There’s no getting away from it, cycling is a time-consuming sport that can easily eat up all your spare time.
By the time you factor in things like getting ready, cleaning your bike and filling your bottles, you’re left with little time for anything else. If you’re hoping to improve your cycling power, you’ll need to use your limited time wisely.
In order to leverage your time effectively, you need to make sure that every ride is a planned, structured workout, rather than simply a random ride. This can be hard when you’re training outdoors because the weather, traffic and terrain often get in the way. For these reasons, indoor cycle training is sometimes the best option for those moments when you simply don’t have time to hit the roads.
There are several benefits to indoor training from a time efficiency standpoint. You won’t need to put on loads of layers, just a pair of shorts and a top. And you won’t need to maintain your bike as often, because it won’t be subjected to mud and grit.
But perhaps the biggest benefit is that you can execute a great workout without wasting time freewheeling or slowing down for junctions. All you do is pedal! For this reason, indoor training gives you the best bang for your buck. Sure, it can be pretty dull at times, but there are ways to make it more fun. Think of indoor cycling as a useful addition to your training repertoire, rather than a replacement for the joys of riding outside.
The secret is to invest time and a little money in getting your home trainer set-up right, so you can reap the benefits in the future. You’re better off spending a month getting this right, rather than taking shortcuts and training badly for years to come. With the right kit, indoor cycling can be fun, motivational and extremely potent. If you settle for the cheapest and easiest indoor trainer setup, you’ll soon get bored and want to quit.
To help you improve your cycling power, here are five essential indoor cycling tips.
1. Be Ready
Whatever indoor training option you go for, be it a static bike such as a WattBike or a trainer such as the excellent Wahoo Kickr, you need it to be ready to go at all times. There’s nothing more demotivating than spending half your training time setting everything up from scratch.
If you’re using a wind trainer, you need a dedicated bike that is always attached to it. A cheap or old bike is fine, as it’s only for indoor use. You also need a dedicated space, be it a small room, garage or shed so you don’t waste time moving things around.
2. Stay Cool
Indoor cycling can feel particularly unpleasant at times. Often this is caused by heat stress rather than pure cycling fatigue. Without a cooling breeze to evaporate the moisture on your skin, your core body temperature will soon rise. Before you know it, your brain will tell you to slow down or stop.
Having a big fan blowing directly at you will make a massive difference here. In fact, it will enable you to sustain 10-30 watts more power for the same perceived effort, just because you’re feeling cooler. On particularly hot days, you may also benefit from a standalone air conditioning unit to take the edge off the heat.
3. Measure Power
Power is a direct measure of how hard and fast you pedal, expressed in watts. It’s a great gauge of your performance because there are no variables like hills or wind to confuse matters. It also helps you make the most of your indoor sessions by giving you something to aim for all the time.
Power also acts as a reliable yardstick of your fitness levels. If you don’t have a power meter you can use software such as Trainer Road (trainerroad.com) which estimates your power output based on the flywheel speed of your indoor trainer.
4. Engage Your Brain
To make the most of any indoor workout, you need to come up with ways to engage your brain so that you don’t get bored. Some athletes can read a book or watch a film while they ride, whereas others find it harder to focus. If you have a spare TV screen and a DVD player or computer, there are several options to consider including cycle workout DVD’s (spinervals.com), real-time workout graphs (trainerroad.com) and even virtual reality cycling with other riders (zwift.com). Whichever option you choose, they all beat staring at the wall.
5. Feel The Beat
A number of scientific studies demonstrate the positive effects of music on motivation levels during exercise such as indoor cycling. Once you find the right music for your tastes, you’ll find it easier to focus on pedalling hard without your brain wandering all over the place.
Thankfully it’s never been easier to access a wide range of music for exercise. Using a smartphone, tablet or computer you can access streaming radio from all over the world as well as streaming music services such as Apple Music and Spotify. They include playlists of music created for working out and they are free if you don’t mind hearing the occasional advert.