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3 Indoor Cycling Workouts Under 1 Hour

BY Jim Rutberg

Almost every cyclist is faced with the same limiting factor- time. Especially with the weather changing and the days getting shorter, time is more valuable than ever. Here are three workouts that will get you fit in under 1 hour.

Let’s face it; there are times when indoor training is a lot more convenient, and potentially more effective, than riding outdoors. As I’ve moved from being a bike racer with unlimited training time to a working parent and career professional I’ve learned to embrace indoor cycling as a means of keeping me fit and lean so I can have more fun on my outdoor rides. As a coach I also work with a lot of time-crunched athletes who look to indoor cycling to maximize the impact and effectiveness they can get in 60 minutes.

Below you’ll find 3 workouts you should incorporate into your training. But before we get to the specific workouts, here’s what you should do with them. These are individual sessions, not a training program. If you’re training 3-4 times a week, then two of these workouts per week would be a good starting point, with the other ride(s) focused on moderate endurance miles. If you’re training 5-6 times a week, you could do three of these harder interval sessions per week, just remember to allow for adequate recovery between sessions and adjust the intensity of your endurance and/or group rides to make sure your total weekly workload is appropriate for making progress.

You can also do these workouts outdoors. Either way, the workouts below should start with the following 10-minute warmup:

  • 3 minutes easy pedaling
  • 1 minute Fast Pedal (low resistance, fast as you can pedal without bouncing in the saddle)
  • 1 minute easy pedaling
  • 1 minute Max Effort (100+rpm)
  • 1 minute easy pedaling
  • 1 minute Max Effort (100+rpm)
  • 2 minutes easy pedaling

The intensities featured in the workouts below are available to all athletes using TrainingPeaks. Simply go to your zone settings in your account, select ‘CTS’ in the auto-calculation drop menu, and enter your CTS Field Test power. The CTS Field Test is two 8-minute time trials separated by 10 minutes of easy spinning recovery, and you should input the higher of the two average power values you record during the test. You can read more about how the CTS Field Test compares to other performance tests, including a 20 minute time trial, here.

Workout #1: 3×9 minute Over Under Intervals

OverUnder Intervals are a lactate threshold workout that features surges or accelerations to mimic the real-world demands of taking pulls in a paceline or breakaway, and it’s as an indoor workout the changing intensities make it more engaging. Each interval is 9 minutes long, but during those 9 minutes you start at Steady State intensity (perceived exertion 8/10) for 2 minutes, accelerate to Climbing Repeat intensity (perceived exertion 9/10) for 1 minute, return to SS intensity for 2 min, CR for 1min, SS 2 min, and then finish with 1min at Climbing Repeat intensity. Spin easy for 4 minutes of recovery and then repeat. Complete three intervals and then take 10-15 minutes to cool down. A more advanced version of this workout is to increase the “over” efforts to Power Interval (10/10) intensity. As you get stronger you can also increase the interval length to 12 minutes. With a cooldown this will push the workout to 68 minutes.

Workout #2: 8×2 minute Power Intervals

Power Intervals are dead simple but incredibly effective for generating a great training stimulus in a short period of time. These two-minute VO2 max intervals (perceived exertion 10/10) improve power at VO2 max. That may seem counterintuitive to indoor training in the winter, but when you’re short on training time high-intensity intervals are a good way to achieve a training stimulus. The other nice part about high-intensity intervals is that they’ve been shown to improve performance at all intensity levels, like a rising tide lifting all ships.

Use the first 15 seconds of each effort to ramp up your cadence and power to the maximum intensity you can hold for the remainder of the interval. This power output will be lower than what you could hold for a series of 1-minute Power Intervals; you have to define “max effort” for these by what you can hold for the duration of these specific intervals. Find out how to know when you should stop this workout early? Recovery between intervals is 2 minutes of easy pedaling. Beginners may want to break this into two sets of 4x2min Power Intervals with 4 minutes easy spinning between sets. The total “work time” is the same, but the added recovery can improve the quality of the final 4 efforts.

Workout #3: 3 sets of 8×30 second Speed Intervals

Speed Intervals this short are essentially accelerations. You’re going to accelerate for 30 seconds, let the gear spin down as you pedal lightly for 30 seconds, and then accelerate again. And again, and again until you’ve completed 10 accelerations. The first few of these will seem very easy, but this workout will get hard quickly! This is a great workout for cyclocross and criterium racers, and on an indoor trainer the time passes really quickly! To increase specificity for racers, remember to do some or all of these accelerations in the drops. Make sure the accelerations are full efforts, imagine you’re accelerating to bridge a gap or establish the winning breakaway!

After finishing your interval set, spin easy for at least another 10 minutes to cool down. And remember that for short workouts like these you won’t need to consume calories on the bike, but you should consume at least one bottle of fluid.

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About Jim Rutberg

Jim Rutberg is a Pro Coach for Carmichael Training Systems, Inc. (CTS) and co-author of several books with Chris Carmichael, including “The Time-Crunched Cyclist, 2nd Ed.” and “The Time-Crunched Triathlete”. For information on personal coaching, training camps, and Endurance Bucket List events, visit

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