So, I just bought Favero power meter pedals, don’t worry this isn’t another “trainer read different to pedals” thread, they read the same straight away within a few watts.
What this instead is, is wondering if my first winter, my first 5 months on Zwift were ‘worth’ it. I spent those 5 months working HARD. Structured polarised training, 10 hour weeks, intervals, FTP tests, everything. I gained 10-20w sure, but I obsessed over those few watts.
Then I go and ride again IRL with a power meter, and immediately realised how much easier I can put down power outside (again I’m not worried I’m reading wrong because the times/speeds back up the numbers). I’ve almost literally just created a new max power curve from 15s to 2 hours, all in the same ride (it was a brutal set out outdoor hill repeats).
No doubt I’m in better shape in February than any other year, but I’m wondering if I got a little carried away with what can be achieved on Zwift. If I put out 10% less power indoors, can I really push myself enough indoors for it to be worth going hard.
I’m thinking next year maybe just do endurance on zwift, typical base training stuff, and start the hard sessions outside at this time of year. Hate to think of all those max effort interval workouts having been a waste, but maybe they were. Thoughts?
Just be clear, I’m wondering if the hard intervals/races/FTP tests were worth it, not whether using zwift at all was. Based on times (because I didn’t have IRL power before) I’ve not improved in those 5 months, but yes, I’ve not regressed either, which means it was worth using zwift at all, but was it worth using zwift the way I used it, that’s what I’m asking myself and publicly musing.
First IRL ride of the year yesterday (first in 5 months in fact). Favourite 1hour 30 min ride. Knocked 15 minutes of that - might have been the joy of release - but I suspect 3/4 Zwift rides a week played a big part in that.
Outdoor rides can be notoriously variant in terms of conditions. Where I live there can be little to no wind one day and the next a strong head wind and crosswinds, which kind of makes it hard to compare and draw simple conclusions without accounting for these differences.
However one might draw those. The simplest metric is to keep the power between rides and compare that, I think.
I’ve heard plenty of anecdotal references to it being easier to put down power outside. I don’t know why that is (better cooling, easier to move on bike so better biomechanics, I don’t know). But you’re not alone.
As to whether Zwift is “worth it”; if all you care about is hitting the biggest numbers maybe not.
But bear this in mind: if you always hit 10% lower indoors compared to out, it doesn’t matter. Increasing your indoor power by 20W will most likely still increase your outdoor power by 20W or more.
Indoors is often more convenient, sometimes safer, other times more pleasant if the weather’s awful.
Without traffic or lights or other people, wind, rain, deer etc. to worry about, those hard intervals can often be for more efficient than trying to do them indoors. And your body is still working as hard - or harder maybe. The gains are real.
@Darren, not sure how to do quotes, but this bit is key I guess “But bear this in mind: if you always hit 10% lower indoors compared to out, it doesn’t matter. Increasing your indoor power by 20W will most likely still increase your outdoor power by 20W or more.”
This is the crux of it, if that’s definitely true I’d be reassured, but what I’m doubting is whether you do get the same adaptations from a “max” effort that’s 10% lower, or whether you’re body sees it as a moderate effort not a high effort (lets face it 10% doesn’t sound a lot but it’s enough to turn threshold z4 into tempo z3) and you just get moderate adaptations.
@Ales, definitely true, there’s no question I lack the historic outdoor power data to draw definitive conclusions. My belief that I’ve not improved all that much for the efforts put in is a hypothesis at this stage.
@Ed, it’s not just the average, it’s the max for a given perceived effort/heartrate. I’m maxing out my effort/heart rate on the intense training so there’s nothing left to give for the 10% harder session.
Personally, I don’t think there’s any doubt that indoor training is effective. Whether it’s Zwift, TrainerRoad, The Sufferfest or something else, loads of riders train indoor to great effect. Similarly, the Wattbike was and is used by the British Olympic team and elite track cyclists
As for any question of “a max effort” comparing indoors versus outdoors, I’m not biology boffin, but I’d expect them to be equivalent. If anything, as suggested before I’d assume the body is more stressed by indoor training. It overheats more easily for example; and that in turn would be a reason why you can produce less power for the same or more effort.
Various sources do recommend adjusting training zones to compensate for the difference, or having an “indoor FTP” and an “outdoor FTP” when calculating workout levels.
Thanks, good articles. The point about utilising the upper body outside might be important for me. I’m light but have spent many years doing upper body freeweights (I hesitate to call it bodybuilding because that would over egg it considerably, but that sort of idea), I therefore have a fair amount of lean upper body muscle to work the bike about quite a bit through the handlebars (more Matthew Van Der Pol than Chris Froome up top, neither in the legs ), especially on punchy climbs, which are my favourite. If that’s the case I guess it makes sense that the legs have done the same amount of work in both scenarios.
dont compare data from indoors with outdoors, it’s not an exact science and there will always be a difference, ur bike positioning/handling changes a lot and indoors you dont get to coast as much as outdoors generally etc.
you said that you found it so much easier to put power down outside, and created a new max power curve, so we can only assume your training was hugely beneficial based off of this info no?
Yes, that, my max power curve was ALL indoors until this weekend. I’ll never know my power curve last year outdoors. All I know is (early season) Strava segment data is so far so-so even in perfect conditions this weekend.
In truth, I am still largely convinced it was worth it, even the hard sessions (I’m definitely convinced the aerobic work was, I do have heart rate data from outdoors last year that’s looking good on a z2 cruise), but I just thought it’d be an interesting discussion and whether I could learn how these limits that indoor training places on your power ultimately affects your outdoor power development.