indoor cycling workout

Indoor Cycling: Chris Carmichael’s 55-Minute Quick Fix Workout

By Chris Carmichael,
Founder and Head Coach of CTS

Sometimes life conspires to steal your training time, but it’s important to take some of it back and get in a short and effective cycling workout indoors. When I’m out of time and can’t ride outdoors, I hop on the indoor trainer for my Quick Fix Workout.

Download workout files for your smart training device: .ZWO, .MRC, .ERG, .FIT


There’s a 10-minute warm-up in the workout files provided above, starting with 4 minutes of easy spinning and then a few short (1:00 and 30-second) efforts at increasing intensity levels to get your body ready to go. To maximize compatibility with smart trainers and training devices, the workout files above prescribe the target intensities as a percentage of Functional Threshold Power. I have also included rating of perceived exertion, which has been shown to be quite accurate even compared with objective data.

4:00 Easy
1:00 75% of FTP or Rating of Perceived Exertion of 6/10
1:00 Easy
1:00 100% of FTP or RPE 8/10
1:00 Easy
0:30 125% of FTP or RPE 10/10
1:30 Easy

Many times this 10-minute warmup is enough, but sometimes you might feel like you need more time to start sweating and get loosened up. I have found this to be especially true for 60+ athletes and for any athlete in the midst of a heavy training block.

If you need more warm-up time, take it (assuming you can spare a bit of extra time). The most important thing about any workout is the quality of your efforts, and sometimes spinning for an extra 5-10 minutes beforehand can make a world of difference.

Interval Set

The interval set in my Quick Fix Workout is all about spending time at intensities around lactate threshold. The 3-step intervals are long enough to generate some lactate and force you to continue working while processing it back into usable energy. And with three of these intervals, you’ll spend 27 minutes out of the total 55 at or near threshold.

Repeat the following interval set three (3) times. Cadence is self-selected, but 85-95rpm is a good target for the 5:00 section, and then many athletes find it more effective to increase cadence slightly for the second and third steps of the interval.

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5:00 90% of FTP or RPE 7/10
3:00 100% of FTP or RPE 8/10
1:00 110% of FTP or RPE 9/10
4:00 easy spinning recovery at 50-70% of FTP or RPE 3-5.

Cool Down

You will be 45 minutes into the workout when you get to the end of the third interval set. A cool down is an important component of any workout, but how long you stay on the bike is up to you. I have put a 10-minute cool down into the workout files above, but I have climbed off the bike after five minutes plenty of times. The key is to keep your legs moving and spinning lightly until you’re no longer breathing heavily, your legs don’t feel like bricks, and your heart rate and perceived exertion are both back down to recovery ride levels.

When and How Often to Use This Workout

This workout is designed to be a replacement option for a workout you couldn’t complete because your schedule changed. It is challenging and stimulating enough to keep an athlete on track, and not so hard that it leaves an athlete unable to complete a more specific training session the next day.

I keep this workout handy in my cycling computer as saved workout, and instruct the athletes I coach to do the same. I like it because it’s a short and solid workout that can be used at any time of year without derailing most event-focused training plans. That said, I recommend using only about once a week, because if you’re using it more often than that, you’re missing enough of your prescribed training that you and your coach might want to revisit your schedule.

Throw this workout into the mix and get something done when Holiday traffic, travel, or parties get in the way of the training you planned to do. You’ll feel better than if you skipped riding altogether and you’ll keep your fitness on track so you can seamlessly jump back into your planned workouts.

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Comments 24

  1. Hey Chris I read your book over 20 years ago maybe even 25 and my buddy hasn’t returned it but I swear your book talked to Bodie interval training from the indoor bike that had a 15 minute warm-up and then intervals were at full capacity for 90 seconds then 60 then 30 repeated three times… Am I close does this sound familiar I guess I could just buy your book again 🙂

  2. Any chance you have a Tacx .TTS file for this? : ^ ). And thank you for the Blog posting and excellent book. I’m an avid user of the Time Crunched Cycling Plans (both in Strava and as outlined in your book).

  3. Chris, I’m an athlete under your training program, can you share this training session in a way that I can upload into my calendar? My coach is Noah Niwonski. I just want to have this handy in case I need it. Thanks.

  4. Are you linearising the RPE scale cos 6/10 would be somewhere between hard and v.hard on RPE scale – I wouldn’t say 75% of FTP would be classed as more than moderate to somewhat hard (3-4/10)?

