With no traffic disruptions or inclement weather being a problem, indoor cycling is one of the most effective and time-saving ways to exercise. The best indoor training apps for cycling they also offer a great and easy to use resource for finding training sessions for any length of time – you can check out our information Zwift training recommendations here.
However, with all this said, indoor cycling is very different from outdoor cycling and there are some simple mistakes that can be easily made. Still, they’re not hard to correct (as long as you’re aware of them!).
We talked to two cycling coaches – Jonathan Melville from BCA (Breakaway coaching and analytics) and Tim Phillips z Traction cycle training – to learn about some common mistakes riders make so you know what to look out for when riding indoors…
1. Don’t assume that outdoor and indoor wattage are the same
It’s all too easy to assume that you can simply stick to the same power numbers and pacing strategies you used when riding outdoors during an indoor session, whether it’s a time trial, interval training, or something else – but don’t fall into this trap into this trap.
“There are many more variables to consider when riding outdoors, such as wind speed, terrain, road surface, etc.” – explains Melville. “This often results in much greater variability in power output when riding outdoors compared to indoor riding.”
To put this into perspective, Melville points out that when riding outdoors, your power can fluctuate by up to 50% more. These micro regenerations and surges are very different from the more “stable” indoor riding where the power output fluctuates much less.
“As a result, when planning your indoor pacing strategy, try to use the room’s peak power curve to select the optimal power to sustain,” Melville advises. Don’t underestimate how mentally taxing it can be to overlook differences in power output.
2. Don’t neglect refueling
Often, when training indoors, you are exposed to a much hotter and humid environment than outdoors (although in some parts of the world the opposite is true). With this in mind, it is important for most people to mitigate the effects of this phenomenon by providing adequate motivation for these efforts.
“While heat training may have benefits (for example, it may improve body temperature regulation and increase blood plasma volume), it may also increase the likelihood of heat stroke,” Melville points out. “So make sure you don’t neglect fueling and hydration – and consider consuming isotonic drinks during your session.”
Melville suggests drinking up to 1.5 liters per hour of session (or approximately 150-200 ml every 5-20 minutes), depending on the intensity and rate of sweating. We cover what to drink while cycling in more detail here.
3. Don’t always use ERG mode
Very fashionable is a function of best smart turbo trainers which keeps the resistance of the trainer constant, even if your riding cadence is variable and you spin at a lower or higher number of revolutions.
“While ERG training has physiological benefits, it does not provide practice in controlling effort and use rhythm and shifting gears to change the level of effort you have to exert on the road,” explains Phillips.
“ERG mode also means you’ll never know if you could have gone a little harder, and you could end up in a ‘death spiral’ where the trainer increases the resistance as your cadence drops, which causes your cadence to drop further and accelerate you in a vicious cycle of more and more resistance.” , until you can no longer turn the pedals.”
A real race doesn’t have an ERG mode (not even a virtual race), so Phillips recommends doing your training sessions without it, too.
4. Don’t rely on your FTP from external rides
In some cases, cyclists find their own FTP (or overall average power) is much lower when riding indoors compared to outdoor riding.
According to Melville, power output can be over 20% lower indoors compared to outdoor riding.
“A potential reason could be that outside airflow keeps our skin temperature (and therefore body temperature) lower, so cyclists can push harder and produce more power externally,” he says. “On the other hand, this only happens in some cases, so it would be beneficial to conduct an FTP test both indoors and outdoors to see if there is any difference to ensure that you are training in the most accurate way possible.”
If you want to use Zwift for this, we explain which one here Zwift FTP test what you should do and how to get the best possible result. There are 5 Alternatives to the 20 Minute FTP Test what you can also do instead.
5. Don’t make your pain cave an unpleasant place
We often call the place where we end stationary training on turbo the “pain cave”. They’re often not the most beautiful places, which can make indoor riding seem more difficult and less motivating than it should be.
“You want to make sure that the environment you have set up for your indoor training is optimal,” Melville emphasizes. “Creating a setting with dim lights and music has been shown to reduce fatigue and make you more enjoyable when completing your workout indoors.”
In our My training space series we discuss some of the aspirational setups you have – here, massage therapist and all-round athlete Andy Keegan takes us through his a do-it-all garden training room. which is as impressive as it sounds.
6. No fan
If you currently ride without a fan, invest in a decent-sized floor fan (the kind you see at the gym, not the office) or a device designed specifically for cycling, such as Wahoo is a Headwind fan which can even increase its speed as your heart rate increases – so you won’t get too cold when warming up or resting, while still getting the maximum cooling effect when working at full incline.
“When you’re riding outdoors, moving through the air provides a significant cooling effect (even on a hot day) that’s simply not there if you’re not moving on the turbo,” explains Phillips.
7. Failure to protect the bike against sweat
As a result of the reduced cooling effect described above when riding indoors, it is quite likely that you will be dripping with sweat at some point during your indoor workout (in some cases more than others!). Therefore, you need to protect your bike from this sweat and the corrosive effects of salt.
“It’s important to be careful not to let sweat get into the more delicate parts of the bike, such as the headset bearing, which is located in a place where sweat is very likely to drip,” Phillips emphasizes.
8. Don’t ride outdoors!
“Training indoors has many benefits – it saves time, it’s perfect for cold/dark/wet days, and it allows you to safely focus on a specific workout – but you don’t learn how to use the bike or be confident when riding with others. Therefore, at least part of the driving must be outdoors, otherwise these high power figures will not make much difference,” argues Phillips.
They’re here seven benefits of outdoor riding you’ll miss if you train indoors all winter!
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