A few simple ideas for indoor training?

For many of us, indoor workouts are a mainstay of winter training or weekday training. You don’t have nice weather where you live, so you train indoors. It gets dark at 5pm, so you train indoors. You go to work during the day and have family stuff in the evening, so you train indoors before work or on a lunch break… But, for many of us, the weekends are a time when you can go outside and ride or run. And when it’s light until 8 or 9pm, you can go outside for a ride after work.

Well, in 2020, the coronavirus has made it more and more appealing or even necessary for many of us to train indoors more than usual or all of the time. As much fun as it is to go outside, get some fresh air, spend time in nature, and enjoy fresh air, you can still get awesome training inside. And, if you are stuck inside most or all of the time, then it becomes all the more important to give your body what it needs to thrive, like good nutrition, good sleep, and regular exercise.

  • Do core work 2-3x weekly. Everything will feel better.
  • Listen to music if you’re doing a workout.
  • Listen to music, a podcast, or an audio book if you’re taking it easy on your indoor ride or run.
  • Consider trying Zwift or another online platform. It can make the miles go by easier.
  • Get in a good 15-25m warm-up before your hard workouts.
  • Include some intensity 2-4x weekly. Intervals can pass the time and give you a tremendous workout. An hour on the bike with intervals can be as good as 2-3h outside.
  • Drink enough, especially if you sweat a lot indoors like me.
  • Keep a routine, ideally doing something every day. Maybe do core work Monday-Wednesday-Friday and aerobic workouts Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday-Sunday. Even if you like doing much more, 20m of core work and 1h rides will do wonders for your health and fitness.
  • If you can, then by all means go long once or twice a week. You might find that with Zwift you can get in a full 2h ride or longer, and have fun with it.
  • Keep in mind, if you’re used to training more when going outside, then you’re probably able to handle more frequent rides with some intensity when training indoors, because your workouts are shorter and the total demand of training is less. You can probably handle 3 quality workouts indoors each week, instead of 2 high quality outdoor workouts.
  • Suggested favorite bike workouts at the bottom…

When it comes to specific workouts, everyone is different with respect to what they will enjoy or tolerate when training indoors. Some people can sit through a movie and ride their indoor trainer at an endurance pace with no problem. Some people can’t stand to get past 30m without doing intervals or pedaling drills. Find the strategies that work best for you. Whatever you do, you want it to be fun enough or rewarding enough that you can keep doing it consistently, whether that’s every day or every other day.

Consistency is the best thing for your fitness. If you’re starting a new routine, take little steps, but take them every day. Then you can take bigger steps… Start with 10 minutes of core MWF, and 20-30m of riding TThSaSu. Then go to 20m of core and 45m of riding. Then 20m of core and 1h of riding. Then keep it up. Look for ways to make it easier to do. Leave your bike on the trainer so it’s ready to go if you have space for it. Don’t eat breakfast until you’ve done your morning routine. Or, don’t eat lunch until you’ve done your lunchtime workout. Only listen to music while you workout. Only listen to your favorite podcast while working out. Set up a game with your friends to see who can keep the longest streak of days working out. Losers pay the winner $2 or $20 or $200. Or losers donate to a charity of your choice. Post your workouts on Strava or post on social what you’re doing and why it’s important to you to be healthy or fit or reach your fitness goals. People love that stuff and people will support you. If there’s some random person dumb enough to criticize you there, then they’ve got some issues, forget their nonsense. It’s good to cut out that negativity anyway.

Method over motivation. Motivation is not important. It’s a trick to get you to do something in the moment or to get excited about doing something, but that isn’t what gets results. Habit, routine, and methodology is what gets you results. If you think about it, motivation is great, but it’s not an end in itself and is only useful if you get results, which requires constant motivation. What you really want are the results of motivation, which are the actions you take to get on your bike to train, or lace up your running shoes and get the miles in, or to prepare for your presentation at work or your test at school. If you ever watch any professional or Olympic sport, those athletes are successful because they get up and train every day for years on end. They aren’t successful because they felt motivated one day when they watched Rocky and felt pumped up to get to the gym or go for a run! Training every day can be motivating because you build fitness and momentum and you get into a positive feedback loop. And, the more consistently you do something over time it becomes much easier to keep doing it. Habits and routines are much more powerful than a temporary feeling of wanting to do something. Once you have a habit or routine, then you never ask yourself “Do I feel like training?” You just go out and train. You feel like something’s missing if you don’t keep your routine. Establish a routine. Tweak it, adjust it, make it better. Keep it up. Forever.

If you want to be fit, healthy, and lean, then get on your bike, get out your yoga mat, or hop on the treadmill. If you want to feel better, handle stress better, have more calm, focus, and creativity the other 23 hours of the day, then please stay active. Your body and your brain will thank you.

Here are some of my favorite indoor bike workouts. All of them must start with a good warm-up of 15-25m, starting easy and slowly ramping up to a good high-endurance pace. You want to have your heart and lungs opened up and a good sweat started when you start the workout portion of your ride… Have a bottle of water or drink mix handy, your earplugs in, and a fan going. And remember, you can’t go full-gas every day, so include a few easier rides each week that are at a steady endurance pace or maybe include a little tempo and cadence work.

  • sprints: ride steady most of the ride, and then add 15-30s sprints (95-100% effort) every 2 or 3 or 4 minutes
    • e.g. 6x20s hard every 4 minutes
    • e.g. 8x30s hard, every 3 minutes
  • 30/30s: sprint for 30s, soft-pedal for 30s, rest between sets
    • start with 3 sets of 5×30/30 for your first workout
    • then do 3 sets of 6×30/30
    • then do 3 sets of 8×30/30
    • then do 3 sets of 10×30/30
  • ramp intervals: start at tempo, increase the intensity/pace every 30-60s until you’re above threshold pace
    • start with 3 ramps of 1m tempo, 1m threshold, 1m VO2 max
    • then do 4 ramps, then 5 ramps
    • then do 3 ramps of 2m tempo, 2m threshold, 1m VO2 max
    • then do 3 ramps of 3m tempo, 3m threshold, 1m VO2 max
    • then do 4 ramps, then 5 ramps
  • threshold: steady efforts at about your 60m peak power, or 90-95% effort
    • start with 5x3m with 2m easy between intervals for your first workout
    • then 5x4m, 5x5m, 4x6m, 3x8m, 3x10m
  • VO2 max intervals: steady, hard efforts 2-5m long at 99-100% effort
    • start with 5x2m with 3m recovery between
    • then do 5x3m, 6x3m, and 4x4m
  • steady endurance
    • simply keep a steady pace that is comfortable but keeps your breathing and HR elevated
    • usually listening to something or using a platform like Zwift is essential for this
  • easy tempo, cadence workouts
    • ride steady with some high and low cadence tempo work
    • high-cadence would be 95-110 rpm to smooth out your pedal stroke
    • low-cadence would be 65-75 rpm to build strength