It’s officially winter, at least here in the northern hemisphere. That means shorter days and colder temperatures. The result: fewer daylight hours to ride and conditions so frigid that sometimes it’s simply too cold to exercise outside. Add to that heavy traffic and potential ice and snow, and you’ll quickly come to one conclusion: in winter, indoor training is sometimes the only practical solution.
Indoor cycling is warm and safe. There’s light, and you can choose between watching a video and listening to your favorite tunes. I’ll admit that when I was younger at-home trainers were never my first choice, but as time has passed, technology has improved dramatically. Smart trainers offer different levels of resistance, and spinning classes and interactive programs keep your mind occupied during an indoor ride. When it comes down to it, indoor cycling has become a lot more enjoyable (and allows you to reap many more benefits) than it did in the old days. Here are three benefits of indoor cycling:
1. You Burn More Calories (In Less Time)
On a home trainer, you pedal all the time because there are no traffic lights or stop signs. There are also no descents where you can coast, as you might during a downhill part of a road ride. This makes riding indoors more efficient when it comes to calorie burn. You can burn more calories on a home trainer than out on the road in the same period of time at the same level of intensity.
2. You Improve Your Pedal Stroke
Training indoors is a great way to boost your pedal stroke. Since you hardly ever get out of the saddle, avoiding the uphill bits of outdoor terrain that naturally force you to get out of your seat, you pedal almost all of the time. Having to repeat the same movement–a balance between pushing the pedal down with one leg at the same time you’re pulling the pedal with your other leg–creates an ingrained movement pattern that allows you to naturally practice and smooth out your stroke. Having this essential movement mastered during the winter months will make outdoor rides that much easier come spring. Once you get back on the road, your body will remember that same
3. You Create A Teachable Moment
You’d be surprised how big of an impact your healthy habit can have on others. In my case, cycling indoors gives me a chance to show my kids what daddy does for a living. Seeing me cycling always inspires them to jump on the trainer and try to ride my bike. Sometimes, for fun, I place their bikes onto the home trainer. I love getting my family involved; even my wife joins in. There’s no way she’d ride in lycra in a group on the road but, in the privacy of our home, we were able to enjoy indoor cycling as a family.
Most people won’t spend countless hours on an indoor trainers, so the goal shouldn’t be to build up your endurance or base miles. Rather, focus on your pedal stroke, some intensity, and training your body to adapt. Finding interesting ways to keep your cycling strong in winter means you will feel the benefits once spring arrives.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.