How To Make Indoor Cycling Training Enjoyable
As much as I hate to say it, riding indoors is sometimes an inevitability. I’m lucky enough to have cycling as my profession, so I can usually train any time of the day, but even with this freedom, the weather sometimes forces me inside. For almost everyone else, time to train is a luxury and this means riding indoors is a far more frequent occurrence. Below is a brief guide to help you get the most from your training time riding indoors.
USE BOTH ROLLERS AND A TURBO TRAINER
The secret to more enjoyable indoor training is variety, which is something that will feature in a number of my tips. In this case, varying up the equipment you use to ride indoors is a great way to stay motivated to get on the bike indoors. Rollers and turbo trainers each have their own benefits and drawbacks, so using a combo of both gets you the best of both worlds.
Rollers (like the Tacx Antares rollers, which I use and are incredibly simple rollers) help you to work on your balance and pedalling technique simultaneously - almost out of necessity. With less resistance than a turbo trainer, rollers are great for training at higher cadences and you’ll work your core muscles to help keep you from falling off. The drawbacks are that it isn’t easy to reach high power outputs because of the lack of resistance, it can be painful for your sit bones because it isn’t easy to stand on the pedals and stay balanced, as well as the rollers making it difficult for you to reach for a towel to wipe off the sweat.
A turbo trainer (such as my choice, the Elite Crono Hydro-Mag) allow you to execute a structured workout with the freedom to stand on the pedals, perform one-legged drills and other such drills, and put out high power outputs.
With a turbo trainer, you can coast, sprint and work on low cadence drills that would be difficult to achieve with a set of rollers.
Turbo trainers do take a little more setting up if you’re constantly removing your bike and don’t provide the balance and core benefits of rollers, but are fantastic tools for logging specific and valuable workouts.
STAY COOL AND COMFORTABLE
Perhaps the worst thing about training indoors is the heat and discomfort of sweating buckets if you don’t have a good setup. This can be alleviated with a few simple accessories, starting with a fan. Unlike outside where the wind cools you down, indoor riding will quickly raise your core temperature if there is nothing to help with heat build up. Simply installing a fan or two in front of your bike indoors will make a dramatic impact to your temperature and sweat rate, which will in turn see you feeling better during a workout.
Another key accessory to have is a towel. Make sure this is handy and easy to reach mid-session. Putting said towel over the handlebars for easy access and to protect parts like the headset and front brake often works well.
PUT VARIATION INTO YOUR WORKOUTS
Anything you can do break the monotony that is indoor cycling training will make your experience that much more enjoyable and subsequently productive.
Changing aspects of your workout up regularly (e.g. once every few minutes or so) will make the time pass far more quickly and have a positive impact on the training stress.
Changing up the intensity, gears, cadence often will help make your training more fun, and splitting your workout into small but distinct sections should distract your mind effectively from the mental anguish of going nowhere fast. You can do this by writing out a plan for your workout beforehand and putting it in plain view whilst you train, or listen to a music playlist and change up the aforementioned variables as each new song begins.
Having metrics to track and monitor in real-time gives you something to entertain yourself with whilst you ride, and also ensures you're training in the right zones to achieve the goal of your indoor workout. You can use metrics like Heart Rate, Power and Cadence to stay focused on intensity, but also monitor others like your TSS or Training Stress Score and your speed as you ride. Any of these numbers can be used to add the vital variety to your indoor training that we've discussed earlier.
You can even hook up a computer screen and an Ant+ dongle like this to see a graph and a visual representation of your real-time training to take metric monitoring to the next level. Using free programs like Golden Cheetah is an easy way to do this.
Do you ride indoors often? What tips do you use to make your indoor training more "pleasant"? Let me know below - I'd love to hear your tips!