A version of this article was originally published in the November/December 2011 issue of Peak Region Cyclist.
Winter is now officially in full swing, meaning cold temperatures, short days, and times where the weather just isn’t conducive to riding outside. But just because we live where there is cold, icy, and snowy weather, it doesn’t mean we can’t maintain our cycling fitness. So what do we do when we can’t ride outside? We get on the trainer, of course! Here are a few reasons the trainer is a great tool:
- Controlled Environment: no traffic, no wind (except for your fan), and as climate-controlled as your home.
- Efficient Workouts: consistent pedaling (no stopping at intersections and no coasting downhill on a trainer!) makes a shorter workout possible for the same fitness benefits.
- Safety: no cars or big trucks, pedestrians, or wild animals (well, maybe some furry friends) to cross your path and it’s a much safer environment to put those headphones on and blast away!
If you don’t have a coach to provide you with specific workouts, you still have a lot of options, as there are a multitude of workout videos on the market. Some are free, some are not. Just Google “indoor cycling videos” or “indoor cycling workouts”. But before you pick a video or workout to get your spin on, consider the following:
- Have a goal for your indoor training sessions. Do you want to improve pedaling efficiency, endurance, power, or just maintain the fitness level you have? Find workouts that match your goal.
- Make sure the workouts you choose are progressive. It takes several similar workouts to get significant adaptations, so if you are working on a specific skill, make sure to repeat it with similar workouts that get progressively more challenging. It’s even okay to do the same (or similar) workout several times to get your body to adapt. You’ll see gains using this strategy over just picking random workouts.
- Don’t neglect nutrition, hydration, and recovery! Just because you're inside doesn’t mean you can skip eating and drinking! In fact, because we are without the natural cooling effect we get from riding outside, we will become noticeably more sweaty. (Tip: have a fan, open a window if you can, have a towel, and perhaps even wear a headband to keep the sweat out of your eyes.) You’ll still need to consume fluids, take in calories if it is a long or intense workout, and of course plan recovery weeks during your training.
Of course, if all else fails, it can be quite simple. Just put on your favorite movie and pedal on...