Indoor cycling training routines to get you through winter


Image source: Humbert15 – Flickr Creative Commons

What an incredibly demoralising few months its been. Dark mornings and dark nights, raining nearly all day and everyday. Not a nice few months for training at all!

There is a huge ‘mind over matter’ battle that continues to break down our will power, and all of a sudden wanting to train 5 days a week turns in to ‘well, I did a bit of a run last Wednesday’. This is when we can turn to indoor training, and as far as cycling goes, this part of the year is all about speed, strength and power.

It is best to think about cycling training as decorating. Stay with me… You need to sand down the wall, apply the under coat, then maybe another under coat, then you put on the nice colour you wanted. With cycling it is a case of starting the winter training around October/November and simply riding really easy. Then you can start to build a good mileage base, long boring hours on the road in the dark. Once you have this, you can apply the good stuff you wanted like speed, strength and power.

Ideally we would prefer to be out on the roads, but if the weather is against you and you can’t bring yourself to putting all that kit on…. then here are a few good indoor sessions under 45 mins that will help you get to where you want to be.


Image source: Phil Roeder – Flickr Creative Commons


This is all about keep a hard resistance but a low cadence around 60-70rpm (using a metronome on your smartphone will help with your cadence). The speed of your legs should be slow but should be able to sustain a high level of tension in the muscle throughout the revolutions. After a warm up of 10 minutes that includes two 30 second bursts of high resistance and low cadence, incorporate the following:

– 2 sets of (5 x 1 min @ 60rpm – high resistance – 1 min easy spin) 3 mins recovery between sets

– 3 x 2 mins @ 70 rpm – high resistance – 1 min easy spin. 3 minutes recovery. 3 x 2 mins 60 rpm – high resistance – 1 min easy spin

– 4 x 4 mins (1st 60rpm, 2nd at 65, 3rd at 70, 4th at 75) Alter the resistance to suit that cadence. (2 mins recovery between intervals)


Image source: Robert S Donovan – Flickr Creative Commons


A big area to work on is leg speed. We are looking for the opposite of strength here, so a very low resistance and a very big cadence ranging from 110-150rpm. You need to focus on making the legs spin as fast a possible without any body or hip shifting on the saddle. Stay in control. Again, after a 10 minute warm up that includes two 30 second bursts, but this time make them at a low resistance and a cadence of 120rpm. (Get that metronome out again)

– 6 x 1:30 mins at 110rpm (1 mins easy spins between intervals)

– 2 sets (1st, 3 x 1 min at 120rpm with 1 min easy – 2nd, 4 x 30 sec at 130 with 1 min easy spin)

– 3 sets (1st, 4 x 1 min at 110rpm with 1 min easy – 2nd, 4 x 6 sec at 150rpm with 1 min easy – 3rd, 3 x 1 at 120rpm then go at 150rpm for the last 6 secs with 1 min easy between intervals)


Image source: ‘Some guy’ – Flickr Creative Commons


Here we combine strength and speed and create power. The ability to hold solid tension in the muscle but with a good leg speed for a longer duration. Some timetriallers have been known to race with a cadence of 90 or below, others prefer to race at 95+, it really is each to their own. After a 10 min warm up that holds two 1 minute bursts with a good resistance at 95rpm. For these intervals it is best to go with your most natural cadence. Your effort should be just enough to last each interval, too hard or fast and you won’t complete the set, so pace your effort accordingly.

– 5 x 3 minutes working at 8/10 effort – 2 mins recovery

– 4 x 5 minutes working at 8/10 effort – 2 mins recovery

– 3 x 8 minutes working at 8/10 effort – 3 mins recovery

– 2 x 10 minutes working at 7/10 effort – 3 mins recovery

All the above sessions are sessions that I have used in my time as a race cyclist, and, as your training program progresses, you can simply adapt and add an interval, or make the intervals longer, or make the rest periods shorter. Only up the progression to suit your fitness gains, and only progress a little at a time.

It is a long way until summer so make sure you don’t peak too soon!