Indoor training is not only effective, but it’s incredibly time-efficient. If you’re not following a training plan, don’t worry. Whether you’re just starting, between seasons, or looking to supplement your outside rides, here are five of the best indoor cycling workouts that will make the most of your time and help you get faster.
Can Individual Workouts Make You Faster?
Choosing individual workouts can make you faster, but this approach does have limitations. Depending on your fitness level, picking indoor cycling workouts can strengthen your ability to put power to the pedals. Generally, beginners will see more gains from individual indoor workouts than someone who is more experienced with structured training.
So who would be best suited for individual indoor cycling workouts? For one, they are great for beginners. They can help serve as an introduction to indoor cycling without the need for a training plan, since indoor workouts can have a bit of a learning curve. Between the constant pedaling and intervals, riding indoors can be surprisingly challenging. The good news is it’s incredibly time-effective and you’ll improve quickly.
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Additionally, individual indoor cycling workouts can help supplement your unstructured, outside riding. They can even help you maintain your fitness if you’re in-between plans or during the offseason. We recommend a training plan as the best way to build your fitness for the long-term. However, not everyone has the time or is in the right situation to start a training plan, making individual workouts a good option.
Why is a Training Plan Necessary?
Some types of fitness take more time to develop than others. Your body has three different systems that produce the energy needed for cycling. The aerobic energy system uses oxygen to make energy for long durations, while the anaerobic energy system is used for shorter, more intense efforts. Finally, the neuromuscular energy system takes over for intense bursts of power lasting less than thirty seconds. A season-long training plan is designed to progressively and thoroughly train each of these energy systems in an intentional order.
While one-off indoor cycling workouts can work all of these energy systems, they won’t do so progressively, and your fitness will eventually plateau as a result. To avoid this outcome, a training plan will progress you through three different phases. The Base Phase addresses your foundational fitness, strengthening your aerobic energy system. Then, the Build Phase furthers that fitness by raising your FTP and anaerobic power abilities. Finally, the Speciality Phase fine-tunes your fitness for your goals or target events, bringing your fitness to a well-timed peak.
Picking a training plan can seem daunting. Whether you have a goal event or not, Plan Builder can create a plan that works for you. It will take your available training time, goals, and experience into account and maximize your hard work. If you’re not ready for a full training plan, you can also try our Time Crunch Plans. They’re designed for cyclists that only have 30 or 45 minutes, three times a week.
5 Indoor Cycling Workouts
We’ve picked some of our favorite indoor cycling workouts for getting faster. They are challenging but doable. Touching on different energy systems, each is one hour long and includes a warmup and cooldown. These specific workouts aren’t meant to be completed together in one week, or even as part of a training program; that would be too much intensity. Instead, these indoor cycling workouts are examples of some with the best bang for your buck.
TrainerRoad scales each workout to your fitness level or Functional Threshold Power (FTP). Before trying one of these workouts in the TrainerRoad app, you’ll want to make sure you have an accurate and recent FTP value. If you haven’t assessed in the last 4-6 weeks, we recommend completing a Ramp Test first.
Starr -1 is a threshold workout featuring over-unders. The primary objective of over-unders is to increase your ability to tolerate and utilize the metabolic byproducts that accompany riding above your FTP, all while maintaining reasonably high power output. In doing so, you’ll develop the ability to handle changes in pace while doing quite a lot of work.
Taylor -2 is a VO2 Max indoor cycling workout that includes three sets of thirty-second VO2 Max repeats, also known as short-shorts. VO2max repeats look to improve maximum aerobic capacity (power that relies on oxygen to produce energy more efficiently) by stressing your aerobic capabilities to improve them.
Antelope -5 is a Sweet Spot workout that contains four, ten-minute Sweet Spot intervals. Sweet Spot work ranges between 88-94% of your FTP with the key aims of furthering aerobic capabilities and increasing muscle endurance. Once you have this workout down, you can shoot for Eichorn, which is twenty-minute intervals. If Antelope -5 is a bit tough, you can try Carson with shorter intervals.
San Joaquin -3
San Joaquin -3 is a high-power, anaerobic workout with repeated intervals at 200% of FTP. By working very hard for brief intervals but only recovering over a short time, you’ll work to improve your ability to sustain and repeat efforts well above FTP. It can also raise your sustainable power and gradually increase your FTP.
Pettit is an hour of endurance work between 60-70% FTP with form sprints and pedaling drills. Though this indoor cycling workout isn’t high-intensity, endurance work is crucial for adding training stress without overwhelming your body. If you’re not on a training plan, it can be easy to forget about rest and recovery. If you want something gentler, Lazy Mountain is a good choice.
How to Get Started with Indoor Cycling Training
Getting started with TrainerRoad is easy. In just a few simple steps, you’ll be ready for your first indoor cycling workout. Before you get on the bike, there is some equipment that you’ll need. At the very least, you’re going to need a bike, trainer, sensor, and a device to run the TrainerRoad app. To learn more about our recommended training setups for any budget, check out our article: Best Indoor Trainer Setup For Your Budget.
You don’t need a complicated setup for indoor cycling. But some accessories can make your training more enjoyable. First, get a good fan and some towels to protect your bike from sweat. A small table or stand for your devices is another good idea. Finally, we like sweatproof headphones to listen to something while you work out.
Choosing the right entertainment can make your indoor cycling workout feel a bit easier. Your favorite music is always an excellent choice, especially when paired with our Race Analysis YouTube Playlist. Other options include podcasts, TV shows, or movies to provide both motivation and distraction.
Tips for Your First Indoor Cycling Workout
Indoor cycling workouts are different than riding outside, and there is no bigger difference than cooling. Riding inside means that you won’t have a breeze to move the heated air away from your body. To fix this, we recommend setting up a blower fan like this one and pointing the stream of air towards your torso.
Most of the workouts listed in this post are intense, so you’ll want to fuel up on carbohydrates before your indoor cycling workout. Eating a carb-centric meal 3-4 hours beforehand will help ensure you’ve got the nutrition you need. Are you going to train early in the morning? You can eat some fruit or drink a sports mix before getting on the bike. During the workout, it’s a good idea to drink about a bottle per hour. Nutrition is personal, so find out what works best for you.
Another good tip for your first indoor cycling workout is to read the description before you get started. This will give you both the what and why of your workout. Then when you’re on the bike, read and follow the workout instructions. Coach Chad includes drills, tips, and training advice that will help you get the most out of your hard work.
Finally, remember that training can be fun and rewarding. Celebrate and enjoy the fact that you just crushed your first indoor cycling workout. Take a few moments to celebrate training victories. This will help stoke your motivation as your training continues.
For more cycling training knowledge, listen to Ask a Cycling Coach — the only podcast dedicated to making you a faster cyclist. New episodes are released weekly.