How to Use Virtual Training and Unstructured Workouts to Your Benefit During Shelter in Place

How to Use Virtual Training and Unstructured Workouts to Your Benefit During Shelter in Place


By Sarah Piampiano, professional triathlete.


Although sheltering in place right now has its challenges, staying fit on the bike isn’t one of them! With the advancements of smart trainers and plenty of virtual rides, many people - even without a stay-at-home order - are opting to do all of their riding indoors. Group rides, races and changing course. profiles add a lot to the indoor riding experience.

Whether a professional or an amateur athlete, trying to stay motivated during this time can be hard. I’m guessing we all have felt fluctuations in our desire to maintain and grow fitness versus sitting on the couch to just do nothing. Without specific goals in mind, it can be hard to know what you are training for. I’ve found a few things have helped me stay motivated:


  1. Sign up for virtual races. No - it is not the same as being outside with the wind in your hair, but I’ve found competing in virtual races to be very fun and invigorating. I’m competitive, so I want to win, but my biggest take away is the huge push I am getting to be my best. Virtual races have given me the opportunity to do a no-risk high intensity workout, and to get the competitive juices flowing, which is something that I thrive on. One of my hardest sessions during the SIP period has been competing in a virtual bike race.
  2. Attempt KOM’s/QOM’s. If you can ride outside, chasing after local Strava King/Queen of the Mountain segments is a fun and lighthearted way to get in a solid session. Last week I attempted one of my local climbs and hit my best ever 10’, 15’ and 20’ power along the way. With no races on the horizon, my training has been much less structured, so it was a nice surprise to see my fitness in a good place. With efforts like these, your fitness improves, but the less structured format of these rides and hard efforts makes the journey more fun!
  3. Hit short, high intensity trainer sessions. I’ve found grinding out really long intervals right now isn’t quite the right formula for me, and research shows that doing short, punchy, high power intervals goes a long way for retaining and improving fitness levels. One of my favorite trainer workouts that I’ve been doing every few weeks is below. I'll share my wattages based on my FTP of c.255-265 Watts.


Sarah Piampiano rides indoors with a Saris H3


Warm Up

30 minute stepper building from low Zone 1 up to high Zone 2 (I usually build from 100 watts to 200 watts, increasing my output by 7 watts every 2 minutes).

Pre Main

6 rounds of (6 seconds MAX power, 54 seconds easy)


10 minutes at a mid- to high- Zone 2 effort (180-190 watts)

2 minutes easy (90-120 watts)

Main Set

3-6 Rounds of:

  • 1 minute at Mid Zone 3 (220 watts)
  • 45 seconds at Mid Zone 4 (250 watts)
  • 30 Seconds at Zone 5 (300 watts)
  • 15 seconds MAX (350 watts)
  • 1 minute easy flush. (90-120 watts)
  • 4 minutes at low- to mid-Zone 2 (160-170 watts)


Once done, do 10 minutes easy spinning (120-160 watts).


Sarah Piampiano rides indoors with a Saris H3


I LOVE this session as it offers a building high-powered effort mixed with some endurance riding.

Training right now doesn’t have to be all about staying true to a structured plan. Mix it up, enter a virtual race and allow yourself the opportunity to chase fitness in some less conventional ways. Good luck and stay healthy!




Maine-born Piampiano is a professional triathlete who now resides and trains full-time in Northern California under the guidance of purplepatch fitness founder and coach, Matt Dixon. Piampiano is a 4x Ironman champion with a career best time of 8:40:46, setting the 3rd fastest time ever for an American woman. She is a seven-time IRONMAN 70.3 Champion and placed as the 7 th overall female and 2nd American female at the IRONMAN World Championships in 2015 and 2016.