How to Improve your Cycling… Indoors!

We are blessed in San Antonio to be cycling outside most of the year. Being from the Midwest, where winter is much colder than in San Antonio, I remember many rides on my trainer, rollers and spin class to maintain my cycling fitness before the triathlon season.  There are those colder and windy days, along with the time change, that cycling outside just may not be so pleasant.  When you go outside to cycle, the temperature feels 10-15 degrees less than what it really is. Sometimes, we may just not have the layers on or we feel so thick with clothes on that we really can’t get much of a ride in.

Ironman-CDA bike

Ironman-CDA bike

So, what do I suggest, when the weather is poor or it is dark? Get an indoor trainer, to put your bike on it and ride inside. You will not only get a workout in but you will also get stronger on the bike. As a coach, this is what I hear about training on a trainer… “It’s boring”, “I don’t get a hard enough workout in,” and “it is too easy.”

When an athlete tells me these things, I realize they are not making quality time on the bike trainer. Here are some specific workouts that you can do on the bike to not  only improve your cycling but also to improve your times in a triathlon or a cycling race.

One Legged Drills- This drill teaches an athlete to be consistent on the “circling” of the spin. Sometimes, when we look at athletes spinning on the bike, it can be quite choppy. This is an important pedaling drill. Athletes will unclip one foot and rest that foot on a chair or the part of the trainer, so she/he can only pedal with one leg. The bike needs to be in an easy gear for a comfortable higher cadence.  A key of this drill is that it can be very difficult to get through the top of the stroke, 12:00 position. Athletes need to focus on smoothing this top transition. During the trainer workout, my athletes will do 10 x 30” right leg/30” both/30” left leg/30” both. In the beginning, this may be too long of a spin for individual legs, knowing that the hip flexors may fatigue. This drill activates your core muscles, which are important in an efficient and strong pedal stroke.

Spin Ups- Doing spin ups on the trainer/bike will help an athlete work on the smooth pedal strokes without bouncing on the saddle. The upper body needs to be silent and allow the legs to do more of the work. My athletes will do 5 x 2 minutes at 95 rpm, 100, 105, 110, max rpm with a 2:00 rest intervals at an easy effort and normal cadence in between each set.

Tabata Intervals- Tabata sit- ups, tabata jump ropes and tabata air squats…if you have ever done CrossFit, you have heard of Tabata Intervals. Tabata were first used in  Japan by Izumi Tabata, using two groups of athletes, comparing moderate high intensity training with high intensity interval training. The athletes who were doing the high intensity interval training improved their anaerobic systems but also their aerobic systems. The athletes that did the moderate high intensity training only improved their aerobic system and little or no increase in their anaerobic system.  Tabata intervals are a total of 4 minutes. It is 20” work/10”  rest x 8 rounds  or4:00. The 20 seconds of training should be so hard, that you are crave the 10 seconds of rest and that you have difficultly completing the 4 minutes of work. You can do tabata intervals during a swim and run as well. Remember you need to be in a level that you are working so hard…you can’t wait until it is done and you can’t do another set of Tabata Intervals.

Big Gear Training- The goal of this is to develop strength and muscle recruitment. Your muscles may not feel the best with this but guess what…training on a trainer won’t be boring. The athletes will do 3-8 minute repeats in a big gear at a cadence of 60-70 rpm with a 2:00 rest interval. The last ¼ of the workout, I would suggest to standing. Watching that boring movie on TNT won’t really matter during this drill.

Transition Workout- a transition workout can be multiple transitions or single transitions. If an athlete is getting ready for a Duathlon, I will have them set up the trainer in the garage and have their transition race ready. The workout is 20 minute bike, 10 minute run, 20 minute bike, 10 minute run, 3-5 minute tempo bike ending with a 3-5 minute tempo run.  If an athlete is doing a triathlon, usually I will have the athlete ride the trainer with some interval work and then transition to a 20-30 minute run. That transition needs to be fast because the clock will not stop in a race setting.

Riding on a trainer can be crucial to an athletes training but I feel there has to be a purpose to your training every time you go for a ride…a run…or a workout in general.  Ask yourself, why am I doing this? What is my purpose? Am I working on drills, speed, intensity or power? Asking yourself these questions before you go to your workout will give you a better sense of accomplishing what you need as an athlete.

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