Favorite workouts to do on the trainer

January 16, 2014

Now that winter is upon us it is time to become friendly with the trainer again.  If you get to ride outside all the time during the summer and fall, the switch to riding the trainer can be painful and unwelcome.  If you are one of those “time crunched cyclists” as Chris Carmichael calls it, you probably spend a lot of your time on the trainer anyways and the winter months won’t be much different.  Whatever level you’re at, whatever event you’re training for, there are lots of “fun” workouts you can do on the trainer.  “Fun” is relative of course because many of these workouts involve painful amounts of lactic acid.  Haha!

Workout #1  Lactate threshold/Vo2 ramping intervals:  If you have very little time to ride and want to get the most out of your time on the trainer, then this workout is one of my favorites.  It is “short and sweet”.  But it is also quite painful.   I also use power on the trainer which I think makes a huge difference in the entertainment value.  Start a good movie and off you go.

5 minute warm up
10 minute ramping effort.  My lactate threshold is around 220 watts.  I start this 10 min effort at 150 watts.  Every minute I increase by 10 watts so the last minute of the effort is at 240 watts.   Pick a range that starts in your endurance zone and finishes above LT.
2min recovery
5min LT/Vo2:  I start at 210 watts.  Every minute I go up by 10 watts and finish at 250 watts.
2min recovery
5min LT/Vo2:  Start this second effort at 220 watts and finish at 260.
2min recovery
5min LT/Vo2: Start at 230 watts and finish at 270.
2min recovery
5min LT/Vo2:  Start at 240 watts and finish at 280.  This last interval will be more of a Vo2 effort.
5min cool down and you’re done!  43 minutes total time with 30 minutes of intensity.  Not bad.

Workout #2  Vo2/anaerobic power:  These are short intense intervals that are done in a pyramid fashion.
10-15 minute warm up
90sec on at Vo2 intensity, 90sec off
75sec on at Vo2, 75sec off
60sec on at anaerobic power, 60sec off
45sec on at AP, 45sec off
30sec on at AP, 30sec off
15sec sprint, Done!
5 minute recovery
I would do 4-6 of these early in the winter and then 6-8 as you get fitter.
20 minute cool down.

Workout #3  The Hour of Power:  This workout came from my good friend Jay Gump of Incline Training.  This is another one of those “get the biggest bang for your buck” workouts.  It is done either at tempo or your sweet spot (steady state) power.  I wouldn’t do this at your lactate threshold because the recovery time is too short.
15 minute warm up
10min at tempo, 2min recovery
Repeat 5 more times for a total of 60 minutes of work. 
I would do 4x10min on 2min off the first week.  Your second week you could go to 5x10 and the third week you can do the hour of power; 6x10.  Then do a 15 minute cool down.

Workout #4  Microbursts:  This is a pure anaerobic power workout and is quite painful.  Don’t do this until you have a decent amount of fitness and intensity in your legs.  If you’re not training or racing (like me) then you can do this workout whenever you like.  It’s fun and the time goes by quickly.
15 minute warm up
2x3min Vo2 efforts with a 3min recovery.  This gets the legs opened up.
The 10 minute microburst starts with a 10 second sprint followed by a 20 second recovery.  Then another 10 sec sprint, 20 sec recovery and so on for 10 minutes.  Each sprint is a max effort best done in the drops.  The challenge of this workout is getting the power adjusted up and down fast enough on your indoor trainer.  If you’re using heart rate, just know that HR won’t respond fast enough in 10-20 seconds so don’t use it as a gauge of intensity.  If you don’t have power, perceived exertion is going to be your best bet.  Rollers might work better if you’re an extremely good bike handler and feel confident you won’t sprint off into the couch or fireplace.  You could also make these a little longer;  20 second sprint, 40 second recovery. 
Take a 10 minute recovery after each microburst.  I would start with one 10 minute effort your first week and work up to 3x10.  Then do a 15 minute cool down.

Obviously there are many other trainer workouts you can do.  Get creative and have fun with it.  Don’t look at the trainer as something evil lurking in your basement.  It is a valuable tool and can be very effective in the winter when it is 10 degrees outside with a foot of fresh snow on the ground. 

Happy trails!