Triathlon 101: Biking Indoors

For those of us who live in the Great White North, cycling is often relegated to the indoor stationary trainer in the winter.  (And it’s been a great white winter in the northeast.  No complaints!)  While we may feel mentally engaged in the pool, as we pursue swimming excellence, it’s difficult to keep that kind of fresh awareness staring at a wall on nursing the surrogate TV monitor while putting in the miles on a stationary trainer.

Here’s a breakdown of a recent “long bike”, I did indoors, which seemed to go by rapidly without slipping into “auto-pilot”:  Other than the warm-up, I did most of this workout in aero position.

-        10:00 Warm-up:  Gentle spinning as I sip a little ginger tea and enjoy the view of winter out the window.

-        15:00 of “Yin/Yangs”:  (For a description of “Yin/Yangs”, use this link and go to page 54 to view my article “The Venerable Stationary Stand”.)

-        4:00 of Tabbatta Intervals (Wow!  “TI” for short!):  Pedal at very high output (high resistance/high cadence) for 20 seconds, then 10 seconds rest.  Repeat 8 times for a total of 4:00.  I use gear 6 or 7 on the rear cassette.  Then, I switch to big ring for the high output, small chainring for the recovery.  That way I switch quickly and do not spend my entire recovery shifting gears.  (Chainrings are not compact.)  Beware!  This is a valuable but very challenging exercise.

-        6:00-10:00 Recovery (Whew!)

-        10:00  Dismount bike and perform 2X(3X16 single leg squats) with a fitness ball.  Between each group of 3 sets, I do single leg calf raises.  Use this link and go to page 76 to view my article “No Bike? No Problem!” for a detailed description of this exercise series.  Start this with 6-8 reps per leg and build up.  Maintain good form if you want real value out of this.

-        Back to the bike

-        10:00  Sustain a cadence over 100 rpm, moderate intensity. (I use gear 3-4 with small chainring.) 

-        20:00  Maintain a cadence of 60-70 at moderate intensity.  (I use gear 6-7 with big chainring.) 

-        10:00 Dismount and repeat single leg squats with fitness ball and calf raises.

-        Back to bike

-        15:00  10X “Jumps” (0:30 high output/1:00 recovery)

-        5:00 Recovery spin and some single leg pedaling.  Single leg pedaling at light resistance for 30-60 revs per leg.

-        25:00 Transition run: 20:00 at threshold pace.

-        Return to bike

-        5:00  Sustain a cadence over 100 rpm, moderate intensity.  It takes a few minutes after the run to relax the legs enough for a fluid stroke that can spin high cadence – be patient.

-        10:00  Maintain cadence 88-94 rpm at very high aerobic (not anaerobic) intensity. 

-        5:00  Cool down spin.

I have a total of 130 minutes of cycling/strength work and 25 minutes of running.  With this kind of variety, I maintain quality.  I focus on technique, because I keep altering the task.  Sometimes, I skip rope for a few minutes when I am off-bike doing the single leg squats.  The times and specifics of this combination are unique to this particular workout.  They are not set in stone.  (That said, the interval times for the “TI’s” are prescribed, as are the jumps.)

So, if you are stuck in a rut with the indoor sessions, set specific tasks like this.  Be creative.  Alter your resistance and cadence.  Dismount and do leg strength work.  Run once or twice for short periods during the workout, but make the transitions quick. 

This is a far better quality session than 3 hours of gazing at the TV in “auto-pilot” just because your training program says “3-Hour Long Ride” and you are strapped to the venerable stationary stand.

Shane Eversfield is a Total Immersion Master Coach, author of “Zendurance, A Spiritual Fitness Guide for Endurance Athletes”, and producer of the DVD “T’ai Chi for Athletes”.   He also loves to train and race triathlons, transitioning gracefully and seamlessly from one complex movement pattern to another.  (Yup, he’s a “tri geek”.)  Contact him: or on Facebook.  His products are available through