When it comes to having fun on a bike, most cyclists would rank riding inside on the trainer somewhere between bonking 20 miles from home and getting hit by a semi. But riding inside doesn't have to be torture: The key is to adopt a get-on, get-off attitude and build more intensity into your workouts so you can spend less time pedaling to nowhere. Here are some simple guidelines for making the most of your rec-room sweat sessions.
If an athlete wants to maintain fitness over the winter, I recommend he or she ride four times a week and build intervals into three of those sessions. That might work out to two midweek rides on a trainer and two weekend rides. If two won't fit into your schedule, you could do a program with interval workouts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and (if road conditions are good) an outdoor group ride or long endurance ride on Saturday.
Go Hard, Not Long
Indoor training is all about working at the right intensities without wasting time idly pedaling. Some of the workouts that follow are tough, but you can complete them during a trainer session of just 60 to 90 minutes.
Then Go Harder
You might be riding three or four times a week with a bunch of hard efforts, but if you don't incrementally increase the workload, all you'll do is burn calories. That's not a bad thing, but if your goal is to emerge from the basement a fitter rider, you need to increase time at intensity, starting first by focusing on endurance-building aerobic intervals (tempo), then on harder workouts that will raise your maximum sustainable pace (steady state, climbing repeat) and boost your top-end speed (power intervals).
Below, you'll find the first four weeks of an eight-week plan that uses a winter event as an incentive. For descriptions of each workout in the chart (including the CTS Field Test) and the rest of the calendar, visit the Workouts and Body Stats Every Cyclist Should Know.