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31 Best Indoor Cycling Workouts for Triathletes

This time of year, many people will be turning to indoor cycling to keep fitness or start base training for next year’s race season.

If you don’t have a coach or structured training plan you may find yourself hopping on the indoor trainer and just riding around a random route or world and spinning for an hour or so listening to a Podcast or watching a Netflix show. Then getting off and feeling like you have not achieved much. This is more common than you think!

Here I’ve put together 31 structured indoor cycling workouts you can try in one downloadable file.  They can help you add more structure to your training over winter. You can follow along with the PDF description of the workout or import the structured workout file into Zwift, Rouvy or TrainerRoad.

It’s All About the Base! – 31 Indoor Bike Sessions for Zwift, Rouvy or TrainerRoad

As Meghan Trainor says, “It’s All about the base!” and at this time of year you should ideally be working on your limiters, technique, strength or working on your base.

As we go into off season it is a good idea (after appropriate rest and recovery) to keep ticking over with some base work. The files in your download are ZWO for Zwift and MRC for use with TrainerRoad or Rouvy. Each file has an associated pdf document detailing how to complete the session to get the most from it.

This 16-week base period focuses on the development of endurance and introduces both muscular and anaerobic endurance training to your regime. It combines the three basic competencies of endurance, force, and speed skills.

If you are training 100% indoors then you could consider changing the swimming to rowing workouts as rowing uses the same muscle groups as swimming.

Strength sessions should be included and as minimum try to add in bodyweight, yoga or Pilates sessions which can also be done at home.

The table below details how the bike sessions can be integrated in to a 16-week base plan. The bike sessions are progressive and can be used alongside your running and swimming progressions. If you need guidance on swimming, running or strength sessions then please get in touch (karen.parnell@chilitri.com).

There are regular 30-minutes Time Trails which you can also do as a Functional Threshold Power (FTP) test on Zwift, TrainerRoad or Rouvy to assess your progress.

The Bike sessions are 8 speed skill, 7 endurance, 3 mixed, 7 force, 4 muscular endurance, one power and one aerobic endurance workouts.

Download the 31 cycling sessions here.

Here’s how the indoor cycling sessions would fit into a 16-week base plan:

WeekMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturdaySunday
1RunBike SS3SwimRunOffBike SS8, SwimRun
2RunBike SS9SwimRunOffBike E7, SwimRun
3Run30-min TTSwimRunOffBike SS2, SwimRun
4RunBike E2SwimRunRunBike M5, SwimBike E2
5Bike E4, SwimStrengthSwim, RunBike SS7Swim, StrengthBike F1, RunRun
6Bike M7, SwimStrengthRun, SwimRunBike SS3, StrengthBike E5Run
7Bike F8, SwimStrengthSwimBike P7, RunSwim, StrengthBike E3, RunRun
8Swim, StrengthOffBike F6, SwimRun, StrengthSwim30-min TTBike E6, Run
9Swim, StrengthOffBike F3, SwimRunSwim, StrengthBike ME5Run
10Swim, StrengthRunBike M9, SwimRunSwim, StrengthBike SS1, RunBike E7, Run
11Swim, StrengthOffBike F2, SwimRunSwim, StrengthBike F4Bike ME1, Run
12Swim, StrengthRunBike F7, SwimRunStrengthSwim30-min TT
13Swim, StrengthOffBike SS5, RunBike F8, SwimSwim, StrengthBike ME8Run
14Swim, StrengthOffBike ME6RunSwim, StrengthBike E1Run
15Swim, StrengthOffBike SS4, RunSwim, RunSwim, StrengthBike ME8Run (Long)
16Swim, StrengthBike AE6Run, SwimBike SS1, StrengthSwim, Run30-min TTRun (Long)

Where SS is Speed Skills, E is Endurance, M is Mixed, F is Force, P is Power and ME is Muscular Endurance.

Here are some of the workouts so you can see what your will get with your download.

Speed Skills: Economy Workout

This session is about building your cycling economy. Cycling economy is analogous to your miles per gallon on the bike. It’s determined by how efficiently mechanical energy is produced from “food energy.”

