Winter is coming… and with it, more and more indoor training. The modern cyclist probably does a lot more indoor training even during the warmer months. The efficiency and safety of indoor cycling has made it more and more of a workout staple in this day and age. It is generally acknowledged that there is no disadvantage to spending time on the indoor bike and there is compelling evidence, both empirical and anecdotal that it could be better than heading outdoors. There are some things to consider and to take into account when embarking on a block of indoor workouts.
Clothing – Just because you are alone in your ‘pain-cave’ with no-one to judge your kit ensemble, it does not mean that you can get away with inferior clothing selection. As should be the case outdoors, your clothing choice should be more about function than appearance. No need to worry about matching your socks with your jersey though but you definitely do not want to go without either. Yes, the heat will build up during the session but riding without a jersey will not make things more comfortable.
Riding topless indoors is not a good idea for your bike. The sweat pouring off your torso onto your indoor bike in three to four sessions a week is not going to be great for its longevity. You can give it a wipe-down after the session, but salty sweat has a way of finding its way into every nook and cranny and, given time, it will potentially cause havoc with mechanical parts.
Riding topless indoors is not a good idea for your body either. A nice, damp cycling jersey will actually keep you cooler than not wearing one. The moving air from a good fan on the damp cloth of your top will help to keep your core temperature down while you are smashing out your intervals indoors.
Many save on laundry by foregoing the socks for an indoor ride, but this too can be hard on equipment. Specifically, your shoes. There is no moving air indoors and our sweat does not evaporate off our skin as it does outdoors. A lot of this sweat ends up running down the legs and into the shoes. A decent pair of socks will go a long way to keeping the shoes dry and preserving them in the long term.
A quality pair of cycling shorts is just as important indoors as it is outdoors. No need to worry about style points unless you are going to be taking Instagram selfies but the fit and padding are critically important. The indoor bike is a static piece of equipment and there is no need to shift weight or position throughout the session. What this means is that the pressure is on a very specific contact point throughout the workout. We also very rarely stand up on the pedals, so spending a bit more and investing in some good quality shorts will pay dividends in comfort. Fortunately, there is no likelihood of crashing and ruining an expensive pair of cycling bibs.
Not an item of clothing but still shorts related, is a good chamois or anti-chafe cream. For all the reasons already related with regards to cycling shorts, we need to make use of a good barrier cream to keep our contact point with the saddle comfortable. The higher level of sweat retention in our clothing because of the lack of moving air indoors, plus the increased friction on an isolated area, is a breeding ground for bacteria and the dreaded saddle sore. So, pay even more attention to hygiene and get out of the sweaty kit as soon as you are finished the session.
the biggest advantage of indoor training is that we have almost complete control of all variables, including the atmosphere in our ‘pain-cave’. There is some dispute over whether air-conditioning is a good or a bad thing for indoor cycling. Those against say that it is artificial and that making the room too cold can inhibit the bodies performance. What you want is a good fan. Something to blow over your body and help to evaporate the sweat off your body, which will keep you cooler. It will also result in a smaller puddle underneath your bike at the end of the session.
Increased sweating will result in an increased requirement for fluid and electrolyte replacement. You will probably find that you need to remind yourself to drink more than you do out on the road. As mentioned before, control is the biggest advantage of an indoor workout, so drinking can be just as regulated and planned as the rest of the session. Adding an electrolyte or mineral replacement product to your in-session drinks is also a good idea to compensate for the extra losses your body will experience during a long, hard indoor session.
The ‘fasted session’ has become all the vogue and the indoor bike is the perfect place to do this. Training fasted, without carbs before or during the session, relies on maintaining a very specific, lower intensity in order to encourage the body to utilise fats as fuel. This can be tough to achieve outdoors unless we have an abundance of flatter roads. Again, that word, control. Indoors we can control our output to the beat-per-minute and can remain in the lower, aerobic zones throughout the session. There are few better ways to make your body more ‘fat efficient’ and to drop that body-fat, than a well-executed fasted ride.
As a result of the static nature of indoor training it is even more important to maintain flexibility especially through the hips. Just like sitting for too long in an office chair or behind the steering wheel can result in tight hips, glutes and hamstrings, so to can hours of riding in a limited position on the indoor bike. So always a good idea to end every session with some mobility and flexibility exercises focused on maintaining suppleness.