The training you do indoors pays big dividends once you move your riding onto the road. Whether you are looking to maintain your summer fitness during the off-season, build new strengths by adopting a more structured training regime or simply keep motivation throughout the colder months, riding on the trainer can benefit your cycling greatly. If you are looking to jump right into indoor riding, MEC carries smart trainers from Elite, Wahoo and Tacx that make riding in the virtual world of Zwift easy to do.

indoor training
Photo: Matt Stetson

Starting with last week’s opening sessions and continuing for the three more weeks, Canadian Cycling Magazine will feature training plans that will help you build your base during the off-season. It’s a great plan that can work for a range of riders. If you’re a novice who wants to build fitness throughout the winter so you can keep up on group rides in the spring, you’ll want to check this out. Maybe you’re a more experienced rider who wants to arrive at an early-season camp ready to go. This training plan will work for you, too.

The workload each week varies between less than six hours to almost seven hours making the training plan not overly burdensome on your schedule. Along with the outline of the workouts, there will be .zwo files that you can download and import into Zwift so you can use the program’s workout mode to accomplish the training plan. Along with the prescribed workouts, we will have a look at a smart trainer that can help you train indoors effectively by linking into a stimulating and engaging virtual-riding experience.

Four-week MEC training plan outline

Training improves your aerobic ability by putting your body through workouts of various durations and intensities. You need to be able to hold steady efforts, respond to attacks with bursts of speed and sprint to close gaps or to cross the finish line first. This four-week training plan is built around long low-intensity base training that will help build the foundation for harder efforts. Some workouts will also focus on anaerobic fitness to build the form for surges and short, intense efforts.

To use this training plan, you will need to find your baseline fitness by doing a functional threshold power (FTP) test. (The classic way to calculate FTP is with Hunter Allen’s method.) The training program is built cyclically so you can run through it as many times as you’d like during the winter. Just make sure to retest your fitness so you can build on the work you’ve already done. The plan starts with a focused on endurance and tempo before gradually transitioning into more intense intervals with a week of recovery.

If you missed Week 1’s tempo-and-endurance focused workout, you can start there. Week 2 will have you working on your aerobic abilities.

Week 2


6:20 hours
Approx. TSS: 370

This week we increase volume and intensity slightly. Be prepared for some harder and longer efforts.

Monday – Rest

Monday is going to be a rest day. Take a day off, or ride easy in Zone 1 for a maximum of 40 minutes. Rest days are a good time to spend 25 to 30 minutes doing some core-strength work off the bike. Planks, side planks, crunches, mountain climbers, bicycle crunches and leg raises are all great movements that will help strengthen and develop your core.

Tuesday – Sweet Spot Build

Time: 50 minutes

At only 50 minutes, this workout might seem short, but building on last week, we push you a little closer to threshold with each consecutive interval. The “sweet spot” is considered to be the most effective effort level to improve FTP. It’s harder than a tempo effort, but it’s not quite as hard as a threshold effort either, about 85 per cent to 96 per cent of your FTP. (Download the Week 2 Sweet Spot Build .zwo file here.)

Wednesday – Zwift Race using the Zwift Event module

Time: 40–60 minutes

Use the Zwift Event module to pick a race that is approximately 40 to 60 minutes in length. Warm up with 20 minutes of easy riding that incorporates two to three hard efforts lasting no more than one to two minutes. Cool down afterwards with 10 to 20 minutes of easy spinning.

If you’ve been following our plan, you’ve done at least one Zwift race by now. This week, try to practise managing your effort. There is no soft pedalling in Zwift so make sure you match the output of the riders around you. Keep an eye on the rider list on the right side of the screen. Your avatar will naturally drift around the pack but don’t panic, and don’t ease up or surge if you see your avatar drifting backward or forward. Just focus on keeping your effort consistent and matched with the rest of the group.

Thursday – Sweet Spots

Time: 70 minutes

This 70-minute workout preps your legs with a short ladder drill then tosses four nine-minute sweet-spot intervals at you with only one minute of rest between each. This workout can be tough so make sure to dig deep and push through. (Download the Week 2 Sweet Spots .zwo file here.)

Friday – Rest Day

Rest day. No workouts. Try to avoid any physical activity today. Rest as much as you can.

Saturday – Zwift Hill Repeats

Time: Approx. 90 minutes

Here are hill-repeats tips for the worlds of Watopia, London and Richmond.

Watopia – Choose the Volcano Climb route

London – Choose London Loop

When you hit the base of the climb (either the Volcano or Box Hill), increase your effort to 80 per cent of FTP. When you see the countdown timer appear on screen as you get near the top, increase your effort to 95–105 per cent of FTP and put in a strong hard effort for those last few minutes.

Use the down key on your keyboard or U-Turn on the Zwift Mobile, to turn around and roll easy back down the climb.

Make another U-turn when you reach the base of the climb. This time, take the climb at 80 per cent FTP without pushing near the top.

Spend another 20 to 30 minutes riding easy.

Richmond – Pick any course. (There is no big climb in Richmond.) Do 12 minutes at 80 per cent, three minutes at 100 per cent, six minutes of easy riding, and then 15 minutes at 80 per cent followed by 20 to 30 minutes of easy riding.

Sunday – Free Ride Zwift

Time: 120 minutes

For this workout, do a free ride within Zwift for 120 minutes. Whatever courses are available on this day (Richmond, Innsbruck, Yorkshire or London, and always Watopia), pick a hilly route (but not the Epic KOM or Volcano climb) and ride a steady endurance pace targeting the full range of Zone 2.

Tacx Neo 2T Smart Trainer

Tacx Neo 2
Tacx Neo 2T

If you’re looking to combine real-world feel and detailed training feedback, the Tacx Neo 2T is the trainer for you. For the third iteration of its top-end trainer, Tacx kept pedal-stroke analysis and the ability to measure left- and right-leg power individually. This feature gives you the detailed feedback you need to spend winter training working on your weaknesses so you can emerge stronger in the spring. The company also improved the unit’s ability to respond to changes in power. On the Neo 2, some riders could cause slipping when they’d add bursts of power, especially in big gears. Tacx has address this issue with the release of the Neo 2T.

A direct-drive trainer connects securely to your machine, and gives the most accurate power readings. With a claimed power reading accuracy of 1 per cent, every watt is accounted for. You get next-level precision in your training, and maximum reward for your effort in virtual races.

Realistic road surface simulation adds a real-world feel to your indoor training. It makes virtual training feel more real, and more fun.

The Tacx Neo 2T is very quiet when you are pushing your cranks, so you can get your early morning workout in without disturbing the family or your neighbours. It uses a subtle side-to-side swaying motion to reduce stress on your bike, and better simulate real-world pedalling.

Tacx Neo 2 T Smart Trainer cassette body fits Shimano and SRAM cassettes. It can be controlled by Tacx’s own app, Zwift, TrainerRoad, Kinomap and other apps. It is comes with 142 x 12 mm and 148 x 12 axle adapters, and is compatible with 130-mm and 135-mm quick-release axles.

The Tacx Neo 2T Smart Trainer is available for $1,900 at MEC