For many riders around the world, cycling in recent times has become an exclusively indoor activity with the quarantine measures they need to observe as part of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Different settings, different sessions – training on home trainers is a whole new story: and one that can be very exciting and interesting for a rider’s fitness.

Here, we share some advice from three experts in the field:

– Diego Bragato, sport scientist for the Italian Cycling Federation, Elia Viviani’s trainer and one of the coaching brains behind the Bikevo application;

– Jesus ‘Chiquitin’ Hernandez, physiotherapist for the UCI WorldTeam NTT Pro Cycling Team and Zwift enthusiast;

– Julien Pinot, coach for his brother Thibaut Pinot and the UCI WorldTeam Groupama-FDJ.

“The indoor trainers have long been the enemy of the cyclist”, acknowledges the Frenchman Pinot. But in a world where riders stuck at home can plug to platforms such as Strava, Zwift or Bkool, we can see some of them put in crazy indoor rides.

Jesus Chiquitin himself posted an impressive distance of 250.1km on Wednesday. “Because I crave this,” he wrote as a justification. “It would be different if I were looking for performance but to pedal is pure hedonism for me.”

In these days of lockdown in Spain, Chiquitin spends many hours on his home trainer. He has set new routines with his companions and he has many tips to help rides pass faster: “In the morning, we get together on a video call with some friends and we do 30 to 45 minutes with an empty stomach. It’s chill, we’re chatting about our day and time just flies because you’re thinking of something else at the same time. Then we plan another session in the day, everyone has his goals but to be able to join on platforms like Zwift and with calls is a good motivation. Then there are all the tips to break the monotony like intensity variations and changing positions. And we can watch videos, TV shows…”

“The real difference is the volume”

It’s up to everyone to find their own fun. And Chiquitin has a reassuring message for those worried about their condition: “An amateur rider can work almost as well indoors as they would outside, and maybe even better. With more time, you can schedule different sessions in the week and do some specific work rather than going outside for a long ride and not knowing what you’ll be doing. In the end, it can give you that little touch of power that will make a real difference.”

The keyword for our three specialists is ‘quality’ rather than ‘quantity’. “If you have the right material, you can replicate almost all your quality training indoors,” Diego Bragato assures. “The real difference is the volume but it’s not a problem because you can work on many different things: aerobic capacity, peak strength, resistance, rapidity… you can also train the lactic acid system.”

And all of this can be done in short sessions rather than putting in some mentally demanding extra-long sessions: “When we work indoors, the sessions are about one hour, one hour and a half long. And if you do that three or four times a week, with high intensities and different kinds of training, that’s a lot of good work you can put in. The secret of indoor training is quality training.”

The Italian coach also insists on “doing a proper test on the home trainer because you don’t have the same values as you have outside. You need to evaluate your thresholds. It’s always important to know your values or your training won’t be efficient.”

Hydrate well and don’t overdo it

Julien Pinot and the eight Groupama-FDJ riders he trains know very well the values they’re working with and they have a similar approach when it comes to training these days. The point for them is to “maintain a sport lifestyle,” says the French coach, “but we don’t want to overload them, there’s no point right now.”

“There are three possibilities for riders in quarantine,” he elaborates: “indoor rides, no longer than two hours per day, in one or two sessions; core exercises, for the abdominal and back muscles; and a bit of running for those who enjoy it and can still do it.” For his riders, that amounts to 10 to 15 hours per week, something replicable for amateur riders. It’s more than enough to keep someone in a very good shape and to move around during the lockdown.

Julien Pinot highlights the necessity to pay extra attention to hydration, with fluids and minerals (a key element also brought up by Jesus Chiquitin and Diego Bragato): “Inside, you sweat a lot more and the process of thermoregulation is much more demanding. It can be interesting ahead of racing in the heat but that’s something you don’t want to impose on your body too much.”

It all comes down to the same conclusion: it’s easier than ever to train inside… But let’s do it properly! –

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