Male cyclists on his indoor trainer next to his windows in his living room.

Maximize Your Short Indoor Cycling Sessions

Short on time? We get it. Not all of us have hours to dedicate to cycling each day. In fact, most of us have to figure out how to cram a cycling session into a busy day full of work, errands, and our kids’ activities. Fortunately, it’s entirely possible to get fit with short cycling routines. Here’s how to maximize your indoor sessions and get the best results, even if you only have 30 minutes to spare.

What are the benefits of short cycling sessions?

A woman doing HITT cycling on her indoor exercise bike in her living room next to a horse painting

While a long and strenuous cycling session is great for endurance training, it’s not always possible to squeeze that into your schedule. Fortunately, a short cycling session can be just as effective and beneficial as a long one. 

  • You can be active more frequently. When you keep your cycling sessions short, you can do them more often because they don’t require as much of a time commitment. You’re much more likely to have 30 minutes, twice a week to dedicate to cycling rather than multiple 2-hour blocks on various days.
  • It’s easier for your body to recover. When you conquer long endurance rides, your body is more fatigued, and therefore needs more time to recover. That means you may not necessarily be up for another cycling session the next day. Unlike lengthy endurance rides, completing shorter, it’s much easier for your body to recover from quick, 30-minute cycling sessions and you can even cycle daily if you have the time!

How do I get the most out of a short bike ride?

A woman on her indoor exercise bike doing a workout in her living room.

If you’re going to commit to a shorter cycling session, you probably want to know that you’re getting the most out of your ride as possible. To maximize your fitness gains and promote optimal performance each time, make sure you apply these tips:

1. Eat a snack that’s rich in carbohydrates and protein.

Before you cycle, choose a carb and protein-rich snack. It will give you plenty of energy while you ride by replenishing your glycogen stores. The protein will also help your muscles recover once you’re done. Most people are fine with snacking up to an hour before they ride, so just plan ahead and make sure you’re drinking plenty of water too!

2. Set up your indoor bike properly.

If your bike’s saddle (seat) or handlebars aren’t in the proper position, you could experience pain or discomfort that affects your performance, no matter how short your ride is. To prevent this, take the time to adjust the saddle height of your indoor bike properly. When your foot is at the bottom of a pedal stroke, there should be a slight bend in your knee. Your buttocks shouldn’t rock from side to side when you peddle. Your handlebars should be about 1 to 2 centimeters lower than your saddle once it’s properly adjusted to your body. And when you are getting ready for your indoor cycling routine, don’t forget to turn on that fan!

3. Stretch before you ride.

No matter how short you are on time, it’s never a good idea to skip the pre-workout stretching! Warming up your muscles with a few minutes of dynamic stretching will help you avoid injuries.

4. Focus on form.

Quality should always take priority over speed when you’re cycling. Instead of sloppily rushing through a 30-minute cycling session after work, focus on moving in a controlled manner to work your muscles harder and minimize aches and pains. Just as proper running form is essential to avoid injuries, the same can be said of cycling form. 

  • While cycling, activate your core to keep your bum from rocking from side to side. 
  • If you cycle at a higher resistance and lift your buttocks off the saddle, squeeze your glutes to activate your muscles. 
  • Keep your feet flat on the pedals instead of pointing them to engage your hamstrings and glutes.
  • Maintain a slight bend in your elbows.
  • Keep your chest open and your shoulders relaxed.

5. Try HIIT cycling.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT) consists of repeated sets of short intervals of maximum-effort training. These intervals are broken up into periods of recovery. These types of cycling workouts allow you to burn a lot of calories in a short amount of time, increase your metabolic rate for hours after you’re done exercising, boost heart health, and help you increase your VO2 max. Despite the small time commitment it requires, HIIT cycling provides a ton of great perks! Check out these three HIIT cycling workouts to get started.

6. Don’t forget the cooldown.

After you ride, take a quick 5 minutes to stretch again. This will help prevent injuries and promote blood flow back up from your legs to your upper body. That way, you don’t feel light-headed, nauseous, or faint immediately after you cycle. Walking or doing dynamic stretches are ideal for cooling down after a bike ride.

Examples of great 30-minute cycling workouts

A man doing a workout on his indoor bike trainer with a fan blowing on him while watching TV

Workout #1:

  • Warm up for 10 minutes.
  • Cycle as fast as you can for 30 seconds.
  • Cycle at a slow, recovery pace for 2.5 minutes.
  • Repeat 12 times (or as many times as you can in the remaining time).
  • Cool down for 5 minutes.

Workout #2:

  • Warm up for 10 minutes.
  • Cycle at a comfortable cadence for 5 minutes.
  • Shift into a smaller gear and pedal as fast as you can for 1 minute. (Keep your pedal strokes smooth and your upper body still. Avoid bouncing on the saddle.)
  • Return to cycling a comfortable cadence and maintain that speed for 3 minutes.
  • Repeat as many times as you can in the remaining time.
  • Cool down for 5 minutes.

Key Takeaways:

An effective indoor cycling session doesn’t always have to be two hours long. Even if you only have 30 minutes to spare, applying these tips can help you maximize your performance and make the most of your workout.

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