Indoor vs Outdoor Training: How To Find The Ideal Balance

With winter chills almost upon us and dark nights creeping ever closer it’s time for many cyclists to start thinking about how they are going to train over the winter. At this time of year many questions come up like ‘is indoor training more effective than outdoor?’, ‘how often should I be out on the road?’ and ‘how do I get the perfect balance between indoor and outdoor training?’ We answer some of these questions in our guide to training indoors vs outdoors:

Why train indoors?

We all know that indoor training is an efficient way of utilising cycling time and is especially useful for busy professionals who may be getting home in the dark. But what are the specific benefits of indoor training?

The reason many cyclists head indoors when the clocks change is to avoid the cold weather, darkness and traffic. Training indoors negates the need for bright lights and winter woolies.

A session on a Wattbike is constant, with no stop-start traffic to contend with. This constant effort also makes indoor training time efficient. Simply put, you can ride for a shorter amount of time indoors whilst achieving the same effort and output as you would on the road during a longer session.

One key benefit of training indoors which can help you make significant gains is the opportunity to focus on pedalling technique. Measuring your pedalling out on the road is almost impossible, but bring things indoors and it becomes easy, thanks to the Wattbike Polar View and Pedalling Effectiveness Score.

Why train outdoors?

Whilst we are obviously advocates of training indoors, we also realise the importance of training outdoors too.

Even with excellent virtual training tools available, indoor cycling can’t precisely replicate the feeling you get when you discover a beautiful new cycling route or when you beat your friend on the cafe sprint.

Whilst indoor training removes distractions like traffic to give you an efficient ride, it also removes terrain and with it the need to use different muscle groups. Training indoors all the time can result in some muscles being overworked whilst others are underworked. To fully optimise your training, consider riding a few outdoor sessions with varied terrain to ensure all your muscle groups are being used effectively.

Finally, there are a few aspects of cycling which you simply can’t learn from training indoors, like how to ride in a group for example. This is especially important if you have set you sights on sportives or competitive races for the coming season, without knowing the rules of the road and how to descend within group you could put yourself and your fellow competitors in danger.

Finding the ideal balance: Indoor training vs outdoor training

Both indoor and outdoor training have numerous benefits and we recommend that you include both within your training. Many of our training plans include an indoor session and an equivalent outdoor session, giving you the opportunity to mix up your sessions and still achieve your goals.

But what is the perfect balance of indoor vs outdoor training? If you’re completing 5 sessions per week, we’d recommend 3 – 4 indoor sessions during the week, with 1 – 2 outdoor sessions when time (and weather) allows during the weekend.