Smash These 3 Killer Indoor Cycling Workouts

When you can’t get outside, indoor training doesn’t have to be dull. Gain speed, strength, and fitness on the bike with these workouts.

Selene Yeager |

Chances are your typical indoor ride goes like this: Hop on trainer, turn on Netflix to binge your favourite show, and fight off trainer boredom as long as you can stand it. But spending hours on the trainer can actually be overkill.

Indoor training workouts or Spin workouts can actually be harder than riding outside because you’re fighting the resistance of the trainer, says coach Andy Applegate of Carmichael Training Systems. That’s why he recommends short, hard efforts. “You’ll build your aerobic energy system—in less time,” he says.

These indoor cycling workouts can be done on either a Spin bike or an indoor bike trainer. But before you get to them, you’ll want to make sure you’re set up to ride indoors.

Choose Your Trainer

First, be real about your budget. If money is no object, Applegate recommends rollers, which best simulate outdoor riding. Otherwise, go with a resistance trainer. “Fluid trainers are the smoothest, but they’re more expensive than magnetic,” Applegate says. You can also equip your space with a stationary bike instead of a trainer.

Then, assess how much space you have at home – certain trainer models and bikes aren’t easily tucked away in a closet. Others are more compact or fold for simple storage. Some trainers (including wind trainers) are oppressively loud, so give it a try or do your research before you buy.

Set Up Your Space

Zach Kutos

Get set with these essentials:

1. Water: Expect to drink more than you would outside.
2. Fans: Keep your body (and your back tyre) cool.
3. Rubber Mat: You’ll drip sweat, and your trainer might skid as you hammer.
4. Towel: Drape it over the frame to protect it from moisture.
5. Book or Riser: You can buy bike-specific risers to level the wheels, but a thick book also works.
6. Entertainment: A TV, iPad, phone, or training buddy will help prevent boredom.

Indoor Cycling Workouts

Applegate suggests doing one of the indoor cycling workouts below twice a week; choose a different one for a third hard day if you can’t get outside. After three weeks, try one of the more challenging variations. Allow one day of rest, cross-training, or easy riding between sessions. Each workout includes a 10- to 15-minute warmup and a 10-minute cool down.

The workouts below were designed for an indoor bike trainer, but you can also perform them on a standard Spin bike. Just adjust the resistance accordingly.

Speed Intervals

This workout will improve your power and speed and help you recover from repeated hard efforts. For the fast pedal intervals, use an easy gear and as high of a cadence as possible, but keep your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) low: 5 out of 10.
Total time: 47 to 59 minutes

Zack Kutos​

Make it harder: Add one on/off interval (30 seconds at 95 percent effort with 30 seconds of easy spinning) up to 20 intervals total.

Climbing Bursts

This workout is designed to help you respond to attacks on hills. Simulate a hill by raising the bike’s front wheel or adding resistance. Stand and attack for the 15-second intervals.
Total time: 83 to 88 minutes

Zack Kutos

Make it harder: The main workout is 3 x 10 minutes (total) with 15-second stand and attack intervals every 2 minutes. For a challenge, try 2 x 15 minutes total with 10 minutes recovery, then 3 x 12 minutes total with 6 minutes recovery, then 2 x 20 minutes total with 10 minutes recovery.

Ladder Intervals

This workout simulates the demands of racing. A rate of perceived exertion (RPE) of 8 or Level 8 is about 90 to 100 percent of threshold power, RPE 9 or Level 9 is 100 to 110 percent of threshold, and RPE 10 or Level 10 is 115 percent of threshold.
Total time: 72 to 87 minutes

Zack Kutos

Make it harder: Add 30 seconds to each rung (Levels 8, 9, and 10) of the ladder, then add 1 minute.

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