by Karen Smyers
This is the time of year that many of us hunker down to wait out the cold and blustery winter. When it takes longer to get dressed to battle the elements than it does to do the actual workout, I usually nix biking outside. Some of you may be hardy enough to bear the weather, but must succumb to the lack of daylight at this time of year. When it is dark when you head off to work and dark when you come home, what is a triathlete to do? Taking a leave of absence, calling in sick, and getting a night job all come to mind. But if those aren’t prudent options, opt for the indoor bike workout.
You may have an aversion to indoor biking because your bike doesn’t go anywhere. That is understandable; most of the motivation to keep putting power to the pedals on an outdoor ride is to get from point A to point B, with the added bonus that food and a shower probably await you at the destination. Lacking the need to cover the distance between me and food, I have had to come up with other ways to motivate me during an indoor bike workout.
First, it is important to have a purpose to each workout. Then you have to either entertain yourself through outside sources or have the workout so complicated that it takes all of your concentration.
PUTTING IN THE TIME: This is how most of my beginning rides of the off-season are. I have usually taken some time off riding and I just want to get my legs used to the circular motion again and burn some calories (for the meal that is sitting just around the corner tempting me to cut the workout short).
There are plenty of ways of entertaining yourself for this workout. Reading a book or a magazine is acceptable, singing along to your Bare Naked Ladies CD is OK if you are home alone. Since these rides don’t take a lot of concentration, it is also a good time for some heavy thinking as well. For instance, I might think up a creative message for my answering machine like this Christmas ditty I wrote during a particularly fruitful session:
(sung to the Tune of Jingle Bells)
Fosters, Becks, and Mich
Molson, Miller, Lowenbrau, we don’t know what to pick, oh!
Guinness Stout, Amstel Light,
and Coors Winterfest
We’re out trying to decide which one we like the best.
Your assignment: Write the words to “Frosty the Beer Mug” on your next indoor ride. (I will share my version with you upon request).
It is pretty clear that the Putting in the Time ride can pass pretty quickly if you approach it in the right frame of mind. But eventually you better move on to something that may actually make you break a sweat.
Technique Workouts: These workouts work on your pedaling technique, efficiency, and ability to smoothly adapt to different cadences. A session I like to do is 5 minutes at 100 rpms, 3 minutes at 110 rpms, and 1 minute at 120 rpms all in an easy gear. Take 2 minutes rest at 90 rpms and then repeat the whole sequence twice more. Note your HR at the different cadences so that when you repeat the workout in subsequent weeks you can see your improvement (your HR should be lower as you get more efficient at the fast cadences.) You can modify the cadences to be lower if you find it is too difficult, and increase it if you are a stud/studette.
Don’t push a hard gear on these–save that for the…
Strength Workout: The strength workout is a session that (Hold on to your hat!) develops strength. For these sessions, you have to have some biking miles (or hours) under your belt before you embark on these or you can hurt yourself. Always warm up and warm down for a good 10-15 minutes before these as well.
An example of a strength workout is: 3 x 10 minutes in a hard gear at a low cadence. Your heart rate should not be too high on these but your legs should feel fatigued by the end. Your cadence should be lower than your normal cadence on these: start at 80 rpms and lower it as you grow accustomed to this type of workout. Your effort should be about a 7 on a scale of 1-10. Focus on equal force to the pedals around the whole circle. Spin easily at 95-100 cadence for two minutes in between each repeat. Supplement your strength workouts with …
Lactate Threshold Workouts: These workouts are geared toward improving your power at LT and the ability to sustain that power. Start with about 20 minutes of intervals: 7 x 3 minutes with a 30 second rest is a fine starting workout. Your effort should be about a 8.5 on a scale of 1-10. You want to approximate the effort and gearing that you would put out for a 10-mile time trial. By the end of the three-minute interval your heart rate should be approaching your anaerobic threshold (for those of you that are wired up). To keep it interesting, you should occasionally throw in a…
Power Workout: The power workout improves your ability to put out a lot of wattage for a short period of time This is also a workout you should wait to introduce to your routine until you have some consistent biking under your belt. A good warm up is another prerequisite to this session.
A great power set is: 8 x 1 minute in a hard gear turning over the pedals at an upbeat cadence (95-105). You should just barely be able to hold it together for the minute without a loss of cadence. Your effort should be close to max on this (9.5-10) because you should be near failure. Take a lot of rest on these—at least 2 minutes—to allow the legs to recover for the next interval.
Challenge Workout: Do a ten-mile time trial. If you are fortunate enough to have a Computrainer, you can race your previous effort at the distance by making the pacer your last saved race. (You can’t ask for a better competitor than yourself– plus it teaches you how to be a good winner and loser at the same time!) Otherwise, just try to beat your previous time. Keep track of your vital statistics (time, average HR, average mph, gearing, cadence) so you can compare from week to week.
Try to progress the key workout each week by either increasing the number of intervals, the length of the interval, the power at which you do the interval, or decreasing the rest between intervals. For the few months that outdoor riding is impractical, these workouts should keep you entertained…and out of the kitchen.