Indoor cycling training offers many advantages
Athletes often ask us about indoor cycling training. The most common questions are: “Would you recommend using a turbo trainer to improve my cycling” and “what app or platform should I use”. The answer to the first question is simple: absolutely, you should! Which app to use is more difficult to answer. Let us explain.
We like indoor cycling! The advantages are plenty, more about that later, but the main reasons we recommend it are time efficiency and availability. Let´s face it; although we all want to do epic rides outside, preferably in sunny weather, life, work, family, or climate often gets in the way. However, your turbo trainer is available any time of the day whether it is dark outside or it is raining cats and dogs. On top of that, you can squeeze in an hour of training, including changing into your gear and taking a quick shower afterwards in about 65 minutes. How´s that for time efficiency?
From a training perspective, using an indoor cycling setup will make your training a lot more effective. You can always train at the right intensity for the right amount of time without having to worry about traffic, stopping for crossings or these annoying tailwinds. Once you have established one or more basic power values that characterise your current fitness level, you will be sure that every indoor session or interval will have its desired training effect. This is especially true for the higher intensity intervals as these are more difficult to execute flawlessly on the road.
To be fair, indoor cycling training used to be rather dull, but it has gone from “doing volume while staring at the wall” to much more elaborated and entertaining training in the last years. Nowadays, there are many different options on the market. By far, the most asked question is which platform to use? Our recommendation is to use several apps as there is no single app covering all aspects of training.
There are dozens of apps available, and we have tested them all. We just name a few of the ones we believe are the best options in terms of training functionality and technical stability. Some platforms excel at the social aspect or racing options (Zwift), some at training plans (TrainerRoad), and others at real-life videos (Tacx and BigRingVR). The Sufferfest, includes entertaining race videos and offers complementary training like yoga, mental training and strength training for cyclists and triathletes. The Sun Tri Sports coaches and most of our coached athletes are using several apps to cover our needs and interests. Of course, it comes at a cost, but we believe it is worth it.
Choosing your favourite cycling training platform is obviously a matter of taste, but we always recommend our athletes to subscribe to the Sufferfest. Besides the yoga and strength training sessions (which we often incorporate in our training plans), training intensity is based on 4DimensionalPower (4DP) metrics rather than a single Functional Threshold Power (FTP) value. The 4DP profile considers four power metrics, ranging from endurance (FTP) to 5-second sprints (Neuromuscular Power). Sufferfest cycling videos are set in real cycling races and use your 4DP values to tailor the intensity levels. As long as you test regularly and update your numbers, you will always train at the right intensity and keep getting stronger.
As Sufferfest does not offer any social training aspects, our second recommendation would be to use Zwift. It is excellent for group rides, a bit of social (online) interaction, and you can even participate in racing. Just don´t get frustrated when someone passes you with out-of-this-world power numbers, as Zwift is not exactly a level playing field. There will always be riders that use uncalibrated turbo trainers or are somewhat optimistic about their current weight (Zwift uses W/kg as primary metric for speed). At Sun Tri Sports, we often organise virtual groups rides on Zwift. Using Discord allows us to talk while riding and support and motivate each other during challenging climbs. It´s a great way to stay in touch and to make time pass quickly.
If you are into riding famous grand tour (mountain) stages or want to ride other classic routes, we recommend looking at the Tacx Desktop App (for those using Tacx smart trainers) or BigRingVr (any turbo trainer). These apps will give you a large selection of rides to choose from. Perfect for recon rides or simply to experience how it feels to conquer the likes of Zoncolan, Angliru, Mont Ventoux, Stelvio or some more humane climbs.
Unless you are a pro cyclist or pro triathlete with a lot of time for training and options to go on sunny training camps in places like Spain and Portugal, it makes a lot of sense to do indoor training. There are clearly many advantages and that´s why we strongly recommend investing in an indoor trainer setup. However, keep in mind that riding outdoors will always be essential and a lot of fun too! Besides improving your bike handling skills, especially in wet and windy conditions, riding outside will give you that feeling of freedom, the opportunity to explore new routes and countries, to feel the wind in your hair, get proper cycling tan lines and above all, have real-world social experiences!
– Peter Vriesman, Sun Tri Sports Team