Indoor Training Fundamentals

20 Minute Read

Having a sound indoor workout regimen should be an important part of every endurance athlete's training plan. This guide will show you how to set up your very own pain cave, maintain and improve your mental focus and provide tips for structuring your indoor exercise routine.


There are many benefits to working out at home. Above all else is convenience. You can fit in training with your busy schedule without having to account for weather, travel times or gym hours. Indoor training also allows you to focus on yourself and your target pace while minimizing distractions.

You don’t need the latest equipment or fancy setups to get an effective workout at home. This guide will help you stay motivated, focused and informed on how to get the most out of your indoor training.

Pain Cave Setup

By Tim Ballintine

Is the objective of building a pain cave to include as many distractions from the feeling of pain?  It may seem like it, as athletes take their pain caves to incredible levels to ensure that indoor training minutes tick by with maximum entertainment and comfort. We’ve all seen the photos of riders logging virtual group rides or pouring sweat indoors. Fortunately, your very own pain cave doesn’t have to be fancy to be effective. Here are a few things you’ll need to get started training indoors.  

Strength and Mobility

First, you’ll want to designate a space to practice strength and mobility. This can be as simple as a basic yoga mat in a quiet room— but with more and more of our training heading indoors, it’s likely that you’ll want to grab a few basic strength and mobility tools as well.

Resistance bands are a great tool to hit almost every muscle group, and a mid-weight medicine ball can be used to amplify most basic exercises. Tools for self-massage, like a foam roller or trigger-point massage ball, can facilitate recovery—or just help you de-stress after a long day in quarantine.

Even if you don’t have any gear, do your best to designate a quiet, clutter-free space to do your workouts. This will help you stay mentally engaged and motivated to follow your routine.

Choosing a Trainer

Many cyclists and triathletes turn to an indoor cycling setup, even in normal times, to do their structured workouts. Whether you prefer rollers, a smart trainer or a standard trainer, an indoor cycling setup is cheaper and saves more space than a treadmill—which makes it one of the easiest ways to get your cardio session indoors. 

When choosing an indoor trainer, the first thing you’ll want be sure of is whether it is compatible with your bike. Most indoor setups interface with the bike through an axle, so when you’re shopping you’ll want to know your axle diameter and whether it’s a quick-release or thru-axle—and check whether the trainer you’re interested in offers compatibility.

Perhaps the most widely-compatible setup is a set of standard rollers—which are not actually attached to your bike. To ride rollers, simply set your bike on the cylinders, start pedaling, and you’ll be able to ride in place while balancing yourself, exactly as you would outside. Rollers provide a realistic feel, but are limited on resistance options and require some skill to master. 

Trainers hold your bike upright and in place, so you don’t have to worry about balancing. They can be divided into two categories: wheel-on and direct drive. With a wheel-on setup, you clamp the trainer to your rear axle, which positions your rear tire on a roller to provide resistance. With a direct drive trainer, you remove the rear wheel and clamp the bike to the trainer via the dropouts. Your chain just runs direct to a cassette mounted to the trainer, which provides the resistance. 

You might have also heard the phrase “smart trainer.” This is essentially a trainer that can send data to an app like Rouvy or Zwift, and receive inputs like targeted workouts, to help make your riding experience more realistic. The cheaper alternative, sometimes called a “dumb trainer,” just provides steady resistance on your back wheel. You can get a great workout, but you may miss the more interactive elements and targeted workout capabilities. 

Trainer Accessories

At the very minimum, you’ll want to shout yourself a nice fan and a floormat, because things get pretty hot and sweaty training indoors! If this is your first experience with training inside, you may be surprised by how warm you get without the regular airflow you experience riding outdoors. Sweat can also be somewhat corrosive, so you may want to protect your floor, and cover the headset of your bike with a towel or t-shirt. 

Things like a fan; a tall desk to keep your bottles, entertainment and sports nutrition within reach; and a nice set of bluetooth headphones can all enhance your experience. Your favored setup will expand as you get used to training inside—don’t be afraid to get creative!

As with your strength and mobility setup—your cardio space will reflect your personality and goals as an athlete. Ask any proud owner, and they’ll be able to explain why every piece of equipment has its place—even the DIY medal rack, the strategic fridge that balances the iPad, the fan on the 4th shelf, or the 6-year-old finisher towel. Be proud of your pain cave! You’ll be spending some quality time together in the coming months. 

Tim Ballintine is the founder of Koa Sports and the Koa Sports League, a full-time endurance and e-sports coach. A husband, father and age grouper.  Tim is a level 2 TrainingPeaks Coach, accredited with Triathlon Australia, Swimming Australia, Athletics Australia and BBUS. 5 x 70.3 champion and course record holder, 2 x Hawaiian Ironman and 8:51 PR.  

