Short on time or the weather not playing fair? If you want to reach your cycling goals, then you are going to have to take it indoors at some point during your training.
Indoor cycling equipment is perfect for improving your speed on two wheels, and doesn’t take half your day to get a full workout.
All you need is 20-30 minutes to create some thunder thighs.
Join a spin class
Most gyms are equipped with a number of indoor spin bikes and offer classes for groups. These are a great way to learn some of the ropes for indoor cycling and will give you plenty ideas for your individual sessions, but with added impetus to perform around others.
They will teach you how to work out in a way which will stimulate the muscles you need to focus on as a cyclist. Most classes will be about 30-45 minutes and loud, so be prepared!
If your schedule doesn’t fit with the gym’s spin classes, you are going to have to go solo
If you can find a spin bike, set it up properly for your personal dimensions. The ideal is to have the seat adjusted so that it is exactly hip height when you stand beside the bike.
Setting Up Your Spin Bike
✓ When you take a seat and clip your feet in, extend first your left leg and then your right to the bottom of the cycle (i.e. the furthest your leg should extend with each turn). At the bottom of the cycle, your knee should retain a slight bend.
✓ Make sure that your legs never have to extend fully or bend more than slightly at the bottom. Of course, everybody has a few physical anomalies, such as one leg marginally largely than the other, so get a feel for the pedalling motion on the bike you are using and adjust the settings accordingly.
✓ Having set up your spin bike, it is important to make sure you are properly warmed up, or risk hitting a wall too soon. The simplest way to do this is to start off the bike and do some squats.
✓ Hit 20 and climb onto the bike.
✓ Start cycling for 2 minutes at a high cadence, very low resistance. After 2 minutes, gradually increase the cadence by about 10 RPM for 30 seconds, and then another 10 RPM for the next 30 seconds. This is a solid 4-minute warm-up.
Workout #1: Alternating speed
Now that you’re ready to go and your aerobic system is pumping, you can start your workout proper.
Perhaps the simplest workout is to alternate between going easy with low resistance and relatively high cadence for 60 seconds, and then cranking the resistance to as high as you can, so that it feels like you’re trying to move through peanut butter.
✓ Keep that momentum going for 60 seconds before returning for 60 seconds of low resistance work.
Aim for 10-15 repetitions of this pattern. This workout is particularly well suited for adapting your body to changes in pace.
Workout #2: Computerised indoor bikes
If you want to add a little more technology, you can find several bikes with computers to set up your workout in advance. The downside is the usually enormous bike seat which comes with these.
But if you can get over that aspect of it, you will want to find the speed settings on the computer screen.
One of the best for creating the desired thunder thighs is the ‘hills’ setting. This will gradually increase the resistance as the ‘hill’ reaches its peak and then gradually decrease once again to the resistance at which you started.
✓ This repeats as many times as you choose or within a pre-set time frame.
Workout #3: Upward slopes
Getting back to basics, you can also simulate your own hill on the manual spin bikes. After warming up, increase the resistance to a setting which gives you the strong impression of cycling up a hill.
✓ Remain at that resistance and cadence for 10 – 15 minutes, before ‘descending’ the hill, that is to say, taking a break for 5 minutes before the next hill comes along. This will really burn your muscles and is a decent simulation of some of the hardest parts of a cycle race.
Workout #4: Focus on technique
Indoor bikes also give you the opportunity to focus on the power and movement of each leg.
After warming up, try cycling with just one leg for 30 seconds before switching (or allowing one leg to carry about 80 per cent of the load).
✓ By focusing your workout on one leg at a time, and by making the mental connection between the movements, your form will improve gradually and you should notice increased power and speed when you return to your outdoor cycling.
Indoor cycling is the most efficient way to blast your way to your cycling goals. Your workout can take anywhere between 15 and 45 minutes, and the most important thing to remember is to keep the intensity high.
If you sit for 2 hours on the spin bike you will not only become very bored, but it is not going to do you much good in the long run. Work at 85-100% of your max when you ‘climb’ or sprint and you are sure to see results.
Mix your maximum effort in with much lower efforts and you are adapting your body to the changes of pace which you will experience on the road. Keep your workouts short and fast and reap the rewards!