cycling-indoor-trainingHalf of the joy that comes from cycling stems from the fresh air outside on the road or on the trail and enjoying the sites and scenes around you. But being outside is not always an option. Sometimes restrictions in your schedule, bad weather, or not having a bike with you can keep you inside on a trainer or on a cycling machine in the gym. Some riders would rather do nothing than be forced to ride on a stationary bike, but for those of you who can’t afford to miss a training day, here are some tips on how to make the most out of your indoor ride.

How to Get More Than Sweat Out of It

Most people see working-out indoors as a cheap knockoff of the real thing. It is more of a time to catch up on your tv shows and sweat a little than to really get a good workout in. However, if you know what you are doing, you can get all three done in less time than a normal ride.

Coach Andy Applegate from Carmicheal Training Systems said that indoor workouts “are harder than riding outside because you’re fighting the resistance of the trainer.” So if you focus on shorter, harder workouts, “You’ll build your aerobic energy system—in less time.” Bicycling.Com recently posted an article with the following workout suggestions that were recommended and designed by Coach Applegate.

Applegate suggests doing one of the workouts below twice a week; choose another for a third hard day. After three weeks, try one of the more challenging variations. Allow one day of rest, cross-training, or easy riding between sessions. Spin easy for 10 to 15 minutes before each workout. Finish the session with a 10-minute cooldown.

 Speed intervals improve power and speed, and help you recover from repeated hard efforts:

—Do four one-minute, fast-pedal intervals: Use an easy gear and as high a cadence as possible. Keep your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) low—5 out of 10. Recover for two minutes between efforts.

—Pedal five minutes easy.

—Do 10 to 12 intervals of 30 seconds on/30 seconds off. The “on” portions are 95 percent effort (RPE 9 to 9.5) at as high a cadence as possible. Stand or sit as needed. For the “off” parts, spin easy.

Make it harder: Add one on/off interval, up to 20 total.

 Climbing bursts help you respond to overcoming hills:

—Simulate a hill by raising the bike’s front wheel.

—Ride 10 minutes at a pace you can hold for an hour (90 to 100 percent of threshold power or heart rate; RPE 8). Once every two minutes, stand and attack for 12 to 15 pedal strokes—a near all-out effort.

—Spin easy for 10 minutes.

—Repeat (do three fast efforts total).

Make it harder: Try 2×15 minutes (10 minutes recovery), then 3×12 (six minutes recovery), then 2×20 (10 minutes recovery).

Ladder intervals simulate the demands of racing:

—Pedal for four minutes at RPE 8 (90 to 100 percent of threshold power), then three minutes at RPE 9 (100 to 110 percent of threshold), then a one minute “all-out” (115 percent of threshold).

—Spin easy for five minutes.

—Pedal one minute all-out, then three minutes at RPE 9, then four minutes at RPE 8.

—Spin easy for 10 minutes.

—Repeat the sequence.

Something to take with you

While these training rides are just suggestions, the most important thing you can take from them is to remember to:

  1. Have a plan: don’t just jump on the bike and go with how your legs feel
  2. Longer doesn’t mean better
  3. Inside training rewards: knowing how to effectively train inside will add an important weapon into your cycling training arsenal.