Two Trainer Workouts You Haven't Tried
Updated: Sep 13
I always prefer to ride outside whenever possible, but the trainer is a necessary evil these days. The good news is that riding the trainer has become a whole lot less evil the past few years. I remember in 2014 when I heard about this thing called Zwift, where you link your power meter to a computer and ride in a virtual world... it sounded pretty cool, no better way to make pedaling nowhere more bearable than by making a video game out of it!
In January 2015 I broke my collarbone and I was going to be spending some serious time on the trainer. I also got chosen to be a beta tester for this new Zwift thing-- perfect timing! They must have known about my collarbone.
The first Zwift course was not Watopia, but rather a tiny 3 mile loop named Jarvis Island. There wasn't much else to do on Jarvis Island other than one short KOM hill and one sprint. No racing, no group rides, no Alpe du Zwift.
In those early days I remember there were maybe 40 or 50 people online at one time. To be honest, it was pretty boring. But it was better than staring at the wall. Since that time, Zwift has gotten me through 2 broken collarbones and many snowy days and I'm thankful for that. However, I will always choose to ride outside 10 out of 10 times weather permitting.
It has been cool to see Zwift add to their "worlds" and to see it become so mainstream. . Logging on with 20,000+ people riding is a far cry from little Jarvis Island. It's also cool to know that I am one of the few people with a Zwift Beta Tester Kit. You'd think they'd give me a free subscription or something, but I digress.
Anyways, one of the benefits of riding the trainer is the ability to execute workouts that may not be possible from where you live. It's much easier to target specific systems on a trainer and can make you super strong. Here are a couple of my favorite trainer workouts:
Sprinting on the trainer is one of the most awkward and unpleasant experiences known to man. For this reason, I like to prescribe "spin ups." They target the same metabolic system as a sprint, but they are much easier to execute on a static bicycle.
This is a great workout for improving your sprint, but also for giving you leg speed. It will train your ability to put out a high power at a very high cadence, similar to what you will see in a criterium or a finishing sprint. Many riders have a tendency to ride at the same monotonous cadence on the trainer, and it can be a shock to the system when they finally start riding in a dynamic peloton. This workout can help you to prepare for the velocities you will see in racing from the comfort of your own basement.
Select a moderate gear while pedaling at around 80-90 rpm. Next, gradually ramp up the cadence over the course of 30 seconds while staying in the same gear. By the end, you should be at 130+ rpm and pounding out some serious watts. Recover for a good 5 minutes in between and repeat 5-8 times.
Cadence Variation Tempo:
Tempo is great for building your aerobic engine and muscular endurance without taxing your body too much. But we can make tempo even more advantageous by mixing up the cadence. The controllable nature of indoor cycling is ideal for this sort of workout.
Your intervals can vary in length from 10-60 minutes depending on your goals, but the main idea here is to switch up the cadence every few minutes. You can do a progressive tempo where you start at 60 rpm and every 5 minutes increase the cadence by 20 rpm. Or you can alternate every few minutes between a low (50-60 rpm) and a high (100+) cadence.
What's the point of all this cadence changing madness? Simply put, at different cadences you recruit different muscles. By cycling through cadences, we can train all of the muscle fibers in your body and make them more resilient and efficient. If you always ride at 80 rpm, you're always using the same muscles in the same way, if we change it up, you will learn to recruit all your muscles efficiently for more power.
The other bonus is that it keeps your mind occupied. You may find that a 20 minute tempo interval feels more like 10 if you switch up the cadences!
Stay safe out there and happy Zwifting!