Working out indoors is not the most pleasant thing for most cyclists. But engaging in it allows for very specific and effective workouts.
Trainers are used in most cases when riding conditions outside have become unsuitable. When the temperature is freezing, wet, or when it is dark, is when most athletes like training. Professionals, on the other hand, train indoors the whole year. Indoor training is not only to warm up or cool down, but rather to set very specific training stimuli. The training is more than just a contingency solution for them.
The type of trainer one uses also does matter some but more important thing is to be able to accurately measure the power output.
Power measurement does not only help to manage optimal intervals, it also serves as a strong motivator. It is crucial to have high level of motivation since the usual distractions that make riding outside so enjoyable are now missing. The consequence of this lack of distraction is an increased attention to all the uneasiness, aches and pains the body is feeling once it gets full attention. Full attention goes to oneself, especially if you are required to get close to your limit which is the goal of any interval training. In these situations, the weaker self gets a lot of attention and this is why indoor workouts are usually perceived to be of much higher intensity than the same workout outdoors.
Objective Performance values
For performance-oriented individuals, reaching and maintaining a target power output can be a great source of motivation 300 watts are 300 watts no mater what. If you can produce them riding outside, then you can also produce them inside of your training room. From a coaching perspective, indoor training is a perfect way to improve mental toughness as well. Since the brain is instrumental in managing power output, it becomes an important muscle that needs to be trained as much as, if not more than, the rest of the body.
In fact, recent studies analyzing the ultimate performance have attributed a major role to the brain, claiming it to be possibly the most important factor in the athlete’s will to perform. Since the brain is where all body data communication takes place; it should therefore be trained as if it was a muscle in order to endure a higher power output. This is an important step toward steadily shifting current limiters further outward.
The roles played by outside perceptions, experience during an indoor workout, as well as inner images can easily be studied in the lab. This is because with stimulating music and captivating images in front of us, the perceived effort becomes more bearable. But images can also be imagined and can be produced in ones own inner cinema. Recall a positive situation in a race or a motivating situation in your life and pushing the pedals becomes instantly easier. The difference is simply that they are based on perception and are backed up objectively by measuring power output.
Measuring heart rate during training is in some ways misleading due to overheating. Overheating inflates heart rate. For instance, at 200 watts power output, the body produces another 600 watts lost heat and also at 400 watts output, it heats up 1200 watts. The lost heat increases body temperature, which in turns affects power output negatively. In order to cool the body, an increasing amount of blood is sent to the surface of the skin and for the muscles to still be adequately supplied, the heart rate gets increased. Data from long workouts at the same power output shows that the heart rate drifts over time. Heart rate is therefore not a good performance indicator for intensive training indoors. In any case, always try to reduce overheating as much as possible and to make sure you have an adequate cooling, ventilation, train close to an open window, or even move the trainer outside.
When the training is optimal, power, cadence, load-and-recovery time can be ideally controlled. On the trainer, you don’t have to deal with problems like traffic, lights or changes in topography in addition; you get the benefit of improving your mental toughness as described above.
Another important training parameter that can be more easily controlled on the trainer then outside is cadence since most cyclists are limited in range within their preferred cadence spectrum. This is because the optimum cadence depends on the power output (higher power output requires a higher cadence). Regardless of where your cadence range is today, just work on expanding it by training at a much higher or lower cadence than the one which you are currently used to.
What are the best training workouts? Ideally, intensive workouts performing intervals in the zones Z3-5. Training workouts can be very efficient starting at 30 minutes while more than one hour is rarely essential. Taking a lot of time during training is not good at all. Just spare yourself such a workout and invest more time in the quality intensive training.
The 2PEAK plan automatically shortens the workouts duration, but increases its intensity when one switches from outdoor to indoor. You can also use trainer workouts for cross-training (bricks) and combine them with other disciplines or training forms.
Examples of cross-training are:
• 10 minute warm-up on the trainer.
• 10 minute circuits at different stations, each 30-45 seconds, followed by 15-30 seconds recovery and moving to the next station; alternate the muscle groups loaded; example: pushups, rope jumps, sit-ups, squats, pull-ups, straight jumps, etc., possibly followed by a second set.
• 10 minutes cool down.
Complement to an endurance workout
• VO2max-intervals added to a quiet (winter) endurance ride outside.
Riding for cool down
• Riding after a run to improve recovery time.
The pluses and minuses of indoor workouts:
+ Precise monitoring of power output and cadence.
+ Independence from weather, traffic and topography.
+ Exact comparison of workouts (no external influences).
+ Training effect becomes visible.
+ Trains your will power (brain as the limiter).
+ Time efficient.
– Risk of overheating.
– Heart rate drifts.
– High subjective effort.
– Road feeling not always agreeable (depending on the trainer).
Tips for a better training:
• Train with a plan or clear training structure.
• Train for a short time but at high intensity.
• Use a reliable power meter.
• Do not rely on heart rate measurement.
• Make sure to stay cool.
• Do not extend the workout duration needlessly.