and almost 800 for 20 seconds; not too shabby for indoors. After that, the numbers get very close for the longer duration and eventually even meet at the end.
If we chart out a few of this rider's critical numbers, we can also see some subtle differences:
The "Mean Maximal Power" for the shorter time periods does in fact have a slight difference, but the long duration is exactly the same. Most importantly, the Modeled Functional Threshold Power is only 6% different, which is really not much at all.
Now this same athlete did a very long group ride during this time period where he coasted almost 30% of the time for a total of over an hour. That is awesome and sounds like a lot of fun! However, there is no coasting on an indoor trainer. Combine that with the fact that you are probably overheated because your fan is not as strong as say, the outdoors and your heart rate and perceived level of exertion is higher than normal and well, riding indoors sucks. Here is another mind blower:
I don't care about a 6% difference.
I don't set up different training ranges for indoors versus outdoors because aside from these charts being a major pain in the butt to process, doing your training and making the efforts as best as possible still has a very positive effect on your fitness and your skills; I can assure you that riding 5 minutes indoors at 315 watts stings just as much as 341 outdoors. As soon as the weather clears or you are willing to brave the cold (yuck) then you will adapt to the terrain again and everything will come out in the wash, so to speak. You will be fine. It is shocking how many riders just chose to skips the indoor sessions completely and watch TV. Like say, me.
I guess all of this rambling on is basically me saying that indoor training is just that: indoor training. It will all be over soon, so do your best and it will all work out fine.
|Ok, maybe some indoor workouts are brutal. Pic by USA Track|
Thanks for reading, see you next week.