We’ve put together this handy guide with our top 5 tips to help you make the most of your indoor training.
This year, we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of cyclists taking to the road due to the pandemic. But, as always around this time of year, many road cyclists are taking their training indoors to hide from the plummeting temperatures.
This may be you, too!
We’ve put together this handy guide to help you know what to expect when taking your cycle training indoors, what should you look out for, and how you can make the most of indoor training.
Read on to find out more.
1. WORK TO YOUR TRAINING ZONES
We can’t emphasise this one enough: work to your correct training zones. This is imperative to #TrainingSmart because it means you’ll be pushing hard enough during intervals and racing at a sustainable output for the duration of your session. And because indoor training also eliminates any uncontrollable factors you may face out on the road (traffic, potholes, a strong wind, etc.), there's no excuse not to hit your desired training zones each session.
Now is also the best time to complete that FTP test you’ve been putting off. Though your FTP score may not be as high as you’d like this time of year, it’ll give you clarity on your particular training level and correct intensity which, in turn, equals maximum performance over winter, avoids overtraining and ensures tangible, measurable improvements.
Book your FTP Test now.
2. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR HYDRATION LEVELS AND THE TEMPERATURE OF YOUR BODY
As your body becomes hotter and hotter, you’ll start to perspire more. When you’re riding outdoors, there’s a natural airflow that helps the sweat evaporate off your body. Training indoors is not quite the same: the sweat your body produces won’t evaporate. It will drip. Sweat evaporating = more heat removed. Sweat dripping = less heat removed.
Even a small change in the temperature of your body will create a large change in the amount of power you produce. Losing your body’s fluid to sweat will create thicker blood which, in turn, creates more resistance internally for the cardiovascular system. The result? Your heart has to pump faster in order to get the same amount of blood to your working muscles. This is what we call cardiovascular drift. In fact, overheating can cause a reduction in your power by 20 to 30 watts, so it’s critical to stay cool during your indoor training workout, whether that’s by using a large fan or training in a cool room.
By staying cool and hydrated, you’re giving your body a better chance to produce more wattage for your heart rate.
And take note of how much you’re sweating (or dripping!). These are your hydration cues. Your body is sending you a reminder. Listen to it and drink up. Our #NjingaTopTip is to drink before you’re thirsty! Otherwise it’s too late: your body is already dehydrated.
As dehydration starts to kick in, your heart rate will increase in order to meet the demands place on it by the body. Your heart rate will increase as your stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped out the heart on each beat) decreases. This happens because dehydration causes a decrease in blood plasma and, as a result, your blood becomes thicker. Therefore, your heart rate will need to increase in order to continue supplying enough blood and oxygen to the working muscles.
There will be a point in your training session when your body fatigues. Your heart rate will remain at its peak and your training intensity will start dropping as you'll be unable to sustain your pace.
3. YOUR POWER OUTPUT WILL BE REDUCED AND YOUR ISOLATED MUSCLES WILL BE CHALLENGED
Right off the bat, it’s going to be harder to produce the same wattage as you do when riding outdoors. Here’s why:
Indoor trainers sit in a fixed and static position, which means your body is going to be much the same: fixed and static, or more so than riding outdoors where we move our bodies and bikes side-to-side, which helps us produce a more powerful pedal stroke. We’re also, when cycling outdoors, able to recruit some of our upper body to help the core and legs produce power.
Although indoors we won’t be able to utilise the same muscles that we do outside, the reverse is also true: when riding indoors, our bodies are going to be forced to use more isolated muscles that are neglected in outdoor riding. Many riders will complain, when moving their training indoors, that their inner adductors (the inside of your thighs) really hurt during their first two to three weeks. This is because these muscles are under-utilised when riding outdoors.
It’s not all bad news: as you ride indoors more and more, your body will get used to it and you’ll slowly build your indoor power output.
