How to use indoor training to smash your outdoor riding goals

Whether you want to build endurance, become a better sprinter or improve your climbing, indoor training can help you achieve your goals on the bike

If you’re preparing for a big summer on the bike, indoor training is the most efficient way to build your fitness and fine-tune your form for the months ahead.

Indoor training was once considered a necessary evil for cyclists, reserved for the cold, dark months of winter. However, the advent of smart trainers like the Wahoo Kickr, and indoor cycling trainer bikes such as the Wattbike Atom, alongside interactive apps including Zwift, has changed the way riders view indoor training. Dare we say it, indoor training is fun and the training benefits are plain to see.

“Indoor training allows you to follow a specific training plan far closer,” says Pav Bryan of Spokes Personal Performance Coaching. “When you’re riding out on the road, traffic, weather and unsuitable terrain can all become barriers to completing a quality training session.

That’s good news if you want to fast-track your fitness. Indoor training removes the external variables and distractions found outside, and ensures you can fit a quality session into less than an hour.

Smart devices like the Kickr and Atom can also measure your power, allowing you to train much more intelligently, and are compatible with apps that allow you to measure and track your fitness through a series of tests. Taking a fitness test will also enable you to determine your Functional Threshold Power (the maximum power you can sustain for an hour).

From there, you can set prescribed power targets for each session based on the area of fitness being targeted, with the trainer then requiring you to hold that power so you can complete quality intervals without the temptation to slack off or ride too hard.

“That means you have specificity in training,” adds Bryan. “You can really target certain power outputs to give a specific fitness adaptation, whether that’s focussing on your endurance or climbing.”

Ultimately, by incorporating indoor training into your riding schedule, you can put the building blocks in place to achieve your outdoor riding goals. After all, who doesn’t want to be stronger and faster on the road?

How to train for short, steep climbs

If you’ve got your sights set on a local Strava KOM, Jenner of Rule 5 Cycling Coaching recommends high-intensity intervals to train for punchy climbs. After a ten-minute warm-up, complete four to eight two-minute intervals at maximum intensity, with two minutes recovery between each.

If you are using a smart turbo trainer or indoor training bike, these intervals should be conducted at approximately 110 to 120 per cent of your Functional Threshold Power. Once you’ve completed your efforts, cool down for ten minutes.

“This is a great workout if you’re short on time and will improve your body’s ability to carry oxygen to your muscles when working really hard,” says Jenner.

How to improve your endurance

Indoor training might not sound like the best way to improve your endurance - after all, surely three hours on the road is better than one hour indoors? Once again, however, you’re devoid of distractions - and the opportunity to freewheel - and you can use ‘sweet spot’ intervals to make big endurance gains in a short amount of time.

“Sweet spot is generally considered to achieve positive adaptations without placing too much stress on your body, so you can repeat these intervals regularly,” says Bryan.

Your endurance sweet spot is between 83 and 97 per cent of your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) and a typical training session should include two or three intervals of ten to 20 minutes, with a ten minute break between each interval.

How to become a better sprinter

While sweet spot intervals can be used to improve your endurance, short sprints can be used to boost your top-end speed. “Start by warming up for 15 minutes, then do five 15-second, all-out sprint efforts, with five minutes of each spinning between each,” says Jenner. “The goal of this session is to improve peak power output.”

Start each sprint from a standstill, Jenner adds, and try to keep your cadence high throughout, without needing to change gears too soon (or at all). Because your sprints should be all-out efforts, this session shouldn’t be completed to a prescribed power - empty the tank each time. Finish with a 15-minute cool down.

This article is part of a series on indoor cycling, supported by

Back to top