Ask The Coach: Making a smooth Transition

By LifeSport Coach Bruce Regensburg


Training programs for biking usually have a combination of outdoor and indoor trainer workouts.  As a coach I like to see this combination, since the outdoor workouts are in the environment of racing, but the indoor workouts can be much better controlled.  However, weather, time commitments and other factors can force a rider to use their indoor trainer for a workout.  Conversely, who wants to be stuck on an indoor trainer when the weather is perfect for outdoor riding.

The key to this dilemma is to know how to translate outdoor workouts to indoor and vice versa.

Outdoor and Indoor workouts: pros and cons:

Outdoor Workouts

With outdoor workouts, heart rate, power (if you have a power meter) or speed are the usual parameters of a workout.  You can choose your course for the workout, but wind, stop signs, traffic lights, etc; tend to break up your continuous ride. 

Outdoor workouts also help to teach bike handling skills and are less monotonous than indoor sessions.  However, the longer exposure to outdoor training, the higher the probability of bike crashes and the resulting injuries which impact all training.

Indoor Workouts

Because indoor workouts are in a controlled environment, the workouts can be more specific and safer.  Single leg drills, a great way to improve your pedal stroke, are much easier and safer on a trainer.  High cadence drills are easier to control also.  There is little to no stoppage, so your workout is continuous.  Warm ups and cool downs are much easier controlled on trainers since there are no hills or wind to work against.

Indoor trainer sessions give better workout results in less time than outdoor sessions due to the continuous effort.  Depending on one’s outdoor route, one hour equivalent indoor training equals around 1 hour 20 minutes of outdoor training.

Translating Outdoor Workouts to Indoor Trainer Workouts

Warm-up/Cool Down

Typically an outdoor workout will begin and end with 10 to 15 minutes of recovery level effort.  This time can be duplicated on the trainer.  However, one should also take the opportunity to practise single leg and cadence drills at the same time.  Five to ten minutes of these drills will develop skills and activate your muscles.

Main Sets


Hill workouts can be duplicated on trainers by applying increased resistance and low cadence work for hill climbing sections and minimal resistance with high cadence for the downhill section. (Time of downhill should be about a third of the uphill).

Tempo Ride

Tempo rides can be duplicated on the trainers.  They should be several minutes of tempo pace, followed by a short interval of recovery.  Typically, an indoor tempo session would have 5 to 15 minutes Tempo Pace (Zone 3), followed by 2 to 5 minutes of Recovery Pace (Zone 1).


Again, intervals can be duplicated on the trainer.  Intervals will consist of 2 to 5 minutes of Interval Pace (Zone 4 to 5) followed by equivalent or longer recovery periods.


Indoor trainers are a great way to perfect your bike to run transition.  Firstly, you can safely undo the bike shoes and remove your foot without fear of crashing.  If the weather is really bad, or you want to customize your run pace, then a treadmill is a great way to finish your brick workout.


Remember that the equivalent indoor workout should only be about 60 to 75% of the outdoor workout.

Translating Indoor Workouts to Outdoors

Warm Up and Cool Down

For indoor to outdoor sessions, the warm up and cool down can be the same.  You can do single leg drills outdoors, but they should be done on a slight uphill with no traffic.  This will keep your speed down and prevent serious crashes.  High cadences drills are hard to do outdoors except on downhills.     Very high cadence is dangerous because of instability on the bike.

Main Sets

All main sets can be duplicated outdoors but intervals and total time can be extended.


Indoor and outdoor workouts can be can be substituted for one another with the same workout benefits if you follow the above guidelines.

LifeSport coach Bruce Regensburg has been coaching triathlons for over 10 years with several athletes qualifying for Kona. Bruce has won several triathlons in his age group of 70-74 and his knowledge and experience allows him to customize a program for beginners to pro athletes. Contact Coach Bruce to share your goals, race faster, or master the Ironman distance. Find more great training tips by visiting us on Twitter | Facebook | Instagram


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