The Benefits of Indoor Training

While reading Bradley Wiggins latest book ‘My Time’ I was struck by how devastating his use of indoor training has been over the last couple of years.

In 2011 he crashed out of the Tour de France early on breaking his collar bone in the process. After the crash he decided to focus on the Vuelta (The Tour of Spain) as his next race to target after his collar bone healed.

In the 6 weeks prior to finishing 3rd in the 2011 Vuelta Wiggins did absolutely no racing whatsoever. Instead all of his preparation was done entirely indoors, or more precisely on a turbo trainer in his garden shed.

Think about this for a minute. He finished 3rd in one of the toughest bike races in the world on a course that wasn’t particularly suited to him, despite spending all of his race preparation in his garden shed. This got me thinking about how most of us probably under estimate the benefits indoor cycling can bring and don’t use it enough to help us improve our cycling performance.

Specificity of Workouts

Training indoors on a turbo trainer allows you to perform very specific and targeted workouts. Wiggins himself mentions that during those 6 weeks if he had been racing he’d have spent several days just cruising along in the peloton during very little work indeed. Combined with the days off traveling between races, short prologue days and rest days he states quite clearly that he would have done far fewer really hard workouts had he not broken his collar bone.

Instead of days spending 5 hours drafting in the peloton chatting to his fellow pros he was doing shorter sessions on his turbo trainer with a much higher intensity and therefore gaining more benefit.

He mentions that his coach loved it because he could give him very specific instructions for each workout, telling him exactly how long to ride for at a certain power output. While not everyone has a coach or even a power meter everybody can benefit from being more specific about their workouts and the benefits they seek. Always have an aim when you start a session off.

Mental Toughness
There is no doubt about it that  training on an indoor trainer takes a huge amount of mental toughness, concentration and dedication. Most of us will quite easily find any excuse not to train on a turbo trainer. I’m a firm believe that if you can over come this almost ‘fear’ of indoor training and master it then there are other benefits to be had despite the physical ones.

A lot of cycling performance depends on your mind. Whether it’s not getting dropped by a bunch of riders or simply keeping your legs pumping while riding solo into the wind the mental strength you can gain from indoor training can certainly help you improve out on the road.

Acclimatisation

In addition to riding specific sessions provided by his coach, Wiggins also used the time to work on acclimatising himself to riding in the extreme heat he’d face during the Vuelta. By heating his garden shed up to 40+ degrees he was simulating the riding conditions he’d find in Spain, despite being in a wet and windy Yorkshire in the UK.

Time Saving

He also mentions in the book that he wasn’t simply going out doing long steady 8 hour rides but instead doing much shorter, more explosive training on his turbo trainer. For most of us with full time jobs, family stuff and a ‘normal’ life this is incredibly powerful.

By using perhaps as little as 3 hours a week to train indoors you can make some pretty big gains to your fitness so long as these sessions are laser targeted and high intensity. Combine these with maybe 1 or 2 outdoor rides and you can have a really effective training regime on as little as 6 hours per week.

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