Indoor Cycling Training In 2019 for Aerobic Adaptation

If you are forced to ride a trainer during the winter, these tools will help keep it fun, and make sure you get the most out of every minute!

Early sunsets, cold days, and lots of grey are a winter reality this time of year. Cyclists flee the frozen tundra, forced to move most if not all of their training indoors. Consistency is incredibly important for endurance sport through the active off season, and there is a lot of potential progress to be made indoors with the right approach. Read on to find out what our athletes, Brendan and I do to come out of the winter flying!


First of all, if you are going to be a regular customer to your indoor trainer, you need to have the right mindset about riding it. It’s very common to hear cyclists complaining to each other about the grind of winter. While many cyclists have a negative stigma about sitting inside before they even get on the bike, I’ve found that a strong cup of coffee and a halfway decent playlist will get me through 90’ no problem.  The mindset really needs to be there and once you’ve gotten past the first few workouts you might even start looking forward to the challenge of the pain cave!

Another trick is to just focus for 5-10 minute chunks. As it turns out humans aren't actually very good multitaskers, even those of us who think we are, aren't!  By locking your focus onto one thing for a while then shifting to the next 10’ will help break up the ride. Cadence, music choice, power, standing or staying seated, are all great things to experiment with.

A little bit of progressive

Setting a plan is good for your training and your motivation. If you are doing the SAME exact workouts week in and week out in the same order you will improve for a while and then you will stagnate, stop improving, and get bored. Be creative with your workouts. Switch things up after a planned period will always keep you looking forward to the “light at the end of the tunnel”.


7 different workouts that are all variations on Sweet spot. Just a few examples of potential variety for your indoor workload. THIS IS NOT MONDAY THROUGH SUNDAY; SEE WARNING ABOVE!

7 different workouts that are all variations on Sweet spot. Just a few examples of potential variety for your indoor workload. THIS IS NOT MONDAY THROUGH SUNDAY; SEE WARNING ABOVE!

Don’t Forget to Rest!

Pedaling with a purpose is always more fun than feeling like you get on the bike because you have to. A properly executed training plan should have you coming into a rest block pretty tired. Depending on how many months or years you have been training and your overall load, you can create different lengthed mesocycle according to how much “stress”  you predict you will need to see adaptation and get faster! Have fun with this! Manipulating your overall training load may seem complicated but thanks to power meters and fitness tracking of Strava and Training Peaks, it isn’t that hard at all. This structuring is all very individualized, if you are curious let us know your questions and we will help!

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EVOQ top 3 indoor workouts for improving Aerobic Performance

1.) Sweet Spot

The polar vortex comes at the perfect time of the year to get a couple good blocks of sweet spot riding.  

There are a ton of benefits to riding in the sweet spot zone, the top one for us is ability to accumulate minutes at a high percentage of your aerobic capacity(FTP). Sweet spot should be just ever so slightly less taxing on the legs, so you end up being able to work up to more sessions at that 92-97% of FTP range. More time at a training “level” means a stronger stimulus to get faster!

How long should my Sweet Spot Sessions last?

This is best answered by looking at experience level, event type, and what sort of stimulus you are trying to achieve.  There are 3 main components of designing a Sweet Spot training block: the duration of effort, intensity of efforts, and frequency of sessions.

For duration, if you have never performed a sweet spot workout, try 3x10’ ON @ 94% 2’ at 50% and gradually start working to longer durations.  EVERYONE, from beginner to advanced should work up to 2 hours of sweet spot in one training session. This is going to be a hard session, but if you if you have tested your threshold you already know exactly how hard you can go for an hour, so you can start making informed decisions about gradually working your way up to a 2 hour sweet spot workout.

Intensity of sweet spot varies depending on who you are talking to but we tend to stay between 92-97% of your tested FTP. as you manipulate your duration you might need to go up or down a few percent on your targets and that’s ok! Do what makes sense for your plan.

Frequency is a really great element to sweet spot. Unlike harder intensity intervals, your body will get used to these workouts pretty quickly, and recovers just a bit faster. When you start your Sweet spot program 60’ in a week might feel like a lot! But after a block or two if you have stayed consistent 3 or even 4 sweet spot workouts a week will be possible.  Want some advice? EVOQ is here to help!

2.) Overspeed/Underspeed Intervals

Training beyond your current comfort zone is a huge component to improving. This is often done with intensity but it can also be done with cadence and leg speed. Improving motor control will help you hold the power up for longer durations, change speeds better, and push the pedals harder!  Overspeed means higher than you would self select your candece, and underspeed is below. Here are a few ways to make it happen.

Tractor Pulls

A term coined by the famed American Cycling Coach Hunter Allen, These are max force efforts are a great way to build strength and learn to produce more torque. It’s hard to do these on a normal trainer because the wheel will slip at low rpms, but a smart trainer can create enough resistance.  Start from a track stand in your biggest gear and accelerate hard for 20 seconds or until you reach 90 rpm.  These efforts are designed to generate MORE TORQUE. Normally, pedaling doesn’t provide enough resistance to encourage hypertrophy, but by using INTENTIONALLY TOO HARD OF A GEAR, you can achieve a substantial strength increase. Work up to 10 of these for a great workout. Tractor Pulls are also a good way to transition some of your strength from your gym workouts. If you are keeping up, EVOQ HIGHLY recommends strength training as a fundamental component of your yearly training program.

Underspeed Threshold/Sweet Spot

40-70 rpm’s right at a 10 out of 10 output is a great way to build force production in your legs through hypertrophy.  If you can’t be outside going up hills, you might as well find some in your pain cave! Working out to 2x20’ at this low RPM range. Is going to be plenty long. The are added benefits here to this underspeed style of grinding the pedals.  Your pedaling technique will quickly improve with the right amount of this type of work sprinkled into your training plan.

