Make the most of your indoor training
Being physically fit is one of the greatest feelings you can have—an alive, vibrant energy that helps you make the most of every day and enjoy all your interests and activities. Feeling this way is a life choice that involves taking care of yourself and regularly exercising to maintain your fitness, strength and well-being. It's easy to get into the routine and it's the perfect way to feel your best, plus avoid any negative effects of aging.
But then, along comes winter, bad weather and the temptation to pick up that book or remote, sit on the couch and stop working out. Don't do it! The hard-earned fitness gains made during the spring and summer months can be lost by taking the winter off like that.
And, while winter cross training (cross training is doing things other than cycling) can help you maintain some of your fitness, it's important to keep riding too so you don't lose your specific cycling fitness. It's easy to do it, too, as long as you have an indoor trainer.
The indoor trainer
This simple, portable tool, supports your bicycle and lets you pedal in place. There's a resistance device that simulates the effort of riding outdoors so you can get the same excellent benefits in the comfort and safety of your own home. Riding indoors is the ideal way to keep your legs, lungs and heart in riding shape when it is too cold, wet or dark to venture outdoors. Keep in mind that even during peak cycling season there are times when an indoor trainer can come in very handy, so you'll use it more than just in the off season.
Here are a few suggestions and tips about indoor training to help you keep riding right through the "off season." Commit to trainer rides and you can even get stronger and start up next season in better shape than you left off in the fall.
Tip: There are a variety of types of indoor trainers in different price ranges with more or less features. We can explain the differences and help you choose the optimum trainer for your winter fitness goals and expectations.
Be prepared to sweat
The best thing about riding on an indoor trainer is that it's actually more time-efficient than riding outside. You get a better workout in a shorter period of time because on a trainer there are no turns, downhills, coasting or stop signs. But, because you are riding in place, you also don't get the cooling effect of a steady breeze.
So, when setting up your trainer, pick a room with a floor that's resistant to sweat and any lubricants that might come off the bike chain or parts, or put a plastic mat beneath the trainer and bike. And be sure to set a fan close by to simulate the breeze you would enjoy outdoors. It will help reduce the heat build-up of riding in place, but you'll still sweat a lot. So be sure to keep the fan running and have a towel and plenty of cold water or energy drink on hand to keep sipping as well.
If you have a window in your workout space you can open it for improved ventilation, plus you can enjoy the view. If you don't have a window, put a scenic or inspiring poster on the wall to look at. Or put up one of those inexpensive door mirrors so you can watch your form and make sure you're not rocking side-to-side or favoring one leg while you pedal in place.
Tip: Because the salt in sweat can be corrosive, it's a good idea to protect your bicycle and components, too, by covering them with a towel when you're riding on your trainer.
Pump up your workout
Since the scenery does not change while you're riding in place, it's best to have distractions so you don't get bored. Listening to your favorite music, watching TV or videos (we can provide race and/or training videos) and even reading a book can work great.
Tip: A nice motivator is to save your favorite movies or recorded TV shows to watch during your workouts. You're sure to get your rides in if it's also when you catch this week's episode of that show you love.
You might also be able to find an indoor-riding class to ride with friends so you can talk and motivate each other. Some even have coaches to structure the workouts and keep you fired up and pushing your limits.
Be sure to change things up during your workout to make the time pass too. For example, every now and then put your bike in a larger gear, stand up and pedal for 15-20 seconds. This gets you off the saddle and lets you stretch out. Changing your gearing and pace and position like this helps you keep your indoor session interesting, beneficial and even fun.
Use intervals to help pass the time and gain fitness
Doing intervals while riding on the trainer not only helps pass the time, but results in greater fitness gains as well. Intervals are just individual timed efforts followed by rest. Because intervals are usually for a shorter period of time, they make it possible to push yourself harder than you could for a longer amount of time raising the intensity and value of your workout too.
After warming up for at least ten minutes, try one of the two sample interval workouts below.
Total Time: 26 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes
Shift into a gear that tires your legs slightly to pedal and ride at a difficult but maintainable pace during the "ON" sections. Then, shift into a significantly easier gear and spin easily to recover during the "OFF" sections. Cool down for at least ten minutes after the ON/OFF intervals are complete.
Tip: You can rearrange the workouts shown on the chart many ways. Just make sure that the "OFF" time is roughly one-third of the total "ON" time.
Less structured intervals
A fun way to do a more random type of intervals, is to watch regular television with advertisements while riding your trainer. The ads are important, because you're going to warm up for at least 10 minutes and then spin easily until an ad comes on. That's when you shift into a harder gear and increase your effort and hold it for as long as the ad break lasts or however many ads you can push through. Then go back to easy pedaling until the next commercial interruption. Do up to five intense efforts. And be sure to include at least a 10-minute warm down.
Improve your spin
Another fun trainer exercise is single-leg workouts. These will improve your pedaling efficiency by equalizing the strength and coordination in both your legs.
To do them put the bike in a low (easy) gear and pull your left leg out of the pedal and rest it on the trainer or on a stool next to the bike. Pedal 20 revolutions using only your right leg. When you reach 20, or get too tired to continue, immediately switch legs. Then pedal 20 revolutions using only your left leg. After that, pedal easily with both legs for one minute, then repeat the drill.
Initially, start with just two sets on each leg. Gradually work up to a total of four sets. You'll be amazed at how tired each leg gets from having to "pull up" when it's working by itself. You'll also notice that it becomes easier to pedal smoothly during normal pedaling, because you are essentially "teaching" each leg to pedal in perfect circles. The single-leg set works great just after warm-up or after a five-minute break from the interval work above, too.We hope these indoor trainer and riding tips are helpful. If you have any questions, we're here to help!