Many cyclists have been training indoors for several months, and it doesn't take long for the same workouts to get a bit repetitive. With another month or more before you'll reliably be able to get outside, you'll need to find a way to spice up some your basic indoor cycling routine.
The four examples below are common workouts cyclists use indoors to get in shape for the season. Use these tips to give these indoor sessions a twist and keep from letting your training get repetitive this winter.
Workout #1: Threshold Interval
Traditional Workout: Threshold intervals are done to improve anaerobic threshold and endurance. Traditionally, you should aim for a steady effort, mimicking a time trial effort for 15 to 45 minutes.
Indoor Twist—Over Under Interval: After a good warm up, accelerate to threshold heart rate or power. Maintain this intensity level for 5 to 10 minutes. Increase your effort until you're above threshold or to the point where your body goes anaerobic. Hold this intensity for 2 to 3 minutes. Drop your intensity level back to threshold. Continue to go back and forth for up to 30 minutes. If you are just starting out, try three minutes under, three minutes over and three minutes under. Recover for nine minutes and repeat. You can increase the length and the number of "over-unders" as you become fitter.
This workout trains your body to process more lactic acid and prevents it from pooling in the muscles, which can cause fatigue. The over under intervals are especially good for teaching your body how to recover at a high intensities.
Workout #2: VO2 Max Interval
Traditional Workout: These workouts are done to increase VO2 max, which is the ability to achieve and sustain intensities above anaerobic threshold. Traditionally, they last 3 to 5 minutes and are paced evenly using a power meter (they are too short to get accurate heart rate readings).
Indoor Twist—Breakaway Simulation: This workout is similar to the over under, but with a slightly different purpose. Rather than accelerating smoothly and maintaining a high power output from beginning to end, try the following three-minute interval:
1. Start with a fast, out of the saddle acceleration at 97-percent effort level. It's not quite an all out sprint, but close.
2. Continue for 30 seconds and then shift into an easier gear. Settle in and maintain a high power output for two minutes.
3. With 30 seconds left in the interval, accelerate again, this time to 100-percent effort level. Maintain this all the way to the end of the three-minute interval.
Note: These intervals are a practical way to simulate a race or training ride. The first 30-second effort replicates an initial attack in which you attempt to separate yourself from the pack or follow a breakaway move. The next two minutes simulate the high pace you will have to maintain during your break in order to stave off the charging pack. The final 30-second effort simulates the sprint for the finish.
Workout #3: The One-Minute Max Effort
Traditional Workout: These all out one-minute intervals are traditional done with a smooth and steady power output. The purpose is to improve anaerobic capacity.
Indoor Twist—Make It or Break It Interval: There comes a moment in every race or challenging training ride where you have to decide how bad you really want it. Are you willing to give everything, physically and mentally, to achieve your goal, or would you rather not take the risk of putting it all on the line with the chance of later getting dropped?
These intervals will increase the "all" that you have to give. Start with a high level of resistance so that with an all out effort, your cadence is at 60 revolutions per minute (rpm). For the first 30 seconds, pedal as hard as you can, pushing at 100-percent effort level and 60 rpms. At the 30-second mark, quickly drop the resistance (the equivalent of shifting from your 11 to your 15 or 17 cog on your rear cassette) and continue at a 100-percent effort level for the final 30 seconds.
It may take awhile to get the hang of these. You'll know you're doing them correctly when you find that even with the last 30 seconds done at a much lower resistance level, you're still not be able to maintain a cadence above 70 rpms.
Note: These intervals will train you to get to the top of a steep climb or the last of a set of rolling climbs and maintain contact with the group so you can recover as you head down the other side.
Workout #4: High Cadence Spinning
Traditional Workout: Traditionally done on a flat road with very little resistance at a cadence of 120 to 130 rpms for 10 to 60 minutes with the goal of increasing leg speed and pedaling efficiency.
Indoor Twist—Spin Ups: The old-fashioned high spin interval is actually a great workout to do on a trainer or rollers. If you're looking to mix things up a bit, give these a try.
1. Over the course of 30 seconds, with very little resistance, build up to the absolute highest cadence you can achieve while keeping your form relatively smooth.
2. Hold that cadence for as long as you can ( aim for at least 1 to 3 minutes) while maintaining good pedaling form.
3. Rest for three minutes and repeat. Continue until you can no long reach your maximum pedaling speed.
Note: In order to prevent injuries, make sure to accelerate smoothly over the first 30 seconds. Don't over extend yourself in order to reach a higher maximum cadence. If you find your hips are rocking or you feel that you are out of control, lower your cadence until your pedaling becomes smoother and your upper body is relaxed and still.
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