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Indoor Cycling – Cut Your Training Time in Half

By Jiri Kaloc

There’s a lot of inspiration for indoor training on virtual training platforms mentioned in the previous article. But if you don’t really know which sessions are right for you, personal coaching it out of your budget, or you want to set up your own home-training plan for cycling to improve your aerobic fitness or lactate threshold, then this article is for you.

Save time

Before we get to specific training sessions, it’s important to realise that riding on an indoor trainer at home is really different from cycling outdoors. Indoors, one hour of training equals one hour of pedalling. Outdoors, you usually spend 10-15 % of your time coasting at 0 watts because of traffic and downhills.

In the open air, training plans are interrupted by unintended rests because of stop signs, intersections, and other unexpected things. Training indoors is also a much bigger mental strain. While riding a new route outdoors can feel like an adventure, riding indoors often feels more like a chore.

Thankfully, training indoors is not only more intense – it’s also more effective. So, you can cut your usual training time roughly by half and still get the same training stress needed to improve.

An image of a group ride from the Rouvy indoor cycling appFrequency

High intensity sessions should always be incorporated into any cycling training plan. For athletes who also have a full-time job and family life, they are a fantastic and incredibly efficient means of getting the most out of one hour or less of training.

Keep in mind that these are individual sessions and not cycling training plans in and of themselves. If you normally ride three to four times a week, then two of these per week is a great place to start with other workouts being focused on conservative mileage at a consistent pace. Consider adding a third session after the necessary adaptation period.

If you are able to train more than five times a week, all three sessions could be integrated into your schedule. As with any intensive training, plan sufficient rest between any indoor cycling workout and adjust the intensity where necessary to ensure you make progress.

Make your sessions hard but fun

At home, you don’t have the distractions of riding out-of-doors. There are no views, no mountain tops, no destinations, coffee breaks, and no friends to talk to. That’s why it is even more important for you to make your indoor cycling workouts feel fun and engaging.

Short but intense structured training works are best for that. Here are a few specific workouts. You should always start with a 10 minute warm-up.

A female cyclist on her home trainer with a fan in front of a large screen doing her workoutSpeed Intervals

Designed to help any cyclist recover from repeated hard efforts while improving power and speed. Use an easier gear and pedal with the highest cadence achievable during the fast pedal intervals. Keep your perceived exertion on the lower side, around a total score of five out of a possible 10. This workout should take between 47 to 59 minutes.

Warm-up: 10 minutes easy spin

Fast Pedal Interval: 1 minute

Break: 2 minutes

Repeat the above three times

Spin easy: 5 minutes

95% max effort: 30 seconds

Spin easy: 30 seconds

Repeat the above 10 to 12 times

Cool down: 10 minutes at your comfort zone

Climbing simulation

This indoor workout should improve your ability to push hard on hills. The added fun element is that you can simulate a hill by raising the bike’s front wheel and adding resistance. We will assign the intensity using Functional Threshold Power (FTP).

If you’re unsure what your FTP is, then just imagine the maximum effort you can sustain for about 1 hour, and that’s your 100 % FTP. This workout should take 48 minutes.

Warm-up: 10 minutes easy spin
Interval, repeat 4x: 2 min. at 90 % FTP, stand up and pedal at 115 % FTP for 15 seconds.
Break: 10 minutes easy spin
Interval, repeat 4x: 2 min. at 90 % FTP, stand up and pedal at 115 % FTP for 15 seconds.
Cooldown: 10 minutes easy spin

Egan Bernal working out on an indoor smart trainer and a mountain simulator from WahooRace-like ladders

This workout simulates the demands of road racing where you need to ramp up and down intensity gradually as needed. Try to keep three distinct intensities throughout the entire workout. This session should take 72 minutes.

Warm-up: 10 minutes easy spin

Ladder: 4 min. at 90 % FTP, 3 min. at 100 % FTP, 1 min. 115 % FTP, easy spin 5 minutes, 1 min. 115 % FTP, 3 min. at 100 % FTP, 4 min. at 90 % FTP

Break: 10 minutes easy spin

Ladder: 4 min. at 90 % FTP, 3 min. at 100 % FTP, 1 min. 115 % FTP, easy spin 5 minutes, 1 min. 115% FTP, 3 min. at 100 % FTP, 4 min. at 90 % FTP

Cooldown: 10 minutes easy spin

Wrap up

Indoor cycling workouts like those above might seem short but they are very demanding on your legs and your nervous system. It’s important not to overdo them, especially in the beginning.

Keep one or two days in between where you rest, do an easy effort for 20 minutes or do some cross training. We will take a closer look at cross training, specifically strength building in the next article.

Next up in Training at Home series