In other words, cycling economy is the power produced for the energy expended or the amount of oxygen consumed to produce a given number of watts. In the warmup you will be moving your workload between your left and right leg – do you have a stronger leg? Is one foot not able to create a smooth circle?

During the main session your heart rate will be kept quite low, so you focus on using the whole circle of your pedal stroke to provide power, not just the down stroke. How efficient are you? Are you stronger on one side that the other? Do you need to do more strength work to even up your power on your left and right sides.

SESSION FOCUS: Speed Skills

Time: 62 min.

WARM UP (17 min)

5:00 Easy pedalling.

12:00 3 x (1:00 right leg, 1:00 both legs, 1:00 left leg, 1:00 both legs),

alternating 80% of the workload between right leg and left leg where specified.

MAIN SET

3 x 10:00         Z1-2/RPE 4-6

Cadence: 80-90 RPM

Pull back at the bottom of the pedal stroke and maintain momentum over the top. Visualize pedalling horizontally – not up and down

5:00 Rest Interval between sets Z1

Cadence 75-85 RPM

WARM DOWN (5 min)

5 minutes easy spinning.

Static stretch off the bike and foam roller.

Tip: Pretend the bottom of your foot is not allowed to touch the sole of your shoe

Endurance: Leg Speed Workout

In this session we will be working on your endurance and your leg speed. As a triathlete you ideally should aim for a cadence of around 90 RPM which matches your running ideal cadence so when you get off your bike and transition to your run your legs are working at a similar cadence so theoretically this should make T1 easier or more comfortable.

90 RPM is also an efficient cadence for cycling. Increasing your cadence on your trainer inside is a good use of your winter training time.

SESSION FOCUS: Endurance.

Time: 81-141 min.

WARM UP (16 min)

5:00 Pedal easy with cadence above 90 rpm.

5:00 Alternate :30 standing at RPE 5, :30 seated at RPE 3.

6:00 Seated, alternate 80% of workload; 1:00 on right leg, 1:00 on left leg.

MAIN SET

Set 1

30:00-60:00    Z1/RPE 3-5

Every 5:00 do a :30 spin up, followed by a :30 all-out sprint!

Set 2

30:00-60:00     Z2/RPE 5-6

Every 5:00, do a :30 spin-up, followed by a :30 all-out sprint!

WARM DOWN

5 minutes easy spin.

Static stretch off the bike and foam roller.

Tip: Incorporate your leg speed from the spin-ups into the all-out sprint

Speed Skills and Muscular Endurance Workout

This is a great mixed workout where you can work on both your speed skills and your muscular endurance. Muscular endurance is your body’s ability toresist muscular fatigue under pedalling tension.

That pedalling tension is where the magic happens in your pedal stroke. The more tension in the pedals, the more power gets to the rear wheel and the faster you go.

SESSION FOCUS: Mixed Efforts of speed skills and muscular endurance.

Time: 51-61 min.

WARM UP (16 min)

5:00 Easy pedalling keeping cadence above 80 rpm.

6:00 1:00 reps, alternating between 100 rpm and 60 rpm.

5:00 Easy riding at 95 + rpm.

MAIN SET

30:00-40:00

Alternate:

5:00 at 110 rpm;                     Z4/RPE 7-8

5:00 at 95 rpm;                       Z3/RPE 6-7

WARM DOWN (5 min)

5 minutes easy spin.

Static stretch off the bike and foam roller.

Tip: Short on time? Combine leg speed skills with your muscular endurance workout.

Hills: Force Workout

Whether your race has hills or not adding hills sessions into your training plan will make you a stronger and ultimately faster cyclist. Hill climbs can be considered your “leg day,” so you build lower body muscle; your heart works harder and gets stronger; you raise your lactate threshold so you can ride faster longer. So don’t miss out on hills just because your race may not have any!

The key to this session is to raise your front wheel 4 to 6 inches using a wheel raise like this one on Amazon.

SESSION FOCUS: Force production.

