Some triathletes love bike trainers and some hate them, but most triathletes can’t avoid them—especially in the winter.
From newbie to expert everybody’s in the same boat, including Dave Scott: “I do get on the trainer when the weather is lousy,” he says, “but I don’t like it.”
Scott believes, however, that there are advantages. For example, it’s a good time to work on variable gearing.
“In the offseason, you should work on economy and efficiency while using gears you aren’t used to,” Scott says.
Triathletes and cyclists get comfortable in one gear; then lose momentum when they are forced to change gears.
“Changing gears changes muscle recruitment,” Scott says. You should get comfortable in a wider range of gears so that you can be more efficient on race day.
So the next time you’re dealing with lousy weather, start to expand your comfort zone with this workout.
Variable Gearing Workout
Set up: If you typically ride an aero tri bike, move the trainer seat back and lower the seat slightly to trigger the proper muscles. Be prepared to use a combination of sitting and standing.
- Warm Up: 8 to 12 minutes in a lower gear, starting at a slower cadence and completing the final four minutes at 90 rpms
- First Set: 8x30 seconds with fast legs on a low gear; rpms at 98-110. Use an ascending rest: 20 seconds on the first one, 30 seconds on the next, then 40 seconds, with the remainder all at 50 seconds
- Main Set: 6x8 minutes with rest interval of 45 seconds in between
- 2 minutes in time trial gear: 1 minute seated, 1 minute standing
- Seated cadence should be 88 to 96 rpms
- standing cadence should be 64 to 72 rpms
- 2 minutes in lower gear with fast legs (same speed as first two minutes)
- Seated cadence should be 98 to 110 rpms
- Standing cadence should be 72 to 80 rpms
- 2 minutes in bigger gear (same speed)
- Seated cadence in a bigger gear should be 68 to 76 rpms
- Standing cadence should be 58 to 66 rpms
- 2 minutes in time trial gear (Ratchet up the intensity)
- Rest and repeat
- Extra Credit: Repeat the first set (8x30)
- Second Set: 18 to 30 minutes at aerobic pace. Change up the position of your hands every few minutes. Spend some time in the aero position, some in the brake hoods.
- Cool Down
Note: The goal of the main set, as your fitness improves, is to maintain a heart rate that is 5-12 beats below the threshold. The perceived exertion should start (first four minutes) at moderate to moderately hard. The final four minutes (in a big gear) elevate the intensity. The overall objective is to maintain or develop ease in a wider range of gears. Repeating a similar workout 6-12 times, will help improve your economy.
Trick: To help remember cadence fluctuations, write them on a piece of paper—one column for the seated numbers, one for the standing.
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