5 guaranteed ways to boost your indoor cycle training

We’ve put together this handy guide with our top 5 tips to help you make the most of your indoor training:

1. Training zones;
2. Hydration levels;
3. How to stay motivated;
4. Pedal technique; and
5. Quality and variety of training sessions;

Read on to find out more.

1. Training zones

We can’t emphasis this one enough: working to your correct and up-to-date power and heart rate training zones will ensure quality training sessions, allowing you to get the most out of every single session.

The best way to ensure quality training sessions is by training to power.

Power numbers give you:

- A reliable measure of your effort levels,
- The ability to train to your specific training zones,
- Provide accurate and consistent readings that are unaffected by any external factors.

Working in your correct training zones will make sure you're pushing hard enough during intervals to see improvements but are also working at a sustainable output for the duration of your session. By training to your individual numbers, you're going to see results faster.

Simultaneously training with your heart rate zones allows you to monitor exactly how hard your cardiovascular system is working.


If you don't have a power meter on your bike, your heart rate zones alone can still be an effective way to track your data more affordably but be aware:

Heart rate lags: It can take a minute or two to catch up with your intensity effort and stabilise.
- Heart rate is easily effected by external factors, including fatigue, illness and stress levels. (If you're noticing your heart rate is unusually elevated, this can be a sign of overtraining. You may be completing too many sessions a week).

Do you need to update your training zones? It's time to complete that FTP test you’ve been putting off to optimise your training sessions, avoid overtraining, and ensure tangible, measurable improvements.

2. Hydration levels and body temperature

You've heard it a thousand times and we'll say it again: whether you're cycling indoors or outdoors, hydration is key!

Dehydration compromises your performance, limits your training gains, and prolongs your recovery process. Before any training session, we recommend you drink 400ml of water. This (+ breakfast!) is especially important for those of you that train early in the morning because, overnight you become dehydrated, not having had a sip of water for 7-8 hours.

When training, your body temperature rises and you'll start to perspire more. When you're riding outdoors, there’s a natural airflow that helps the sweat evaporate off your body. Training indoors is not quite the same: the sweat your body produces won’t evaporate. It will drip. Sweat evaporating = more heat removed. Sweat dripping = less heat removed.

Sweating is a vital process that helps reduce the core body temperature. But even a small change in the temperature of your body will create a large change in the amount of power you produce. Losing your body’s fluid to sweat will create thicker blood which, in turn, creates more resistance internally for the cardiovascular system. The result? Your heart has to pump faster in order to get the same amount of blood to your working muscles and also to work to try and cool the body. This is what we call cardiovascular drift.


In fact, overheating can cause a reduction in your power by 20 to 30 wattsTherefore, it’s critical to stay cool during your indoor training workout, whether that’s by using a large fan or training in a cool room. Sweating also means you'll be losing electrolytes, which indirectly help you drive more power so we strongly recommend you keep a water bottle with electrolytes close on hand for every training session.
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By staying cool and hydrated, you’re giving your body a better chance to produce more wattage for your heart rate. And take note of how much you’re sweating (or dripping!). These are your hydration cues. Your body is sending you a reminder. Listen to it and drink up. Our  Njinga top tip is to drink before you’re thirsty! Otherwise it’s too late: your body is already dehydrated.

When working to a steady power output, your heart rate should be able to stabilise at the set intensity. However, if you aren’t drinking enough water whilst training, dehydration starts to kick in. This causes blood plasma to decrease and as a result, your blood becomes thicker. Less blood can be pumped out the heart with each beat (stroke volume) and therefore, your heart rate (bpm) will need to increase in order to continue supplying enough blood and oxygen to the working muscles.

There will be a point in your training session when your body fatigues as a result of dehydration: your heart rate will remain in its peak but your power output will start dropping as you'll be unable to sustain your pace.




3. How to stay motivated

We understand it’s not always easy to motivate yourself when riding indoors with no external factors to take your mind off the training.

When your mental motivation is taking a hit, your wattage and power output can be significantly reduced. Never, ever underestimate the power of the mind (Thinking Smart is of huge importance to us here at the Njinga Cycling Academy. In fact, it’s one of our three philosophy pillars, and we use it to improve the cycling performance of all our cyclists.)

Our key recommendations to maximising your indoor training and increasing your motivation include:

1. Get a good programme to follow: Following a set structure with weekly sessions to complete will help you to stay committed to your training.

2. Training in a group environment with others is more likely to help keep you going, push you to keep at it, and provides a competitive element (if you want it). It keeps you pushing for more and working consistently at your best.

3. Stick to your training zones: This is the best way to improve your performance. The more results you see, the more motivated you become to stick with it.

4. Remove as many obstacles as possible: If you’re lucky enough to have the extra space, leave your indoor trainer set up and ready to go in a dedicated room.

5. Focus on multiple performance metrics Keep track of your different numbers, including cadence, power, and heart rate, and track your improvements and changes in these throughout each session and over time.

If you're looking for a motivational environment to train in, try out our structured and coach-led indoor cycling sessions here. Get a taste of what's involved by watching the short video below.

