taking it outside

written by Coach Bill Martin

It’s that time of year in Wisconsin when athletes are starting to do the majority of their workouts outdoors after being inside for much of the winter months, whether at an indoor pool, on the bicycle trainer or the treadmill.  It’s always exciting and fun to get outside, but it’s also very easy in that excitement to forget about a few key factors that change when you go outside.  Here is a list of a few important things to keep in mind when training outdoors that you probably didn’t have to consider while training inside.


If you’re moving from an indoor pool to an outdoor pool, there’s not a whole lot that changes.  However, you will need to consider the sun.  That might mean you need a different pair of goggles if you’ve been wearing clear ones during the winter.  You’ll also want to watch your sun exposure.  It can be easy to forget after a winter of not having to worry about it, but sunscreen or limiting your time being exposed can help you to avoid some nasty sunburns.

If you’re moving from the pool to open water swimming, the most important thing you need to consider is your safety.  Regardless of how strong a swimmer you are, it is never safe to swim alone in open water.  We highly recommend finding a swimming group that provides oversight by someone on a kayak or other boat, but at the very least swim with other people.  And if you are someone who doesn’t normally wear a swim cap in the pool, don’t forget a brightly colored swim cap in open water.  It’s important for your safety so that others in the water (swimmers and boaters) can see you.  In addition to the safety component, be aware that you may feel more fatigued than usual, like you’ve lost fitness.  Just be aware that if you feel this way when you move to open water, it’s because you don’t have the “micro breaks” that you get in the pool, so your core strength and endurance are being challenged more.  It’ll just take some time for your body to adapt to that, so be patient with it.


Before you hop on your bike and take off down the road, make sure to check your bike over to make sure it’s still in good working order after riding on the trainer all winter.  This is one of the best times of the year to get your bike tuned up, just to make sure everything is good to go.  You want to make sure that things like brakes, shifters and the drivetrain are all working smoothly and that all of the bolts on the bike are tightened down appropriately.

The other main factors to consider are traffic and the conditions.  On the trainer, you can get so engrossed in your workout or your intervals that you tune everything else out.  When you’re on the road you really need to make sure that you don’t do that.  Awareness of what is going on around you is crucial at all times while riding on the roads, including during hard sets where you’re focused on maintaining a certain speed or power output.   This is one reason we encourage some riding be done on trainers, even during the summer, if you are a competitive athlete.  As for the conditions, make it a habit to always check the forecast and dress appropriately before heading out for a ride, and always remember to bring your phone with you in case something comes up and you need to get picked up.


Besides dressing for conditions and planning routes, you may need to reduce your volume initially.  If you’re running on pavement, the ground is harder than a treadmill so the impact forces are higher.  Your body may need some time to adapt to this before bringing your volume back up.  The other factor to consider as we approach the summer months is dealing with the heat.  It’s a factor on bike rides as well, but it’s much more significant when running because at slower speeds you don’t have the same level of cooling from the air.  It’s really important to plan out your hydration, including electrolyte intake, so that you don’t run into problems on your longer runs.

Once you’ve taken these things into account, you’re ready to get out there and enjoy the nice weather.  Happy training!

SBR has a variety of small group coached practices for indoor pool swimming, open water swimming, cycling and running from now until the end of August. Join us for a few or all of our group training. Head over to our Small Group Coaching page for more information.

Jessica Laufenberg