Improve Your Mental Game

By Carrie Cheadle

In general, humans don’t like unknowns. The COVID-19 pandemic created a lot of them — and it put racing on hold for thousands of athletes. As challenging as it was, it taught us some valuable lessons about balancing our goals with our mental health. 

While racing has returned, we should not lose focus of the importance of managing stress and keeping yourself mentally healthy. Here’s what you can do to care for your mental health through adversity. 

Establish a Mental Health Foundation

The first step to protecting your mental health is to try and pull yourself back to the present rather than focusing on the “what if’s.” Start by focusing on your breath. Actually do this! Just two or three breaths will help you hit pause on the physiological panic button, and allow you to focus on what you know, right now.

Next, spend some time thinking about your daily routine. Mental health suffers without a sense of normalcy, so if you just said “what routine?,” it’s time to figure that out. Creating a routine doesn’t mean you have to be driven and productive with every moment of your day.

It’s essential to incorporate stress-management as well. Get some fresh air. Take a break from your newsfeed and do some yoga. You’ll want to schedule in two or three things daily to combat the stress your central nervous system is under. Once you’ve established that foundation, you can start thinking about your training. 

Adjust Your Goals

You may need to deliberately adjust your athletic goals to respond to disruptions to your daily life. This adjustment is important, because if some part of you remains emotionally attached to your old plans, you’ll continue to gauge your success based on that original goal, which is most likely no longer realistic. Fail to adjust course, and you’ll just set yourself up for added stress, not progress. 

One option is to go into “maintenance” mode. Added stress puts us at higher risk for injury, so there’s nothing wrong with focusing on exercise for maintenance or stress management, rather than performance gains. Another option is to think about how you can use this time as an opportunity to work on other areas of your training. Are there any strength or mobility gains you could be working towards? Could you improve some of your mental skills? Whatever you decide to focus on, it’s important to put pen to paper and deliberately adjust your goals.

It’s also important (and okay!) to grieve the loss of your original goal. If you find yourself feeling guilty for being upset — perhaps because other people are going through bigger challenges right now — don’t do that to yourself. It’s okay to be upset that you’re missing out on something important to you.

Cultivate Resilience

I recently co-authored a book called Rebound: Train your mind to bounce back stronger from sports injuries. In the book my co-author and I describe resilience as “the power to bounce back from hardship or adversity, and thrive despite setbacks.” Your ability to overcome challenges and rise once again after you’ve been knocked down has to do with a psychological construct called hardiness. 

“Hardy people are able to effectively cope with stress, and research shows athletes high in hardiness versus low in hardiness are more likely to experience stress-related growth outcomes as a result of their injuries.”

Hardiness consists of three aspects: commitment, control and challenge.


Refers to the ability to persevere; to keep putting one foot in front of the other in the face of difficult times. You stay involved, seeing things through to the end despite obstacles you may encounter. 


Refers to the ability to not feel helpless in the face of difficult times. You believe you are capable of influencing the circumstances of your life, understand that certain things are out of your control, and take action to address the things you can influence.


Is the inclination to see that stressors are a normal and ongoing part of life. You know setbacks are not threats to safety and security, but rather challenges and opportunities for deepening understanding and growth.

How you respond to challenges is all in your perception of it. Treat yourself with compassion, kindness and grace, and keep reaching out to your community. You can do this!

Carrie Jackson Cheadle, MA, CMPC is a professor of sport psychology and an expert in Mental Skills Training. She consults with athletes of all ages and at every level, from recreational athletes to elite and professional athletes competing at national and international levels. Carrie is author of On Top of Your Game: Mental Skills to Maximize Your Athletic Performance and co-author of Rebound (Bloomsbury, 2019) focusing on mental training for injured athletes.

Quick Start Workouts

Want some ideas on how to structure your week of training? Try a sample week from one of these coaches, all of whom specialize in indoor workouts. If you like what you’re reading, you can find full training plans from each coach through the links provided, or check out our indoor training plan page, for a curated collection of affordable 4-8 week training plans, which you can purchase and apply instantly to your TrainingPeaks calendar.

If you’re a coach and you’d like to write an indoor training plan, here’s how to get started.

Indoor Cardio Week From Shayne Gaffney

With all psychological stress we’re dealing with on an everyday basis, keeping things light and enjoyable is key. These workouts are also on the shorter side to respect that everyone’s schedule is out of whack. I also made sure to include some cross-training in the form of stretching, and core/hip stability work.”

View Shayne’s website, training plans, and podcast.

