By Cory Bruno and Jim Rutberg, CTS Coach and co-author “The Time-Crunched Cyclist”
It’s time to change your mindset about indoor trainers. For too long they have been relegated to the position of “The Alternative”. If it’s too cold or snowy outside, you can ride the indoor trainer as an alternative. However, in the pursuit of your fitness and performance goals – regardless of the weather or road/trail conditions – an indoor trainer is an essential year-round training tool. Here’s why:
1. Indoor Trainers Maximize Limited Training Time
When you have limited training time, it’s important that you take advantage of every minute. Let’s say you have an hour. To ride outdoors you have to make sure you have all your gear, figure out what route you’re going to use, dress for the weather, etc. And once you’re out there, you might spend 10 or more minutes just sitting still at stoplights. Sometimes it’s like television: a 60-minute show is actually more like 44 minutes of content. Over days and weeks, this adds up to huge chunks of wasted training time that could have been used to improve your fitness had you rode uninterrupted on a trainer.
2. Trainers Allow for Highly-Targeted and Specific Intervals
There’s nothing worse than having your 20-minute lactate threshold effort interrupted because you misjudged how long you had before you hit a stoplight. When you have intervals that require very specific work and recovery time periods it can be difficult to find an uninterrupted road long enough or with just the right grade. Trainers eliminate the need for the perfect road and ensure you can focus your intervals without distraction every time. And when you want a less structured ride you can control your smart trainer with the Wahoo Fitness app, the ELEMNT Bike Computers, or a connected third-party app like The Sufferfest. You can even use the ELEMNT or ELEMNT BOLT to connect your TrainingPeaks workouts with your KICKR or SNAP Indoor Trainers to seamlessly merge your training tools.
3. Trainers Are an Effective Way to Warm-Up at Races
The pre-race warm-up is an essential part of a successful race and smart athletes – from local Cat 3’s to UCI Pro Tour riders – develop warm-up routines they know will work for them every time. You can use a standard trainer, or a smart trainer will take your warm-up to the next level. If you have access to electrical power you can use your smart trainer and the Wahoo Fitness app in Level, Erg, Sim, or Resistance mode. With the ELEMNT bike computer you can even control your KICKR indoor bike trainer and run through a warmup you have programmed into the device. No matter where a race takes place, trainers allow athletes to run through their warm-up without worrying about riding roads in a new city or getting a flat tire minutes before your start.
4. Post-Workout and Post-Race Cool Downs Improve Recovery
When you want to train or race effectively day after day it is important to pay attention to post-workout recovery. After completing hard efforts in training or competitions, you want to spend 10-15 minutes spinning steadily to cool down. Even if you can’t complete this at the race site, a short recovery spin in the evening after you drive home will be helpful, too.
5. Smart Trainers Can Simulate the Exact Course of Your Race
Smart trainers have changed the game when it comes to race-specific training. You can now upload the racecourse.GPX files from your ELEMNT bike computer and rides the course using your smart trainer. By examining the demands of the course you or your coach can create custom workouts to match the efforts you’ll experience on race day. Now, even if your race is 500 miles away in another city you can do hill repeats on the course’s final climb and know exactly what to expect on race day.
6. You’re Not Limited By the Hours of Sunlight in a Day
If the only time you have to train is early in the morning before dawn or after work when the sun’s already gone down you could strap on a bunch of lights and go dodge hidden potholes, but it’s not likely to be a great workout. Instead, you could stay safe and make your life easier by completing a solid training session indoors.
7. You Can Avoid the Energy-Sapping Heat
Just as you sometimes ride the trainer in the winter to stay warmer when it’s cold, it can be just as important to ride indoors when the summer sun is baking the ground outside. Power output is diminished when your core temperature is elevated, which is all but inevitable on hot summer days. When you have specific, high-power training to perform and can only do it during the hottest part of the day, you’ll often achieve better results doing those workouts indoors.
8. Great for Cadence Work
Indoor trainer workouts are great for developing a fluid pedal stroke. During high-cadence, low-resistance intervals, any roughness in your pedal stroke will quickly become apparent as your hips rock and you bounce on the saddle. Trainers can also be an effective and safe way to work on isolated leg training without worry about dangling your leg and possibly swerving out on the open road.
9. Connect to Apps to Compete and Share with Friends
Working out with others can help keep you accountable to your training plan and even motivate you to push your limits further during workouts. With a smart trainer, you can now connect with apps like Zwift to ride and ride with your friends. Add the KICKR CLIMB Grade Simulator to your training set up and you have a fully immersive ride experience. And when you’re done, you can automatically upload your ride to Strava! This fully interactive, connected trainer experience has led some of our athletes, especially athletes in congested urban areas, to prefer indoor training.
10. There are No Distracted or Angry Drivers Indoors
You have a family you love and a career you have worked hard to build. None of that matters to the texting teen in an SUV, the drunk office manager heading back to the cubicle farm, or the random angry guy who seethes every time he sees a cyclist on his precious road. For many cyclists, training indoors is an effective way to manage and minimize risk. A lot of pro triathletes train indoors because they can stay in an aero position safely and maintain specific power intensities targeted to their events.
Jim Rutberg is a Pro Coach for CTS and co-author of several books on training and nutrition, including “The Time-Crunched Cyclist, 2nd Ed.” and “The Time-Crunched Triathlete”. Cory Bruno is a competitive cyclist and content specialist for CTS. For information on personal coaching, training camps, and Endurance Bucket List events, visit http://trainright.com.