What is the best way of reaching your peak cycling fitness? Your best bet is to combine those lovely outdoor miles with the quality and efficiency of indoor training. Here’s how to try to reach your maximum fitness levels with minimal fuss.
For some, nothing beats the feeling of getting out on the bike. The fresh air in your hair and the sense of accomplishment when you're smashing an interval on the local climbs.
But for those of us that have busy lives and jobs, there is a much more efficient way to train. Indoor riding means no traffic lights, no cars, no rain and it’s easily the best quality training that you can do.
Very few of us, however, want to ride indoors or outdoors exclusively. There must be a sweetspot. We’re going to talk to a coach to find out how you can combine the two to maximise your fitness.
And as a bonus, we’re going to tell you about a free bit of software from Garmin that you can use to make the process amazingly easy.
Before we get onto that little nugget of info, though, let’s get an expert’s take on how you can reach fitness levels you’ve never seen before. We spoke to Garmin ambassador Matt Rowe, a highly knowledgeable cycling coach and brother of current Ineos pro Luke Rowe to find out how to maximise your fitness.
Matt has designed an example week of training which you can use to see you through the winter months. It is tailored for a rider with ok fitness that is looking to ride a longer sportive in the spring.
The plan is adaptable for time constraints and the sessions can be made harder with progressions as you get fitter. Each session can also be done indoors on a trainer like the Tacx Neo 2T, or outside with a headunit such as the Garmin Edge 1040 to guide you through the session.
If you have any kit to wash, or jobs to do on your bike. Today could be a good day to do them.
Aim: This one is great for helping to get you used to reacting to surges in pace that you'd encounter on group rides, or on rolling roads.
Progression: Extend the number of reps, or drop the 5 minute recovery between sets.
Aim: Cycling is an endurance sport and even on limited time availability, zone 2 work is useful. This session is best done indoors to maximise session quality. Stick the TV or some music on to keep yourself entertained and remember that tomorrow's session is tough, so keep the intensity low.
Progression: Bump this up to 1.5 hours if you have time.
Aim: On a reduced number of hours, sweetspot offers the best bang for your buck in terms of training effect. Mix up the interval times to suit, starting with several shorter periods and making the intervals longer as you get fitter. These are great when ridden indoors or outdoors.
Progression: Throw these intervals into a longer outdoor ride.
Nothing on the cards today. Head for a drink after work. It is the off-season, after all!
Depending on your goal, you can choose how much you do at the weekend, but you ideally need to get in the number of hours of your target event. If that is a sportive that is going that take you roughly 6 hours, then a total of 6 hours ridden at the weekend will do.
Saturday could be a 2-hour ride, while Sunday might be heading out for about 4 hours on the club run.
As you get closer to your event, it is wise to ride these hours in one go, to prepare yourself for the event. So that might mean only a quick spin on Saturday, before a big 6-hour ride on Sunday.
Hopefully, Matt's training plan doesn't sound overly daunting, but we're about to make it even easier now with a free bit of software from Garmin that you need to make use of.
Garmin Connect is something that you might already use. It’s what you download when you want to connect your phone to your Edge headunit. But it is often underused and has an array of brilliant free stuff that you can use to get faster. It’s like having Matt Rowe’s guidance with you every day, for free!
Garmin Connect is a hub for all of your data, be that rides indoors or out and even your weight, power PBs and sleep. You feed your activities in and the Edge 1040 then provides you with a daily suggested workout. This is where it helps you get fitter than ever. You don’t have to have a goal set and you only need to build a week or so worth of data for the daily suggested workouts to start appearing. In fact, if you’ve got activities on Garmin Connect already, you’ll be good to go immediately.
It works by giving you a Load Focus which is the impact your activity has on your body. This means the Edge 1040 can tell you what you need to focus on and then what workout to do to achieve it. It even takes runs into consideration if you like to mix things up and even your sleep quality if you use one of Garmin’s compatible wearables.
This makes it a bit better than TSS alone as a sole metric for determining training, as you might be absolutely knackered from a terrible night’s sleep. The Edge 1040 will see that and know to not push you too hard that day, prompting a recovery ride or even a full day of rest.
You can select to do this ride out on the road, but if you're not keen on the weather, you can do the workout on the Tacx Neo 2T. It will even engage ERG mode to keep you perfectly in zone. All you have to do is pedal.
The Neo 2T is a brilliant choice for indoor training. With a power accuracy of +/- 1%, a maximum resistance of 2,200 watts, and the ability to replicate up to a 25% slope, you can get some seriously hard sessions done on this thing.
One of the downsides of indoor riding can be that you’re sat stationary, but the Neo 2 can be mounted to these Motion Plates to enhance and give real road feel with multi-directional movement.
And the 2T is also a super quiet trainer. It’s actually one of the quietest on the market because Tacx has designed this with no internal transmission and therefore no fast-moving parts. Which is nice, because it doesn’t drown out your tunes.
Speaking of music, Garmin has just rolled out a new control screen on the Edge 1040. You just swipe down and you can change the volume, pause and skip tracks. Garmin suggests that this should only be used when riding indoors, however.
From here you can also control a workout, which is very handy when things get sweaty because the Edge 1040 was designed to work in the sweat zone.
So, maximising your fitness has become a huge amount easier. Using kit like the Tacx Neo 2T and the Garmin Edge 1040 will allow you to train really efficiently whether you’re inside or outside.
Then Garmin Connect ties it all together and allows you to follow a training plan in minutes or simply allows you to get fitter with Daily Suggested Workouts without having to think about it.
The cherry on the cake is that once you have your Edge 1040, the training plans and all of the clever stuff is all free with no subscription required.