4. Pedal technique

Think of this scenario (and whether it relates to you):

Does a 60km flat ride feel easy? Perhaps you can complete the ride at a fast pace and finish not feeling too tired. What about longer rides or when you face a hill? Does your pedal technique get worse? Do you suddenly struggle to maintain your power output? Do your muscles feel tired and fatigued? If your energy drops after the 60km mark, your pedal technique could be a major factor. This is because you're recruiting smaller muscle groups to drive power in your pedal stroke: smaller muscles fatigue quicker and you won't be as efficient.

 
The off-season is a great time to work on your weaknesses (strength training for cyclists, anyone?) while indoor training in particular allows you to focus on your pedal technique.

Your pedal technique is a fundamental component of your cycling and can have a big impact on your power output, speed, endurance, bike handling skills, and much more. You can gain as much as 5 to 30 watts in ‘free power’ by working on your pedal technique. Take the opportunity during your indoor sessions to help you become a stronger rider. Whatever stage of rider you are, everyone can benefit from focusing on this.

If you've a good technique already, use your indoor training time to focus on fine tuning your technique to become more consistent. The more you practice, the more the correct technique becomes second nature and you develop muscle memory.

5. Quality and variety of training sessions

Each indoor session can be tailored to meet your specific training requirements, whether you're looking to work on strength, endurance or interval sessions. It's also convenient and not weather dependent allowing you to get on the bike and bang out a great session in less time than a ride outdoors, perfect if you're time poor.

The quality of training is generally more superior too. You don’t have to stop at junctions or lights, can't sail downhill, or receive the benefit of sitting on the wheel of fellow riders. 
As a result, a 45-minute session indoors, particularly one focusing on targeted intervals, can equal 90 minutes of work outdoors.

If you love to track your numbers and you're worried how your indoor numbers are comparing to your outdoor numbers, we recommend looking at your normalised power. When riding outdoors, the above mentioned external factors can affect your performance.. Inside, riding on a trainer, there’s none of that: your sessions can be specific and there's a steady power resistance giving you accurate power readings. Normalised power can be used to compare your indoor and outdoor numbers and provide an average power reading, which stabilises all the stopping and starting out on the road and compensates for any changes in riding conditions to give you a more accurate reading.

Our top tip? Our Njinga Indoor Training Sessions are a great way to get the most out of your indoor training. Another great idea is to ride to a specific workout or training plan: these’ll give you purpose and motivation to get on that trainer, day or night.

Contact us for a free class credit and try a class with us today! Quote INDOORS2020.

What our riders have to say:

“Classes are superb. Getting the software at home is an absolute game changer. I’m working 20% harder, no doubt about it. Bloody brilliant.”

- Rich Smith

"I think there is a big difference between a "spin" class at a gym and a session at Njinga — they're not really comparable. It's true that there's nowhere to hide in an Njinga session (which would normally scare me off!) but everyone (including the other class members) is so supportive. Njinga just want you to be the best cyclist you can be and will help you get there."

- Sue Hartley

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If you liked this post, you might also like these:

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Once you have learnt to ride a bike, pedalling becomes second nature to you. However, when was the last time you really considered how you pedal? Have you ever thought about what your pedalling technique shows you about the way you cycle or ultimately how your pedalling technique can affect your cycling performance?

7 top tips to prepare for a successful FTP test


We know an FTP test can be scary, but they are vital to provide you with accurate training zones for both heart rate and power output. These zones form the foundation of all our training here at Njinga.




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Glossary

Bike handling skills: The skillset that deals with the unexpected whilst out riding, including riding with one or no hands, drinking from a water bottle, taking off a piece of clothing, and reacting to obstacles. A rider who is skilled at bike handling will be a safer rider. And, if they're comfortable and confident with their bike and in tune with its handling, braking, and accelerating characteristics, they can put more energy into their riding.

Cadence: The number of times during one minute that a pedal stroke is completed. Also known pedal revolution per minute (rpm).

Cardiovascular drift: The upward drift of heart rate over time, coupled with a progressive decline in stroke volume and the continued maintenance of cardiac output.

Cardiovascular system: The organ system that circulates blood and nutrients around the body.

FTP: FTP stands for Functional Threshold Power and is a simple way to measure your current cycling fitness levels. FTP is measured in watts and is the maximum average power you can sustain for 60 minutes or 95% of your average power for a 20 minute test.

Indoor training sessions: Our structured training sessions that are specifically designed for cyclists and involve various endurance, power, and speed work to help improve stamina for longer rides, strength for climbing, and power to sustain peloton surges or breakaways.

Normalised Power: Average power reading, measured in watts, which stabilises all the stopping and starting out on the road and compensates for any changes in riding conditions to give you a more accurate power output reading for the duration of your outdoor ride.

Pedal technique: How you apply force throughout the pedal stroke. Analysis can determine any imbalances between your left and right leg distribution of power and any flat spots in your pedal stroke.

Power: The combination of speed and strength. Measured in Watts.

Power meter: A device fitted on a bike that measures the power output of the rider.

Training zones: Training zones are individual to everyone. The different zones give an indication of effort levels and workout intensities. You can establish training zones for both power and heart rate off the back of completing an FTP test.

Watt: A measurement of power produced. It tells how much force is applied to the pedals.

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