The weather is finally starting to turn for the good and outdoor cycling and triathlon season is right around the corner. Summer is coming and it’s time to pack away that indoor cycling trainer right? Wrong. This is the time when we want to use it, but only for certain workouts. In the past several years, indoor riding has become a tool not just for the winter months, but a tool to be used throughout the entire season. Indoor training should be very focused, with each interval and set is accounted for, as opposed to, ‘Oh, just ride for a few hours.’
This is the benefit that all triathletes who are sold on indoor cycling point to. Riding inside is conducive to high intensity training. There are no stoplights, no descents to coast down, and no other cyclists to draft behind. Motorists cannot distract you from the task at hand, weather conditions cannot slow you down. The distractions of the roads do not affect your workout. Instead, you are free to perform exactly the workout you intended to do. The indoor trainer, much like a pool, encourages athletes to divide their workouts into segments to stave off the boredom of training in a confined space. With this, athletes spend more time working at higher intensities on indoor trainers than they do outdoors which allows the athlete to get fitter in the process.
There are a few rules to follow if you are going to commit to riding indoors throughout your season:
Rule No. 1: Maximize your time efficiency
Incorporating indoor cycling into your training allows the athlete the opportunity to streamline their current routine. Increasing the time efficiency of your bike training starts with trading some volume for intensity, but it goes beyond that.
The approach I’ve taken is to incorporate a modest increase in training intensity (more time at threshold across all three disciplines and more time above threshold as well) and an increased focus on specificity.
Adding a short to mid-length run after every indoor ride is a great way to add running fitness to your cycling workouts. This allows your legs to become accustomed to running off the bike. The first 10 to 20 minutes of the run is always the hardest.
If you have an hour and a half to work out, you’re better off doing a one-hour indoor ride and a 20-minute run than a 90-minute outdoor ride.
The amount of riding time you slash and the amount of high-intensity riding you add should depend on individual considerations. You’ll definitely want to keep one weekly endurance ride that’s long enough to give you the endurance you need to go the full race distance. Two high-intensity indoor rides per week are appropriate for most triathletes. None of these rides needs to last longer than an hour and a half and can be done in an hour.
Rule No. 2: No need to ride too long.
Since you race outdoors, you need to do some training outdoors. Failure to do so will leave you less than ideally prepared for the elements of outdoor cycling that are different from indoor cycling. As a cyclist, you need the outdoor rides to work on bike handling skills. Unfortunately, on a trainer you cannot get a true feel of how your bike handles on the road. Outdoor rides are for endurance and feel, indoor rides should be used for your intensity workouts.
Rule No. 3: Suffer as a Group.
Of course, indoor cycling classes have existed for a long time, but indoor cycling classes designed especially for competitive endurance athletes are much newer.
The typical fitness club Spin class is a good workout, but not a triathlon-specific workout. The workouts themselves don’t focus on the intensities that triathletes need to develop and sometimes not challenging enough for triathletes.
Endurance performance centers, like Well-Fit offer group indoor cycling workouts for athletes, as well as strength classes or swim technique workshops. There is a great opportunity to gain strength from a group while suffering through a tough workout. People cheer each other on and it always seems easier to push through a tough set while others are suffering with you. While group indoor riding offers clear advantages compared to solitary indoor riding, some coaches believe that there is also a disadvantage and that group indoor riding should not be done to the exclusion of solo indoor riding.
Triathlon is an individual sport, and athletes need to learn how to ride alone within themselves and how to stay motivated. To develop as a complete athlete, people need to spend time training both in groups and solo.
There are no absolutes in triathlon training. There is no single type of training that is so good it should become your only way of training.
But indoor cycling appears to be a better way of training than it was previously thought to be. That’s why triathletes and cyclists are doing more of it lately, and it’s why you might need to consider doing more indoor cycling yourself.
By: Tim Ams – Running Away Deerfield