Let’s face it – there are times when indoor cycling workouts are a lot more convenient, and potentially more effective, than riding outdoors. And with smart trainers and interactive cycling apps, riding indoors can sometimes be more fun than riding outside. For time-crunched cyclists, indoor cycling can be a great time saver. You can get on the bike – at any hour of the day or night – get a great workout done in an hour or less, and be finished!
When you’re short on time but want a great workout, try one of these three indoor cycling workouts under 60 minutes.
Indoor 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:
- 3 minutes easy pedaling
- 1 minute FastPedal (low resistance, fast as you can pedal without bouncing in the saddle)
- One minute easy pedaling
- 1 minute Max Effort (100+rpm)
- One minute easy pedaling
- 1 minute Max Effort (100+rpm)
- 2 minutes 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.
Indoor 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 pace line 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.
Indoor 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.
Indoor 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. You should, however, consume at least one bottle of fluid.
If you’re looking for a progressive training plan you can use with your indoor cycling training, check out our TrainRight Membership which includes comprehensive training plans and advice from professional coaches.
By Jim Rutberg
Jim is a Pro Coach for CTS and co-author of several books on training and nutrition, including “The Time-Crunched Cyclist, 3rd Ed.” , “Training Essentials for Ultrarunning, 2nd Ed.” and “Ride Inside”.