Cycling training: taking it indoors

I’m a bit late starting my indoor training this (next?) season, partly because of the CX season, partly because it has only just turned into winter (it has been fairly mild, but now the roads are starting to get some ice), and partly because I have just been slow to start. So I thought I would share some reasons and advice for taking training indoors during the winter.

I enjoy doing sessions indoors, because you can focus a lot on what you are doing and you can always easily compare your efforts because there are no other factors to consider (wind, temperature, rain, and so on). There are now a lot of cool tools to make it more fun, and turbo trainers are even quieter these days as well, so there is no excuse not to!

Why indoors?
Traditionally people used to ride low-tempo distance rides during the winter to build up their base miles (or kilometres), but nowadays it is more common to keep up the intensity during the winter, and the only safe place to do that is indoors.

What equipment do I need?
A turbo trainer, rollers, or stationary bike. I have both a turbo trainer and a set of rollers. I do all my intense sessions on the trainer, and usually do my recovery sessions and some speed sessions on the rollers. Rollers are great fun, and help you get a smoother pedal stroke, but you can’t get the same intensity or difficulty that you can get on a turbo trainer. If Sofi and I do a session together, she uses the turbo trainer and I use the rollers.

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Sofi and I doing a session – we followed a Sufferfest video, with me using TrainerRoad to follow a set power.

What should I do?
Difficult to say, but three sessions a week is enough for most people, with two of the sessions being more intense interval-based training. You don’t need to ride for as long as you would a distance ride when doing an interval session at home, 40 mins is enough, but up to 90 mins is still doable without becoming bored!

Some virtual programs (more below) have training plans for you, and they adapt them based on your needs and available time to train. But there are several cycling website that offer similar suggestions with basic sessions to do. I am no trainer or coach, so I won’t offer a suggestion, but either speak to a coach, join an online virtual program, watch a video that you follow on your trainer (like the GCN videos), or simply search online for turbo trainer training programs.

How should I do it?
There are many ways to stave off the boredom of riding indoors, and if you have a power meter or a smart trainer (one that measures and even controls power), you have the best options and the most to gain! Personally, I use TrainerRoad and have some music on, but I do enjoy the Sufferfest videos as well (and TrainerRoad syncs with the video). TrainerRoad is a very structured tool for following a specific power during a workout and they have a number of plans and endless sessions (you can even make your own). Ideally you need a power meter or smart trainer for TrainerRoad, but they do also have a reliable algorithm for estimated power on most non-smart trainers. But Zwift and Bkool are two more immersive options (or the programs that come with some smart trainers, but they are also less popular), as they are virtual worlds where you cycle courses with other people online. I don’t know much about Bkool, but I know some people that use it think it is better than Zwift, but Zwift is probably more popular. In fact, a lot of pros are backing (because they are sponsored by) Zwift, and it does seem good. Zwift is even competing with TrainerRoad now, as it isn’t just a virtual world, it also has structured training programs!

But, you don’t need any of this. Just put some music on or a TV program (some inspirational cycling videos are good) and get on your turbo or rollers and just cycle. It’s the same with all cycling (or running or training overall) – you can always buy all the gear and have the world’s best trainer, but the important thing is that you simply do it: just get on your bike and ride!

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Me following a TrainerRoad session on the turbo trainer.

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/Jason

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