It’s getting cold. If you’ve been opting for your indoor trainer instead of braving the weather, don’t worry. We’ve got a whole list of reasons to make you feel better about staying out of the chilly weather.
We’re as guilty of feeling guilty as any one. When it’s forty-three degrees out, with wet roads or soggy trails, a chance of rain, and no sign of sunlight, the hardest part of the ride is just getting out the door. After hitting the trainer, we’ll agonize later on, thinking we could have, should have just sucked it up and got outside.
But there’s a lot to be said about riding indoors, and for busy athletes, folks with families, or those who live where there’s ‘real’ winter, it’s often the smarter option. There are plenty of good reasons to ride inside, but we’ll start off with a broader statement; any ride is a good ride.
Time Efficient. Work and family take up a lot of time and attention, and they should. Fitting in a workout can often involve juggling schedules, negotiating with friends and family, and almost always sacrificing time that could have been spent doing something meaningful. Indoor cycling, especially structured training, helps to build as much or more fitness is far less time than outdoors. Especially for those who live in cities, who may need to ride in traffic or even drive to start their ride, indoor cycling removes the commute time. Most of us can change, hop on the trainer, and put in six or seven hundred kilojoules of work in sixty minutes. That’s often less time than just driving to and from the trailhead!
Effort-Specific. Using a trainer to meet your fitness goals can be much easier than training on the road. The ability of modern software and smart training plans help athletes structure their training to meet specific criteria they’re targeting and offer riders the data to accurately measure improvement. Smart trainers with built-in power meters, software that simulate real-world routes, and often built-in training plans from platforms like Rouvy, Zwift, and TrainerRoad mean you have consistent, reliable data to measure and proven plans to get stronger.
Safety First. Bad weather isn’t just uncomfortable. Low light conditions, short days, increased traffic near schools and colleges, plus wet and even icy roads make fall, winter, and spring riding inherently more dangerous. For those in the northern states, winter doesn’t just mean it’s chilly out. For much of the season, roads are either covered in snow or pockmarked with frozen ice puddles, tall snowbanks, and completely obliterated shoulders that make being passed by cars terrifying.
Even if riders stay upright, frostbite and other conditions caused by the cold run an additional risk.
There’s A Lot To Do. Luckily, riding indoors has never been so entertaining. Software like Zwift offer a welcome distraction to staring at the wall and listening to the loud hum of your trainer. There are more and more options popping up every season, but Zwift remains the leading application. It offers the ability to plan group rides with friends, join organized events with riders from around the world, and even race year-round. Of course, you can also just toss on Netflix or old bike races and pedal for a while, too.
Riding indoors isn’t always ideal, and by March, we’re itching to get back outside. The key is balance and variety. During the workweek, plan on short, hard trainer rides and save the outdoor riding for the weekends when there is more time. Mix in cross training like running or cross-country skiing, and consider adding a day or two of strength training to avoid injury and improve your overall fitness.