by Jon Metz
Many triathletes view riding on an indoor bike trainer as some sort of medieval torturing device that they will only use when the weather out-side won’t allow them to ride. Instead I suggest that you look at your trainer as a tool to make you stronger on the bike during the winter. Actually, (I know this will sound crazy) you should revisit your trainer periodically during the summer months too. You can use your trainer to help focus on improving your limitations instead of just logging a bunch of miles that you can brag about on Facebook.
One way to develop a more efficient pedal stroke is by doing Isolated Leg Training (ILT) drills. It is possible to perform ILT drills during outdoor rides but I don’t recommend you try. This drill is most effective if performed indoors. Simply put an ILT drill is nothing more than riding with 1 leg. The ideal setup is to ride indoors, where 1 leg can be unclipped and placed on a chair or stool. The leg that remains clipped in is then forced to do 100% of the work. The goal of riding with 1 leg is to highlight and isolate weaknesses in your pedal stroke, then work to correct it by engaging the proper muscles in the proper sequence to push and pull the pedal thought the complete 360 degree rotation. It quickly becomes apparent how difficult it is to keep the leg engaged throughout the entire pedal stroke. ILT drills can be performed at a variety of cadences and gears, depending on the goal of the ride. Often I have my athletes maintain a relatively high cadence (90) and ride for 1 minute at a time with each leg. Gearing will be light in order to maintain this high cadence, and fatigue will likely set in after very few intervals. While performing ILT drills all move-ments should come from the legs, and the upper body should remain very still. At any point when technique suffers my athletes are instructed to end the intervals.
ILT drills can also be performed in a bigger gear and at a lower cadence to improve single leg strength. Pushing a very big gear at a low cadence (50-60) for 30-60 seconds will not only smooth out the pedal stroke, but will also build strength. After each interval, recover with easy spinning for 2-3 minutes before beginning the next one. ILT drills as well as other pedaling drills should be a consistent part of your riding regiment and should never be ignored. Smooth and quick pedal strokes with a still yet relaxed upper body will help your efficiency on the bike, your speed, and your energy conservation.