Coach Tip Tuesday: Indoors Prepares Us for the Great Outdoors

Posted On:
Tuesday, December 18, 2018
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
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Well, that was fast!!  It’s already time for Coach Tip Tuesday again!!

We’re deep in the heart of December.  For many of my fitness-loving friends (and especially for my local, Central New York-based fitness-loving friends), that means that we’ve been forced inside for at least some of our workouts within the last couple of months for the foreseeable future.  While weather conditions might allow us to get outdoors for some runs, a fat bike ride, or some skiing, a heftier portion of our training will be spent indoors over the course of the winter season.

This situation can go one of two ways: it can be depressing and something to lament, or it can be viewed as an opportunity to work on specific skills that really help you once you are able to get back outside again.

The athletes who have enrolled in Fleet Feet Syracuse’s Winter Triathlon Program since I took over as Head Coach know that I constantly preach this when I’m leading our indoor bike sessions: If you wouldn’t do it outside, don’t do it inside.  And that’s the message that I’m here to share with you all this week.

What does that mean??  That means that if you wouldn’t ride without your hands on the handlebars outside, you shouldn’t be doing it inside.  Why??  Because learning how to sustain our bike fit is incredibly important.  It’s like anything else, if you don’t train to it, it won’t stick.  We need to build endurance as far as our bike fits go, and this includes being able to stay in the fit for longer periods of time.  If you are constantly riding indoors in a position that isn’t your actual bike fit, you will find that your first outdoor rides in the spring will be far more challenging than they need to be.

If you’re riding or running inside, I strongly encourage you to treat that workout like you would treat an outdoor workout.  This means that if you wouldn’t text or talk on the phone when you’re riding outside, you shouldn’t be doing it inside.  Part of why I suggest this for the bike is related to the bike fit point from above; you don’t want to reinforce positions or habits that are not actually part of your “real” riding style outside.  The same point holds true for running form.  If you wouldn’t let that kind of distraction interfere with an outdoor workout, then I strongly encourage you not to let it interfere with an indoor one.  Limiting the distractions will allow you to focus on your workout and get great bang for your buck as far as training time goes.  You’re carving the time to get your training in; honor yourself and that commitment by doing the best job you can within that time window.  Additionally, limiting distractions allows you to reap the full benefits that a workout provides on the “clearing your mind” side of things.  The positive impact of a workout that truly allows you a period of time to focus on you without distractions cannot be understated.

Indoor workouts (and their inherent stationary nature and lack of going anywhere “real”) provide us with wonderful opportunities to practice skills in a safe space that we can then translate over to our outdoor workouts.  On the bike, learning how to drink proficiently with both hands is a skill I recommend practicing indoors.  Learning how to ride with clip-in pedals and shoes indoors while on trainer also feels safer to many athletes.  Practicing good pedaling mechanics (i.e. making sure you stay consistent throughout the ride) is another great indoor skill.  For running, athletes can focus on cadence and form a bit easier than they can outdoors since they don’t need to worry about terrain (as much) or other obstacles (such as cars) that are very out of their control.

At the end of the day, what we do in our training matters, and this fact doesn’t become untrue just because our workouts move indoors.  Treat these workouts with the same respect that you would treat your outdoor workouts, and embrace the opportunities that they provide you with to work on skills that you may neglect during the main season.  By doing so, you’ll emerge into the great outdoors in the spring with so many extra tools in your athlete’s toolbelt, and your season will be that much more enjoyable and successful because of it. :)


Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at

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