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Top 5 Tips for Surviving Winter Indoor Training

It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s windy. It’s raining. It’s snowing. It’s Tuesday….and the list goes on.

It seems when the seasons change and the weather is less than perfect most people have 3 choices:

  1. Suck it up and train outside.
  2. Suck it up and train inside.
  3. Suck it up…

It’s all relative isn’t it?

As a coach who’s worked with hundreds of endurance athletes, I’d have to say the majority are not super keen on training indoors. I totally get it. It’s not REALLY why you took up an outdoor sport to begin with. It can be boring and lonely. Some liken it to Eastern Block Training. Some go straight to the torture analogy.

But before you divert to the couch rather than getting in a session, just know there are a ton of benefits to training indoors. The consistency (read: lack of excuses) it offers has unmatched performance benefits in the long run. You have the ability to hit very specific intervals that you likely couldn’t do on your normal terrain. If you are time crunched (who isn’t these days?), indoor training offers some flexibility and time efficiency that outdoor training can’t offer (I’ve been known to jump on the trainer or treadmill at very random times just because I saw an opening).

Am I trying to convince you to train indoors all the time? Not even close. That’s how people lose their ever lovin’ minds. I’m just here to give you some tips on how to make the most of your indoor endeavors. So here we go.

  1. Optimize your indoor set up
    You will want to make sure you have everything in place to knock out an indoor session at a moments notice. I have my bike hooked up to a trainer and my treadmill ready to roll at all times. I just have to pull all my kids toys out of the way and I’m ready to go. You will also want to make sure you have some sort of entertainment set up. Personally, music alone doesn’t cut it for me when I am training indoors. I still end up watching the clock. So I have an iPad with earphones or my TV and surround sound set up to get all that audiovisual stimulation I’m use to outdoors, albeit maybe less calming. Some go for virtual riding solutions like Zwift. I personally can’t get into it, but some folks love it. Lastly, you want to make sure you have air flow. This is huge! Heat exhaustion and dehydration while indoor training are not uncommon for sessions lasting 60+ minutes. I’ve personally almost fallen out after a hard 45 minute session because I sweat so dang much indoors. More on that in a minute, but that’s why I have a ceiling fan on full blast AND an extra portable AC unit in my training area.
  2. Have a plan
    Pretty simple. The best way to go bonkers is knowing you are just going to get on the trainer or treadmill and watch the minutes tic by. Knowing what you have to get done before you get started makes it easier to wrap your head around the entire session. Having a plan can mean having a coach who makes workouts for you, utilizing an online training program like the House of Pain (we give the workouts ahead of time…for the most part), or using a prebuilt workout from an online source or app that’s connected to your trainer or treadmill. My only word of caution with using random workout videos and apps is there is a tendency towards doing intense sessions all the time. From our experience, even the most driven athletes can mentally handle 2 intense sessions a week, for 8-12 weeks before they either burn out or end up with another issue. So make sure you are balancing the intense work with the less intense until the time is right.
  3. Don’t ignore hydration
    Another biggie. I could make the whole post on this alone. Most athletes don’t realize how much they sweat when training indoors. The fact is, the conditions can be similar to a pretty hot and humid summer day depending on your airflow scenario. Even if you start off in a freezing cold room, your body heat and sweat lost will increase the temp and humidity in that space pretty rapidly. And if your House of Pain is smaller, it’s going to happen really fast. So make sure you are going into your indoor sessions well hydrated and prepared to consume some fluids AND electrolytes. Depending on your sweat sodium concentration, you could be losing a ton of sodium even during a short session. I’m saying this from personal experience. Before I found out my sweat sodium concentration, I finished many a hard hour session feeling like death and borderline blacking out. Not because I pushed myself to the limits. I went in to the session dehydrated and drank only water…because it’s colder out, right!? I don’t need sports drink. That’s for the summer. WRONG. I basically managed to push myself into a hyponatremic state in less than 90 minutes. Athletes do this all the time during the winter months and just chalk it up as a bad day, but it’s totally preventable. Nowadays I train indoors with the same fluid and electrolyte plan as I do during the summer thanks to our Precision Hydration Testing.
  4. Get your binge watching and movie lists ready
    My indoor training time is the bulk of my time spent watching TV. I’ve gone through all of Dexter, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, all the Marvel shows on Netflix, several sports documentaries, any show that has the words “lake house” or “log cabin” in the title, and plenty more while on the treadmill or trainer. I tend to pick shows I want to pay attention to for easy sessions, and ones I don’t have to pay attention to for harder sessions. It’s just something to take my attention off the clock so all I have to do is hit the numbers. You always thought Lord of the Rings was too long until it got you through a 3 hour trainer ride.
  5. Grab some buddies and get at it
    There is no better source of accountability than other people with similar goals. One highly motivated buddy is sufficient a lot of the time. But add in several more driven folks and maybe a coach that will be looking for you and you’ve got a winning combo! Invite folks to your personal House of Pain for a session, join a class, or find an online group that meets via web cam so you can all get stronger training indoors together.

There you have it. Those are absolutely the 5 major ways I get through my indoor training. Honestly, over the years, I have become indifferent when it comes knocking out my training indoors. If I have plenty of time, sure, I will opt for an outdoor session. But I’m not going to let my hatred for indoor training affect my overall consistency and quality of the work I’m putting in. Just wouldn’t be prudent.

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