Equipe Flamme Rouge  

FAQ ~ Indoor v Outdoor

outdoor turbo

What do I do when I want to have a ride outside, but the programme has an "indoor" session planned for me?  I don't want to get in the way of the science, but I don't want to be too restricted if it's a nice day outside.
Shane McQuillan ~ Chicago

The vast majority of our mid-week sessions are do-able out on the open road and do not necessarily have to be undertaken indoors.  But obviously there are compromises in everything we do and it's those that compromise the least (or the best) that get the most from their training investment.

You really can't simulate climbing on a turbo, you have to get out there and climb a "proper hill" to get the "proper benefit".  It's the same for sprint training; try throwing your bike around on a turbo like you do in a real sprint and it'll get very messy, very quickly.

Depending on the session, and the expected outcome, all sessions are transferrable from indoors to outdoors.  No one wants to be doing FTP sessions in a garage when it's 25 degrees and sunny outside!

Pros & Cons
On the turbo, you can control as many variables as are practically possible.  There's no wind, no cars, no distractions, no up hills, no down hills, generally, no nothing that can distract you from the task or to skew the results.  If you want to have music plugged in, or a video for motivation, no problem. 

Outdoors, there are weapons of mass distraction.  But we don't race, compete, or challenge ourselves on the turbo.  There are no Strava segments in your garage, unless you count Zwift!

To do a 20 minute FTP interval on the turbo isn't the most dynamic of experiences.  But you know at the end of the effort you have a perfect, measurable, replicable, effort that can be used as a baseline against which to measure future progression. 

Doing the same effort out on the road is much more pleasurable (sort of) but will be much more stochastic; which means the power will be all over the show as outside variables affect your output.

Indoor Efforts
Here's an indoor effort, on a turbo, minimising all external influences...

indoor effort

The dotted line represents the average power output for this effort.  Notice how smooth, controlled and "symmetrical" the effort is? 

And check out that heart rate.  Remember, heart rate isn't used to drive a session, it's there to give a post-effort representation of what you did.  It isn't to be used to guide what you are doing.

It's safe to assume that this effort returned a 100% of the physiological response being targeted by this session.  Job done.

Outdoor Efforts
Here's an outdoor effort, on the road, influenced by external forces...

outdoor effort

Same rider, same session, same timeframe, same targeted response; different outcome.  The only difference being, that this was ridden outdoors on this circuit.

You can see the acceleration at the start, smashing the average (dotted) power output to bits, and spiking heart rate and lactate production.

There's a "back off" waiting for a car to turn in to a drive; where power and speed obviously drop, followed by a "correction spike" to get the rider back "in the zone".  

A bit of a false flat, with a push over the top, then a slight descent, where despite trying to hold the power the heart rate drops. 

Back on the flat and riding the average, before a push towards the end to make up for the earlier "lost" efforts.

You can see, it's messy and not as controlled as our first effort.  But it was probably more fun, satisfied our needs and wants to be out on the road after a day at work, and it got the job 95% done.

You have possibly lost five percent of the overall physical gains that the session should elicit.  But the psychological rewards could be, and are immeasurable! 

As for the heart rate trace?  Imagine if you didn't have a power meter and tried to ride this sessions to heart rate.  As is my mantra; NEVER use heart rate to drive a session.

The Compromise?
Our 12 week Base Build Programme contains up to thirty six mid-week efforts and twenty four weekend efforts. 

If all of the mid-week sessions are undertaken outdoors, you will still be hitting 95% of your, not insubstantial, potential gains over that twelve week period.

If you want to go out for a road ride, them do so.  Just keep your wits about you and try to stick to the spirit of the session as best you can.

Environmental conditions, and/or road length, topography, infrastructure, other hazards, will affect the session outcome.  But you are on your bike and that's the main thing!

If you have to sit up thirty seconds before the planned end of a twenty minute effort, so what?  If the recovery period was seven minutes rather than five, to help you get to a better starting point, again, no problem.

Just do the best you can, with what you have and as long as you stick to the spirit of the session then all is well. 

You can even fit our normal hour session in to a two hour ride, as long as you don't compromise the "session" efforts by riding too hard before hand, or riding too hard afterwards and compromising your recovery for the next upcoming session.

Do the best you can, with what you have and the results will come...


Kat Guillemot reaping the benefits of mid-week structured turbo training
on a weekend structured outdoor climb!

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