Musings from the Sonic Groundhog (or How I Learned to Embrace Indoor Training)
By: Rob Piperno
First off, contrary to popular opinion, I don’t prefer indoor training . . . mostly. There are times now that I do prefer it when the weather is bad or cold (I really dislike being cold). I HAD to learn how to train inside, with various jobs over the past 15 years that required up to 50% travel, if I wanted to hit my running goals. Traveling makes training difficult with long days, weird weather, not knowing where to run outside, personal safety, limited space to take gear, and you can forget about cycling outside when traveling for work.
My learning how to embrace indoor training has taken years, I hated the dreadmill at first, HATED it. When I first started I would just have regular TV on (lots of Food Network as it was pretty mindless) and talk about mind numbing. Now with streaming and On-Demand it is so much better, though I do find it hard to watch shows while training indoors that require too much focus to hear the audio or follow the plot.
While traveling I watched a lot of sports, since you don’t need the broadcast to be in English or need the commentary – at this point I have a pretty good understanding of the rules for darts and cricket (United Kingdom), snooker (Germany) and there is always some level of soccer or rugby on in Europe. ESPN also became a really good friend, as they are global. If there was no TV or nothing to watch the invention of the Podcast was hugely helpful in whiling away the time.
Needless to say Zwift was a major improvement for me – not only because I could track my indoor running and riding without the Garmin for HR, some other tracker for miles, and have to upload all these different files, and manually enter stuff. It was a way to be more engaged during the activity. The fact that workout can be transferred from Training Peaks is huge and the in game challenges don’t hurt either.
I started using Zwift almost exactly three years ago as a way to train indoors for IRONMAN Lake Placid in 2018, I found it hugely beneficial in helping me be consistent in training, even when I was really only using it back then to get miles and elevation in and not really doing the routes badges or challenges correctly. Indoor riding does not take the place of outdoor riding for learning how to clip in/out or for handling the bike — I did spend a lot of time outside when I first took up cycling to get the feel for that.
Some of the things I learned in this journey to use indoor training to the best it can be (these are not kid tested and coach approved, just my learnings):
- Find your “sweet spot” for time – mine is about 1-1.5 max hours on the dreadmill and 2 hours on the bike. I have done 20 miles (3hours) on the dreadmill during marathon training and 6 hours on the bike but really only because of absolute necessity.
- Figure out your distraction – TV, podcast, reading. I am thinking about learning Italian while running indoors in 2021.
- Don’t neglect doing things outside – I still need to remember how the bike handles and running is a bit different outside on the muscles.
- Use the incline on the dreadmill – I use 0.5-3% for base runs (including speed intervals) and 4-8% for hill repeats. I have found this helps to simulate the feel of outside better and helps keep that first run outside not so hard on the quads.
- ERG mode on Zwift just absolutely kills me, and I still have not figured out how to not come to a dead stop when the power shifts in the workout.
- Set challenges for yourself.
- Ride with the group on Zwift – it is so much nicer to be able to get on with the group and have people push you on the rides.
- Sign up for the Everest challenge right away in Zwift, then move onto the others.
- Get a good road bike in Zwift as soon as you can, as much as I love my real Tri bike, using them in Zwift is not as much fun.
Just some of my thoughts on inside training and how I came to embrace it, and I really do think that I am a much stronger cyclist today than I was at the start of this crazy year due to being able to train inside.