During lockdown, indoor bike training is essential to maintain cycling fitness. Here are seven tips to make the most of training indoors.
With Coronavirus causing plenty of complexities when it comes to training, we’re all likely to be spending more time cycling indoors. This doesn’t have to be a negative though – plenty of pro triathletes include indoor training year-round to get quality bike time and complete structured training.
Here are seven ways to help make the most of your indoor bike training.
Stick To Your Training Plan
Most of our training and event schedules have been severely disrupted but maintaining control over training is more important than ever for physical and mental health.
Developing a routine is ideal for this. Following an online training plan, completing similar sessions on the same days each week or deciding on a workout the night before will all make it more likely you’d start the training and push hard to the end.
The satisfaction of completing each workout also gives a positive mental boost, making it easier to get out there again next time.
Dial In Your Pain Cave
We all dream of a pain cave setup to rival that of Lucy Charles-Barclay, but whether you’re in your garage, shed, spare room or corner of the kitchen, now’s the time to get it all dialled in.
A good fan is an essential purchase to stay cool. It not only makes things more comfortable but without your body overheating, you should be able to achieve power numbers closer to those you’d hit on the road, making the transition back to tarmac easier in the end.
Another must-buy accessory for those of a sweatier disposition is a sweat catcher for your bike. These simply loop around the seatpost and Velcro onto the bars, protecting your frame, headset and components from your corrosive salty torrents!
Power and WiFi are both must-haves if your indoor training involves any technology. If your pain cave is more of a pain shed with no power, getting it hooked up won’t break the bank and is a great investment in your training. A WiFi extender can then help maintain a strong signal for your training apps or YouTube watching.
Try Virtual Cycling
It’s one thing to beast yourself for 30-minutes indoors but sitting there for hours at a time as part of your Ironman training is something else completely. This is where VR training comes in. Having a screen to look at showing live feedback can help focus you on the riding – rather than constantly wondering how long you’ve got left.
Zwift is the go-to option for many athletes thanks to its many courses, a wealth of training sessions, addictive progression and established community. However, there are other VR-training options out there – RGT has made access completely free in light of COVID-19, giving you a chance to stay in touch with your regular riding buddies while scaling Mont Ventoux from your living room!
Hone Your Bike Setup
We usually restrict bike position changes to the off-season, but with little to no racing on the agenda, now’s a great time to experiment with your setup. It’s amazing how many athletes just put up with it but discomfort while riding shouldn’t be part of the suffer.
If you’re not comfortable, start tweaking! Begin with saddle selection, saddle height and fore-aft setup before tweaking cleat position and moving on to cockpit length and angle. Stay within 5mm of your previous setup and only change one thing every four to six rides so you can really discern the positive, or negative, changes.
If your changes are focused towards improving aerodynamics, slamming the stem isn’t always the way forward. A more upright setup that allows you to relax and your head to drop lower could reduce frontal aera even more.
Include Cycling Drills
Plenty of us ride to power, but there’s more you can do on a trainer to help improve your riding than just looking at wattage. Drills such as single-leg or high/low cadence can expose weaknesses or imbalances to work on – whether directly on the bike or through dedicated strength training once you’re off the saddle.
Meanwhile, focusing on elements of your cycling such as pedalling technique, glute recruitment or posture without the distraction of traffic, or other riders, means you really can make yourself a better rider indoors.
You can even include spin-class-style exercises such as extended out-the-saddle efforts, push-ups on the bars and stretching to improve strength and maintain mobility.
Optimise Your Fuelling
For most athletes, more time training indoors also means more sweating, so staying on top of hydration becomes increasingly important.
Even with a great fan reducing the dripping, it’s easy to lose a lot of sodium when riding on a trainer. Without taking on electrolytes to replenish what’s lost, your performance will start to dip, meaning you’re not getting the most out of your session.
It’s a similar message with fuelling. For longer outdoor rides, we’d be sure to pack a snack or two – or schedule a cake stop – but it’s easy to forget all that when heading out to the pain cave. Prioritise your calorie intake and you’ll stay stronger for longer to maximise your training effect.
Do Some Testing
Focused time indoors means you can get a better picture of yourself as an athlete with fewer variables to skew the results. FTP testing every four to six weeks is a great way to mark your overall cycling fitness and will give you a top-end workout in the process.
You can also devise your own tests to give more insights. One of our favourites is to see how heart rate reacts to different cadences. After a good warm-up, turn on your trainer’s ERG mode to simulate your race power then do a series of five-minute intervals.
Start with a self-selected cadence – try not to look during this rep – then move on to a pyramid starting at 70rpm and upping by 5rpm with each effort. When you hit the top of the pyramid at 105rpm, come back down and then do a final self-selected cadence rep again.
With two sets of data to compare, you might find a certain cadence range that brings your heart rate down, indicating good efficiency. Or, if it’s pretty low, that you might need to do more high-cadence work to better recruit slow-twitch muscle fibres.
Use your imagination and think about what other at-home tests you could do to give practical results for training and racing.