10 Ways To Improve Your Indoor Workouts
Posted by Andrew Davidson on December 13, 2023
For those of us in the higher latitudes of the northern hemisphere, the indoor trainer season is upon us and may be with us for many months to come. Whether you rejoice at this fact, as a dedicated Zwifter who now has more friends to ride with online or bemoan the stationary nature of the winter season - there’s always room to increase the fun factor and make the experience more rewarding. Take a look through our list of 10 ways to improve your indoor workouts and see if there are any that can add a little more pleasure to your pedaling this off-season.
#1 Customize Your Space
You’re going to be spending some significant hours in your “pain cave”, so why not make it as inspired and functional a setting as possible? If a minimalist set-up, in a dark corner of the basement is your thing, great! However, putting some thought and effort into the lighting (natural or otherwise), imagery (inspirational pictures of destinations or athletes, goals written out on a poster board, etc, and set-up: fans, towels, placement of screens for training programs, a great playlist) goes a long way in keeping you motivated in the depths of winter.
#2 Use An Online Training Program
We’re living in the golden age of indoor training! With so many virtual cycling platforms available to choose from, there’s something for everyone. From the straight-forward and data-centric TrainerRoad, the gamified virtual reality of Zwift or the realism of Rouvy - the choice is yours! With all of them offering built-in training programs, you’ll receive the benefits of structured training, while keeping yourself engaged and entertained.
#3 Get A Coach
If you want a more personal touch than the pre-written training packages on offer from the above-mentioned online training platforms, working with a coach is a great way to set and achieve goals during the winter months. Whether it’s through coaching services like FasCat Coaching, Training Peaks or a local experienced coach, working with someone one-on-one can offer a lot of insight, customization and motivation that will help you make the most of your trainer time.
#4 Proper Bike Fit
Indoor training season is a great time to make changes to your bike set-up and dial in your fit, so you can hit the outdoor miles in perfect form. Whether you’re on a new bike or just want to get a second set of eyes on your position, an appointment with an experienced bike fitter can give you confidence that you’re getting the most out of your physiology, while also avoiding potential issues. If you want to try out different saddles, stem lengths, bar widths, cleat positions, and crank lengths… this is the time to do it!
#5 Focus On Technique
One of the many perks of trainer-time is that it allows you to hyper-focus on the details of your riding. Without the distraction or worry of vehicles, varying terrain and weather, you can turn all of your attention toward the actual physics of riding. Increasing your pedaling efficiency with low/high cadence drills, expanding your comfort with time spent in the various handle-bar positions and focusing on a “quiet” upper body are just some of the small details that add up to big gains.
#6 Practice Eating & Drinking
For some, remembering to fuel on the bike is second nature, but for others, it can pose a real challenge. Whether it’s the act of reaching for a bottle without looking down or retrieving a gel/bar from the jersey pocket comfortably without coasting/stopping, it’s an essential skill that all cyclists should master. If you fall into the latter category, take advantage of the safety and comfort of your indoor training set-up to hone these abilities, so you can keep the tank full and wheels turning efficiently when you get back outside.
#7 Join Social Meet-Ups
Indoor training is often thought of as a solo endeavour, but there are plenty of ways to make it a social affair. With programs like Zwift offering group rides and meet-ups, complete with an accompanying and often hilarious group chat, it’s a great way to retain the community aspect of outdoor rides. Organizing a recurring “trainer party” with friends, where you meet up with bikes, trainers and a good movie or race replay to watch while spinning together, is another great option!
#8 Join A Race or Challenge
If you need to scratch that competitive itch during the winter months, there’s a broad mix of races and online challenges that offer a start and finish line. Platforms such as MyWhoosh, which will host the 2024 UCI E-Sport World Championships, have a range of competitive events of varied lengths and course profiles. Zwift hosts their classic Festive 500 each holiday season, to help you get the most mileage out of all the Turkey and treats consumed.
#9 Less Is More
Sometimes less is more, and that can certainly apply to indoor training. Trying to replicate the same volume as you would riding outdoors can often be a recipe for burnout during trainer season. It’s worth keeping in mind that, unlike outdoor rides, on the trainer, you’re always pedalling and coasting is nearly non-existent. That alone means you’re likely getting a similar amount of work in over the span of 45-50 minutes as you might in an hour of outdoor riding, depending on the discipline. It will ultimately serve you better to be consistent with shorter rides on the trainer than to have big weeks followed by large gaps, as you recoup the motivation to get back to it.
#10 Benefit From Heart Rate & Power Data
Between the built-in power metes that modern smart-trainers offer and the on-bike power meters that can make the transition from indoor to outdoor with you (like the 4iiii PRECISION 3+ Powermeter), there’s never been a better way to track your progress. Whether you want to know how many calories you’ve burned in a workout, where your FTP currently is, or your max output is for a 1, 5, 10, 20 minute effort is - wattage is where it’s at. It’s the most reliable and accurate way to see exactly what you’re capable of and where your potential lies. Paired with a heart rate monitor (like a Viiiiva), you can get a complete picture of your body’s response to the workouts you’re crushing this winter!