By: Casey Lamers, USA Cycling Coach (Level 2)
Here in the Midwest we have some challenges to getting ready for the spring riding and racing season. With daylight gone before 5pm and temps normally below freezing we have to do preparation indoors.
I have a saying "It is easier to maintain fitness than to gain new fitness." This is a huge motivator for continuing to ride with intensity through winter. The harder work of trying to gain new fitness comes later. Each year we want to be building to a level that is higher than we previously achieved. In order to do this you must not allow your fitness to drop back to where it started the previous year. Here are a couple excellent workouts to do on your indoor bike trainer to help maintain fitness.
Sweet Spot Intervals
2-3 intervals of 15 to 20 minutes each at 88-92% of threshold power.91-96% of Lactate Threshold Heart Rate (LTHR). 3-4 on a scale of 10 Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE).
Warm Up: Start with a warm-up of 10-20 minutes. I like to include some isolated leg pedaling to engage secondary muscle groups, as well as some higher cadence efforts (10-20 rpm above normal self-selected cadence) for 1-5 minutes in the warmup.
Main Set: 15 to 20 minutes at a level just below your 60 minute pace. The duration must be more than 10 minutes in order to stress the metabolic systems that are responsible for sustained output. Take 5 minute or so between efforts.
Cool Down: 10 minutes or so of active recovery pace.
Tempo with Bursts
20 to 60 minutes at 76-95% of threshold power with 30 second bursts to 100-120% every 3 minutes. 86-96% LTHR and RPE of 4.
Same warm-up and cool down at the Sweet Spot Interval workout above.
After the warm-up, ride at tempo pace. This should be a comfortable pace that you could sustain for 2-5 hours. Every 3 minutes push the effort level higher for 30 seconds. Come right back to tempo pace after the effort. This trains your body to recover while still working at an elevated pace. Start out with a 20 minute effort and build to a 60 minute effort by adding 5 to 10 minutes per week.
There is an arc to your fitness level through the year and across multiple years. Doing workouts like Sweet Spot Intervals and Tempo with Bursts will ensure that your fitness doesn’t drop too much in the winter months. This will set you up for building to new and higher fitness levels this year.
A Couple Tips to Make Indoor Trainer Riding More Fun and Productive
Outside you are moving at 10-30 mph. That is a lot of air flow over your body. That air flow helps drive evaporation of sweat which is a primary cooling mechanism. It is nearly impossible to get the same kind of air flow indoors. I have had the best experience with blower fans designed to dry floors. They move a lot of air and are easily directed right at you. Ideally you get enough air flow to prevent sweat from pooling under you. Sweat on the floor is a sign that you aren’t being cooled enough and that puddle represents lost cooling opportunity (because it didn’t evaporate, but rather fell to the floor).
Riding with Friends
Time flies when you are having fun. If you are more introverted you might do better on your own, but many people find that riding with others can really make the training more fun. Get a few people together and make a regular routine out of training together.
Do the Right Mix of Training
The right workouts make all the difference. The two workouts I described above are just the tip of the iceberg. Cycling is multifaceted and training those different aspects is needed to truly excel. Cadence drills, force drills, form drills, anaerobic efforts, maximum aerobic efforts, muscular endurance, aerobic endurance efforts, sprinting, etc.; the list goes on and on. Mixing the different types of training can keep things interesting as you face the indoor training.
Casey Lamers is a father and husband, engineer, cycling coach and co-owner of Speed Cycling, an indoor training and coaching facility based in Madison, WI. Casey enjoys developing athletes by setting goals and delivering measurable results. Casey is also sensitive to the training capacity and time constraints of students and working professionals. Casey blends his family and engineering backgrounds to connect with athletes and figure out how to make them better. He’s also the University of Wisconsin-Madison Cycling Club head coach. Check out Speed Cycling on Facebook.