indoor trainer boredom-beater workout

I’ve been doing some of the workouts in the Chris Carmichael’s Time-Crunched Cyclist book this winter. With another snow storm in the forecast and at least another week on the indoor trainer, I thought I’d share this particular routine. 

The most effective-seeming workout in the Carmichael book is the back to back Over-Under days, I’ll explain what Over Unders are below but what’s crucial is that you have a good rest day before day 1, make sure you do full effort on day 1 and 2 and then have at least a full rest day afterwards, maybe even two rest days.  Like the book title says though, the workouts don’t take very long, so that’s good. Especially since being on the indoor trainer is unbelievably boring. 

Over-Under intervals alternate between a really high-intensity steady state for two minutes and pretty close to all-out effort 1 minute. You alternate between these two states for up to 12 minutes at a time and rest in between sets before alternating again for some prescribed length of time.

Your legs don’t get much recovery during the 12 minute part because after the all-out sprint for a minute you’ve got to return to high-intensity spinning. It’s brutal but helps to burn time quickly on the indoor trainer and the effects are noticeable after just a couple of weeks.

For me, my “Under” heart rate is between 145-155 and my “Over” heart rate is 150-165 (it gets higher towards the end of the workout). Since working this workout into my indoor trainer routine back in November, I’ve noticed increased endurance and longer sustained effort in my legs, seen my resting heart rate come down from 59 bpm to a low of 49 bpm and it makes doing time on the indoor trainer less boring. Anyway, thought i’d share:

From Carmichael book:

“cadence should be high (85-90 rpm). To complete the first interval, bring your intensity up to [92% of your max heart rate]  … maintain this for the prescribed Under time and then increase your intensity to [97% of your max heart rate] for the prescribed time. At the end of the Over time return to your under intensity range and continue riding at the level of effort until it’s once again time to return to your over intensity. Continue alternating this way until the end of the interval… Recovery periods between intervals are typically about half the length of the work interval.” [e.g. a 12 minute interval would have 6 minutes of recovery before the next 12 minute interval.]

Over-Unders require that you know your max heart rate or max power on a power meter because you are going to do 92% of your max heart rate for the “Under” and 97% for the Over but i’ve found that after a few intervals you really need a power meter to be accurate because by the second or third set your HR isn’t recovering the same during the Under portion.

I’m not shelling out for a power meter any time soon but here’s my poor man’s way to do this on the indoor trainer.

Find a gear that you can spin at 88-92 rpm and get your heart rate just at the top of your aerobic range. Something that really beats you up but doesn’t have you gasping for breath, this is your Under gear. Then find a gear that you can barely maintain 90 rpm for 60-90 seconds. That’s your Over gear.

I’ve found that if I force myself to maintain cadence of 88rpm in these two gears no matter what interval or set i’m in, i know that i am working the right amount effort for each interval regardless of where my heart rate is – otherwise it’s very easy to start trying to find an easier gear for the Under portion of the interval and you don’t want to do that, the point is to sustain the effort until the end of the complete interval.

So at least once a week work these two back to back days in to the workout

Day 1
5 min warmup
12 minute Over Under (2 under, 1 over, 2 under, 1 over, 2 under, 1 over, 2 under, 1 over)
6 min recovery
12 minute Over Under
6 min recovery
12 minute Over Under
6 min recovery

Day 2
5 min warmup
9 min Over Under (2 under, 1 over, 2 under, 1 over, 2 under, 1 over)
5 min recovery
9 min Over Under (2 under, 1 over, 2 under, 1 over, 2 under, 1 over)
5 min recovery
9 min Over Under (2 under, 1 over, 2 under, 1 over, 2 under, 1 over)
5 min recovery