  5. Thank you Chris.
    72 yoa, still going strong. Your programs keep me at the top of my events. Having ADHD, 60 minutes is my limit on indoor trainers. This workout will do me just fine. My own was a 5 minute warm up, then 3 at tempo and 2 at max. Repeat while running down the cogs and the running them back up with the reverse, 2 at temp and 3 max, back to 5 warm down. Good sweat maker.
    Thanks for all your help
    Dan Young

  6. Hi Chris, Thanks for the post, I have a basic question – how do I use the field test results to calculate FTP? I done the field test with one of your coaches, but don’t see any reference to FTP.
    Thanks Wolfgang

  7. Thanks for sharing this workout Chris and for the smart trainer downloads. It would be great to see more of these – the workouts from the CTS training DVDs would be great to have in a downloadable file.

  8. Hi Chris
    I have a Custom 3-2-1 minutes WO at 95-100-105 %FTP by 4 with 5 minute rest intervals and 10s WU&CD On TrainerRoad..

    I Knocked it down to 90% last evening (hadn’t used in a good while) and was struggling to get the 4th finished, but did🤗 Which I think is better than breaking down after 2 at full watts..??

    Will copy and adjust to your program..which looks a bit harder, but again setting % consistent with completion..!!

    I don’t use TrainerRoad very much but it is still well worth the money for constructing and using WOs suggested by your good self and others. Thank you once again and I did buy your Time Crunched Book, (though I am not)😊

  9. Looks like a good workout. And, you certainly nailed it with your comment about 60+ taking longer to warm up. I find that every year, it takes me longer to warm up, and the length of time that I can stay in the high performance “zone” becomes shorter. I sometimes joke that in a few years, I’ll already be on the downside of the “zone” before I get warmed up. However, race organizers seem to recognize this trend, and most events for the 60+ age bracket are short to moderate. In fact, I think I will have to introduce more high intensity speedwork into my training this year and forego some of the endurance training.

  10. Coach Carmichael: thanks for the post! This looks like a challenging alternative to the Over/Under, Sweet-Spot, Pyramid, and HIIT workouts I typically incorporate in my indoor training. I’ll give this one a try next time it’s too wet or otherwise nasty to get outside on the road.

    1. Sulio: I have never done a Peloton workout or ridden the indoor bike or know much about the program besides seeing the commercials on TV. I assume it is sorta like a spin workout but I heard from various athletes they like the program. I also heard least one of the instructors uses programs from my Time Crunched Cyclist book. IMO, indoor training is valuable from a workout, motivation standpoint but you need to get outdoors on a real bike in order to develop the skills required to master being a true cyclists with the proper skills to handle descending, group riding, obstacles, etc.. I recommend a mix of outdoor and indoor as required. Chris

  11. We do an indoor spin workout 2x week at our LBS. (Bring your own bike and a trainer) Is there any way to download this for NON smart trainers? We do use a couple of your older training videos, e.g. Hill climb and TT. It seems like this would be another great tool.

  12. Thanks Chris for the helpful workout. I have always relied on perceived exertion more than heart rate because of being on beta blockers and the fact that simple is usually better for me. These type of workouts you have described are good but I have to admit I am putting the indoor stuff off today because of college football and I know that Sunday brings back great weather:)

    1. Ed:
      Actually I prefer Perceived Exertion over HR for determining training intensity. Of course my first choice is using power to prescribe training intensity. I am a football fan so understand the issues of watching too much football on TV vs. training…hahaha 🙂

      1. What? RPE over heart rate? I consider HR a poor man’s Power Meter, but at least it gives you quantitative data versus “touchy-feely” information. Please don’t disappoint this science guy, Chris. 😉

  13. Looks like a great workout. Will try it this week. How do you feel about Tabata workouts on the bike? 20 second sprints, 10 second rest x 8 times.

    1. Ed:
      Actually I prefer Perceived Exertion over HR for determining training intensity. Of course my first choice is using power to prescribe training intensity. I am a football fan so understand the issues of watching too much football on TV vs. training…hahaha 🙂

    2. Paul: The concept of Tabata is fine and it is well proven that high intensity workouts are a valuable for your training program. Like most specific training concepts there are limits to adaptation you can expect if you only use the Tabata method for your workouts without including other training stimulus. Chris

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