indoor cycling workout

The 3 Best Sub-60 Minute Indoor Cycling Workouts

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By CTS Pro Coach Jim Rutberg

Let’s face it; there are times when indoor trainer cycling workouts are a lot more convenient – and potentially more effective – than riding outdoors. As I’ve moved from being a bike racer with unlimited training time to a working parent and career professional I’ve learned to embrace indoor cycling as a means of keeping me fit and lean so I can have more fun on my outdoor rides. As a coach I also work with a lot of time-crunched athletes who look to indoor cycling to maximize the impact and effectiveness they can get in 60 minutes.

Indoor Cycling Workouts You Should Include In Your Training

Below you’ll find 3 indoor cycling workouts you should incorporate into your training. But before we get to the specific workouts, here’s what you should do with them. These are individual sessions, not a training program. If you’re training 3-4 times a week, then two of these workouts per week would be a good starting point, with the other ride(s) focused on moderate endurance miles.

If you’re training 5-6 times a week, you could do three of these harder interval sessions per week, just remember to allow for adequate recovery between sessions and adjust the intensity of your endurance and/or group rides to make sure your total weekly workload is appropriate for making progress.

You can also do these cycling workouts outdoors. Either way, the workouts below should start with the following 10-minute warmup:

  • 3minutes easy pedaling
  • 1min FastPedal (low resistance, fast as you can pedal without bouncing in the saddle)
  • 1min easy pedaling
  • 1min Max Effort (100+rpm)
  • 1min easy pedaling
  • 1min Max Effort (100+rpm)
  • 2min easy pedaling

The intensities featured in the workouts below are available to all athletes using TrainingPeaks. Simply go to your zone settings in your account, select ‘CTS’ in the auto-calculation drop menu, and enter your CTS Field Test power. The CTS Field Test is two 8-minute time trials separated by 10 minutes of easy spinning recovery, and you should input the higher of the two average power values you record during the test.

You can read more about how the CTS Field Test compares to other performance tests, including a 20minute time trial, here.

Cycling Workout #1

3×9 minute OverUnder Intervals, 4min easy spinning between intervals

OverUnder Intervals are a lactate threshold workout that features surges or accelerations to mimic the real-world demands of taking pulls in a paceline or breakaway, and it’s as an indoor workout the changing intensities make it more engaging. Each interval is 9 minutes long, but during those 9 minutes you start at SteadyState intensity (perceived exertion 8/10) for 2minutes, accelerate to ClimbingRepeat intensity (perceived exertion 9/10) for 1 minute, return to SS intensity for 2min, CR for 1min, SS 2min, and then finish with 1min at ClimbingRepeat intensity. Spin easy for 4minutes of recovery and then repeat. Complete three intervals and then take 10-15 minutes to cool down. A more advanced version of this workout is to increase the “over” efforts to PowerInterval (10/10) intensity. As you get stronger you can also increase the interval length to 12 minutes. With a cooldown this will push the workout to 68 minutes.

Cycling Workout #2

8x2min PowerIntervals, 2min easy spinning between intervals

PowerIntervals are dead simple but incredibly effective for generating a great training stimulus in a short period of time. These two-minute VO2 max intervals (perceived exertion 10/10) improve power at VO2 max. That may seem counterintuitive to indoor training in the winter, but when you’re short on training time high-intensity intervals are a good way to achieve a training stimulus.

The other nice part about high-intensity intervals is that they’ve been shown to improve performance at all intensity levels, like a rising tide lifting all ships.

Use the first 15 seconds of each effort to ramp up your cadence and power to the maximum intensity you can hold for the remainder of the interval. This power output will be lower than what you could hold for a series of 1-minute PowerIntervals; you have to define “max effort” for these by what you can hold for the duration of these specific intervals.

Find out how to know when you should stop this workout early? Recovery between intervals is 2minutes of easy pedaling. Beginners may want to break this into two sets of 4x2min PowerIntervals with 4 minutes easy spinning between sets. The total “work time” is the same, but the added recovery can improve the quality of the final 4 efforts.

Cycling Workout #3

3 sets of 8x30second Speed Intervals, 30 seconds between intervals, 5 minutes between sets

SpeedIntervals this short are essentially accelerations. You’re going to accelerate for 30 seconds, let the gear spin down as you pedal lightly for 30 seconds, and then accelerate again. And again, and again until you’ve completed 8 accelerations. The first few of these will seem very easy, but this workout will get hard quickly!

This is a great workout for cyclocross and criterium racers, and on an indoor trainer the time passes really quickly! To increase specificity for racers, remember to do some or all of these accelerations in the drops. Make sure the accelerations are full efforts, imagine you’re accelerating to bridge a gap or establish the winning breakaway!

After finishing your interval set, spin easy for at least another 10 minutes to cool down. And remember that for short workouts like these you won’t need to consume calories on the bike, but you should consume at least one bottle of fluid.

Jim Rutberg is a Pro Coach for CTS and co-author of several books on training and nutrition, including “The Time-Crunched Cyclist, 2nd Ed.” and “The Time-Crunched Triathlete”. 


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Comments 18

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  12. Ed, the 8×2 or 4×2 simply means that you would pedal at the intensity chosen for 2 minutes, then recovery spin for 2 minutes, pedal at your chosen intensity for 2 minutes repeating this cycle 8 times or 4 times depending on which way you chose to do the intervals, 8 times with rest between or 2 times with 4 intervals. Hope that helps.

  13. I’m eager to use these work-outs, but there are no numerals in the text(s) to indicate how long to pedal at the various intensities. As a beginner, I am not confident figuring it out on my own. Can you proof the article and insert the times? Thanks

  14. Workout #3 Speed Intervals-

    You indicate to do these until you’ve done 10.

    Where do you get 10? Otherwise, good workout.

  15. Thanks for this Jim, the OU workout looks like an extended version of Climbing Speed -would make a great video, just wondering if you guys at CTS are planning to release any new titles in the near future – a 2*20 would be great too 😉


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