Matt Russ has coached and trained elite athletes from around the country and internationally for over ten years. He currently holds expert licenses from USA Triathlon, USA Cycling, and is a licensed USA Track and Field Coach. Matt is head coach and owner of The Sport Factory, and works with athletes of all levels full time. He is a free lance author and his articles are regularly featured in a variety of magazines and websites.
Travel Cycling: Taking Your Workout on the Road
While training on a stationary bike could never fully substitute time on the road, there are many workouts you can perform to work on a piece of your cycling.
For many of my athletes, staying on top of their training while traveling is one of the biggest challenges they encounter. While running and even swimming can be performed relatively easily on the road, cycling presents the greatest challenge. Perhaps you have experienced a similar situation: You have not been on your bike since last Sunday’s ride, and feel you are losing your fitness in the face of your upcoming race. You go down to the hotel gym and find one somewhat dilapidated Lifecycle. How is it possible to get a good workout in on one of these? Will the fitness remotely transfer to real road cycling?
The answer is that you can get a good workout that will transfer to road cycling. While training on a stationary bike could never fully substitute time on the road, there are many workouts you can perform to work on a piece of your cycling. Cycling can be broken down into two basic components—leg speed and force production—both of which can be trained on a stationary bike if no other option exists. Some workouts are actually better performed in a controlled environment where power, cadence, and resistance can all be monitored and adjusted.
The first step is planning. If you know you will be traveling, you want to select the workouts that are going to be easiest to perform on the stationary bike. I consider this when building my athletes’ plans by putting their long, more general road workouts on the weekends and putting the shorter, more specific workouts during the week. The next step is choosing a hotel that has an exercise room and stationary cycle. Some hotels are advertising this as a feature to attract customers. If at all possible, frequent the hotels that have raised the standard for their fitness rooms.
Many hotels have reciprocal arrangements with local gyms. In this case, a spin cycle would be an option. Don't assume that just because the hotel has a gym, a stationary bike will be there, or more specifically, one that is in good repair. I have been amazed that some of the nicer hotels often have equipment that is in disrepair.
Don't be afraid to explain when making reservations that you are training for a race and that you require an exercise bicycle. You may want to explain that "the last time I was there it was broken; would you mind checking to make sure it is working properly and get back to me." This may seem like some length to go to, but it is very frustrating to prepare for a workout only to have it nixed due to factors beyond your control.
Strength Training on the Bike
Strength training enhances your cycling, and athletes often spend a portion of their season lifting weights to increase force production. Strength training performed on the bike is even more specific. You can perform the following strength workouts on a stationary bike.
Force Reps: Warm up for 10-15 minutes, then crank the resistance down until it is very heavy as if you were climbing a steep hill. Drive the pedals down for 20-30 pedal strokes, concentrating on producing force on the down stroke. Do not increase cadence; keep cadence very slow. Recover for five minutes and repeat. You can perform 4-8 force reps per workout.
Leg Tension: This trains strength endurance. Envision climbing a long, steep hill. Keep your cadence in the 50-60 rpm range with a heavy resistance. Smoothly pedal the length of the interval using good climbing form. You can perform leg tension intervals of 5-20 minutes with 5-10 minutes recovery between efforts.
Aerobic Tension: This trains aerobic strength. Picture a very long, moderate climb. Keep your cadence in the 65-75 rpm range and your heart rate towards the top of your aerobic zone. Smoothly pedal for 20-60 minutes using these parameters. This workout is a lot harder than it may seem at first, and is highly productive.
Power Training on the Bike
Power training is strength plus speed. You should have a good strength basis before moving on to these workouts. Form is important. Make sure you are producing smooth power and not “bobbing” in the saddle.
Power Bursts: These are the first phase of power training. Using a high cadence and resistance, pedal as hard as you can for 10 seconds. At the end of the interval, your legs should be very fatigued and ready to quit on you. Recover for 10 minutes and repeat 4-8 times.
Power Intervals: These are more sustained and build aerobic capacity. Using a high cadence (over 100 rpm) and high resistance, pedal as hard as you can for 1-4 minutes. Recover for an equal length and repeat 3-6 times.
Speed Intervals: These have limited recovery and train your body to buffer lactic acid. Use a high cadence and resistance, pedal for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Recovery is the same length as the interval. Repeat 8-20 times.
Speed Training on the Bike
Speed training is simply training your muscles to fire quickly and to pedal efficiently at higher pedal speeds. Low resistance is used, unlike power training. Form should be the focus. Speed training is good for lighter days on which you do not want to overstress the body.
Progressive Fast Legs: Start off at 90 rpm and increase your cadence by 5 rpm every 30 seconds until you reach your maximum sustainable cadence. Your max cadence is the point at which you begin to lose form and bob in the saddle. Hold for 30 seconds, then recover for several minutes; repeat 4-6 times.
Endurance Spinning: Perform this at 5 rpm below your maximum sustainable cadence and hold your cadence for 10-60 minutes. You may need to start off with a shorter duration and increase each workout.
Spin Ups: Spin up quickly to your maximum sustainable cadence and then let it drop 20 rpm. Repeat this 8-12 times.
Working out on a stationary bike is not the best way to train in a perfect world, but you can break down portions of your cycling and work on them effectively. Most of these workouts should be performed in the base and general preparation phases of training. As you get closer to your goal race(s), try to spend more time on the road and as little time as possible training indoors.
Matt Russ has coached and trained elite athletes from around the country and internationally for over ten years. He currently holds an expert license from USA Triathlon, an Elite license from USA Cycling, and is a licensed USA Track and Field Coach. Matt is head coach and owner of The Sport Factory, and works with athletes of all levels full time. He is a freelance author and his articles are regularly featured in a variety of magazines and websites. Visit www.thesportfactory.com for more information or email him at [email protected]
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