Tips for indoor training

It's the time of year when we're compelled to relent to the tedium of indoor training.
Now is the time of year when the weather has settled into its cold and snowy winter phase, the daylight hours still seem fleeting and the last thing that we want to do is to get out on our bikes to ride in the wind and ice, let alone in the dark!

Its the time of year when were compelled to relent to the tedium of indoor training. Even though it can be tempting, we cant give up our training all together with the excuse that we just cant handle all those hours inside. This time of year is the most important to training. This is the time to build up base fitness to prepare us for our spring and summer goals. Without a solid base, there will be no foundation on which we can improve.

The first step to successfully training indoors is to invest in an indoor trainer. Spinning classes can be a nice alternative to generalized training once in a while, but are generally much more of an anaerobic workout than one that primarily works a cyclists aerobic system.

Stationary bikes at gyms can be convenient once in a while as well, but in order to get the cycling-specific training we need, its important to train on our own bikes. The trainer allows us to do this.

Choose the right equipment

There are several different resistance trainer options available, including wind, magnetic, fluid and electronic trainers. Wind and fluid trainers (like the Blackburn Trakstand Fluid, Mag and Ultra models) both provide progressive resistance, meaning the resistance increases as the speed of the wheel increases. This provides resistance that is most similar to what you experience on the road.

The wind trainers tend to be the least expensive, but also can be very noisy. Magnetic trainers, though quieter than wind, provide constant resistance. This means resistance remains constant as wheel speed increases; the faster you pedal, the easier it gets.

Electronic trainers are wonderful, but are also very expensive. With many different programmable courses and fairly accurate power readings, the electronic trainers can help with the monotony of riding indoors for months on end, but only for those who have the means.

Rollers are another option for training indoors, though they require much more control and skill. While they are great for developing better bike handling skills and for making indoor training a bit more exciting, many cyclists have a hard time focusing on interval workouts while also concentrating on staying upright.

For most of us, the magnetic or fluid trainer option is going to be the best way to train through the winter days when outdoor riding is just not possible. Hours on end of pedaling away in the basement or garage can become quite mind-numbing, even for seasoned cyclists.

The answer is to add a little bit of variety into both the environment and the workout. Music is definitely a nice touch; something exciting and motivating, maybe even a soundtrack to a favorite cycling movie.

Movies are another trick. We can focus on our workout and still be entertained by Arnold Schwarzenegger, in either his Terminator or Governor roles. The trick with entertainment, though, is to maintain the focus of the workout tasks and still keep pedaling with the intended purpose and prescribed intensity. If movies or politics dont do it for you, there are specifically designed indoor training videos/DVDs available that provide great workouts.

And, of course, we can always find motivation in watching our favorite stage of the Tour de France or any other race recorded on video or DVD. Theres nothing like doing a long Tempo ride with Lance up lAlpe dHuez.

To get the best of all worlds, try downloading audio workouts. These allow you to continue watching your favorite Tour de France DVDs while listening to and following along with an effective workout. They also work great with other televised sports like hockey, football, NASCAR and basketball; but I dont know too many cyclists who can work out while watching golf, curling or poker

Choose the right workout

It is also important to choose the right kinds of workouts for indoor training. Typically, training is done indoors for an extended period of time during the winter months, when most cyclists are in the base training or foundation period. This translates to many long, moderate-intensity endurance rides; rather dull for a few hours alone in the basement.

Fast-paced interval training often doesnt come until later in the spring when we are on the cusp of racing or participating in faster group rides. But intervals can be a nice addition to a simple endurance ride and will really help with the motivation and excitement of the training ride.

Neuromuscular exercises such as high-cadence, low-resistance intervals or one-legged pedaling help with muscle memory training and can be effectively performed on the trainer. High-resistance, low-cadence strength exercises, like grinding along in a big gear at about 50-55 rpm cadence can be done on the trainer as well, and should be incorporated into winter training for racers and recreational riders alike.

In fact, for those of us that are forced to train indoors up until the very end of spring, any workout from the road can be successfully translated inside with a little creativity. Even climbing repeat workouts can be simulated when performed in a harder, climbing gear with a phone book or block propping up the front wheel to replicate a climbing position; this will do wonders for specific muscular and cardiovascular development.

Even while introducing variety into indoor workouts, hours and hours riding in the basement can be too much. How long you can last inside on the bike will be specific to you. A general rule of thumb is to reduce total ride time by 20% from what you would ride outdoors.

Inside we have no natural breaks from downhills, traffic stops, etc., so this slight reduction actually keeps the work done indoors and outdoors relatively constant. This reduction, however, only applies to the total ride time, not your interval workouts. As long as you can fit a warm up, the workout and a cool down into your total ride time, youre doing well.

Additional considerations

When training indoors, we miss the vital element of evaporation and cooling: wind. With an increase in body temperature, our Rate of Perceived Exertion rises, along with our heart rate during workouts that would otherwise seem easy outdoors. Some sort of a cooling fan and towels can be essential for a comfortable workout indoors.

As with training on the road, hydration is essential indoors. Be sure to drink -- drink in relation to the water youre losing. Guidelines suggest 16-24 oz. of fluid during every hour of training, depending on how profusely you sweat.

Even though its cold and dark outside, we as cyclists do not have to concede! Successful training indoors can be done throughout the winter. The greatest motivation that we have is the knowledge of how much better well feel and perform come spring and summer as a result of our consistent indoor training throughout the winter months.

This article was written and edited by the coaching staff of Carmichael Training Systems, Inc. To find out what CTS can do for you, and to receive our free newsletters, visit

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