Put a fan in a position that blows to keep you cool. The lack of airflow can cause overheating and, thus, inhibit your ability to perform optimally. Due to a slightly elevated core temperature, drink a little more than you do while exercising outdoors. Listen to some motivating music to help you stay focused on the task at hand. Lastly, for indoor running, set the treadmill to 1% gradient to better simulate running outside in terms of a more realistic effort at any given pace.
The biggest benefit of moving your training indoors is control. There are no stoplights or stop signs, no icy roads or trails, no traffic, and no other disruptive factors with which to deal. The ability to control every variable – speed, RPMs, power, HR on the bike, or pace, incline and distance on the run – means you can get an effective workout in less time than if you were outdoors. Secondly, while the advent of Zwift and other virtual training tools has certainly helped, without the stimulation of the outdoors, training indoors forces you to better focus and makes you mentally tougher. With the inability to glide along on either the bike or on the treadmill, you are forced to hold pace and can better keep yourself honest. With the treadmill specifically, if you live in a flatter part of the country or do not have easy access to hills, you can gain some great leg strength by conducting hill workouts on the belt.
Some Examples of Effective Indoor Workouts
Each workout should be preceded by an effective warm-up of 10-20 minutes and followed by a relaxed cool down of 10-15 minutes.
Hills and More Hills
5-10 x 2-5-minute Big Gear reps with half-time recovery. Big Gear reps are done at L3 and 55-65rpm; recoveries are L1/L2 at 90-100rpm. These reps simulate hill work and strengthen your hips and glutes by forcing you to better engage your hip flexors and low back. Be sure to keep the body calm and avoid being "all over" the bike like you're trying to manhandle it.
8-12 x 1-2-minute hard efforts with 90-second recovery. Hard efforts are done on a 6-8% gradient at 10k effort; flatten out the treadmill for the easy L1 recoveries. It’s important to not jack the gradient up too much otherwise you risk slowing your turnover rate to a plod.
Start with 30 minutes and build up to a solid hour of alternating 4:45 at L3 with 15 seconds of high RPM spinning (110-120rpm), then immediately settle back in at L3 and normal cadence. Avoid relaxing into L2 as you allow your cadence to slow. You may not shift gears or you may shift into one easier gear for the fast cadence intervals.
Perform 2 x 10-15-minute intervals at L3 with 4-6 minutes moderate L1 between. The goal is to settle into a solid pace that is at or slightly faster than half-marathon pace. Focus on getting into a groove just like you would on a flat trail or stretch of road.
The Speed Machine
Start with 4 x 15-second sprints from a dead stop, quickly accelerating to top speed and 100+rpm before spinning easy for 2:45 after each sprint. After the final recovery spin, head right into 4 x 30-second intervals at L6 with 1:30 easy spinning. Finish up with 4 x 1-minute L5 with 1-2 minutes easy spin between.
Start with 4 x 30-second intervals at 10% gradient with 1-minute recovery periods between. Complete the 30 seconds at an effort similar to running a mile on the track. Flatten out the gradient for the recoveries. Take the final minute recovery and then head right into 4 x 1-minute intervals at 6% gradient with 1-minute recoveries. The hard minutes are run at 5k race effort and the recoveries are again flat. After the final easy minute, go right into 2 x 2 minutes at 0% with 1 minute easy between. Run the 2 minutes at slightly faster than 10k effort, really getting the legs turning over when you’re a bit fatigued and your turnover was slowed down as you fought gravity on the previous reps. If your treadmill can’t get going fast enough here, use the lowest gradient possible to help simulate the proper effort.
Zwift is now robust enough to even allow runners to run within its virtual world. Pretty cool! While I have never tried running in Zwift, I have ridden plenty of miles across its various worlds. My team even set up a virtual group ride -- The Boom Ride with Sonic Boom Racing, every Tuesday evening at 6:05pm Mountain time (here in Colorado). There are countless group rides and races for anyone of any ability, every day of the week.
For example, today was frigid here in Boulder. Rather than risk being miserable outside, I hopped into a virtual race called the P Race. In 1:45, I had warmed up, raced and cooled down, all by 9:15am, and gotten just as much out of it as if it had been a summertime criterium. What's REALLY cool about Zwift is that you can either ride alone or ride with other Zwifters from around the world. I think there were around 80 riders in the P Race today. If you have a Smart trainer, like a Wahoo Kickr, or ride on the indoor trainer with power, then you can hook up to Zwift. Cool stuff!
Indoors Year Round?
The effectiveness of the bike trainer and treadmill cannot be overstated. Even during the most perfect Spring and Summer weather, training indoors can continue to be an extremely effective way to conduct your interval work and further spur your fitness forward. By removing as many variables as possible during your interval workouts, you can more easily discern and quantify your progress.
I like training outside as much as anyone. And, there are plenty of days I do ride outside in the dark and cold as long as it is 30 degrees and the roads are clear of ice. My lights illuminate the road sufficiently enough so I can even descend canyon roads at full speed. However, there are some days when I just don’t want to deal with the cold or the dark or putting on layers of clothing, or days when I simply have to ride inside.
The workouts above provide just a few examples of a well-rounded mix of durations, intensities and stressors. Incorporate them into your current training regimen and create variations of your own. Whatever helps you spice things up and puts you on a more deliberate path to great fitness come next Spring.