Indoor Cycling: What is it and how to get started? Part 3

We have reached the third and final instalment in the series. In the previous two articles I wrote about indoor training in general and shared suggestions on how to get the most out of it, here in this article I will focus on the quality of training.

Why exercise at all…?

…and when is the right time to start training? You should start today! Why, because the positive effects of exercise are numerous and include:

  • blood volume increases, red blood cell count increases;
  • people with high blood pressure will have lower blood pressure;
  • improves the body’s energy metabolism;
  • bones, joints, muscles strengthen;
  • strengthens the body’s immunity.

….and many more, but these are key ones

Health assessment

In order to find the optimal training load, assess the physical ability in order not to over do it, everybody who is doing sport should do a health assessment at least once a year. This helps to make sure that everything works exactly as it should and that there are no issues with doing sport. During the inspection, a load test could be performed, one of the values of which is the setting of thresholds. I will write about what these thresholds mean and what to do with them.
It is also important to have your blood count checked regularly to see if your body has all the necessary trace elements and vitamins. Again, it is necessary for the body to be able to cope with training and recover properly.

There must be a plan!

Speaking of the optimal load – the problem is often that the heavy training of an amateur athlete is too heavy, but that light training is not easy enough.
Remember that it is not the workout that makes you strong, but the rest that follows the workout that makes you strong!
In the 1970s, Hungarian scientist Nikolai Jakowlew developed the theory of supercompensation. Supercompensation is when the body’s ability to work returns to a slightly higher level than it was before the last workout. No matter how talented someone is, all people involved in sport have the same problem – how to find the right load? In order for training to really increase the body’s ability to perform and work, it must be tiring and often painful. Only then will the body realize that it needs to begin to “heal” itself. What is important, however, is that performance is improved according to genetic guidelines, and as a result, everyone adapts to the load to a different degree and at a different speed – what suits your neighbour may not be right for you!

A trap that often catches out beginners is to train too hard and not allow enough time for recovery. This limits the development and often causes the athlete to train harder and recover even less. The “More is better” principle does not apply to training!

Coach vs App

The most common indoor bike training apps offer the functionality of a built-in training plan. Each plan is a little different here or there but generally they are all quite similar in structure. Trainerroad, for example, offers an additional application “Plan Builder” ( where you can create a personal plan by answering various questions – for example, how many hours a week you are willing to invest in training, what your cycling level is, etc. . As a new solution, the plan is also “adaptable”, where you use machine learning and sports science, an attempt is made to find the optimal plan for the trainer, which adapts to the athletes physical development and health condition.
Of course, the computer cannot completely replace the coach, who draws up the plan in cooperation with the athlete, constantly monitors the development, adjusts the plan as needed, and also supports other issues related to sports.
However, this article focuses mainly on those enthusiasts who do not have their own personal trainer and rely on training skills or common knowledge.

Training optimisation

What are the basic principles of training optimisation?

  • Specificity – if you want to develop in a certain sport, the movements in the training must be similar to the movements in the competition – ie logically, if you want to be a cyclist, you have to make movements that are mostly similar to cycling;
  • Progression – the body must be given a gradually larger “workload”. Greater resistance may be manifested, for example, by greater intensity, longer duration, or greater frequency;
  • Individuality – each person reacts differently to the stress imposed on the body by training. Therefore, individuality is extremely important in training planning;
  • Reversibility – If the workload given to the body is too rare or irregular, the result is a return to adaptation – regression – the body’s performance drops to its previous level. For example, after a full training break, an athlete loses much of their performance after a few weeks. Therefore, when recovering from an injury, for example, it is not possible to return to the pre-injury loads but to start again from an appropriate level.

I have mentioned the three resistances, but what are they exactly?

  • Intensity – this is essentially the rate of energy expenditure and determines what kind of “energy system” the body is currently working on. Intensity can be measured in a number of different ways, using power (measured in watts) when doing indoor training;
  • Duration – typically means the amount of work we measure over time or as distance;
  • Frequency – this is basically the time interval between different workouts.

To achieve the set goals, these variables must be applied to each training session and throughout the training plan!

While two of the three training variables, frequency and duration, are fairly easy to measure without special equipment, intensity is a little more opaque. To measure intensity you will need to have access to either a “smart’ home trainer or bike with power measurement capabilities. But what to do if you don’t have such equipment? The situation is not completely hopeless, the following are still used as possible methods for measuring intensity:
  • Heart rate – one of the most common measures, but at the same time depends on many side factors such as illness, stress, medication, body temperature, quality of sleep, dehydration, low glycogen, caffeine, heat, humidity, etc .;
  • RPE (Rate of Percieved Effort) is a subjective perception of intensity measured on a 1-10 point scale. RPE associates physical scales (such as respiratory rate) with psychologically perceived stress and scales it. For a novice athlete, it is quite difficult to give the correct RPE value for an effort. Therefore, for a beginner, the RPE should be linked to another measure such as heart rate;
  • Blood lactate content – a good indicator, but not very easily available to the average person;
  • Other possible metrics – functional LTHR test, speed, etc.

Power – based intensity

When your training plan is developed by a coach, he or she will assign the desired level of intensity to each workout according to the training goals. The workouts that come with a training app are essentially preset intensities and their variation during your workout. The intensity level is usually divided into zones, the most common being 5 zones. In order to determine the power zones, there is a so-called FTP (Functional Threshold Power) test. There are two main methods used:

  • Ramp Test, where the power is gradually increased, usually in 1-3 minute cycles and in ~ 20W increments. Similar to a stress test at a sports doctor, where it’s basically your job to push the pedals for as long as you can;
  • 8 or 20 minute FTP test – a test where adequate warm-up is followed by an 8 or 20 minute test where your job is to maintain maximum power at all times. This test requires a better prior understanding of your abilities and is significantly more difficult physically and mentally.

Best of the results of either of these tests the program or coach can determines your FTP and the power zones for your workout.

Heart rate based intensity

If your home trainer or rollers does not have a power measuring functionality, the most convenient measure of intensity is your heart rate and its zones. Today, the most common is the 5-zone model, which is based on the maximum heart rate. To find out the maximum heart rate, I recommend a ECG test – in addition to the maximum heart rate, the aerobic and anaerobic thresholds are usually determined during the test. If the thresholds and the maximum heart rate are known, it is possible to check the intensity of your training and stick to the plan during training.

Did you know? According to various studies, 80% of training should be done in the T1-T2 zone? I recommend reading the study on the training of the German track team before the Sydney 2000 Olympics, where they came to gold and were the first to beat the magical 4-minute limit.

Before, During and After

Congratulations on reaching the end of the blog! There are only a few tips left that are good to follow.

Before training, make sure:

  • Each workout needs to have a plan, even if the aim of the workout is just to lightly pedal with a low heart rate is a plan. There is never too much basic training!
  • Enough rest. If the day has been tense and stressful, prefer a lighter and calmer workout;
  • You have taken everything you need to the bike: a drink, towels, headphones, something to eat for longer workouts;

During training:

  • make sure that there is adequate cooling – fan, cool wind, air from the open window;
  • consume enough fluids, eat if necessary!

After training:

  • Drink a recovery drink or eat a recovery bar within 10-15 minutes after your workout;
  • rest! As I wrote above, it is not training that is strong, but enough rest.

Good luck for your indoor cycling!

Written by and photograpy by Rando Kall. Rando is a coach and ambassador of moomoo.