As the weather turns and many of us start to move our cycling exploits indoors during the winter months, we bring you our top tips for indoor training.
Training indoors on a smart trainer, turbo or set of rollers can be a fun and rewarding way of getting your cycling fix. For the performance-focused rider, it's also one of the most time efficient and effective ways to improve your fitness on the bike. The fact you can get all this high-quality training in without having to brave the elements or wash your bike after the ride is a big plus for many too.
Whether you've just purchased a trainer or are an experienced indoor pro, here's our guide to getting most out of your time in the pain cave.
One of the first things you should do is set yourself an overall goal. Having something to aim for is the best way to stay motivated indoors and ensure you don't skip too many sessions. Wherever possible, try to be as specific as you can with your goals, so rather than simply saying 'I want to get faster', perhaps aim to increase your FTP by a certain amount by a certain time or achieve a PB on a local Strava segment. Having a big event to train for can be a huge motivator too, so get that big sportive or race booked in for Spring now!
Pimp your pain cave
Decking your training space out with the right set-up is key. Whether you're using a smart trainer, turbo or rollers, ensure you have ample space to set up the bike. Make sure you also have good fan in the room because you can get hot very quickly even in the depths of winter. It’s wise to throw down a towel to protect your bike and floor from nasty corroding sweat too.
Similarly, check your bike’s components regularly to make sure they are working correctly. Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean can skip over giving your chain a quick lube – and an accumulation of sweat on a drivetrain (yuck!) will dramatically reduce its efficiency and lifespan.
Whilst not essential, we'd recommend having some kind of table or stand to mount your laptop / tablet on if you're using software to train. There are several cycling-specific stands on the market, but a sturdy desk will suffice.
Finally, for those who want to take the outdoor simulation experience to the next level, consider a large TV or projector for the most immersive experience on Zwift, Rouvy or other cycling simulation platforms.
Keep it under an hour
Regularly doing intervals and sessions on an indoor trainer is incredibly useful but mentally taxing too. When it comes to these sessions it is best to focus on quality over quantity. An hour of structured intervals is, for the most part, more effective than two hours of 'junk miles'.
Slaving away for hours on a trainer also isn’t a very motivating proposition, let's be honest, and could also lead to niggly pulls and strains. If you're just starting out with indoor training, keep yourself motivated with a 60 minute rule.
Make sure you have enough juice
There is nothing worse than having your music cut out or the tablet or laptop you’re using to run Zwift die halfway through an interval when you are already fighting back the lactic. To prevent this nightmare scenario, we always like to triple check that everything is charged well in advance of the first pedal stroke.
Bluetooth headphones, mobile phones, laptops, speakers – they can all betray you at the worst possible moment – so keep an eye on ‘em.
Give yourself as few excuses as possible to miss a session. Plan ahead by getting everything ready the night before. Trainer and laptop all set up, drink bottles filled, cycling shorts laid out ready. When your morning alarm goes off, having everything ready could mean the difference between you getting the session done and not.
It's also always a good idea to make family members / housemates aware of when you're training to avoid those unwanted interruptions when you're buried deep in the middle of hard session.
Finally, try to plan your week's training schedule at the start of the week or even on Sunday night. By getting things booked into your calendar, you're less likely to miss sessions when last minute things crop up and life inevitably gets in the way.
It is vital to stay hydrated whilst cycling indoors. Even in the winter months, you can overheat very quickly. The combination of this rigorous exercise in a contained space with cooling systems like fans can dehydrate a rider very quickly. You should dress for summer even if it is cold, you will soon warm up. You should therefore hydrate like it is summer too. Aim to drink about half a litre to a litre of water an hour to keep on top of dehydration, and consider using electrolytes for the harder sessions.
Keep yourself entertained
Motivation is key to keeping to your regular indoor training routine. But we concede, sometimes pedalling in one place can get a little tedious. Therefore, having a pumping playlist or podcast series to listen to can alleviate the boredom and act as a diversion from the pain. Netflix was basically invented for turbo season. Arranging virtual group rides with friends is also a great way to keep it fun - if only for the banter.
Follow plans and workouts
For the best results, following a structured plan is a game changer. Apps like Zwift and TrainerRoad have these built in and are a fantastic way to train through winter and stay focused. They also prevent you from aimlessly riding with no end goal in mind. Plans not only give you structure, but are a great way to track your progress. Plus, if you're got a specific event in mind like a gran fondo, criterium or time trial, most of the best apps have plans designed specifically to prepare you for that discipline.
Outside of the apps, there are many resources online in regard to indoor training plans from the likes of TrainingPeaks.
If you have the right sort of trainer, apps like Zwift have race functionalities built in. Missing your winter road events, TTs or cyclocross races? Simply sign up for a race and pit yourself against other homebound racers from all over the world. We can say from personal experience that there is no tougher way to ride the turbo than a full-gas Zwift race. The world of online racing is huge, so whether it's a 30 minute crit, a 100 mile gran fondo or a team time trial, there's a virtual event out there for you.
You may think that because you are indoors you will not need insurance cover, but that isn’t the case. Pedalsure can insure all of your bikes and accessories whether in your home or away from it.
The fact is, you won’t find many of the things we cover in your typical home insurance policies. Taking out a policy with us means that your bike is protected in cases of bike theft and damage when you do choose to venture out of your pain cave.
Pedalsure can also protect you, your bike and your accessories in mass participation events and races, in cases of personal injury, personal liability and when you are travelling abroad. Getting yourself set up with a Pedalsure policy is something you only have to do once a year, but you get the benefit with every ride.
Need something to lock your bike up with when you’re tackling one of these popular segments? You can now get a free gold-rated Hiplok DX D-lock worth £69.99 with any new insurance policy, just one of many ways we protect both you and your bike.