Is it better to train indoors or outdoors?

Wondering whether you should do all your winter triathlon training indoors on a treadmill and turbo or brave the outside elements? Andy Blow weighs up the pros and cons of both

Running on a treadmill

One of the reasons we Brits love to talk about the weather is because of how variable it can be. In winter we can be out in relatively mild and sunny conditions to sub zero arctic blizzards, and everything in between. Simply by looking at the potential benefits and limitations of both types of training, you can start to figure out how to extract the most from your winter programme.


Indoor training benefits

Indoor training such as treadmill running or turbo training has numerous upsides, namely:

How measurable and controllable it is.

How time efficient it is.

You can track progress easily.

You can train during the darker hours in the mornings and evenings safely.

It’s available in all weather.

Indoor training disadvantages

It can be quite boring.

It doesn’t exactly replicate all of the stresses and skills required for performing outdoors.

It relies on having easy access to a treadmill/gym or other indoor facilities.

For these reasons, training indoors makes a lot of sense when you want to: measure your performance accurately; you have limited time to train; you want to test yourself; you would otherwise have to train in the dark; or the weather would make it unproductive, unpleasant or even unsafe to venture out.

Outdoor training benefits

Is highly specific to racing skills and movement patterns.

Is mentally stimulating.

Toughens you up to getting a bit cold and wet!

Outdoor training disadvantages

It can be unpleasant or even dangerous in very icy, wet or dark conditions.

Requires a lot of time and kit changing/washing!

So my advice would be to aim for a mixture of indoor and outdoor training, based on the time you have available and the weather conditions you encounter.

For instance, many athletes may find themselves sitting on the turbo on dark evenings after work or churning out reps on the treadmill in the mornings but then able to get out – weather permitting – for long bike and
run sets at the weekend.

This approach ensures that you mix the reliability of getting regular, high-quality sessions done inside with the stimulation and specific stresses of training outdoors, which should lead to the best all-round improvements at this time of year.

5 key ways cold weather affects your body and your training


Treadmill sessions for sprint, Olympic and middle distance triathlons

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