Common Indoor Training Mistakes

Common Indoor Training Mistakes

It can be tempting to do all your training indoors, but you may be better served by saving the trainer for a few focused workouts a week.

Early spring can be a challenging time of year for cyclists, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, where unpredictable weather can ruin the best-laid training plans. Especially as smart trainers and gamified platforms like Zwift gain popularity, it can be tempting to avoid the weather altogether and do all of your training indoors. Unfortunately, for many cyclists, this can be a fast track to burnout and less-than-optimal adaptation. Here are some common indoor training mistakes to avoid, and how to structure your indoor training for success. 

Training Too Often

I recommend riding a trainer just two or three times per week, and supplementing with other workouts, which will give you a balanced routine you can keep up for years, not just a few months. Below I show you my recommended distribution of winter/early spring training sessions per week, according to available training time.

Distribution of winter/early spring training sessions per week according to training time.
Indoor trainingOutdoor trainingGymOther (pool, sauna, running etc.)
3-4h / week2x 1h1x 1.5-2h1x 45min
5-7h / week2x 1-1.5h1x 2-2.5h1x 75min1x1h
8-10h / week2x 1-1.5h2x 2-3h2x 60min1-2x 1h

Training Too Long

In my opinion, it is impossible to effectively train aerobic fitness only on a trainer. To get really quality aerobic work, you need to be riding 3-4 hours or more at a low intensity, a few times a week—and this just isn’t sustainable indoors. Aside from taking a mental toll, sessions this long indoors can lead to electrolyte flushing, especially to people who are not prepared for it. The better option to build aerobic fitness is to cross-train or supplement your trainer rides with outdoor riding.

Training Without a Goal

It can be nice to ride aimlessly now and then, but prolonged periods of training without a specific physiological goal can lead to burnout and undue fatigue. Instead, I suggest using your trainer sessions to address weaknesses such as power, pedaling efficiency, or recovery. 

In fact, the best use of the trainer, in my opinion, is to do structured sessions lasting 60-120 minutes, during which a lot is happening (to combat boredom!), and we are working on specific intensity zones, which translates into improved form. The ideal situation is to use the services of a coach who will help you tailor your load to your individual goals and current level of form, but the following two workouts can get you started:

Workout 1: Pedaling Efficiency

Warm-up

Gradually increase the intensity of the warm-up from Z1 to Z2 – every 3 minutes with slight increases in the load.

Single Leg Drills

Perform 10×30-second efforts working with one foot at a time. The other leg rests on the trainer frame to isolate the working limb. Change your legs every 30 seconds. Power is not as important as smooth pedaling, with a full 360 degrees of engagement. These drills allow you to focus on technique and overcome the dead point at the top of the pedaling cycle.

Recovery

Ride 5 minutes in zone 2.

High Cadence Intervals

Perform 5×1-minute repetitions in Z3 high cadence 120-130 to activate the nervous system and involve more fibers for work. Rest for 2min in Z1 between intervals.

Cool Down

Finish the workout with 10 minutes at tempo, with a cadence of 85-95. Finally cool down with 5 minutes in Z1.

Workout 2: High-Intensity Intervals

Warm-up

Gradually increase your intensity every three minutes from Z1 (low) to Z3 (mid-high). Then ride three minutes easy Z1.

Main Set

The first set consists of performing 10×1-minute efforts at the intensity of Z5, with two minutes of recovery (Z1) between efforts. Ride five minutes in Z1 to recover after this set. 

Second Set

Perform 5×2-minute efforts, with the first 30 seconds of each effort being a hard surge (Z5) and the remaining 1:30 being a hard (Z4) effort. Ride 2 minutes easy between intervals. 

Cool Down

At the end of the workout cool down for 15-20 minutes in Z1.

Remember to recover adequately between workouts and have fun indoors! If you want to reach out to me about your specific needs or workouts, feel free to e-mail me: arek@way2champ.com

Arkadiusz Kogut

Arkadiusz is the highest level UCI International Coach for road cyclists. He is working with both World Tour riders (f.e. Katarzyna Niewiadoma, winner of Trofeo Binda 2018) and amateur, yet ambitious cyclists to meet their goals. He is the founder and co-owner of the coaching company Way2Champ with Iñaki de la Parra, Ultraman World Champion. Find out more about him and the team of 11 professional coaches ready to help you rock&roll in cycling and triathlon. More: www.Way2Champ.com