Indoor bike training is an excellent method of ensuring that you stay fit for cycling without having to go outside. This is often the only option during the winter months. But there is no point in it if you don’t do it the right way. Also, it doesn’t have to be a mind-numbing activity that you do just for the sake of it. This article includes plenty of tips and tricks you can use to transform your indoor training into both an effective and enjoyable activity that you look forward to.
Before the workout
Get a decent bike trainer
Before anything else, you buy a good quality bike trainer. Sure, you can get one at $100 or lower, but you will be sacrificing ride quality, durability, and other features. A good trainer can be used for years, makes less noise, and provides a realistic road feel. If possible, get a smart trainer. This will greatly improve your workout experience by letting you access trainer apps and store your data. If not, you can buy a cadence sensor and power meter separately.
Set up a training area
It’s a good idea to set up a dedicated area for training. It should be somewhere where you won’t annoy others with noise from the trainer and where you won’t get distracted easily. Also, with a specified workout location, you can set it up to your convenience. You could place a table or shelf in front of you to keep a screen or other things and put down mats on the floor. This will also help you get into the right mindset whenever you are in that room.
Create a workout plan
It is important to set yourself a goal and work towards achieving it. For this, it is useful to create a structured workout plan. That way you are not aimlessly pedaling away, instead, you have a clear objective in mind. This also ensures that you do not quit halfway into your training. Designate specific days of the week and also a specific time of the day when you know you will be free. In addition, decide exactly what workout you want to do on a given day.
Wearing the right outfit is more important than you might think. While cycling outdoors, you are constantly moving around on the bike, and your sweat is mostly swept away by the wind. This does not happen in indoor cycling. Make sure to wear padded shorts to ease the pressure on your bottom. Moisture-wicking clothes are a good choice as well. You can even get indoor-specific cycling shorts.
During the workout
Keep it short and diverse
Don’t extend your workouts to more than 1 or 2 hours per session or you will likely get bored. Save the long rides spanning several hours for when you are outdoors. You can get an excellent workout in 60 minutes. However, that means you’ll have to crank up the intensity. You could also try performing intense interval-style training which helps to improve your power and overall fitness. Moreover, you should switch it up and try different workouts periodically.
Another thing you can do to make your indoor training more pleasant is to watch or listen to something. Place the trainer in front of a tv or laptop, or set up speakers. You could watch a show, or listen to music/podcasts. This really helps to pass the time and can possibly distract you from the burn in your legs.
Stay fuelled and hydrated
Keeping your body replenished, both before and during the workout, is a crucial step. Otherwise, you might find yourself too exhausted midway through. You could build up your energy by eating a healthy meal consisting mainly of carbs (fruits, vegetables, pasta, nuts, etc.) a few hours beforehand. But don’t eat anything too heavy like red meat. During the routine, if you need to, take in some high-energy foods like gels or sports drinks. Most important, however, is to drink plenty of water before and throughout the entire workout.
Unlike outdoor riding, there is no wind blowing across you when cycling indoors. Therefore, it is very easy to sweat excessively and overheat yourself. An easy solution is to place a fan in front of you. This will cool you down and also simulate a headwind. You should also keep a towel nearby to wipe off sweat. As we have already mentioned, wearing moisture-wicking clothes and drinking plenty of fluids will help as well.
Make use of technology
Trainer apps are now more common than ever. The most popular is Zwift but there are others like TrainerRoad and Rouvy. These apps allow you to track your activity, connect with other riders, explore various routes, and even participate in virtual races. Basically, they turn your indoor training into a virtual reality experience. Furthermore, they motivate you to keep performing better and better. Many smart trainers can simulate gradients by varying the resistance levels.
After the workout
Cooldown and stretch
After an intense training session, it is important to have a proper cool down. This helps to return your heart rate to normal in a gradual manner. Stretching your muscles is also a good practice. Doing it right after exercise is when it is most beneficial. Stretching helps to bring down the lactic acid levels in your muscles. This in turn reduces soreness and prevents muscle cramps.
Analyze your workout
If you are using sensors and a training app, make sure to have a look at your stats after a workout. Find out how well you did, compare it to workouts on other days, and see if you are making any improvements. Seeing the results of your hard work motivates you to continue and improve even further. By analyzing your data, you can also discover what types of workouts work best for you.
Do some drills
Try including some specific drills into your training that you wouldn’t want to do when riding outdoors. One of the best things to do is one-leg drills. You simply pedal with one leg for 2-3 minutes and then repeat for the other leg. These drills will reveal weaknesses in your hamstrings, and the strength imbalance between your two legs. By working in these areas, you will be able to unlock greater power and pedaling effectiveness.
While wheel-on and direct-drive trainers are great, a simple roller trainer can prove to be an effective tool as well. Rollers offer the feel of riding on the road where you have to focus constantly to maintain balance. Remember to keep the roller next to something which you can hold for getting on and off. The downside is that they do not offer much resistance. And so, for workouts where you want a lot of power output and a high heart rate, bike trainers are better.
Consistency is key
Remaining consistent with your training is one of the most important pieces of advice that we can give you. Just by being consistent, you can see significant improvements in your performance. And this means avoiding sessions that span more than 90 minutes. It’s much better to train 3-4 times a week than grinding away for 6 hours on one day and then being too fatigued to do anything else for the rest of the week. As long as you’re keeping the intensity right during those 60-90 minutes, you will improve.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What workout routine should I follow?
Ans.: There are many different workouts that you can do. A quick search online and you can select your favorite from hundreds of options. For your convenience, we have included a few examples below:-
|Workout 1||Warm-up for 20 minutes and gradually raise your power output to 210 watts|
|Pedal for 40 minutes ranging your power output between 220 and 240 watts|
|Cooldown for 5 minutes by pedaling at an easy pace|
|Workout 2||Warm-up for 20 minutes and gradually raise your power output to 210 watts|
|Pedal at high effort for 3 rounds of 12 minutes each|
|Cooldown for 5 minutes by pedaling at an easy pace|
|Workout 3||Start pedaling at your highest gear for five minutes while maintaining a steady power output|
|Shift to the next gear down and pedal for another five minutes at the same power output|
|Continue doing so until you reach the lowest gear|
Q2. Should I do a fitness test?
Ans.: Doing a fitness test can help evaluate what fitness level you are at right now. With this knowledge, you or your coach can develop a suitable workout plan. Usually, what people measure with a fitness test is their Functional Threshold Power or FTP. FTP is defined as the maximum average power in watts that you can sustain during one hour. You can take an FTP test virtually as well using apps like Zwift. The following video will tell you how to calculate your FTP yourself.
Q3. At what intensity should I cycle?
Ans.: That will depend on the type of workout you perform. For longer workouts, you should cycle at what is called the ‘sweetspot’. This is just below your FTP. It allows you to do sustained workouts a few times a week, while still stressing your body and forcing it to improve. In case you’re doing interval training, then you should be doing your maximum effort during the high-intensity periods and below your FTP during the recovery periods.
Hopefully, now you realize that indoor bike training doesn’t have to be the boring routine that many of us think it to be. In fact, you can make it quite interesting. Additionally, with our advice, you take your indoor training to the next level. Instead of maintaining fitness, you can start to surpass your former limits. With some hard work and consistency, you’ll be ready for the next biking season, better than ever.