Considering that it's May and still snowing in certain parts of the country, some folks may soon turn blue and pass out if they're holding their breath for warm, sunny weather to go biking outside. Which is why so many people turn to indoor cycling to stay fit when Mother Nature doesn't cooperate. But why do I find myself pedaling inside my tiny Brooklyn studio on my Cycleops bike trainer on a gorgeous 60-degree spring afternoon?
Let me start off explaining this seemingly backward strategy with a legendary story. Rumor has it that Lance Armstrong didn't start winning Tour de France titles until world-class coach Chris Carmichael helped refine his spinning technique (let's just ignore the doping scandal for argument's sake). The reason is, when you're not mashing (using your leg muscles to power through) and instead employing a super-efficient cardio effort (think high cadence and low gear), you're saving energy, which means you can go harder for longer. And when you're going the distance, like the three-week-long Tour de France, endurance trumps strength. In other words, the key to success is fancy footwork.
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My coach, Ann Marie, echoed this sentiment when I met her for the first time last month, emphasizing that I needed to smooth out my pedal stroke. One way to practice my form is to unclip one foot and use the other to pedal for a few revolutions at various speeds and resistance, then switch. Obviously this is not something you want to do while on the road. Here's where having an indoor trainer really comes in handy.
How does it work? If you've never seen a trainer, stop imagining a stationary bike and instead picture this: You can mount just about any bike—including my handsome White Knight from Cannondale—onto this sturdy frame that slightly elevates the back wheel off the floor and allows you to pedal on a rotating metal conveyor belt that helps simulate realistic road conditions. Shift gears like you normally would while riding outside, and it adds resistance to your back wheel, which means you can practice hill climbs without ever leaving your home.
Just yesterday I climbed for 20 minutes while catching up on Law & Order: SVU on Hulu. With a quiet, low-profile, and simple-to-set-up trainer, like CycleOps JetFluid Pro, it's easy to get in a hard workout while watching TV or listening to music or an audiobook.
RELATED: Try this challenging, no-equipment-needed outdoor boot camp routine to burn calories wherever the green grass grows.
The best part about having an indoor trainer is that I can sneak in a workout—long or short—with minimal prep time or hassle. The other day, I had 20 minutes to exercise before jumping in the shower to get ready for dinner. Normally it takes me 20 minutes just to get dressed, fill my water bottles, pump my tires, and bike to a nearby park for an outdoor ride. With the trainer, I just threw on padded shorts and a sports bra, grabbed the water already on my desk, and started pedaling in two minutes. I got a quick, satisfying spin in that might not have been as great as a ride in the park, but was perfect for the time I had. And when you're training for 545 miles, every extra second I can spend in the saddle counts!
For daily updates on my training, follow me on Twitter @CDGoyanes.