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Bike Training Indoors - What to avoid

What do you do when it is wet, windy and cold outside? If you are like many cyclists, inclement weather means riding indoors. For many others, indoor training can be a year-round pursuit to stay safe, overcome injury or is more convenient. In many ways, riding indoors can be easier than going outside, you don’t need to be overly concerned about the weather, plan what to wear or worry about what tools to bring in case of mechanical issue or flat tyres.

You should use your indoor trainer like a runner uses a treadmill, not as your only method of training but as a supplement to your training strategy. Despite the simplicity and convenience of indoor cycling, there are several common issues that can reduce the effectiveness and enjoyment of your session.

Indoor and Outdoor is the same right.

When you train indoors, focus on workouts that are the most effective (and fun) in that environment. On the trainer, you can ride consistently without disruption.  You can do focused sessions to work on your Functional Threshold Power (FTP). Indoors, you can also participate in virtual simulations and group rides that can boost your fun and intensity.

No matter what, you want to make sure your indoor rides are stimulating. One of my favourite things to do indoors is combine bike riding with strength or other modes of exercise. This might be a 5-minute core circuit interspersed with 10 minutes of riding or it could be a 30-minute run combined with a 30-minute ride.

Conversely, there are some things that just don’t work as well indoors. Standing sprints are hard to do well since the bike is fixed in position. Similarly, while steady endurance rides and muscular endurance intervals can be done well, that does not mean most cyclists need to ride more than 1–2 hours at a time on an indoor trainer to reach their goals. Save that for outdoors rides, cross-training or for better weather days when you get out on the road.

 Aimlessly Pedalling

As with any training pursuit, you should have a goal. It might just be to have fun or to work on a certain aspect of your fitness. You might decide to work on your FTP during a certain session, so your goal for the day would be to complete a warmup with a few sprints and spin-ups to improve your coordination and then 3 x 10-minute threshold intervals that will help you break up your workout into many little chunks where you focus on different cadences and outputs. This focus is easier to do inside and helps you take advantage of where you are and, importantly, these same little chunks help you avoid boredom or the dreaded junk miles.

I’m bored

Since there is much less visual stimulation indoors, you’ll want to plan for how to stay motivated and entertained as you pedal away. Having a couple of playlists, podcasts, movies or television shows that you can turn to when on the trainer will help pass the time.  Smart trainers are always a good option if you can afford one.  You can simulate courses, participate in a virtual group ride and much more to enhance your indoor experience.  If your not wanted to spend any cash on a smart trainer, then another option is to tune into a race you want to complete or a race / event that is in your field of interest. 

Pedalling at one speed

Accelerating quickly and the ability to pedal at a variety of cadences is very important to cycling performance and can also be a great way to break up your ride to help with motivation and focus. Feel free to mix up different types of indoor cycling workouts. You can do spin-ups where you accelerate the gear you are in over 20–30 seconds, as if you are on a fixed-gear bicycle and you are coming over the top of a climb and into a downhill. You can set your cadence to a specific range, say 70–80 RPM, while you are doing a tempo or moderate workload to work on muscular endurance and prepare specifically for steeper climbs where you run out of gears and can only pedal in your easiest gear. For longer rides or intervals, simply dividing the workout into 5–10 minute chunks where you shift your gears to switch the cadence and even your wattage/output inserts some variety into your ride. Similarly, you can include sprints

Cycling Spin Bike 2020 Trainer

Its hot in here

It’s common for athletes to get overwhelmed by riding indoors in hot areas; as discomfort rises, performance drops. Getting too warm increases the load on your body (e.g., decrease wattage) and increases your rate of perceived exertion (RPE). Try using a fan to keep the room at a suitable temp or consider moving your trainer into the garage / colder portion of your house of potentially outside.  You may also want to use this as an opportunity to practice your warm-weather cooling strategies.  Try things like chilled drinks, ice packs or stockings (down your jersey or around your neck).

In Conclusion

The trainer is an important tool in any cyclists arsenal.  Make sure you use it to full effect when you have to stay indoors as a boost to your training.  Tailor your sessions specifically for indoors, don’t just copy your outdoor plan.  When used right, your trainer will be a welcome riding partner on a wet, windy day.

Find your local bike shop and grab yourself a trainer here