2 Hill Workouts for the Indoor Trainer

It's the time of year when triathletes are looking for some new workouts to spice-up their indoor cycling routine. The two workouts in this column simulate rolling hills and begin the work to improve lactate threshold fitness.

Both workouts use training zones to describe intensity. For the description of intensity zones, see the free downloadable intensity document stored on Active Trainer. For Zone 1 intensity, keep the tension low on an indoor spinning bike. If you're on your bike on a trainer, keep the gearing low. That is, use the small chainring up front and a big-tooth gear on the rear cassette. You will need that gear for the high revolutions per minute (rpm) during the second workout.

For Zone 3, work to simulate hills: Increase the tension on your trainer or ride in a bigger gear to make it feel like you're riding up a hill. For a bigger gear, use the small chainring and go to a gear with fewer teeth in the rear or, move to the big chainring upfront and play with the rear gears until you find a good hill-imitation gear.

Rolling Hills – 45 minutes

Warm up with 10 minutes of Zone 1 spinning at an easy tension setting.
Then do two sets of:

  • 5 minutes at Zone 2
  • 5 minutes at Zone 3
  • 5 minutes at Zone 1

Cool down with an additional five minutes at Zone 1 intensity, spinning the pedals at 90 revolutions per minute (rpm).

Rolling Hills and High rpm – 48 minutes

Warm up by riding 10 minutes at Zone 1 to 2 intensity, then go right into:

  • 30 seconds in an easy gear, legs moving at 90 rpm
  • 4 minutes, 30 seconds (4:30) riding "uphill" at Zone 3 intensity
  • 2 minutes (2:00) spinning easy at Zone 1 intensity
  • 30 seconds in an easy gear, legs moving at 100 rpm
  • 4:30 riding uphill at Zone 2 intensity
  • 2:00 spinning easy at Zone 1 intensity
  • 30 seconds in an easy gear, legs moving at 110 rpm
  • 4:30 riding uphill at Zone 3 intensity
  • 2:00 spinning easy at Zone 1 intensity
  • 30 seconds in an easy gear, legs moving at 120+ rpm
  • 4:30 riding uphill at Zone 2 intensity
  • 2:00 spinning easy at Zone 1 intensity
  • 5:00 (or more) easy spinning to cool down

Final Tip: When you begin to dread indoor training sessions and the weather or darkness is keeping you indoors try to find new workouts. Don't let boredom be the death of your fitness.


Gale Bernhardt was the USA Triathlon team coach at the 2003 Pan American Games and 2004 Athens Olympics. Her first Olympic experience was as a personal cycling coach at the 2000 Games in Sydney. She currently serves as one of the World Cup coaches for the International Triathlon Union's Sport Development Team. Thousands of athletes have had successful training and racing experiences using Gale's pre-built, easy-to-follow cycling and triathlon training plans. Let Gale and Active Trainer help you succeed.

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