Indoor training for cycling during winterDonovan van Gelder
As the days shorten and the morning and evening temperatures drop, the appeal of heading out the door on our bikes diminishes significantly. Winter is often the time where cyclists and triathletes take a break from the full, structure of their in-season training program and either have a short period of rest and recovery or embark on the different forms of cross-training that suit. The reality is though that there is no real ‘season’ anymore. The antiquated training pyramid of: Base; strength and speed are also not relevant with the old-fashioned concepts of ‘off-season’ and long, slow base training resigned to history. We have brilliant events all year round now and we want to be able to train effectively for these, even if the environment outside are not ideal.
That said, the conditions during the warmer months are not that ideal for training on the road either nowadays. With more and more cars on our roads and people becoming increasingly time-stressed and impatient, often the roads are not the best place to position ourselves with only lycra for protection. Especially when we are riding hard and there is not as much oxygen going to the brain as there is to the legs. There is just too much to think about while out on modern roads and don’t we ride our bikes to de-stress?
Over the last twenty-odd years, there has been a definitive move towards more structured, quality orientated training rather than the old, ‘more is better’, ‘time in the saddle’ approach of previous generations. Much of that structured training requires very specific conditions, gradients and uninterrupted stretches of tarmac in order to get in the set intervals and recovery periods. If you live in an urban or even suburban area, this is becoming increasingly difficult to find, with traffic lights, intersections and other ‘street furniture’ getting in the way of a neatly layed out workout plan.
The answer… indoor training.
Interval training indoors
A good indoor session is, without doubt, the best way to do a quality, interval session. Just like a marathon runner would head to the track to work on speed or anaerobic threshold, a cyclist should do at least one but even up to two or three, depending on the timing, focused, interval-based sessions indoors.
Time for training
Indoors your minutes are worth more – There is no freewheeling downhill or through a corner. The pressure is always on the pedals and the resistance and intensity are precisely controlled. There is no wastage. There is no sitting in the draft of the bunch getting toed along but there is also no pressure to keep up with a bunch when you want to ride easy. You can precisely control your effort, depending on the goal and required outcome of the session, micro-training-period and long-term goals.
Consistency in training
Indoors is always consistent – How many times have you repeated a particular set of intervals and wanted to compare the results to previous attempts but, because the weather conditions were different, a bit of artistic license was required in order to calculate rate of improvement. The conditions on the indoor bike, in your pain-cave, are always the same, and perfectly controllable.
Focus indoors without limitations
Indoors there is no need to hold anything back – Doing intervals or a hard effort out on the road always requires some moderation. Firstly, we have to keep our eyes open for stray dogs, pedestrians and other road users not doing what we expect of them. Secondly, going too hard too soon could result in an awkward phone call home for a lift back. Indoors we can literally put our heads down, close our eyes and go as hard as we can, if the interval set requires it. We can also take some risks and push ourselves beyond what we may have thought reasonable without the fear of having to limp home completely spent.
Save time training indoors
Indoors is time and cost effective – How many of us must drive and park somewhere in order to get a good ride in outdoors? Setting up a little ‘pain-cave’ in the spare room means you can be on your bike in minutes and working out. If you only have an hour to train, you can pretty much use all of that to make yourself a better cyclist. The pre-ride preparation is minimal and apart from a quick wipe down of the sweat, so is post ride admin. Scheduling our training into a busy life is simple. We know exactly how long we need for a given session. We don’t have to worry about potential delays of punctures and especially crashes or if ‘Sleepy Joe’ arrives late for the start, delayed the whole group.
Whatever sort of indoor cycling workout you’re after, whether you’re looking to get fit or gain an edge for your next race, the Concept2 BikeErg is the perfect machine for you.
So far, we have only discussed quality sessions where a watch, heart rate monitor and powermeter are all we need in order to keep our minds occupied. Longer, endurance sessions have always been the domain of the outdoor session or the group ride… until now. With the development of apps like Zwift, it is not hard to spend a few hours riding ‘in the company’ of your mates, online in a virtual world. There are even regular races if you want to have more than a gentle, aerobic tootle.
We discussed the time-stressed nature of modern life when referring to drivers, but we are probably just as much a part of that as well. There is always the option of ‘killing two birds with one stone’ and working on our intellectual capacity while improving our aerobic capacity. Watching podcasts and documentaries while pedalling is a an easy option. There is also obviously sport and the latest series as an option as well, if your intellectual capacity is at pro-level already.
Obviously not everything can be achieved indoors. We still need to develop the skills required for our discipline. Whether it be negotiating a rocky descent on our MTB, riding in a tight bunch in a road race or cornering fast in the aero position on our triathlon bike. We still need to get out on the road to develop these skills and techniques. But the, our reason for training so hard and wanting to improve our physical abilities is so that we can enjoy being out on the road on our bike. So, there will obviously be those occasions where we head out and show off what we have achieved indoors.