RAGBRAI Training: Indoor Training and Weight Training Suggestions
There were some questions in our training blog about how to do indoor training until the weather improves enough to ride outside. We’ve enjoyed a very mild winter in Iowa and have been able to get outside on weekends. But usually, between the ice and snow and the darkness, indoor cycling is something we need to resort to. Indoor trainers can also be used on rainy days or when you don’t get home from work until after dark. I will give you some suggestions on how to get the most out of your indoor workouts without driving yourself batty in the process. I have actually written an ebook on this subject, “Indoor Training For Cyclists”. I will give you the highlights from this book.
There are a variety of indoor trainers. There are spin bikes at gyms where you can do spin classes. Spin classes are a great way to build cycling fitness. Usually you can ride these spin bikes on your own when there isn’t a class in session. You can also get a variety of indoor trainers where your rear wheel mounts on them. The most common types are wind, magnetic and fluid trainers. They all have their advantages and disadvantages so check them out at your local bike shop. When riding an indoor trainer, it is very difficult, especially mentally, so you don’t want to try to do long endurance rides on your trainer. Instead, pick up the intensity a little and you can get a good workout in an hour or less.
A lot of bike computers run off the front wheel, which is stationary on indoor trainers, so you can’t tell how fast your are riding. But the good news is all you need is a watch or a clock and ride by feel. It’s okay just to get on and pedal at whatever pace you wish. Any riding beats sitting on the couch! However, if you want to try to increase fitness you should try picking up the pace. For example, after a warmup, increase your effort until it feels somewhat hard and your breathing increases. Hold this pace for one minute, then back off to your easy pace for two minutes. You can repeat this pattern for 30 minutes or so, then ride easily for a few minutes for a cool down. You can use any combination of intervals that you can dream up. Part of the benefit of timed intervals is they make the time go by faster. The important thing is to get your heart rate up, breath hard and work up a sweat. You can also play around with different gears and cadences, and adjust the resistance on your trainer if yours has such an adjustment.
I’ve also received some questions about weight training. There are a number of reasons you should consider doing some strength training but the most important have to do with building balanced fitness and bone density. Cycling is great for the muscles from the waist down but doesn’t do much for the arms, shoulders and core. So, to complement your cycling strength you should do some strength training that incorporates your arms, shoulders and back. A few exercises such as chest press, pulldowns, overhead presses and rows will do the trick. Also, don’t forget your core muscles. These are important for stability while riding and efficient transfer of power from your handlebars down to your pedals. The other issue is bone density. There are some reports that cycling leads to lower bone density than other types of exercise. Unlike running where your legs and spine have to hold you upright, cycling is not a weight-bearing exercise. Your bike holds you up. So while riding your bike is great for cardiovascular fitness, it doesn’t help your bones. Strength training can help to do so. It will also help make your fitness more well rounded. Aim for one or two strength training sessions per week. These only have to take 20 to 30 minutes per session. If you are unsure how to do these exercises properly, seek some help from your local fitness center. This time of year is a great time to get started on some upper body work.
Stay tuned for more thoughts on preparation for your best RAGBRAI yet!
Coach David Ertl
David Ertl is a USA Cycling Level 1 (Elite) Coach and Personal Trainer. He coaches the Des Moines Cycle Club Race Team, the Iowa JDRF Ride To Cure Diabetes Team, the Above & Beyond Cancer RAAM Team, and he coaches individual cyclists. He also provides cycling training plans and ebooks at his website: http://www.CyclesportCoaching.com . He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org