When bad weather forces you indoors

By: Heather Nielson

The winter months present unique and very frustrating challenges for those of us who spend most of our active lifestyle outdoors. If you’re a purist like me, who only under the worst conditions are forced inside, you’ll do whatever you need to so you can ride your bike bike outside. Other than life-threatening weather conditions, an injured or sick body are about the only things that keep me from riding my bike outside. I even loathe the idea of driving my bike to the start of a ride, I’d much rather just ride from my house; unless it’s for a bike race of course.

Gear to help you stay outside:

A short list of helpful gear to keep you safe and comfortable rain or shine, light or dark include: bike lights, fenders, thicker/all terrain tires, layers of clothes everywhere, neoprene and….warm refreshment in your water bottles! You might be really surprised by what a dramatic difference warm hands, feet and insides/core help you better enjoy that bitter cold &/or wet ride. Tip: when you do get home from a particularly cold and nasty ride, drink something warm before you get in the shower. Warming that core up will get you a lot warmer a lot faster!

We each have our own breaking points however and if you’re like me, you know that inevitably you will be forced indoors at some point. In order to put your stubborn goal-oriented minds at ease, here are some ideas to get the most out of an indoor work-out, with or without a gym.


If you don’t mind group exercise environments, go for it. I hate them but for a lot of people being forced indoors, a group setting is really motivating.

If you don’t like group exercise environments, most gyms have a variety of cardio equipment to choose from. I have been found (in a corner with unidentifiable marks so as to hide my identity) mixing up an hour or two’s worth of cardio switching from a stair master, rowing machine, elliptical machine and treadmill. For example, I might do 10-15 minutes of each machine to get in a full hour or 90 minutes (move fast between each machine so you get the full endurance cardio benefit!). If you don’t mind doing one machine for an hour or more, then great! If you’re like me, the mixing things up will stave of boredom and mental fatigue. I also really enjoy bouldering (my first outdoor love), but that requires a whole different kind of gym and is a fantastic cross training activity for cyclists!

Whether you choose a group setting or a solo alternate aerobic activity, just remember to go moderate and cut the time in about half of what you would normally be programmed to do outside on the bike. Unless you’re already used to doing those exercises, cross training doing an activity that you’re not used to doing at as high or higher intensities than what you’ve got planned on the bike will no doubt leave you more sore the next day than you need or should be, especially if the weather clears up and you want to jump right back in to your cycling training plan the following day!

Indoor trainer:

If you have a stationary trainer then all you need is a fan, music and something to look at; whether it’s a view outside, movie, cycling video or virtual training software. If you’re used to being on a trainer, then plan on doing about 50-75% of the total volume you had already planned on the road, doing the same specific work-out. I like to stick in a movie, listen to podcasts or watch a cycling movie for these work-outs. There are also many on-line/virtual options for work-outs like Sufferfest, PerfPro, Zwift, CycleOps Virtual training, Trainer Road and I’m sure many others, that are more or less plug and play to help the time go by faster and keeps you more engaged.

If you’re not used to being on the trainer then I would do about 50% of what you had planned; for multiple reasons. First, a bike in a stationary trainer is fixed, while riding on the road means the bike moves underneath you. You will probably be surprised by how sore you are after a trainer ride because of the minute neuro muscular changes in pedaling and body movement having to ‘fight’ a stationary bike underneath you. Also, you may find it more mentally taxing to do a trainer ride than outdoor ride and so cutting it shorter than you would otherwise will help with that. There are benefits to an indoor trainer however! Your overall ride time is reduced because you virtually never stop pedaling, no stop lights or stop signs to slow you down, no waiting for traffic, you don’t have to get completely geared up, a bathroom is a few steps away, no (although I have seen it….) crashing and mechanicals and flats are not nearly as devastating to your ride.

If you’d like specific work-out ideas for your trainer ride or other more specifics mixing up aerobic activities, roller work-outs etc, I’m available for coaching consultations whether in person or remote. Feel free to contact me!

If you’re interested in hearing about another topic, feel free to reach out! I’m also available for coaching and guest posts on training, racing and women’s cycling. Twitter & Instagram @ridempowered