Question: I’m afraid I’m going to go nuts this winter, stuck on the trainer here in the Midwest. Should I periodize indoor training, or is it okay simply to pick three or four trainer workouts and rotate them? — Charlie L.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: Believe me, Charlie, I can identify. I live at 6,000 feet in western Colorado. It gets pretty tough to ride outside in winter here, too.
Basically, there are two ways to use indoor trainers.
If you live where it’s almost always possible to ride outside during winter, follow a periodized training schedule. That is, change your workout focus every 4-8 weeks so you build strength and endurance during the winter, then add sprinting and time-trialing speed as spring approaches. On the occasional day when it’s too cold or wet to get out, do the workout on the trainer.
For example, if your schedule calls for intervals, crank them out on the trainer. Missing a two-hour aerobic ride? Watch a Tour de France video and go for it. Indoor training like this can be boring and unpleasant. But if you only have to do it once or twice a week, it’s bearable.
On the other hand, if you’ll often be trapped inside, you need to use your creativity to keep from going stark, raving mad.
In this case, follow a periodized training program but modify it for indoors. An important rule is to never do exactly the same trainer session twice. Figure out what goal your training needs to accomplish on the given day. Then be creative in the workout while still meeting that goal.
Here’s an example: If the workout is supposed to push your lactate threshold, don’t do the same stale routine of 5×10 minutes at time trial intensity. Instead, do one minute on the trainer at a brisk pace alternated with one set of a weight training exercise. Continue to alternate riding and lifting for an hour. This workout has been shown to raise lactate threshold as effectively as regular intervals or tempo rides. But it’s a big mental relief from sitting on the trainer non-stop for an hour.
The important thing is to retain your enthusiasm for cycling. When spring finally comes, you want to be eager to ride, not fried from pedaling on the road to nowhere all winter.