4. SPECIFIC TRAINING SESSIONS
The outside riding environment = traffic, curves, potholes, and staying upright. Inside, there’s none of that, so you can focus all your attention on completing your workout. No distractions. No uncontrollable variables. No excuses.
Another advantages of riding indoors during winter is that each indoor session can be tailored to meet your training requirements. You can work on your strength, speed, or endurance whilst always using your specific training zones to maximise results. And best of all, you won’t be interrupted by anything, so you’re always guaranteed a productive indoor training session.
5. YOUR HARDEST INTERVALS ARE GOING TO BE EVEN HARDER
Indoor training technology has improved significantly. In today’s world, many smart trainers are equipped with built-in power meters. This means you can set a specific target power output for the exact amount of time prescribed, and it will then drop the resistance at the end of each effort. This means you can ensure you’re hitting your exact wattage with much greater precision to get more out of your session.
When you’re riding outdoors, you have to reach and hold 130% on your own. But inside? Your indoor trainer will set and hold that resistance for you. So, start mentally prepping yourself for those maximum power output intervals — trust us, they’re going to be tough (but worth it).
6. PEDAL TECHNIQUE
Finally, the off-season is a great time to work on your weaknesses (strength training for cyclists, anyone?) while indoor training, in particular, allows you to focus on your technique.
Training indoors in a safe, controlled environment will allow you time to improve and concentrate on your pedal technique without having to worry about external factors such a traffic or potholes. Your pedal technique is a fundamental component of your cycling and can have a big impact on your power output, speed, endurance, bike handling skills, and much more. You can gain as much as 10 to 20 watts in ‘free power’ by working on your technique, so take the opportunity during your indoor sessions when you have no external factors to contend with.
Book your pedal technique session now.
7. PREPARE TO HAVE YOUR MOTIVATION TESTED
Outdoor riding on a sunny day means clear skies, sunshine, wind, and sights that are as lovely to look at as they are to ride through. Indoors? Well, it’s not quite the same. Indoor riding is just you, your indoor trainer, and the room you’re riding in. It’s not always easy and sometimes, the minutes can seem like hours.
When your mental motivation is taking a hit, your wattage and power output can be significantly reduced. Never, ever underestimate the power of the mind (Thinking Smart is of huge importance to us here at the Njinga Cycling Academy. In fact, it’s one of our three philosophy pillars, and we use it to improve the cycling performance of cyclists of all ages and stages, along with Training and Fuelling Smart.)
The key is to remove as many obstacles as possible like you’d do with any other type of exercise. If you’re lucky enough to have the extra space, leave your indoor trainer set up and ready to go in a dedicated room.
Another way to keep motivated is by having multiple performance metrics to focus on. Within one session, you can keep track of your different numbers, including cadence, power, and heart rate, and also track the improvements and changes in these throughout each session and over time.
Training in a group environment with others here at Njinga also provides a competitive element (if you want it). It keeps you pushing for more and working consistently at your best.
Book a remote training class spot now.
BEFORE YOU GO
Hibernating for the winter months can sound more appealing than heading out for a cycle ride in freezing and wet weather conditions, but indoor training will provide you with the same benefits, ultimately enabling you to start the summer cycling season in your best form possible.
Our top tip? Our Njinga Indoor Training Sessions are the best way to get the most out of your indoor training. Another great idea is to ride to a specific workout or training plan: these’ll give you purpose and motivation to get on that trainer, day or night.
But don’t just believe what we say about the benefits of indoor training with the Njinga Cycling Academy...
“Classes are superb. Getting the software at home is an absolute game-changer. I’m working 20% harder, no doubt about it. Bloody brilliant.” - Rich Smith
"I think there is a big difference between a "spin" class at a gym and a session in the lab at Njinga — they're not really comparable. It's true that there's nowhere to hide in a Njinga session (which would normally scare me off!) but everyone (including the other class members) is so supportive. Njinga just want you to be the best cyclist you can be and will help you get there." - Sue Hartley