If you’ve started to regularly incorporate stationary trainer rides into your fitness routine, you might be looking for some workout ideas to help take your indoor riding gains to a whole new level. It’s important to remember that riding on a stationary trainer can become an important component of your overall training plan. So you should consider the duration, intensity, and overall goal of each indoor ride just as you would with any other ride in order to make sure it’s fun, safe, and effective. If you happen to be consulting with a reputable cycling coach, then we advise you check with them for advice on how to best work indoor rides into your overall training plan. And, of course, before you engage in any strenuous riding—indoors or otherwise—always consult a medical professional.
All that said, we’re big fans of incorporating rides on stationary trainers into our workout routines. They’re relatively quick, effective for targeting certain goals, and can be loads of fun with the right attitude and entertainment—music, television shows or movies, and especially virtual racing, are all ways to liven up your stationary rides. Our friends at Rally Cycling know a thing or two about riding bikes, even indoors, and we wanted to find out what some of their favorite stationary trainer workouts are. Note: Some of these workouts will require familiarity with training with a power meter, as well as a knowledge of your FTP (these are workouts favored by pro cyclists, after all).
“I really like ERG workouts,” says Krista Doebel-Hickok. “My new thing is to ask my coach if I can please do the workouts that I hate the most, so this was a request. I feel like when I hate something, then it indicates a weakness, so let's work on it! ERG forces me to pedal smoother and steadier.”
ERG workouts involve using specific settings on certain smart stationary trainers in order to help you train in a very specific way. A trainer set to ERG mode will maintain a specific power output based on your workout goal and your own personal FTP, with the main benefit being that you are essentially freed up from consciously monitoring or adjusting your power output for a workout and are therefore able to focus on completing the effort. It’s very much an advanced training technique, and we recommend consulting with the manufacturer of your stationary trainer to determine whether or not your trainer offers this feature and how to best utilize it.
“Online racing dips into pretty well every aspect you would need to train while not really even feeling like work,” says Matteo Dal-Cin.
We love virtual racing—and so do the pros! Services like Zwift and RGT Cycling have brought the thrill and fun of racing your friends into your very own home with intuitive interfaces, advanced graphics, and life-like riding sensations used in conjunction with your smart trainer.
“Virtual races!” agrees Doebel-Hickok. “Yes, these are workouts. It counts.”
“When I am trying to get a really hard ride in, the only way I can achieve the amount of work I would usually get riding outside with other people is by racing multiple events in one indoor virtual ride,” says Pier-Andre Cote. “You mix some endurance riding in with the two or three races on tap and you end up with a big three- to four-hour ride with massive efforts!”
If you’ve never raced virtually before, then we don’t necessarily recommend that you follow Pier-Andre’s training plan right away. Start slow with your virtual riding, and ease into it, just as you would with any new aspect of training. Once you’ve got a few rides and several hours under your belt, go ahead and let loose with some hard efforts, or throw down with your friends or on any of the virtual group rides you can join. If you’re looking for a harder day on the bike, then go ahead and consider trying out a similar approach to Pier-Andre. Enjoy an easy virtual ride to warm-up, give it everything in a race, then ride for as long as you need at an endurance pace. What Pier-Andre’s hit upon is a sometimes overlooked aspect of virtual bike riding—you can structure it just as you would any outdoor ride, with different combinations of easy spins, hard efforts, simulated races, endurance pedaling, and cool-down rides you need to complement your training goals.
“If you are lucky enough to have some friends riding on the virtual platform, doing some seven- to ten-minute paceline efforts three or four times in a ride really replicates the effort of the initial stage of a breakaway trying to go in a race,” says Cote. “You'll be thanking me when you get in that situation again on the road!”
By now you’ve probably picked up that riding virtually with friends can be loads of fun, whether it’s an easy ride or a simulated race. But Pier-Andre touched upon another great aspect of virtual rides in the form of replicating unique riding situations. Paceline training can be incredibly fun and very efficient in terms of giving everyone a great workout and some practice when it comes to racing situations. But it’s not always feasible for a large group of riding companions to get together due to geographic distance. Virtual riding on an indoor smart trainer solves that. Best of all, you’re free from worrying about other traffic, road debris, or other factors that can inhibit a solid training ride and just focus on the effort to get the most efficient workout possible.
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