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Go-To Trainer Workouts

(Photos: @bobbybicycles)

(By: Jeremy Rae)

As we’re entering the depths of winter here in Ontario, we’ve put together a list of our favourite trainer workouts. Each of us find different ways to get motivated. Some rely on apps like Zwift and Training Peaks. Others choose to just blast some good music and ride to power or heart rate. Regardless of how you do it, putting in quality work during the winter is critical to being in shape for spring races (or the Tuesday morning group ride world championships).

Here are the workouts. Feel free to follow any of the riders on Strava to see more details on how they stay fit.

Carson Mattern: Dirty Thirties. I really like this workout as it is quite versatile. It can be done once or twice a week as a complement to shorter, harder efforts or be used as a starting point as you build towards a big event.

    • Start with warm-up.
    • 30min @85-100% FTP
    • 10min recovery (don't let wattage completely tank)
    • 30min @85-100% FTP.
    • Cool-down (min 10min).

Dylan Bibic: I've never actually done the same trainer workout twice, but a good one is:

    • 30 on/30 off, 3 sets of 10. (Editor note: When asked what the effort is like, Dylan responded "it's always 100%”)

Matthew Sherar: My go-to trainer workout is 4x8'. It's simple, not as painful as shorter intervals, but not as tiring as longer ones, and it works both your v02 and submaximal threshold systems. Plus there’s some scientific backing to support the effectiveness of these intervals (https://tinyurl.com/vpdj8th)

    • Warm-up 14-45min.
    • Intervals- 4x8min at 100% of FTP or 90% max HR. 4min rest.
    • Cool-down.

Adam Millar: This is a workout I repurposed from my days as a rower. We did it slightly differently then, but with the same intended sensations and outcomes. I really like intervals that include variations in power output, as I find it helps me get through them mentally a bit better. This one involves starting out each 10’ interval at a firm but sustainable pace below FTP, and rising up above that FTP number by the end. Being able to step up in power can be useful in a race situation - think about these intervals playing out over a 10-minute climb where the pace keeps going up and up.

You shouldn’t be at max HR or falling off your bike by the end, but breathing hard and ready for that rest period. If you’re feeling good by the third interval, make that final minute even harder and see if you can squeeze out an extra 50w.

    • Workout: 3 x 10’ [4’@80%,3’@95%,2’@105%,1’@125%] 5’r between, your choice cadence.

Geoff Chambers-Bedard: One of my favourite workouts that my coach, Ben Perry, has me do is an easy recovery ride at high cadence with some one legged pedalling thrown in. Active recovery is really important between hard sessions or blocks of training. People have a tendency to overdo it on easy rides, so it really needs to be recovery pace. Go easy/slow to go faster! One-legged pedalling is good for identifying weaknesses in your stroke or help muscular imbalances.

    • 1HR easy wattage w/1 legged pedalling @ 100rpm or higher. Single leg pedalling done at intervals of 1min.

Jeremy Rae: I have a hard time doing intervals based on time, especially on the trainer, so I trick myself using hills or segments on Zwift. If I want to do 20-minute efforts, I find a hill that'll take me about 20 minutes to complete at the target watts.

    • 2-3x Reverse Epic KOM to the radio tower, ride down easy. Ends up essentially being 2-3x20mins. I try and ride sweet-spot or higher (90-95% FTP). The efforts might be +/- a few seconds, which is fine. Another favourite is Box Hill for 5-7min efforts.

Myles Lane: This workout allows me to accumulate effort at superthreshold effort with minimal recovery. It also simulates crit race type situations where you're surging and recovering

    • 4 sets of: 7x40s on/20s recovery, with efforts done at 120-125% FTP.

Connor GregoryMy favourite workouts are V02 or high effort intervals ranging from 1 - 4 minutes with equal rest between, but because I’m naturally better at these I gain the most from longer threshold or sweet spot efforts on the trainer. I really enjoy the ability to focus on weaknesses during the off season, using the gym and specific on or off the bike training that I generally neglect during the outdoor riding season. My go to workout if I’m feeling frisky: 

    • 4 x 15 minute over/under intervals of 95%-105% with some 30 second V02 surges thrown in for “fun”.

Ayrton Dick: I like low cadence lactate shuffles, as prescribed by Andrew Randall at The Cycling Gym.

    • 60s threshold at 350w (60rpm), then 60s recovery at 200w (90rpm). These are done over 3 sets of 8 reps.

Ian Manning: Long gone are the days where I have infinite time to train in sunny and warm weather. Now, being pressed for time, my focus has shifted towards pure quality when convincing myself to climb aboard for another dreadful trainer session. One of my favourites includes a good mix of zones and can help create a well-rounded cyclist. Give it a shot.

    • 5-10 min warm-up at higher cadence (90rpm+).
    • 20min tempo
    • 30-50min of work in a "4-1-1-4" format. 4min at threshold, 1min at endurance recovery, 1min at VO2+ (accelerate into the interval 15-20seconds out of the saddle to settle into the gear), 4min at recovery. 1 set =10 minutes. Do it 3-5 times.
    • 5-10min cool-down.

Mike Little: For short power training, I like doing "2 minute drills": They're ramps in power that simulate the last few minutes of criterium racing.

    • Do a good, mixed-intensity warm-up
    • Ramp from 95% of FTP to 125% of FTP over the first minute, then go full gas the second minute. 8min rest. As many reps as you can handle.
    • Add 30-60min of tempo at the end if you have the time and energy


This post brought to you by The Cycling Gym. Owned by Andrew Randall and Steve Neal, they offer online training as well as in-person sessions at their state-of the art facility in Toronto. Ascent has been fortunate to join The Cycling Gym for some workouts during the indoor season, which are always fun and highly competitive. Check out their website for more information.


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