While indoor bike training is not everyone’s idea of fun – let’s face it, we’d ALL rather be out on the open road – it can have its advantages. The main and obvious benefit is it’s just plain convenient, even for die hard road and off-road cyclists. Whether you’re stuck inside for the winter, too busy to go outside, or just prefer training indoors, there are ways to get the absolute best out of those sessions.
Here are our top 8 suggestions for getting the MAX out of your indoor bike training.
Allocate time for your indoor training
As we’ve suggested, time is often a reason people choose to train indoors. Busy modern lives and the logistics of urban living eat in to every 24 hours. So once you’ve decided to buy that trainer and train indoors, do not use time as an excuse to avoid it.
You can help make time by preparing in advance, so that everything you need is ready when you want to start your daily session (and you have less of an excuse to “forget” about that session). We can highly recommend spending a few minutes preparing for your next day’s workout, either straight after you finish, or the night before.
As you’ll probably be training at home, it is important to not think of your training session as another household chore or routine. Even if you’re training in a gym, the best way to get the most out of indoor sessions is to look forward to them. This will prevent you thinking of training on your indoor trainer as some sort of necessary evil.
Setting goals is a great way of looking forward to training sessions. They give incentive and motivation, especially if your memory of yesterday’s session is positive. Goals can be short and long term, as long as you think you can achieve them.
A good way of setting yourself goals is to compete with others. This can also help with the feeling of isolation which sometimes comes with indoor training. By competing with other cyclists who are at about the same level as you, you can challenge yourself and add an extra dimension to your training.
Probably the best way of doing that during the off-season is virtually – there are a number of great virtual ways of competing, using apps based on gaming technology. These are immersive and may help your actual performance as well as helping achieve goals. Of course, you’re going to need a smart trainer to really get the most out of a virtual ride, but they really are the new breed of trainer and definitely worth considering!
Maintaining your blood sugar and energy levels is vital to keep you on track in your indoor training sessions. This means eating properly all day, rather than trying to time meals and snacks with your session in mind. As you are likely to train for up to an hour, at various levels of difficulty, your body needs to have a stable base level of energy to draw on.
Carbohydrates are essential for this and are best digested from rice and pasta. Red meat is unpredictable in terms of energy because it can be hard to digest. If you feel weak during a session, eat natural sugars such as those in fruit. For more great nutritional tips, check out our guide to some food essentials for indoor training.
You will burn a lot of energy during a training session, which means you’ll heat up. Unlike the outdoors, this heat has to be dealt with by artificial means. If you overheat, this could even lead to fainting; but even just sweating too much will dehydrate you, which can have a serious impact on your well-being.
As well as sipping water every 10 minutes, make sure your environment can deal with that perspiring brow of yours. Modern gyms will be well ventilated, but if you’re at home, you should definitely use a fan next to your trainer (as any proper man cave should have!).
Another way to keep cool and comfortable is to dress correctly. Again, unlike riding outside, indoor training sessions mean constant contact with your saddle. Most trainers won’t really let you stand up, free wheel and let the breeze caress the stresses on your body (although the Kurt Kinetic Rock n Roller does an awesome lifelike job!), so comfort really is the key.
So yes, padded shorts are a must for indoor training. On your upper body, remember you are indoors and will more than likely sweat like a champ. Wear something light and thin to help dissipate this and your body heat.
Train in intervals
One of the main differences between outdoor cycling and indoor training is the distance. The main focus of indoor training is to increase your fitness levels rather than see how far you can ride. Interval training enables you to push yourself over short spells. These should vary in intensity, giving your whole body a great workout over your session.
Keep yourself entertained!
Certainly one of the major complaints we’ve heard about riding indoors is the boredom. It really has put some people off , especially at home, where the repetitive nature of cycle training can let the mind wander.
Our golden tip: if you are training alone, make sure you have your favorite music or other entertainment at hand (some of the options on our top accessories list might be right up your alley). Make this one of the first things you prepare for, so that it’s ready to go when you are. This could also be a decisive factor in motivating you to keep the training sessions going, especially if you’re one of those that struggles without the wind ruffling around your ears!