Christine Fletcher rides along the water during a triathlon

The Ride to Nowhere

Christine Fletcher

The race season wrapped up weeks ago and now, after a little break, the body is ready to ease back into some form of activity. Right? Multi-sport athletes and cyclists often opt for a local spin class or stationary bike at the gym as an option over the darker days, cooler temperatures, booties, gloves and thermal tights. Indoor riding is extremely beneficial however you want to make sure your cycling workouts are specific and applicable to your goals for next season.

For those triathletes and cyclists that can fathom the idea of riding indoors for extended periods of time, it is a great way time of year (early base phase) to build a solid aerobic and endurance base, along with improving technique and pedaling efficiency.

Without a solid base, there is no foundation upon which to improve. Athletes often think they can get by going to spinning classes when weather prohibits outdoor riding. Spinning classes can be a nice alternative once in a while, but generally spinning is much more of an anaerobic workout, and during the base phase most of the focus should be on building aerobic and endurance capacity. Exercise bikes at the health club may be convenient, but in order to obtain the cycling-specific training needed, as triathletes and cyclists, we must train on our own bikes at the optimal intensity. Riding indoors on a stationary trainer allows us to do just this. Better yet, you can hook up with friends to help pass the time and encourage each other through the workout.

Indoor riding can be a key component of your cycling training program since it allows you to execute any workout efficiently and effectively. You can easily incorporate single leg and other drills all while not worrying about traffic, weather or road conditions. Tension, power, time and fueling is all within your control and easy reach. Better yet, you can repeat key workouts consistently and measure the improvements without worrying about thermal tights and booties, carrying spare tubes or loading up your pockets with nutrition.

There are a few investments to make in order to ensure a smooth and enjoyable indoor experience.

WindTrainer

The first of which is to find a quality windtrainer. Take the time to research and spend the money on a smooth, quiet and durable trainer.

Bike Fit

The second investment is with the best bike fit guy in town. Make sure they have you dialed in on that saddle coupled with perfect cleat positioning for a focused winter of optimized riding indoors.

Environment

In order to feel motivated to ride indoors, it is essential to create a welcoming and “athletic chic” environment. At the bare minimum, you will need ample space, access to electrical outlets, a flat surface for your water bottles, a fan for circulation, ample nutrition, lots of sweat towels and a wheel riser to level your front and back wheels. You may also want inspiring posters of your favorite athletes in TT position or eucalyptus candles burning.  Create the environment that welcomes a hard sweaty session in the saddle. Just remember you don’t have the wind to cool you down so monitor your hydration and rate of perceived excursion.

Workouts

Workout options are endless. Typically, training is done indoors for an extended period of time during the winter months when most athletes are in the base phase of training and building their foundation. Workout selection will primarily consist of increased volume and moderate-intensity endurance rides.

It is important to incorporate skill and drill development work, which can most effectively be accomplished on the trainer. Drill work such as high-cadence, low-resistance intervals and single leg drills help with neuromuscular development, improving your technique and making you a more efficient cyclist. Keep at least one workout a week of tempo efforts that utilizes shorter intervals but varying intensity during the base phase. Increasing intervals and strength work such as high-resistance, low-cadence exercises will come toward the end of the base phase and in build phases, power and speed will be developed. Performing time trials on the indoor trainer is measurable and repeatable.  Be sure to do them regularly throughout your season to check your progress.

Training Centers & Bike Shops

Check in with your local bike shops and training centers on options for indoors group sessions. Many shops host indoor riding workouts after hours and even provide the windtrainer at no charge.  Indoor riding is incredibly effective for not only physical fitness gains but also mental. The focused concentration required to push yourself indoors builds mental stamina making riding outdoors and racing potentially “easy”.  Okay, lets not go that far…

Happy riding to nowhere.

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