Train better for warm races from the indoor to out

Technology for race training has come a long way since the day bikes were built with more than one gear. Today there are spin classes offered in pools, a computer that can track your power and GPS coordinates, and there's even a way to pressurize an entire house in a house so that you're always at a high altitude. So what's a rider to do when preparing for a race that will be held in much warmer climate?

We wondered that too, which is why we worked with Dr. Carsten Lundby of the University of Zurich's Institute of Physiology. In his study, Dr. Lundby asked if indoor bike training could be more beneficial than traditional outdoor cycle training when preparing for a warm climate event. The short answer: yes. He also found that indoor training, be it on a stationary trainer or indoor cycle, is just as effective as outdoor training in general.

To do this, Dr. Lundby found six recreational racers with 5-8 years of experience who wished to participate in the study. These six riders were first tested for performance1, then trained as usual outdoors2 for one month. Riders were then tested again and then exactly replicated the ou tdoor training on an indoor trainer3 for four weeks4, then performance tested all riders one last time.

By the end of the study, all riders experienced a significant bump in their performance tests in temperatures of 30°C (86°F) after the indoor training than after their outdoor regimen. Riders saw no change in performance at temperatures of 15°C (59°F) between outdoor and indoor training.

Based on these results, Dr. Lundby suggests that by training in partial heat at a temperature around 21°C (69.8°F) athletes may reduce the need to travel to warmer race locations 7-10 days ahead of time in order to acclimate to the heat—as is standard practice.

While this study from the University of Zurich is based on only 6 individual riders, we think that it is a compelling story about the multi-function use of indoor training. No doubt trainers and indoor cycles are great for building and maintaining fitness when you can't ride outside. They also happen to be highly effective tools to help riders better prepare for specific challenges, like acclimatizing to a warmer climate. Our challenge to you is to think about how you can get more out of training indoors—complete with thermometer in hand.

1Performance testing consisted of a VO2Max test and a 26 KM (16.2 miles) time trial at temperatures of 15°C and 30°C (59°F and 86°F respectively). Both tests were done in 50% humidity.

2During this time temperatures ranged from 9-18°C (48-64°F), with the average temperature being about 13.5°C (56.3°F).

3The technology used in this study allowed outdoor workouts to be exactly replicated indoors. Ride data was collected via PowerTap, then transferred to the computer controlling the resistance on the CycleOps 400 Indoor Cycles.

4All indoor training was completed at 21°C (69.8°F).

Dr. Carsten Lundby is a professor at the University of Zurich in the Institute of Physiology.