Make the Most of Trainer Time

author : juliapurr
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by Julia Purrington
D3 Multisport Coach

Riding indoors is an unfortunate part of training for many of us.  I feel that the most important key to an indoor training session is to have a plan.  If you have a plan, it not only breaks up the time, but it can also provide much more focus to your workout.  Especially on a trainer, it should be about the QUALITY of the workout, not the time you spend in the saddle. 

Core elements of trainer workout

You should incorporate a few things into ANY trainer workout.  Warm up, main set(s) and a cool down are the three key parts.  If your ride is simply a recovery ride, you might do a 15 minute warmup, then make your main set easy, but include some cadence or pedaling work- for example 2x4minutes at 100 rpm and LOW resistance with 2minutes of easy 80 rpm pedaling in between. 

Or try some spin-ups where you increase your cadence to a maximum, then hold it for 15 seconds and then back off.  Maximum cadence varies by individual, but you should consider your maximum cadence to be where you start to bounce uncontrollably on your seat. 

On the spin-ups, try to gradually increase your cadence over 30 seconds to this maximum, hold it, then back off to 90rpm.  Repeat the spin up every 3 minutes or so.  If you do that five times, there’s another 15 minutes.  Add a 10-minute cool down and you just had a great 40-minute trainer session. 

Isolated leg drills

Another option is to really work on your pedal stroke working the full circle by doing some isolated leg training.  To do this, simply unclip one foot from your pedal.  You can either rest it on a chair, or often you can rest it on the back of your trainer. 

The key is to keep your normal cycling body position.  With LOW resistance, work a single leg trying to keep a 90 rpm cadence and eliminating the dead spots in your stroke cycle.  Start with 30 seconds followed by a minute with both legs and 30 seconds with the other leg.  Again, five of these would be 15 minutes.  The next time you do the workout, make it  45 seconds with each leg.

Power Intervals

For a more potent workout, you can work power intervals with a low cadence, but high resistance.  You can incorporate standing intervals into these “hill repeats” as well.  After your warm up, try 4 x 2 minutes seated at 75 rpm and RPE 7 (rate of perceived exertion on a scale of 10) followed by 30 seconds standing one or two gears harder, with a two minute recovery. 

Another option might be 10 x 1 minutes odds seated and evens standing with 1 minute recoveries.  If you combine those with your warm up and cool down, you’ve now got a one-hour solid workout! 

Tabata Intervals

Another great workout which is short but VERY effective is to do Tabata intervals.  For these do a longer warmup and include some spin ups in your warm up.  Then there is the basic Tabata interval: 20 seconds ALL out followed by only 10 seconds recovery.  Start with 4 of these reps.  Work your way up to 8 reps. 

This sounds easy, but you will feel it for sure!!!!  If you can record watts for this workout, it is a great tool to see how you improve as you work on these through the weeks.  This workout really only needs to be a total or 30-40 minutes and it will pack a punch!!

Hopefully by now you can see that a 1 hour trainer ride doesn’t have to mean sitting on an indoor bike reading a book or watching the TV.  If you want the workout to mean something, it will!! 
Ride Happy!


Julia Purrington is a USAT Certified Level I Coach. She has been a member of Team USA and in 2008 was the top ranked athlete in her age group in the Rocky Mountain Region of USAT. Her training and race experience has been invaluable in her coaching career. She is also a USA Swimming Certified Coach and is the assistant coach of the Conifer High School Swim teams as well as being the head swim coach for the Mount Vernon Country Club summer club team and the Evergreen Recreation Center Masters swim team. 

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date: November 28, 2011

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