Triathlon Training: 4 Keys to Successful Indoor Cycling Training


By Chris Carmichael

The end of Daylight Savings Time always throws my training schedule for a loop. My late afternoon rides are over on account of darkness, and while it’s not yet winter, the extra hour of morning daylight still means heading outside in sub-freezing temps. This change is when my coaches and I start to focus on indoor trainer sessions on the bike or treadmill work. While we’d prefer to be outside (unless there’s a blizzard), moving indoors for the winter does have some benefits. I get an effective workout completed in a shorter amount of time. The trade-off is that the workouts are typically hard, harder than most people expect for the “off-season” where traditional programs usually call for slow and steady rides. The problem is those programs also call for multi-hour rides and runs, an aspect that many people conveniently ignore or simply cannot accommodate, especially as they move into the frantic holiday season.

To maximize your time inside, follow these tips. They’ve kept me motivated to ride indoors for decades—and they’ve left me primed for a strong spring.

Indoor training still has to be progressive: You can’t just follow the same training DVD or workout time and time again and expect to continually get better. You want to structure your indoor training so you’re gradually increasing your weekly workload and mixing up intensities. One way to combine DVD/video content and a progressive program is with the 16-session Train Right “Progressive Power” DVD/video series. Remember; even though your races are still a few or several months away, that doesn’t mean you should stop training and start just exercising for the sake of burning calories.

Don’t forget recovery: Some people think that since most indoor cardiovascular workouts are usually only 40-75 minutes, you need to do one every day of the week in order to accumulate enough workload to see an improvement. But the one-hour trainer workouts are typically more intense than your normal outdoor rides, so you’re getting a big training stimulus in a short period of time. And you need to recover from these efforts in order to adapt. Even if you’re only relying on indoor workouts for your winter training, I would recommend 3-4 interval-based indoor cycling sessions per week.

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Airflow is crucial: If you’re going to spend a lot of time on a trainer or treadmill, invest in three fans. I recommend directing one at your face (or at least across your head), one at the front of your torso, and one at your back. Indoors it’s ridiculously easy to overheat, which throws your sweat response into hyperdrive and increases the stress you’re putting on your body. Once core temperature rises excessively, the quality of your workout diminishes rapidly. That additional stress makes it more difficult to recover between workouts and hinders your ability to adapt and make progress.

Enjoy the payoff: Through the winter, indoor training can be immensely valuable. On average, athletes who participate in the winter cycling programs we hold in our training facilities see a 13 percent increase in max sustainable power through twice-weekly (Tues and Thursday) sessions over an 8-week period. That Progressive Power DVD/Video series is a full 8-week session you can use at home. Typically athletes add 1-2 rides on the weekend, and participate in two 8-week sessions per winter. All that hard work in the cold and dark of winter pays off when the flowers start popping out of the cold ground next spring. Instead of starting from a low to moderate base of fitness you can start the 2013 season with more cycling power than you’ve ever had!

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