Monday Ride: Sweet Spot Ramps

A sweet spot (SST) focused workout where you’ll accumulate 30 minutes total at that intensity. This ride is 55 minutes long and has an eight-minute warmup, followed by 3x (10-minute @SST + five minutes recovery), five-minute cooldown.

Zwift Workout Link

Tuesday Ride: VO2 Max – 3min

In today’s session, we are focusing on 3min VO2 max efforts. However, we are going to increase the intensity of each interval. Starting with a hard effort and finishing with hardest! This ride is 55 minutes long and has a 20-minute warmup, followed by 4x (three minutes @VO2 Max + four minutes zone 2), five-minute cooldown.

Zwift Workout Link

Wednesday Run: Endurance

A zone 2/3 run, but every eight minutes we’re ramping up the treadmill incline starting at two percent and finishing at 10 percent by the end. This run is 53 minutes long and has an eight-minute warmup, 40 minutes at zone 2/3, 5-minute cooldown.

Zwift Workout Link

Thursday Run: Fartlek Intervals

A Fartlek variation with increasing interval lengths and decreasing intensities. Fartlek runs challenge the body to adapt to various speeds, conditioning you to become faster over longer distances. This run is 35 minutes long and has an eight minutes warmup, followed by five hard intervals of different lengths, one- to two-minute recovery, four-minute cooldown.

Zwift Workout Link

Friday Ride: Surge to Sweet Spot

A race start simulation workout with an initial very hard effort followed by a sweet spot (SST) ramp. This ride is 51 minutes long and has an eight-minute warmup, followed by 3x (hard surge effort, followed by eight minutes @SST + 5min recovery), five-minute cooldown.

Zwift Workout Link

Saturday Ride: Endurance Ride

An endurance ride consisting of mainly zone two, but with some low cadence work at zone three to break things up. This ride is 60 minutes long and has a 10-minute warmup, followed by 9x (3.5 min @zone two + 1.5min @zone three), three-minute cooldown

Zwift Workout Link

Sunday Run: Ladder Intervals

This workout is designed to improve your running speed and fatigue resistance. It starts and ends with the most difficult intervals which specifically targets improving race starts and finishes. This run is 30 minutes long and has an eight-minute warmup, followed by eight hard intervals of different lengths, with one minute recovery, and a three-minute cooldown.

Zwift Workout Link

Foundational Week from Laura Marcoux 

“This week of workouts was designed to build strength on top of your early-season base, recommit to mobility, and have fun! While the exercises listed are by no means easy, they also don’t require you to lift anything heavy, so the whole family can get involved!”  

View Laura’s other training plans.

Monday Aerobic 45-minute bike ride & full body circuit
Tuesday Aerobic 30-minute run & mobility circuit.
Wednesday 60 minute Trainer Ride with drills & skills

10-minute aerobic warmup

5x single leg drills: (spin for one minute with your right leg, one minute with both legs, one minute with your left leg)

Five minutes aerobic spinning

3x cadence over/unders: (three minutes @60-65 rpm’s, three minutes @100-110 rpm’s)

10-minute cooldown

Thursday 35-minute Fartlek run & upper body circuit.

30/60/90 Run: Challenge yourself to find three distinct gears.

10-minute aerobic warmup with dynamic stretching

5x: (30 seconds fast, 60 seconds moderate, 90 seconds easy recovery)

10-minute aerobic cooldown

Friday Option one: Rest and enjoy time with your family.

Option two: Cross-training: If you are able and the weather allows, go for a hike, take an online yoga class, do a rowing workout, walk your dogs, etc.

Saturday Bike/Strength/Bike Sandwich!

First Bike workout: 60 minutes with 8x: (one minute fast/three minutes recovery spin)

Mobility & Agility Circuit

Second Bike workout: 30 minutes aerobic, building into holding a higher than average cadence (aim for 100+ rpm’s)

Sunday Aerobic 45-60 minute run & core workout.

Triathlon and Mental Wellness Week from Heather Casey 

“In this 8-week training plan, each week progresses in a way that allows you to see your progress and feel good about it! In addition to triathlon-themed workouts, you’ll have direct links to yoga (with core and strength activations), and guided meditations to help you reconnect with your “why.” 

View Heather’s full 8-week training plan.

Monday 35 minutes of Yoga

30 minutes of dry land swim & core

Mindfulness activity 

Tuesday 45 minutes of bike with tension intervals

20 minute step down brick run

Wednesday 15 minutes of dry land swim cords with intervals

40 minutes run, short & sharp

Thursday One-hour bike with intervals 

Full body strength short session

Friday  30-minute run with intervals

30-minute dry land swim cords with intervals

Saturday 90+ minute bike 

Pyramid endurance intervals

Meditation practice


50-minute endurance run with structure

Lower body strength session

Browse More Indoor Training Plans