Short and vigorous

17. January 2019

You want to improve your condition and get fit indoors? Bike roller training provides an excellent opportunity to do varied and intensive units.

January and February are usually the two months in our latitudes in which most amateur athletes build up their endurance by mainly doing long and relaxed units outdoors, be it on touring or cross-country skis, snowshoes, or even jogging.

At the same time, interested amateur athletes tend to watch ski, cross-country skiing and biathlon races on television during these dark months, which thus presents the ideal opportunity to combine active and passive sports. Just two one-hour indoor units on the bike are ideal for staying in shape and setting new stimuli.

Set up your training area

Before you start training, you need to set up your training space, so it is motivating and tailored to your needs. The most important factors:

  • Place your home trainer in a room where you can train undisturbed. A bike roller, in which you can clamp your own bike, is ideal for this, as is a cycle ergometer if you can adjust the seat position and level of resistance. The price of a good roller starts at around 300 Swiss francs and good quality ergometers are a bit more expensive (starting at 700 Swiss francs). Ergometers should also be equipped with click pedals.
  • Many athletes either watch sports programmes while pedalling or create a motivational play list on YouTube and then watch the videos on a screen or projected on a wall as they cycle. Or they schedule their indoor training for a Sunday crime series and track down the culprit on the roller.
  • All you need for this training is light clothing, a full water bottle, and a towel. Should you find that you sweat a lot, then a fan in front of the bike helps, as does an open window.

Scope of training

  • Regularity is extremely important: resolve to get on your bike at least twice a week for one hour each. A scheduled period of 10 weeks will give a manageable volume of 20 hours.
  • In addition to the respective 10-minute warm up and wind down, you should use the remaining 40 minutes or so to complete a really intensive and diverse programme and not simply pedal in continuous mode for 40 minutes. Really intensive means: you should hit your maximum heart rate zone a few times during this training.
  • You can of course continue to do relaxed basic training units outdoors alongside the intensive roller training.

Training plan

Ergometers have the advantage of usually having a selection of pre-installed programmes. However, with some simple principles you can devise your own 20 one-hour units mentioned above. The easiest way is to use the respective 10 minutes to warm up and wind down in continuous mode with little resistance and at a high cadence (approx. 90-110 revolutions per minute). For the 40 minutes in between, you can play around with the following parameters:

  • Frequency
  • Resistance
  • Time
  • Heart rate

The individual parameters can be mixed together as desired. Depending on your focus, you can do strength training (fewer revolutions with high resistance), boost your lactate threshold (maximum intensity with around 100 revolutions), or work on your coordination (high frequencies above 110 revolutions). Make sure that you test the different parameters at the beginning of your winter roller training. And motivate yourself to push your limits twice a week for 40 minutes. You can also do basic training on the roller (for example, watching a crime series as you pedal in continuous mode at a relaxed/medium pace), however, this should be seen as additional training.




Frequency parameter examples

  • Select a gear that enables you to cycle for around ten minutes at roughly 80 revolutions. After one minute, always increase the frequency to 110 revolutions for one minute and then switch back to 80 revolutions for one minute. Repeat this around ten times. In the second set, increase the frequency to the maximum if you can go above 110.
  • Select a fixed frequency (e.g. 100) and a corresponding resistance that you are only able to maintain with maximum effort for 5 minutes. Then pedal for 2-3 minutes at a relaxed pace. Repeat this around five times.
  • Pyramid drills: select a gear that can be easily maintained at 80 revolutions per minute. Then cycle for one minute at 80 revolutions, one minute at 90, one minute at 100, and one minute at 110, before slowing down again from 100 to 90 to 80. Each cycle lasts 7 minutes and can be repeated five times.
  • Pedal for around two minutes at a maximum high frequency with light resistance before increasing the resistance (and thus decreasing the frequency). Can you manage 130 revolutions per minute?

Resistance parameter examples

  • Select a resistance (must be correspondingly high) that allows a maximum frequency of around 60 revolutions per minute with a great deal of effort. Cycle non-stop at this resistance for two minutes then decrease it and pedal at a frequency of 100 for two minutes before substantially increasing the resistance again. This can be repeated ten times.
  • Pyramid drills: select a gear that enables you to cycle non-stop for half an hour. Increase the resistance three times after every 5 minutes (a total of 20 minutes), so you are pedalling with maximum effort for the last 5 minutes, then repeat the whole exercise again.
  • Starting at a medium level of resistance, switch up a gear every minute until you can no longer manage a full minute, then pedal at an easy pace for three minutes before starting the whole exercise again.
  • Athletes using a power meter can naturally also do watt-based training, however, seeing as this is not (yet) an issue for most amateur athletes from other sports disciplines, the corresponding examples have been omitted.




Time parameter examples

  • Cycling according to time parameters is easiest on the roller. After warming up, for example, cycle rigorously for 5 minutes then 3 minutes at a relaxed pace. Or cycle rigorously for 3, relaxed for 1 or extremely rigorously for 1, and relaxed for 1 – there are countless examples. As already mentioned: you need to maintain a really vigorous, even extremely rigorous pace on the rigorous sections.
  • Cycle for 10 minutes in continuous mode at a pace that is so intensive, you can only just maintain it. Then pedal for three minutes at a relaxed pace before giving it your all again for ten minutes. You can also do this in 5-minute intervals.

Heart rate parameter examples

  • Many athletes are accustomed to heart rate training, which is why it is ideal for practising on the roller. The heart rate parameter is automatically derived from the resistance, frequency or time parameters.
  • Pyramid drills are also good for heart rate training, e.g. start at a heart rate of 120, then increase it by 20 beats every two minutes (either through more resistance or a higher frequency) until you reach your maximum heart rate. Then cycle at a relaxed pace for two minutes and repeat the whole exercise all over again.
  • Intervals: 2 minutes at your maximum heart rate alternating with a section in which your heart rate decreases to 120 (time is not specified here). When you reach a heart rate of 120, cycle at your maximum heart rate for two minutes again. Repeat the whole exercise ten times.

Intensive indoor training is highly beneficial

Advantages and disadvantages at a glance

Basic training in winter is indispensable for top athletes and ambitious athletes. Amateur athletes can also stay fit by doing short and intensive indoor units during the cold season. These are the advantages and disadvantages of intensive training.
+ Great gains with little time required
+ Neither daylight nor weather-dependent
+ Possible to focus on unfamiliar aspects
+ Ideal for training strength, coordination, and motor skills
+ Can be done at home

- Intensive training units are mentally challenging and require perseverance and tenacity
- Requires space at home
- Should not be done more than twice a week. Those who train more than twice a week also need more relaxed units