Winter Indoor Cycling Tips
By Lexi Whalen
Many riders spend the winter months plotting out their great escapes and races for the upcoming year. While it may be tempting to push off that training until you are able to be outside again without leg warmers and base layers, the winter months provide ample time to build up your base fitness and help you exceed expectations for the coming season.
A good rule of thumb on when to pick indoor vs outdoor training is to look at the temperature and amount of time you are looking for in the saddle. With shorter days, you run the risk of riding in the dark, trying to squeeze in rides before or after work as well as dropping temperatures. If it becomes apparent that you can’t fit your ride in without darkness or no amount of layers will help keep the chill off, head inside. Another great time to pick indoor vs outdoor riding is when you are looking for a very structured ride. Most outdoor workouts can be transitioned to indoor and indoor rides allow for the “perfect” environment that is not dependent on finding a hill of the perfect grade for intervals.
I became certified to teach indoor cycling after realizing there are large portions of the cycling community that have no idea where to start when it comes to training and making the cycling community more inclusive to those who may just be starting out. This year I am helping our local community in Durango prep for the 50th anniversary ride of the Iron Horse. The Iron Horse is such an iconic San Juan mountain road ride that attracts riders from all over as a sort of “bucket list'' ride. Having ridden the route many times in my life I can honestly say it will always be a tough one but the views far exceed the time in the saddle.
When it comes to riding inside there are a few things to make your time more enjoyable and get the most out of the effort. My key setup for my home gym is to provide myself with a great wireless way to listen to music, whether it is headphones while others are sleeping or a speaker for those more social workouts, motivation over the hum of your wheel is a great addition. Most are surprised by how much they sweat during an indoor workout, compared to the road where the wind helps to dry sweat. Indoors you increase your core temperature much quicker, providing yourself a fan can help save some bonking and feeling of stagnation. Plenty of water and fuel are crucial to keeping you motivated and the legs spinning. I use one scoop of Endurance Fuel per hour of indoor riding. I follow every indoor workout with Chocolate Recovery Mix. Matcha is a great caffeinated pick me up when I coach early classes and have to talk through efforts to clients.
You have your set up, you have your summer race schedule lined out, now what? When building into your indoor training understand that it is encouraged to take it slow. Whether you are just getting started or have spent the last few months hammering away on trails and road rides, indoor training allows for you to reassess your physicality in the first few weeks of base. Providing yourself with a reset and rest can be just as important if not more important than maintaining fitness. We typically take the first few weeks of indoor training to break down perceived exertion and lactate threshold, as well as body position. Using your time on a stationary trainer can allow for you to polish your body position and pedal stroke with more focus without the distraction of riding outside. From there it is a matter of consistency.
My training tends to be a blend of strict intervals, emulating rides outside and strength training. A current favorite of mine is to work in sets of “over-unders” I shoot for a 10 minute warm up alternating efforts and then lead into my intervals. Each set is 9 minutes long, alternating between 2 minutes at a steady state effort and 1 minute of an intensity push. During my initial few weeks of training I tend to keep most of my three rides a week to an hour in length each. To break these up mentally I do intervals Mondays and Fridays and allow my workout on Wednesday to pick a topo map and try to hold as strong to that in my gearing, picturing the ride as I work through my hour on the bike. As my race deadline approaches I start to increase those indoor times by 30 minute increments allowing my body to adjust to the increased time in the saddle. Mixing in strength training and yoga has allowed me to maintain flexibility and keep me able to run and ski throughout the winter right alongside indoor training without fear of injury.
Matcha!? heart eyes going to pick some up now! What a great early morning pick me up after pre-work workout.