“Based on the new plans added yesterday, I’d like to see a (longer) blog post discussing the grand training strategy which describes how best to make use of TrainerRoad from the offseason and transitioning into the race season. I keep getting advice from other sources to spend a long steady trainer rides in “Zone 2″ to build my aerobic base….that’s not something it seems you guys subscribe to. Thanks, Dave”

Having spent the last 7 winters on indoor trainers along with a large number of coaching clients, I face the same dilemma every year when the weather improves – do I shift all of my training outdoors or do I maintain my indoor consistency and regimen?

And while it’s been said that “he who has choice has torment”, I’m spared this grief as my decision is made for me on an annual basis since indoor, power-based coaching is my primary source of income. But season after season I watch the same pattern emerge in those riders who maintain their indoor training 2-3 times each week as compared to those who choose to do their intervals outdoors.

The first indication of deteriorating fitness is visible in the halfhearted confidence I recognize when I talk to my winter warriors prior to outdoor training races or weekend rides and ask them how their training is going. While I suspect the occasional rider has baldly lied to me – something which registers not long after said race or ride commences and a bright light shines upon their waning fitness – most can only shrug and offer the same, “Well, I’ve kinda just been riding” reply that becomes so very evident when the most palpable & glaring indications of performance decline stare me in the face.

Or rather, these riders along with their performance decline watch as I and many other riders leave them and their winter peak fitness behind never to see them again unless we’re on a lap course, if you get my meaning.

Is this true for every rider who decides to shift his training outdoors? Definitely not.

Plenty of them understand what it takes to stay sharp, and better still, continue to build their fitness toward properly timed peaks. These riders, however, are in the minority and many of then have hired personal coaches. So this is not as much a recommendation to continue training indoors but a sincere bit of advice encouraging all riders who gutted out some brutal, consistent, & structured indoor workouts: Honestly assess how much discipline your potential training independence requires and determine if you alone are capable of such self-control.

Put another way, can you keep yourself on track? Do you have the motivation, the training knowledge, the support system? For most riders, the answers to these questions are moot because indoor training severely pales in comparison to the outdoor experience we long for during stretches of harsh & unbearable – and demotivating – weather.

So who can blame any rider for ditching their indoor suffering for the promise of those first few rides in shorts & jerseys minus the layers of clothing necessary only weeks earlier? Who can be fairly criticized for wanting to reap the rewards of all their indoor contrition?

Not me, but I’m here to tell you that a balance between outdoor enjoyment and indoor training can be struck. In the second part of this post, I’ll discuss strategies for combining your outdoor racing schedules with your indoor performance manipulation which is effectively what trainer rides do best – shape your performance capabilities.

-Coach Chad