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The Benefits of Riding Indoors

By Kelly Wissolik

Most triathletes and cyclists immediately grimace and think "boring" at the first suggestion of riding their bike on a stationary trainer. However, triathletes and cyclists should also understand that early base phase is the most important time of the year to build a solid aerobic and endurance base, along with improving technique.

Without a solid base, there is no foundation upon which to improve. Athletes often think they can get by riding outside and going to spinning classes or riding a stationary bike at the health club when weather prohibits outdoor riding. Spinning classes can be a nice alternative once in a while, but generally spinning is much more of an anaerobic workout, and during the base phase most of the focus should be on building aerobic and endurance capacity. Exercise bikes at the health club may be convenient, but in order to obtain the cycling-specific training needed, as triathletes and cyclists, we must train on our own bikes. The stationary trainer allows us to do just this.

While the winter months lead cyclists to head indoors, city dwellers also find it efficient to jump on the trainer year round and ride inside rather than battle the congestion and mayhem on the streets below. No matter what time of year or what kind of weather, there is always a place for indoor riding. I am confident that once you experience the benefits of indoor riding in the convenience of your own home you will agree.

Indoor riding offers numerous benefits and advantages. Riding your stationary trainer can be a key component of your cycling training program. Indoor riding is beneficial because it enables you to get an effective workout in a short amount of time. You can work on single leg and other drills all while not worrying about traffic, weather or road conditions. You control tension, power and time.

When riding the trainer, you can repeat your workouts consistently and measure your improvements. Never worry about missing a workout due to a flat tire and having to call your spouse or a cab again.  Riding indoors is advantageous because it enables you to train on your bike in a consistent manner all year. You do not have to worry about dressing in layers, carrying spare tubes, bike pumps, loads of nutrition and the cell phone. And, you don’t have to spend time on the road driving/riding to a safe riding area. All you have to do is pull up your bike shorts and strap on your cycling shoes. If necessary, momentarily pause the workout and fill up your water bottles, grab food from the kitchen and use your own bathroom. Talk about convenience and time savings! Heck, with all the time you save, you’ll be able to do your laundry after the ride.

To ensure success with indoor riding, you need to start by selecting the right equipment. There are various types of trainers out there. Take the time to research and spend the money on a quality trainer. A good trainer will provide a quality, quiet ride and in turn produce an efficient and effective workout. Ensure you have a properly fitted bike, the right shoes and a good seat. The better you equip yourself with the proper training equipment, the more successful and effective you will be in preventing hardships and needless suffering later.

Second, create the proper training environment. Find a place in your home where you have plenty of space to position your bike in front of your TV and set it up on your trainer correctly. Once you have your bike set up on the trainer, you may want to set up an end table to the side of your bike for extra water bottles, towels, TV and VCR remotes and nutrition. Next, place a large towel or mat underneath your bike to prevent puddles from damaging your floor, and protect your bike from corrosive sweat with a bike bra. Also place a fan near you to circulate air in the room. You want to create a comfortable riding atmosphere so you feel good.

When riding indoors, we miss the vital element of evaporation and cooling from the wind. Indoors, our body temperature rises, our rate of perceived exertion rises and our heart rate rises during workouts that may seem easy outdoors. Fans and towels are essential when riding indoors. We will heat up much faster inside. As with riding on the road, hydration is also essential indoors. Be sure to fill up your water bottles and drink up. Basic guidelines suggest 16-24 fluid ounces every hour but you may need a little more when riding indoors or out in the heat. Now, instead of checking the weather, bundling up in layers, packing spare tubes and bike pumps you just need to pop in the appropriate DVD or select the right CompuTrainer course and it’s time to train!

The third component to ensuring success of indoor riding is selecting the right workout. Typically, training is done indoors for an extended period of time during the winter months when most athletes are in the base phase of training and building their foundation. Workout selection will primarily consist of increased volume and moderate-intensity endurance rides.

It is important to incorporate skill and drill development work, which can most effectively be accomplished on the trainer. Drill work such as high-cadence, low-resistance intervals and single leg drills help with neuromuscular development, improving your technique and making you a more efficient cyclist. Please note that athletes must continue to keep at least one workout a week of tempo work that utilizes shorter intervals but varying intensity during the base phase. Increasing intervals and strength work such as high-resistance, low-cadence exercises will come toward the end of the base phase and in build phases, power and speed will be developed. Performing time trials on the indoor trainer is measurable and repeatable.  Be sure to do them regularly throughout your season to check your progress.

Indoor trainer riding is efficient. The saying, “An hour on the trainer can be worth two on the road” came about because you are continually working on the trainer. There is no resting, downhills, drafting, traffic lights or stop signs. Instead, you are constantly pedaling at a steady effort. You also eliminate distractions and can be totally focused on your effort. With this level of focused concentration, you are building mental stamina and will be able to push harder when you do get to ride outside and race.

Coach Kelly Wissolik is an elite triathlete and professional triathlon coach (USAT Level II Certified).  After becoming a top age group cyclist in the sport of triathlon, Coach Kelly has created several cycling DVD’s that emphasize proper cycling technique in rigorous workout routines. Visit her website at www.energyfitnesscoaching.com.


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