Stay in shape this winter with indoor cycling

Depending on where you live, winter can be a time when exercise is the last thing you want to do. Especially outdoors. Growing up in Minnesota, I embraced the winter, and took advantage of it for skating, downhill and cross country skiing. But when it’s -40 outside, and the days are short, even an ardent Minnesota native can think twice. 

That’s why riding a bike during the winter makes so much sense. Indoors, of course. 

The health benefits of cycling are fantastic. It’s highly aerobic, and depending on the resistance you encounter while climbing or sprinting, you can also push yourself to your anaerobic threshold. While cycling does not work your upper body significantly, it is a great complement to weight lifting, calisthenics, swimming, yoga and other exercises. Few other exercises are as effective in building cardiovascular fitness, improving your muscle tone and strength, burning calories and helping you lose weight. And if you follow good riding form, and avoid over stressing your knees, cycling is an excellent low-impact exercise.

If you belong to a gym, or a spinning studio, you can take spinning classes in a group, or strap on your earphones and imagine yourself leading Le Tour de France on a stationary bike. Working with a trainer specializing in spinning classes, you can be properly fitted for an indoor bike, and get coaching on proper form as well as well as cycling workouts that can help you meet your goals. This link is a good place to start to learn more about indoor cycling at the gym.

Today, I live in Southern California (yes, call me spoiled rotten), so I can hit the road on my bike year-round. But there are times when my work schedule won’t allow it during the day. That’s why I invested in a Kurt Kinetic fluid resistance trainer attachment for my bike, and ride inside my garage early in the morning or at night.  

You can quickly attach your bike to a resistance trainer to get a great indoor workout.  Photo credit: Kurt Kinetic

You can quickly attach your bike to a resistance trainer to get a great indoor workout.

Photo credit: Kurt Kinetic

Athletes and us mere carbon-based life-forms use trainers for a wide variety of workouts, including longer, aerobic endurance rides. Some time-crunched indoor cyclists focus on two or three short, high-intensity interval workouts on the trainer each week, but there is also a lot to be said for putting in longer, moderate-intensity rides on the indoor trainer. This is especially true for athletes who are preparing for longer road races, multiday cycling tours, endurance mountain bike events, and half- and full-Iron distance triathlons.

I really like how a resistance trainer feels similar to the experience of riding on the road, and how I can use the gears on my bike to work on my tempo or push myself to the limit. My road bike is perfectly set up for my anatomy, so I can quickly attach my bike to to the trainer and get rolling. With a fluid trainer, resistance is created by turning a blade inside a container of fluid. This resistance is progressive, it increases as wheel speed increases.

Fluid trainers provide the most realistic replication of the resistance a rider experiences outdoors. It’s simple with fluid: Want to warm up? Put it in an easy gear and spin. Ready to work hard? Simply pedal harder and resistance increases. Doing an interval workout? Change gears and pick up the tempo—resistance meets you exactly like on the road.

Be sure to have a fan nearby, and don’t underestimate how much water you’ll need. In just an hour of fast riding on a stationary bike or bike with a trainer attachment, you can burn as much as 800 or more calories. A heart rate monitor is a helpful accessory, enabling to monitor your fitness and progress. 

YouTube has a wealth of excellent videos to guide you on indoor cycling classes and training, like this 20 minute spin class workout

Want to learn more about bicycle resistance trainers? This YouTube video is a good place to start. It discusses the three main types, along with their pros and cons. 

The Kurt Kinetic website has a training resources section with great information on training topics, suggested workouts and training plans, and tips from their sponsored pro riders. 

Whether you work out at a gym on a stationary bike, join a spinning class, or want to get a great 30-60 minute blast on your bike in the garage or basement, don’t let old man winter stand in your way. Keep training over the winter months, and you can greet the spring in the best shape of your life. 

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