Skip to content

Why The Bike Trainer Is Your Friend

Indoor Bike Riding Zwift Run Tri Bike Magazine Angela Naeth

Indoor training offers numerous benefits.  It’s time efficient, safer than outdoor riding, controlled and therefore has the ability to be better quality training as compared to outdoor riding. A smart bike trainer with integrated power meters are extremely helpful for indoor riding. They allow you to do controlled, targeted workouts.  Smart trainers also have the ability to connect to apps and indoor training programs, such as  Zwift. Zwift is an online training platform that provides a realistic environment for you to ride with  friends or join other riders via the Internet. If you’re nervous about riding outdoors or the weather isn’t conducive to outdoor cycling then indoor riding is a better option

If you have a choice to ride indoor or outdoor, almost all cyclists/triathletes would say outside. However, relish in the fact you get to fine-tune your training when riding indoors. It is one of the best kept secrets to success! It’s easy to control, monitor and focus on specific aspects of training to improve your overall cycling performance.  Indoor riding also allows you to dive into your workout without soft-pedaling, stopping, and other outdoor issues that can take out time of your ride. 

Learning to embrace indoor workouts can take you to a new level. Use a variety of these workouts and tips to keep you motivated while doing so. 

Use Music

A good way to mix up the monotony of the trainer is to add a good playlist and alternate going harder to one song and easy on the next. You can do this for a variety of specific training aspects, some you may not have heard of before. They include: big gear work, intensity efforts, high cadence spinning, one legged drills, aerobar position vs. sitting upright or standing, and even visualization (visualize a race effort/racing on one song and let it go the next). Music is a quick way to change up your routine.

Be Consistent

In order to maintain and increase your fitness, consistency is king! Riding at a minimum 2-4 times a week will help you build into the triathlon and cycling seasons. This equates to 1-3 weekday rides, which may includeintervals and steady state, and 1 or more longer rides on the weekend. One long ride a week of 2+ hours that builds from a shorter period to this length throughout the months will help you jump into some big fitness gains when Spring hits. 

Intensity Outweighs Endurance

I wouldn’t say this rule applies all the time but when grinding indoors becomes mentally tough. Keeping the intensity high through intervals to get the most bang for your buck in a short one hour workout can be a challenge. Examples of this include one minute all-out efforts, where you spin as fast as possible, followed by one minute easy.  Repeat this after a quick warm-up and cool-down 20x and you’ll be one happy, exhausted athlete. 

Long Ride 1x Per Week

Even with those short intensity workouts, as suggested above, you want to build your endurance on the bike. One long ride that is built throughout the weeks of the winter by 10-15% each week will allow you to have the endurance needed once you get back outdoors. Start at 90 minutes and increase your time,  all at an aerobic effort (RPE of 4.)  Use movies and alternating positions to help offset the boredom that may set in. Using heart-rate/power data is also helpful as you can really dial in your efforts and concentrate on where you want to be. 

Interval Training

Riding the bike trainer is where you can work at all the right intensities with no idle pedaling and stopping. Use it to your advantage with interval workouts when you have 60-90 minutes on the trainer.  There are a number of interval options  but here are a few to incorporate into your training schedule:

  • Big gear/Little gear: Alternate big gear and easy gear by 5 minutes
  • Ladder: Find your aerobic tempo and hold this for 1,3,5,7, and 9 minutes with 2 minutes easy spin. Repeat back down the ladder.
  • Tabatas: Sprint for 10-20 seconds by winding up the cadence and going all out during this time. Rest for a short 10-second interval and repeat 10x. These intervals are one of the best ways to make gains in your fitness. 

A key to building yourself as a long distance cyclist/triathlete is realizing that sometimes it’s just you, your head, and your body. The mental edge you’ll get by pushing through the repetition and boredom of riding the bike trainer can turn into your greatest strength on race day. 

Angela Naeth Ironman Champion Triathlete Triathlon I Race Like A Girl

Angela Naeth’s experience includes being a 3x Ironman Champion, 36+ podium places at the 70.3 distance and 8th at the Ironman World Championships in 2018. Her educational background includes a Master’s degree in Physical Therapy and Bachelor’s in Health Sciences. Angela continues to pursue her career as a professional triathlete, is the founder of an all women’s endurance team and coach’s others to achieve their athletic pursuits. Her passion is to inspire and support Women In Sport.