If you watch any amount of cycling on YouTube, you’ve undoubtedly seen commercials for Zwift, TrainerRoad, or Sufferfest. Sure, Zwift is the app that makes fitness fun, but what’s all this hype about anyway? If you haven’t already joined the world of indoor cycling training, you might want to give it a shot.
In this article, we will talk about the benefits of cycling indoors. You might be surprised to find out how the pros use indoor training to meet their cycling goals and how you can, too! Let’s get started.
What is Indoor Cycling?
Indoor cycling is an exercise where you ride a stationary bike made for indoor use or use an outdoor bike on a turbo trainer (indoor cycling training). Indoor cycling bikes are made to feel like riding a road bike.
Indoor cycling is a popular cardio workout that people of all fitness levels can do to get a high-intensity workout with low impact.
It can help your heart and lungs work better, make you stronger, burn calories, and tone and strengthen your legs and core.
What Kind of Exercise is Cycling?
Cycling is an aerobic activity that can benefit your health in many ways. People of all ages and fitness levels can do it because it is low-impact and easy on the joints.
You can ride a bike either inside on a stationary bike or outside on a regular bike. Cycling can be done at different levels of effort and lengths of time, depending on your fitness level and goals.
Cycling can help improve your cardiovascular fitness, build muscle endurance and strength, and help you control your weight.
It’s also a great way to relieve stress, improve your mental health, and get some exercise while having fun!
Top Benefits of Indoor Cycling Training
1. Consistency in your workouts
If you’re used to interval work and sprint training on the road, you’ll know how easily these workouts can derail. Heavy traffic, pedestrians, weather, and dodgy road surface or terrain can all get in the way of completing your consistent intervals or max sprint efforts.
You know how it is – you’re about to dive into that VO2 max interval, and suddenly the traffic light turns red or a hangry driver cuts you off on their way to their next meal – and your workout comes to a screeching halt. Training inside means no worries about traffic or avoiding wayward pedestrians when deep in the hurt locker. You can train consistently.
2. Perfectly prescribed workouts
If you do your training indoors, you can set your (smart) trainer to ERG mode, which means the trainer will give you the prescribed resistance you need to get the workout you want. For example, VO2 max intervals, sprint workouts, or tempo spins can be preset so you can dial in your training precisely, rather than trying to find a hill or flat stretch of road that emulates the workout you need.
Using Zwift or TrainerRoad, you can select a workout and input your functional threshold power. The trainer will dictate the effort required to get the training adaptations you need to improve.
3. All-weather riding
Another one of the benefits of indoor cycling is you don’t have to worry about rain, wind, snow, heat, or cold – your indoor ride is always fair-weather riding! Maybe you want to set up a fan in case it gets sweaty unless you are going for that ‘training in a sauna’ environment.
4. Workout with kids
You might not be able to take your kids with you on your road ride, but if you need to supervise your kids while getting in a hard workout, you can do that with indoor cycling. In addition, you won’t have to hire a sitter to keep your kids safe while you’re out on your bike – you can ride inside, so you don’t have to leave them alone or with someone else. There’s always the ‘electronic babysitter’ to look after the kids while you ride!
5. Overcoming injury
Certain types of injury might prevent you from riding outdoors, especially if you can’t grip the handlebars, shift, or brake. But thanks to the benefits of indoor cycling, you might be able to ride on the trainer even with an injury. Matt Hayman used Zwift to train for Paris-Roubaix with a broken arm and went on to win!
6. The Netflix binge
Need to catch up on your latest binge-watchable show? It is another benefit of cycling indoors. Hop on your trainer, flip on the TV, and enjoy your favorite show! The binge-watch works best with easier workouts but is perfect for Zone 2 training rides.
7. Ride anytime
If you’re riding outside, you’ll probably need to plan your rides around available daylight, traffic patterns, and road works. It can be downright dangerous to ride after dark or in heavy traffic. But one of the best indoor cycling benefits is riding just about anytime inside. You don’t have to wait for the sun to shine – you can hop on your trainer session any time, night or day, rain or shine, no matter how bad the traffic in your city is.
8. You can ditch your cycling gear
When you’re cycling indoors, one of the benefits is that you don’t need an entire cycling kit. Of course, you’ll probably want a nice comfy chamois to protect your underside, but you don’t need a jersey, a helmet, or gloves (unless that floats your boat!).
9. Better bike snacks
Gels and chews reign supreme on the road because they are easy to eat on the bike and fit nicely in your jersey pocket. But consider this! Indoor cycling means you can munch on just about any snack. It doesn’t need to fit neatly in your pocket. If you can stomach it, you can eat it. Nosh a baked potato or slurp a cup of soup – the sky is the limit on what you can nibble while jamming on the trainer. And if you have an amiable waiter/waitress at home, you can ‘dial up’ food and drink and get it delivered on demand!
If you’re riding indoors on a platform like Zwift, you can interact with cyclists worldwide. For example, you might be ‘riding’ with a cyclist in Japan, England, or the other side of the United States. You can chat, share, and give a ride-on to encourage each other!
11. Safer racing
You can stop worrying about racing safety as part of your training. Safer racing is one of the fantastic benefits of indoor cycling. You don’t have to worry about crossing wheels, dropping your chain, or crashing into another rider. You’re unlikely to fall off your bike or break a collarbone.
12. You really can’t get lost
Wrong turns are sometimes inevitable when you’re riding outside. But if you ride indoors, you can’t get lost! So if your sense of direction is as shabby as mine, you’ll be happy to stick to the indoor trainer so that you won’t get lost in the city (or anywhere else).
13. And just about every benefit of outdoor cycling
If you ride to lose weight, stay in shape, build muscle, or reduce stress – indoor cycling can do that just about as well as outdoor cycling. The pros know – and now so do you – that indoor cycling benefits can dial in your training, get you in race shape, and keep you safe and happy on your bike.
Indoor Cycling FAQs
Is indoor cycling a good workout?
Indoor cycling can be a great way for people to get in shape. It’s a type of cardio exercise with low impact that can improve heart health, build endurance, and burn calories.
People who want to work out in a controlled environment, no matter the weather, can also choose to cycle indoors.
But, like any other exercise, the effectiveness of indoor cycling will depend on things like how hard you work out, how often and for how long you work out, and your overall fitness goals.
What muscles are toned by indoor cycling?
Indoor cycling is a great cardio workout that can help you tone several muscle groups in your lower body.
The quadriceps (aka quads), the big muscles in the front of your thighs, are in charge of bending your knee and giving your pedal stroke power.
Indoor cycling also works the hamstrings, the muscles at the back of your thighs. The hamstrings help you bend your knee and extend your hip, and they also pull the pedal up during the upstroke of your pedal stroke.
Your buttocks, or glutes, can also get a workout from indoor cycling. When you push down on the pedals, these muscles extend your hip and contribute to pedal stroke power.
How long should I ride an indoor bike for a good workout?
The length of time you should indoor bike for a good workout depends on a few factors, such as your fitness level, goals, and the intensity of your workout.
If you’re new to indoor biking or exercise in general, you might want to start with shorter sessions and build up to longer ones over time. It’s important to pay attention to your body and not do too much.
It’s also helpful to change the length and intensity of your workouts to avoid hurting yourself from overuse and getting bored!