Form Sprints

These are a great addition to an endurance ride. Form sprints are small gear sprints. To execute this properly you have to spin fast! You can stay seated, or stand, depending on your goal, the only “rule” for these will be to really get your legs going significantly faster than you would ever go in an actual sprint, we are talking 150 rpm or more!  Achieving this max speed as fast as possible, in an EASY gear is going to help our body get used to turning those rpm’s up FAST, and when you choose to put some real force behind them, and move on to full sprints later in the season your body will already be primed and ready because you have PRACTICED the action of getting your feet moving!

Overspeed Endurance

It’s amazing how hard it is to pedal “easy” for 60’-90’ at 10 rpm more than your usual average cadence! Self selected cadence will always be ideal, because our bodies are really smart. You will naturally find the range that is best for you based on your muscle fiber type, fit, and current coordination level. By tricking your body to work at a higher than optimal range, you will get a few added benefits here. It’s harder to pedal beyond your self selected cadence, so time passes faster! If you train with Heart Rate, you will notice that the same power when compared with self selected cadence will have a higher hr. Higher hr, regardless of power is going to get a slightly more significant AEROBIC training stress.

3.)Polarized / Max Aerobic Efforts

Polarized work range intensity should be defined as 95% hr max or 90% of VO2 max.  EVOQ uses WKO4, and a testing protocol to find a very accurate VO2 max estimation. If you don’t have this software, Dr. Stephen Seiler, one of the premier researchers in the Polarized training model, recommends you test your 8 minute max power, and use 95% of this power as your target wattage.

In order to get the most out of these rides you need to find out how many easy days you will need to take between workouts. At least 48 hours between workouts is going to be a good place to start, but you might need slightly more or less depending on the week’s load.

“Taking it easy” is also often misinterpreted by athletes who are scouring the internet for training tips. It’s really important that you keep your overall training load up with quality endurance rides during a polarized block. This might require two a day endurance rides, or prioritizing one extra long ride per week. Unfortunately, the best answer is IT DEPENDS, but we are here to field any questions you might have, so let us know how we can help!

Running 1-2 polarized mesocycles is a really fantastic way to find some peak form, but it’s tricky to get right.  POLARIZED and SWEET SPOT workouts are not going to be very good friends, meaning you DO NOT want to do 60’ of sweet spot, then the next day try to do 4x8’ @ 90% of vo2 max. The key to polarized efforts is the quality of the effort. Every single ounce of motivation and focus needs to be devoted to these intervals because maintaining 90% of vo2 max is critical. If you are mentally and physically worn out from 60’ at 95% of ftp, research shows it’s going to be difficult to go hard enough to reach the intensity needed for adaptation with this style of training.  

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This is a properly executed polarized workout. This athlete did 16’ of work and was able to stay at 90% of vo2 max or more for almost 13 minutes!

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The same athlete, a few weeks later, gets a FAIL for this workout. The fatigue from the training week before was too great and they were not able to raise the power to 90% of vo2 max or more, signaling the need for rest or a different strategy is needed for the days leading up to this workout.  The stimulus needs to be STRONGER for this type of workout to really work.

Bonus Round! Zwift Racing

For us, this one didn't really make the list, but it’s worth a discussion. The main problem with zwift racing is the intensity. Because of how the race plays out and the drafting algorithm within zwift, every workout is going to be a threshold workout. 1.00 IF for 45’-60’ are going to stress the system for sure! The problem is, it’s just a bit TOO HARD to be repeatable, and a bit TOO EASY to get a more intense adaptation, so you would be better off working on something more specific, and that’s why we favor the above 3 styles of efforts over zwift racing.

BUT, here’s a little secret. If your goal is to win a Zwift Race, and you aren't already in the top 10 consistently in your category or you want to level up categories this season....

Use the category system to your advantage!

Luckily for us, there are endless zwift options. Group rides and races ARE a fun way to grind out the weekend or a workout with a bunch of other people. If group exercise motivates you then you absolutely should be using this to your advantage, but be SMART! Racing BELOW the level you are currently at will allow you to get a sweet spot IF by the end and BOOM! You have done some beneficial training that will help you build within your current training plan!

Zwift races are split into 4 categories:

A: 4.0 w/kg FTP or higher

B: 3.2 w/kg to 4.0 w/kg FTP

C: 2.5 w/kg to 3.2 w/kg FTP

D: Under 2.5 w/kg FTP

How to Get a Sweet Spot Workout with Zwift

Let’s say you have tested your ftp and you are at 3.2 w/kg, rather than killing yourself to stay in the A or B race, enter the C or D race. You will have the same group motivation, but will come away with a .92-.96 IF instead of 1.0+ and BOOM! You have executed an awesome Sweet Spot workout, and you will be ready to get in 1-3 more workouts in the week instead of just 1. THIS IS HUGE! Being able to get in more work within a week is what will give your body enough stimulus to adapt and GET FASTER!

Wrapping it all up

Hopefully you have a few new ideas about how to make the trainer fun - whether you are focused on general fitness, your performance in Zwift racing, or prepping for outdoor season, with modern training tools, there are a ton of ways to stave off those winter blues and enter your Pain Cave.

If you are curious about how EVOQ would structure your individual training plan, for a limited time we will analyze your riding with a deep dive into WKO4 and walk you through it for FREE!

Have questions or comments? Contact us individually, join our mailing list, or start a conversation in the comments below!

If you are trying to get some more structure in your weekly, monthly or yearly training plan, or have never done a single interval in your life, we are here to help.  Contact us today and begin to find your BEST SELF through cycling!