HAMMERING ALONG ON YOUR INDOOR TRAINER DOESN'T HAVE TO BE A DRAG; THERE ARE QUITE A FEW WAYS TO USE YOUR INDOOR RIDING SESSIONS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
Training indoors: for most cyclists, it's a necessary evil at certain points in the year. But indoor trainer time doesn't have to be a mind-numbing, soul-crushing experience. Indeed, riding on the trainer can actually be a great way to get some serious on-bike work done in a relatively short amount of time. And, done right, three or four weekly rides to nowhere can actually increase your power and speed. Here are some tips to making indoor training time pass quickly.
Look and/or listen:
Some riders prefer listening to podcasts or music, while others like watching TV. Regardless, find something entertaining that will help take your mind off the fact that you are pedaling in place.
For a true pedaling action feel, spend some time on a set of stationary rollers. Because they more closely replicate riding outdoors, you can't just zone out. However, if you are doing a set of high-intensity interval workouts where you need to focus on power output or heart rate, use the trainer. Also remember when on the rollers to make sure you are next to something you can grab—crashing on rollers is still no fun, even if you're riding in place.
Use a power meter:
If you have access to a power meter, use it. Measuring power is key for indoor workouts. It's an absolute gauge of the amount of work you are doing, and it gives you something to focus on during your workout. Heart rate is an acceptable second choice, but you will find that heart rate varies a lot with cadence, meaning that power is a much better tool for maximizing the quality of an indoor riding session.
Sure, you can find an indoor bike trainer on the Internet for $99, but odds are high that you will get what you pay for. In other words, don't be afraid to invest a little, because a good trainer will provide years of use. Budget trainers will feel like you are pedaling through sand, while a higher-end model will provide a more realistic road feel. Also check out the wide array of indoor training-specific apps and videos—the amount of boredom-squashing stimulation you can get these days is amazing.
Get some air:
You will generate an enormous amount of body heat on an indoor trainer, so create an artificial headwind by placing a fan in front of your bike. You'll also want to keep a towel handy for wiping away sweat. If possible, ride in a room that has some good natural air circulation.
There's no reason to grind away on the trainer for hours on end. You can get a great indoor workout in less than an hour. Wait until you are back outside to do those long ridTake care of busy work:
Indoor workouts are a great place for things such as pedaling drills, one-leg drills, high cadence, low cadence, and all the other little things you'd rather not do when riding outside. One of the best drills is one-leg, where you really focus on pedaling smooth circles. Do this for one to three minutes, then switch legs. If you've never done them before, you will quickly realize how uneven your stroke is and how weak that hamstring is when pulling up on the pedal; most cyclists tend to just push down.
Change your shorts:
If you're trying to do a long workout (more than an hour), consider swapping on a clean kit each hour. No one likes the feel of a sweat-soaked chamois, and just being able to get off the bike and changing clothes will make you feel refreshed and energized for the remainder of your workout.
DURING YOUR WORKOUT
Fluids are important to keep your core temperature down and to replace the energy you're burning (this applies whether you are indoors or on the road). Drink at least one 16-ounce bottle of your sports drink of choice during a 45-minute indoor session.
Try this exercise:
Using a power meter, play with your cadence by doing a power tempo workout. Start in your hardest gear and ride for five minutes while maintaining an even power output. Then shift to one gear easier and do another five minutes at the same power. Continue shifting to an easier gear every five minutes, always trying to maintain the same power output. This is a good way to mix things up and keep your ride interesting. Also, you get more from a workout when you get out of your comfort zone.
Take a class:
Last but certainly not least, consider taking an indoor cycling class. It can be really motivating to be around other people, and a good instructor will be able to provide structure to your workout, help you set goals, and encourage you to work toward achieving them.
Increase your cadence:
High cadence is another great drill to do while riding the trainer. For example, do five minutes at 120 rpm. You likely have a cadence sweet spot of around 85 or 90 rpm, and while riding outdoors, you may not stray much from it. Drills such as this force you out of that comfort zone and can improve the overall smoothness of your pedal stroke.
This article was originally published in the Complete Book of Road Cycling Skills.