Training Inside vs. Outside

I recently listened to a podcast discussing the pros and cons of training inside vs. outside. I found myself relating to and agreeing to most everything the host shared. That host is Chris Hauth, former Olympic swimmer, elite triathlete, and now ultra endurance coach. He publishes a weekly podcast titled, The Weekly Word Podcast, where he shares his insights on training and racing ultra endurance sports. Although I’m racing exclusively short events this year, I find his insights incredibly valuable and I can translate most of what he is discussing into my shorter distance racing regiment.

In episodes 68 and 69 of the podcast Chris compares the use of the indoor cycling trainer vs. riding outside. He touches on the other two triathlon disciplines and I’ll share those too along with my experiences. Let’s first start with the cycling component.

There are different dynamics of riding outside and think of this as how training transfers to race day…or not:

  • Big picture, riding outside presents numerous variables that you may not have control over but simulates what occurs during a race including:
    • slowing down and speeding up unexpectedly
    • going into turns – leaning, navigating around people, angles of the turn…
    • getting up and down off the saddle shifting weight
    • coasting, then speeding up again…
    • dealing with heat, cold, humidity, wind, and rain
    • sun…glare
    • roads that are uneven, wet,on an angle…
  • Need to stay focused without the advantage of following a computer trainer program that times everything out for you
  • Times to ride inside:
    • when weather creates dangerous conditions (if not dangerous it is good to ride in the rain occasionally as you will ultimately have a race when it rains and you want to have the experience of how you and your bike handles in wet conditions)
    • nursing an injury…after I crashed last year I found the first week or so beneficial being on the trainer as I didn’t suffer from every bump generating pain permiating through my ribs and I was rehabbing my confidence being on the bike after going down
    • when it’s dark outside
    • for a quick ride:
      • may cut down on loading up equipment, fuel, etc.
      • a spin/active recovery to loosen up the legs…watch a movie, listen to a podcast, etc.

What about running outside vs. on a treadmill? When running outside you:

  • land differently….stride, angle of road from side to side and up and down
  • dictate your cadence, not driven by a machine; this instills discipline
  • experience fatigue, soreness, etc. in different places and at different rates
  • are in the elements – heat, sunshine, rain, cold, wind

I do find the treadmill useful when I’m traveling and I’m not aware or do not have time to find a place to run. I am not a fan of extreme cold so if I’m traveling up north I can easily be persuaded to do my run on the treadmill vs. bundling up for the workout. Lastly, I have found when I’m traveling on a taper week leading up to a race that a 3-5 mile easy/moderate run on the treadmill can save a bit on the body (knees).

Lastly, what about swimming in the pool vs. the open water? This is one where I feel doing work inside is essential. I swim on average four times a week inside and one outside. Three times per week I am swimming a masters swim program with targeted routines in place. While I’m doing these very structured workouts, my coach is continuously providing feedback on my stroke and urging me to be more productive. Swimming in the open water offers the benefits of dealing with waves, currents, sunlight in your eyes, not being able to stop at a wall for a breather, and practice identifying where you are going without the benefit of a line underneath you and lane markers a foot or two away on each side.

A few things to wrap this up….most if not all competitive races are outside so get used to it. Being outside makes you feel alive. You are in nature experiencing so many different elements….enjoy it! If you have to workout inside for whatever reason do it but don’t rely on it to the detriment of how you will handle the varying circumstances during a race.

Now off to the pool I go….actually I am off to the pool and today is a perfect example when to use a pool vs. the open water. I was planning an open water swim this morning really focusing on sight lines. We are experiencing the effects of a tropical storm/depression named Alberto with rip currents in play. For safety reasons I postponed the swim outdoors and will play it safe with an inside swim.

– Add Health to Your Life





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