Raise front wheel 4-6 inches.

Time: 56 min.

WARM UP (16 min)

5:00 Pedal easy with cadence above 90 rpm.

5:00 Alternate :30 standing, :30 seated.

6:00 Seated, alternate 80% of workload; 1:00 on right leg, 1:00 on left leg.

MAIN SET

– 5:00 RI between sets –

Set 1

4 x 3:00           Z2-5/RPE 10-19

Seated at 70 rpm, slowly ramp up to maximum exertion by last interval (1:00 RI)

Set 2

4 x 3:00           Z3-4/RPE 12-16

Do last 1:00 standing at 60 rpm and use a larger gear than the first set (1:00 RI)

WARM DOWN (5 min)

5 minutes easy spin.

Static stretch off the bike and foam roller.

Tip: If your limiter is force, this is the workout for you.

Conclusion

If you would like more structure to your off-season or winter training then download the full 16-week indoor cycling plan which includes structured cycling workout files you can use on Zwift, TrainerRoad or Rouvy.

The workouts are designed to work on your endurance, cadence, speed skills, force production and muscular endurance. Follow the planned workouts and your will come out of your winter base training a faster and stronger cyclist.

You can download the full set of 31 cycling workouts, files, and instructions here.

Using your Workout files in Zwift, Rouvy or TrainerRoad

Zwift – How you use ZWO Workout Files

Zwift workouts are simple “.zwo” files, so sharing them just requires knowing how to access the file system on your Zwift device.

PC/MAC

  • Add to your library: Any .zwo files moved to your Documents\Zwift\Workouts\<<Numeric Zwift ID>> folder will be added to your custom workouts menu the next time you launch the game.
  • Share with a friend: Go to your Documents\Zwift\Workouts\<<Numeric Zwift ID>> folder, find the file, and send it to your friend.

If multiple Zwifters access the platform on your device, there will be multiple Numeric Zwift ID folders visible.

IOS

Accessing your custom workouts folder on iOS requires a computer with iTunes installed.

The Sharing and Importing Custom Cycling Workouts>iOS section of this support article includes complete instructions for using iTunes to access your custom workouts on Zwift.

APPLE TV

Even though it’s currently not possible to import custom workouts directly on tvOS due to hardware limitations, you can import the custom workout to your account on another Zwift device (PC/Mac or iOS) and that workout will be automatically synced to your Apple TV.

Finding your custom workouts in Zwift

After following the steps above, your workouts will show up under the Custom Workouts section the next time you start Zwift.

All that’s left is to select and start the workout, then the real work begins. You got this!

TrainerRoad – How to use MRC Workout Files

Open TrainerRoad Workout Creator. Drag and drop the MRC file to the workout list in the Workout creator.

You should see a “+” icon like you see in the image below. If you just try to drop the file anywhere in the workout creator, it won’t work.

So, make sure you drag it all the way to the workout list on the left menu. It will prompt you to give it a name. Change the name if you wish and click on ok.

Click on Publish on the lower right-hand corner. Open TrainerRoad and you should see your workout under Workouts > Custom.

Rouvy – How to use MRC Workout Files

Log into your Rouvy account and select “Explore” in the top menu bar and then click on “Workouts”. In the workouts area select import file and select the MRC workout file you would like to import.

Choose your MRC workout file from your PC and click import.

This is the screen you will see your workout profile loaded and you can then use it in Rouvy by going to workouts and selecting the “my favourite” section and you can select and ride it from there.

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Karen Parnell
Karen Parnellhttps://chilitri.com/one-to-one-coaching
Karen Parnell is British Triathlon Federation (BTF) Level 3 High Performing Coach and Tutor and ASA Open Water Swimming Coach. She is also a qualified NASM Personal Trainer, Nivel 3 Técnicos Federados FATRI España and IRONMAN® Certified Coach as well as being a Stryd running with power coach. Karen is based near Malaga in Southern Spain where she runs ChiliTri coaching and camps. You can find training plans for swimming, cycling, running and triathlon on Training TiltTrainingPeaks and FinalSurge.
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