man on indoor spin bike doing HIIT workout

An Indoor Cycling Training Plan for All Levels - Ascend

Indoor cycling is an aerobic fitness program that many people swear by, and for good reason. Not only is there a long list of health benefits that can be gained from this particular type of workout, but there are also many lifestyle advantages as well. In  this article, we’ll provide a rundown on indoor cycling for all experience and fitness levels. Here’s what you can look forward to:

Goal setting

Setting indoor cycling goals can help you structure your workouts, set a routine and track your improvement. Your goals will depend on factors such as your fitness level, your schedule and any performance goals you may have.

If you’re a beginner, your goal can be time-related. For example, you may want to set a goal of riding for 20 minutes, 3 times a week. They can also be distance-focused, like cycling for 40 km per week. If your schedule is a little more busy and a little less structured, setting weekly goals might be more suitable than daily goals because they’ll give you the flexibility to adapt your daily cycling time depending on what you have going on that week and how tied up you are each day.

If you’re an intermediate or advanced cyclist, you may want to consider whether you’re working on improving your performance by increasing speed and power using High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). HIIT is a type of exercise that involves performing bursts of an exercise at maximum effort followed by short periods of rest. On the other hand, you may be working on developing your endurance while increasing your anaerobic threshold, or the highest exercise intensity that you can sustain for a prolonged period of time.

In any case, setting sensible goals is the most important thing to keep in mind. There’s no point in setting goals that are impossible to achieve. One way of avoiding that pitfall is by setting specific goals that are measurable. For instance, instead of saying, “I’m going to cycle more this week,” or “I’m going to cycle every day this week,” try setting goals like “I’m going to cycle for 30 minutes, 3 times this week,” or “I’m going to hit 48 km of cycling this week.” Also, make sure that your goals are attainable. This means being realistic about your fitness level. Instead of overreaching, set more modest milestones so that you can eventually hit your goal.

Benefits of indoor cycling workouts

Biking is one of the most versatile types of exercises because it can be modified based on different fitness levels, lifestyles and goals. Also, with cycling, you can choose to make it a group activity like taking a class, or you can exercise solo. Here are some more benefits that an indoor bike training plan has: 

Improve cardiovascular health

Cycling is a highly effective form of cardio. In fact, indoor cycling was found to improve your cardiovascular system’s ability to generate and provide oxygen to your muscles and use it efficiently. You don’t have to cycle for hours to reap these benefits. Just 10 minutes of cycling per day can elevate your level of fitness.

If you are looking to incorporate some high-performance workouts into your week, you can add some HIIT training into your indoor cycling training plan. Not only will HIIT improve the level at which your heart functions, but it can also increase your VO2 max, which is the amount of oxygen you can use up in an exercise.   

Mood enhancer

Equally as important as your physical health is your mental health. Indoor cycling can be a tool to relieve stress and relax. As you’re exercising, your body is releasing endorphins which will boost your mood and help you be more at ease. An indoor training plan can be an excellent way to boost your energy levels so that you can function at a higher level throughout your day.  


The pandemic forced many of us to think of creative ways to leverage our living space so that it can be as multi-purpose as possible. One example of this is allocating an area of your home as a designated exercise station. You can include as much or as little equipment as you want, including an indoor bike of your choosing. Replacing the gym and opting for home workouts can reduce your expenses and save your commuting time.

Indoor cycling is a highly customizable workout. There are a great number of training plans you can try out, no matter your level of experience. This also means that you can adapt your indoor cycling training plan as you improve. Finally, cycling indoors can be easier and safer than riding outdoors.  

Longer vs. shorter sessions

A common question when it comes to indoor cycling is whether it’s more beneficial to complete longer sessions or shorter sessions. The answer to this question rests on a number of factors and really comes down to your goals and preference. Here are a few pros and cons of both longer and shorter cycling sessions:

Longer indoor cycling sessions

One advantage of a longer training plan is that they are a great way to build endurance. If you are interested in improving your endurance, the only way to do that is by pushing yourself and gradually adding more time to each of your sessions. Many people enjoy biking for longer distances because it can help you unwind and shift your focus which can be particularly helpful if you’re trying to destress.

