We’ve not quite been forced indoors yet, but it is certainly the time of year to think about your indoor options and get pro-active.
Indoor cycling training can be dull and limiting, but it need not be. Not only can you stay fit when the worst weather hits, but you can actually enhance your fitness by working on elements that you would not get outdoors, and adding some much needed variety for optimal performance.
I know many coaches who have seen the best performances from their riders after the harshest winters, when road training volume was forced down, but quality indoor training and effective rest was forced up.
Food for thought, and all the more reason to get organised.
Turbo trainers are now an established staple training tool for any keen road cyclist, and when compared to your typical ‘gym bike’, one of the obvious benefits is that by bolting your bike in, you are training your muscles very specifically for the position you will use on the road. Once on your turbo there is no respite either; pedalling continues uninterrupted by the urban environment and traffic, which can create a lot of ’dead time’ on the road, especially if you have to incorporate your training into a commute.
The biggest benefit of a turbo is that you are forced to work consistently and continuously, making it an ideal opportunity for some ‘target zone’ training, if you are working with a heart rate monitor or power metre to enhance your cardiovascular fitness. Equally, a turbo is great if you want to focus on seated leg/core strength efforts/drills, as you can get straight down to business after a short warm-up without having to find an appropriate stretch of road or hill first. This time-efficient element makes the turbo your ultimate ‘quality vs. quantity’ tool, but there are other options you should consider too.
Rollers have come back into fashion and provide a skill element by way of the balance aspect involved and the pedalling efficiency that you can develop in using them. The ‘core’ element is more about neuromuscular co-ordination and balance than core strength, but roller work can complement turbo training brilliantly to give you the best of both worlds. They can provide the ‘target zone’ training benefits of a turbo too, but for some stronger riders variable resistance rollers may be necessary for higher intensity intervals to avoid ‘spinning out’ for lack of resistance.
The biggest benefit of rollers over turbos is that they teach you to pedal more fluidly by highlighting any ‘jerkiness’ in your pedalling style. If you tend to shove on the pedals and only push down, this will show up immediately as you will lurch back and forth and find it difficult to establish a smooth rhythm. Track cycling coaches get their riders to train on road bikes on rollers because it helps develop the smoothest of pedalling, teaching you to co-ordinate your muscles as you pedal through the dead spots at the top and bottom of the pedal stroke.
One or two final options worth considering at your local gym are spin classes and gym bikes. Perhaps the least cycling specific because the bike position is often quite different from your own, gym-based cycling sessions are still worth a look, especially if you are really squeezed for time at either end of the day, or have a gym right in the heart of your workplace. Providing a good lunchtime or end of workday option, gym bikes still can offer some valuable time-efficient cycling training, and if attention deficit disorder is a problem then spin classes can keep you motivated by way of adding a social element, having someone keep you on track, and enjoying some music by way of distraction in the process.