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Bike Trainer and Strength Workout for Any Level or Distance

By Christopher Breen | Jan. 31, 2017, 11:53 a.m. (ET)

How to embrace the trainer with an adjustable cycling and strength workout

bike trainer

In the Northeast where I am located even the bravest of the brave athletes are forced indoors at some point. No matter what your thoughts are about trainer sessions (I by the way am a fan of them and recommend them year round), the roads will inevitably be covered with ice and snow at some point during the winter and this is when the bike must meet the trainer. This is also a time during your training cycle where strength workouts should be incorporated. However, during the winter your motivation and drive might be put into question, especially as those winter months drag on. Don’t sleep in and don’t replace cycling sessions with other discipline workouts. Load up your water bottles, get the fan out and get a quality trainer session in.

There are numerous pros to riding indoors. The obvious being safety and convenience. However, there are others too. Riding indoors provides a consistent workload, as there is no coasting and no stops to deal with. This provides consistent muscle tension. The consistency of the environment also makes it easier to track progress as all variables, such as wind, turns and road conditions, are taken out of the equation. These are all great reasons to train indoors at certain times of the year and to also perform a functional threshold power test indoors a couple times during the year.

The following workout is one of my favorites and is perfect for all athletes as it can be adjusted as needed depending on time and what distance you are training for. It is great for building leg strength no matter your target race distance. Triathletes oftentimes neglect strength training. This workout incorporates it within the trainer session. I prefer it for long course athletes as it can break up the monotony of a long indoor ride. I usually add it at the end of a base cycle or beginning of a build cycle as it incorporates lactate threshold intervals, although not in the traditional sense because strength training sets are included.

Warm-up: Begin 20 minutes at an easy pace (Zone 1 or Rate of Perceived Exertion < 2) gradually increasing intensity to aerobic endurance pace (Zone 2 or RPE 2-3)

Main Set: Repeat 8 times
2 minutes at lactate threshold pace (Zone 4 or RPE 4-5)
1 minute easy (Zone 1 or RPE<2)
2 minutes at lactate threshold pace (Zone 4 or RPE 4-5)
1 minute easy (Zone 1 or RPE<2)
1 minute at lactate threshold pace (Zone 4 or RPE 4-5)
1 minute easy (Zone 1 or RPE<2)
Get off the bike and do either bodyweight squats, walking lunges or bridge with alternating straight leg lifts for 1 minute.
5 minutes easy (Zone 1 or RPE<2)

Cooldown: 5-10 minutes easy (Zone 1 or RPE<2). Static stretching off the bike.

The above workout as outlined is approximately two hours in duration and can be shortened by simply decreasing the number of times you repeat the main set. It can also be lengthened by adding in some time at an aerobic endurance Zone 2 pace or RPE 2-3 after completing the main set and before beginning a cooldown. 

The bottom line is there is no magical workout that will make you PR at your next race. The goal is to get to your races injury free and in peak fitness. By building from cycle to cycle and incorporating certain workouts at certain times during your training cycle you will be able to achieve this. Remember purposeful training is what leads to success. The bike trainer allows that and should not be neglected.

Zones are based off of Coggan Power Zones and RPE is based off of Borg’s 10-point category-ratio scale of perceived exertion.

Christopher Breen, PA-C, ACSM EP-C is a certified physician assistant specializing in sports medicine and orthopaedics, a certified exercise physiologist by The American College of Sports Medicine, and a USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach. He is the founder and head coach of ARIA Endurance Coaching LLC and also works at Winthrop Orthopaedic Assoc., PC in Long Island, New York. He can be reached at ariaendurance.com and ariaendurance@gmail.com.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.