An obvious disadvantage of longer sessions is that they are more time-consuming and may be difficult to squeeze into your day. They are better suited for endurance athletes because they require a higher level of mental and physical stamina, which may be difficult for beginners.

Shorter indoor cycling sessions

Shorter sessions can be much easier to fit into your schedule. They are ideal for someone who is starting to include exercise as a regular part of their routine. With that said, depending on your indoor cycling training plan, shorter sessions can also be more intense. You can devise sessions that focus on specific areas you’d like to improve like your strength or power. 

Of course, the longer the session is, the more physical benefits you can reap such as endurance and weight loss. However, shorter sessions are less taxing on your body. This means you’ll be able to recover much more quickly after a short session as opposed to a longer session.

Indoor cycling gear you need to get started

To get started with indoor cycling, you’ll need to gather some equipment. Here are a few pieces you’ll need:

  1. A exercise bike: it should go without saying that the first thing you’ll need is a bike. There are several types of stationary bikes that are available including upright bikes, recumbent bikes, and spin bikes. Upright bikes are similar to traditional outdoor bikes, recumbent bikes have a reclined seat that’s suitable for those who suffer from back and joint pain. Finally, spin bikes are specifically designed for indoor cycling. They are also often the bike of choice for spin classes.

  2. Cycling shoes: many stationary bikes are designed in a way that allows you to use cycling shoes. You may be wondering what the point of cycling shoes are when you're cycling indoors. The reason why people opt for cycling shoes is that they provide a more comfortable and efficient ride. These shoes have a cleat on the bottom which clips into the bike pedal. This allows you to more easily push and pull with each pedal stroke.

  3. Padded cycling shorts: these shorts are a great investment, especially if you’re looking to make indoor biking a part of your routine. The padded inserts will cushion your behind and provide support for a more comfortable and ergonomic ride.

woman and man high fiving each other during indoor cycling workout

Aside from that, having a water bottle on hand is a good idea in order to stay hydrated through your workout. It’s also recommended that you warm up for 5-10 minutes before beginning a moderate to high intensity indoor cycling workout. During your warm-up, start at an easy pedal with low resistance and gradually increase speed and resistance as your body warms up. Finally, be sure to spend a few minutes stretching before you begin your workout to help reduce the risk of injury.

4 Indoor cycling plans

There are an endless number of programs and indoor training plans for cycling. To help you get started, we’ve included 4 plans for you to choose from depending on your fitness level and experience:

Beginner indoor cycling plan A

This indoor cycling training plan is a great way for a beginner to get started. It can be as quick as a 25-35 minute workout. Over time, you can add more time in 1-minute increments to build up your endurance.

1. Begin by pedaling at a low intensity for approximately 5-10 minutes

2. Switch to a medium intensity for 5 minutes. Once the 5 minutes are up, complete the following:

  • High intensity for 1-2 minutes

  • Medium intensity for 5 minutes

  • High intensity for 1-2 minutes

  • Medium intensity for 5 minutes

3. Wind down by pedaling at low intensity for the final 5 minutes.

Beginner indoor cycling plan B

This next indoor cycling training plan can likewise be built on to, over time, develop your endurance. Here’s how to complete it:

1. Begin by warming up at a steady and manageable pace for 5 minutes. Once the 5 minutes are up, complete the following:

  • Increase your resistance and pace for 3 minutes

  • Increase your resistance and pace for another 2 minutes

  • Decrease your resistance and pace to your base pace for 3 minutes

  • Increase your resistance and pace to a push pace (a little more power than base pace) for 2 minutes

2. Decrease your resistance and pace to cool down for the last 6 minutes.     

Intermediate indoor cycling plan

In order to complete this 25-minute training plan you need to have some experience on a bike and especially experience with intervals. This will give you a basic understanding of what varying levels of effort will feel like for you. As a guideline, low effort requires light resistance and medium effort consists of a little more resistance. High effort is when you can’t carry out a conversation at the same time but it still feels doable, and maximum effort is when you can’t speak and can’t endure that level of intensity for longer than 30 seconds. Here’s how to carry out this workout:

1. Begin by warming up for 5 minutes.

2. You will start off with interval 1 at low effort. Complete the following:

  • Low effort while seated for 3 minutes

  • Medium effort while seated for 30 seconds

  • High effort while seated for 15 seconds

  • Low effort while steaded for 90 seconds

  • Medium effort while standing for 2 minutes

  • Low effort while standing for 1 minute

  • Medium effort while seated for 3 minutes

3. Move into interval 2 by completing the following:

  • High effort while seated for 15 seconds

  • Low effort while seated for 15 seconds

  • Repeat the above (interval 2) for 5 sets total. Then, do 2 minutes of low effort while steaded, followed by 2 minutes of high effort standing.

