5 ways to improve indoor cycling workouts

We all know that cycling indoors is not as pleasurable as it is outdoors on the roads and trails. Being stationary and not experiencing momentum may play a large role in why indoor exercise is not as stimulating. But for many, indoor workouts are the only option certain times of the year. The cold temperatures of winter and the hot temperatures of summer will force anyone who deals with either extreme indoors to ride. So, for those of you who deal with being forced indoors, here are five ways to improve the quality of your workout.

The Use of Power

Power meters are a great tool to use while indoors. Using power allows you to gauge your effort easier than with heart rates alone. Heart rate is a great tool indoors and out, but heart rate is not as precise as power. When exercising indoors, there is advantage to being more precise. Using power will help you maintain steadier efforts, which will provide a greater challenge and more benefit. The more specific you can be while training indoors, the more it will benefit you when you’re back outside on the bike.

Visuals

A great way to keep motivated indoors is to have some type of visual stimulation. There is nothing as mind numbing as staring at a blank wall while working out. Either watching a video or working out in front of a view will add a level of entertainment, which will keep you motivated and focused for a longer time. Watching a race day video from a helmet cam or a handlebar cam will provide a high level of motivation. These types of videos can help you mentally simulate a race. Race day videos from amateurs and professionals can be found on YouTube, or purchased via a site like The Sufferfest Videos (1)

Circulation

Air circulation will help keep you cool while you work out on a stationary bike. Air from a fan or an open window will also help mimic conditions outdoors, which will help both mentally and physically. Staying cool and producing less sweat will control the humidity of the room you are working out in, which will allow you to exercise on a higher level for longer periods of time.     

Realistic Durations

Indoor workouts are different than riding outside (Indoor cycling Vs. Outdoor Article). You are fixed in one position or have limited mobility, and you’re mainly pedaling on a flat surface using fewer muscles than you would outdoors. So for these reasons alone, it is best to ease into longer duration workouts indoors. Start with a duration goal you are comfortable with and one that will challenge you both mentally and physically, such as 60-90 minutes. After a few weeks of indoor workouts, challenge yourself with longer durations. Always listen to yourself when riding indoors; being in a fixed position will challenge fewer muscles, which, if pushed too far, could lead to injury.

Have a Plan

As mentioned, being precise is important when working out on the indoor trainer and there is no better way to be precise than with a training plan. Having a training plan will give you something to focus on, which will provide a challenge and keep you entertained for the duration of the workout. Race and season goals are also part of a good plan. Your drive to reach these goals will provide a higher level of motivation while you’re training a lot indoors.

Those who experience the perfect temperatures for outdoor recreation year round are lucky. But it is not a bad thing to be forced to do something different. It provides some variety to your season, a change of pace and a new challenge to overcome. So make the best of it, use as many tools as you can to make it more interesting and enjoyable and to allow yourself to train hard, and smart, all year long.

Mike Schultz CSCS

1- It it difficult and can be dangerous to spin on rollers while watching videos. Using a stationary trainer while watching videos is recommended.

2 responses

  1. I agree completely. Spinning one steady range for hours inside at times can be good but only sparingly – Its best to mix it up but even better to focus on specific ranges to gain the best adaptations through the winter – That’s a good topic for another blog.

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