3 Indoor Cycling Workouts for the Winter

Riding on the trainer during the winter may not be your ideal way to spend an hour or two, but the truth is that training indoors can be highly productive when done properly. At FasCat, we have a couple rules of thumb when prescribing indoor training workouts for our athletes. They are:
  1. Limit the ride time to 60-75 minutes during the week and 90 minutes on the weekend.
  2. Add structure to the workout.
  3. Work on Advanced Aerobic Endurance.
  4. Never “just ride” in zone 2.

In January we like to add advanced aerobic endurance intervals to our athletes’ trainer workouts primarily in the form of Tempo and Sweet Spot workouts. By riding at higher intensities than traditional wintertime “base miles”, the athlete will achieve more physiological adaptations and make better use of his or her time. Here are three indoor cycling workouts that will make the most of your winter trainer time:

1. Tempo Intervals
Tempo intervals are a great place to get started. Ride at 76-90% of your threshold (FTP or Functional Threshold Power). One example of a tempo workout for a 1-hour trainer ride:
  • Warm up for 10-15 minutes
  • 3 x 8 minutes on at 76-90% of FTP
  • 4-minute recoveries ("off")
  • Cool-down/ride easy for remainer
2. Sweet Spot Intervals
Once you've done a few Tempo workouts, up the ante with Sweet Spot intervals which are slightly harder at 83-97% of one's FTP. Again, do intervals in the 5 - 20 minute length repeating 2-5 times as appropriate. For example:
  • Warm-up 10-15 minutes
  • 3 x 10 minutes on at 83-97% of FTP
  • 5 minutes off (recoveries) in between each interval
  • Cool-down/ride easy for remainder

The 2:1 work-to-rest ratio (for example, 10 minutes on, 5 minutes off) is more productive when training indoors.

3. Tempo Bursts
Tempo and Sweet Spot intervals are as hard as we have athletes go on the trainer in the winter. To continue the progression and to help the time pass quicker, we add bursts to the tempo and sweet spot intervals. For example, during workout #1 above we'd add a 5-second burst greater than 450 watts every 2 minutes during the 8 minute tempo interval. Not only is this specific to races that many of our athletes compete in, by having a burst to do every 2 minutes it actually helps the time pass by quicker! An example Tempo Burst workout:
  • Warm-up 10-15 minutes
  • 3 x 8 minutes on at 76-90% of FTP, with a 5-second burst every 2 minutes that is > 450 watts
  • 4 minute recoveries in between intervals
  • Cool down

Overall the number of intervals and their length can be widely varied. Most athletes should start with a total of 20-30 minutes of tempo work during the workout, and increase the total load as they go along the season. Lastly, even though you are indoors don't forgot to use a fan and drink plenty.


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About Frank Overton

Frank founded FasCat Coaching in 2002 and has been a full time cycling coach since 2004. His educational background includes a Masters degree in Physiology from North Carolina State University, pre-med from Hampden-Sydney College. Frank raced at a professional level on the road and mountain bike and currently competes as a "masters" level gravel and cyclocrosser. Professionally Frank comes from medical school spinal cord research and molecular biotechnology. However, to this day it is a dream come true for Frank to be able to help cyclists as a coach.

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