4. Move into interval 3 by completing the following:

  • Maximum effort while standing for 15 seconds

  • Low effort while standing for 30 seconds

  • Repeat the above (interval 3) for 5 sets total. Then, do 1 minute of medium effort while seated

5. Move into interval 4 by completing the following:

  • Maximum effort while seated for 30 seconds

  • Low effort while seated for 30 seconds

  • Repeat the above (interval 4) for 3 sets total

6. Cool down for 5 minutes by cycling at an easy pace.   

woman warming up her hamstrings before indoor cycling workout

Advanced indoor cycling plan

This last indoor cycling training plan is another HIIT workout, but it is recommended for someone who has been exercising consistently (3-5 days per week) for at least 6 weeks. Here is how to complete this workout:

1. Begin by warming up for 10 minutes at an easy pace

2. Move into interval 1 by increasing your speed and completing the following:

  • Keep your gear light with low resistance and slowly increase your pedal speed for 30 seconds

  • Go at an easy pace for 30 second to recover

  • Repeat the above (interval 1) for a total of 4 sets

3. Move into interval 2 by completing the following:

  • Go at your maximum intensity for 30 seconds

  • Go at easy pace for 30 second to recover

  • Repeat the above (interval 2) for a total of 20 sets

4. Cool down for 10 minutes by cycling at an easy pace.

How long should I ride an indoor bike for a good workout?

As you saw in the training plans above, the length of time you ride for will depend on your level of fitness and goals. As a general guide, a good workout on an indoor bike can range from 15-30 minutes for a beginner and 45 minutes or more for a more advanced cyclist. For beginners, it’s recommended that you start with a shorter workout and gradually increase your training time as your endurance improves.    

How long should you indoor cycle per day?

It’s suggested that a training time of 15-20 minutes each day is sufficient for you to reap the benefits of your exercise. You should aim for 150 minutes of moderate effort cycling each week. This will help your heart stay healthy. If you pedal at a higher intensity, you can gain the same benefits with less time spent cycling. 

How many times a week should you indoor cycle?

Again, this depends on your goals and fitness level. However, a good rule of thumb is to find time to cycle 3-6 times a week. This will also help you develop a fitness routine. To help track your progress and how much you cycle per session/per week, you can use a journal or app. 

Can you lose weight by cycling indoors?

Riding indoors is a great form of exercise and can certainly help with weight loss. It’s an effective non-weight bearing endurance exercise option. It’s also useful for those who have joint pain and are interested in a low impact, yet high intensity workout. The amount of weight loss will vary depending on the length of the workout and the intensity, however, on average you can expect to burn 400 to 600 calories per 45-minute session. Looking for a spinning weight loss program? Our 8 week program is perfect for all levels of riders.  

Final thoughts

Training indoors with bikes can be a great way to get in shape and promote mental wellness. It’s also incredibly convenient which is especially important for those with a busy schedule who are looking to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Just remember to be patient and listen to your body’s limits. Over time you will see the improvements as you build greater endurance.

Looking for an exercise bike for your home gym? Shop our spin bike collection.

Justin Tardif-Francoeur

Justin Tardif-Francoeur

With over a decade of experience in the health and fitness industry, Justin has a rich background ranging from personal training in bustling gyms to practicing massage therapy in health centers, and eventually running his own practice. An avid advocate for self-improvement, he tirelessly pursues the latest research to broaden his knowledge of human physiology and the body's potential. When he isn't enriching his understanding or assisting clients, Justin can be found embracing the great outdoors through paddle boarding, yoga, and hiking, or immersing himself in a challenging workout. His passion transcends personal growth, as he's equally committed to inspiring others on their own journey of self-improvement.



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