The New Math: Why 1 Hour on the Trainer is not equal to 1 Hour on the Road

 In Discussions

Winter months make us dust off the trainer that helped us warm-up at races.  Even when the weather outside is not so frightful, the shorter days and demands on our time make riding outside during the week more difficult.  So we subscribe to NetFlix, find a tv series with several years and episodes available, and begin indoor training rides.

We can all make a list of the reasons why one dreads indoor training:  boredom, the sound drives the dog crazy, no Strava KOMs, no impromptu town line sprints or Starbucks caffeine stops.  We all have our favorite way to make the time pass, whether it is an iTunes playlist, taking a tour in Sufferlandia, or on a CompuTrainer with an ErgVideo.  One thing we may forget to do….think about the translation of road hour to trainer hour.

When you look at a power file of an outdoor endurance training ride (absent intervals), we see a great deal of time spent in Zone 1 and low Zone 2.  From the need to stop to drafting behind someone, our energy expenditure on the road is more volatile than on a trainer.  While on the road to nowhere, our trainer time will, on average, show less time at both the lower and upper ends of the training zone spectrum, which affects the type of workout one can efficiently complete on the trainer. 

The math bottom line:  If you are headed outdoors for a 3 hour endurance ride and want to convert it to something indoors, shorten the duration and add some tempo intervals to bump up the intensity.  Our math exchange rate:  1 hour on the trainer = 1.5 hours on the road for endurance efforts.
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