Indoor Training For Time-crunched Cyclists

Indoor training sessions give riders with limited time a quick, focussed and effective way to train. Riding on the road can include a surprising amount of freewheeling and dead time spent at traffic lights and junctions, whereas indoors every pedal stroke counts. What’s more, it’s warm inside and you can dodge the rain. But to be effective, particularly for a multi-day endurance event like the Haute Route, your indoor riding must be focussed on your goal.



The temptation when riding indoors is to focus on high intensity interval training or HIIT - quick efforts at a very high intensity, with short periods of rest in between. Whilst pushing yourself at your upper limits has been shown to increase your endurance, power, lactate threshold and speed, HIIT alone is not going to cut it when you’re climbing upwards of 2,000m a day for several days back to back.

“HIIT sessions will increase your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) or sustained power,” says cycle coach and former British criterium champion Dean Downing. “And if that’s all you have time for you’ll still see gains in your fitness over time. However, for endurance riding ‘sweet spot’, or sub-threshold, training is a better option.”

Riding sub-threshold equates to cycling at around 85-90% of your FTP or in Zone 3, where you can speak one or two short sentences at a time. “Because this kind of controlled, steady-state training is repeatable, you can perform an impressive number sub-threshold intervals without going into the red, which improves your aerobic performance,” says Downing. “It also mimics the intensity of riding you should aim for when you climb, making it a good option for riders training for the Haute Route,” adds Downing.



  • Warm up by riding for 10-15 minutes progressively increasing your heart rate, followed by a few minutes’ easy spinning.
  • Ride for 5 minutes sub-threshold (zone 3). Recover with 2 minutes’ easy spinning (zone 1). Repeat four times.
  • Warm down with 10 minutes easy spinning.
  • Warm up by riding for 10-15 minutes progressively increasing your heart rate, followed by a few minutes’ easy spinning.
  • Ride for 2 minutes sub-threshold (zone 3). Recover with 1 minutes easy spinning  (zone 1). Repeat ten times.
  • Warm down with 10 minutes easy spinning.



Cycling indoors can be a hot and sweaty business because there’s no air rushing past your face to cool you down. Overheating can can cause your heart rate to increase more than it would if you were training outside and this can cause you to tire quicker than usual. Training with a fan pointed at you is an easy way to keep cool. You will also sweat (a lot) riding inside and you need to replace that lost fluid - as a guide aim to drink 500-750ml of water per hour. And make sure you have a towel to hand to stop sweat streaming down your face into your eyes.


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