Interview: Björn Geesmann on indoor training


Training indoors on a smart trainer or a regular bike trainer has many benefits compared to training on the road. Professional coach and sports scientist Björn Geesmann explains why “riding stationary” is an extremely efficient form of training.

What are the advantages of riding on a bike trainer?

In general, indoor training on the bike trainer is a very good way to complete your training unaffected by external influences. Especially intervals, where load and recovery alternate, can be ridden under laboratory-like conditions. In addition, modern smart trainers in combination with apps can even control the training unit. Participants in Alpecin Cycling Challenge, e.g., can download training plans from TrainingPeaks and then easily import them into Zwift, Rouvy and the like to ride exactly according to the plan provided. The smart trainer thus defines the resistance the athlete has ride against.

What does an athlete need to pay attention to when training on the bike trainer?

He needs to know and internalize what he is doing it for and that the circumstances are different. Big challenges are overheating due to the lack of cooling airflow and also the lack of dynamics or speed of movement, which we all know from outside riding. Athletes need to accept this, then training on the bike trainer will also work for them.

So, you are a fan of indoor training?

If done the right way, yes, I am. There are many advantages to training in a “protected space”. Indoor training saves a lot of time. After the warm-up the athlete can start right away. He does not have to get out of the city to find a suitable course for his training. In addition, he is completely independent of the weather and light conditions, produces less dirty laundry and also saves time because he does not have to clean the bike. One could say that – physiologically speaking – an advantage of this way of training is that it is much more goal-oriented. On the other hand, many factors are neglected that are important for cycling, when only riding on the bike trainer. I’m thinking about riding technique, the feeling for the road, the ability to react, which is what cycling in all its facets is all about. But in times like these, this downside is negligible.

At the moment many are training in virtual worlds like Zwift and the like. What do you think of this?

As long as they actually train – and by this, I mean that the athletes ride certain training units with a system and a concept behind them, and that they really know why they do what they do, then there is nothing wrong with it. But it is important to know beforehand which training goals are to be pursued and then choose the topography accordingly – just like in the “real” world. And: races are hardly ever a training ride for amateur athletes.

Do your athletes ride on Zwift or in other virtual worlds?

Sure, some do. The riders of Team Alpecin also meet there to train together. But I actually don’t care where the athletes do their training sessions. They receive their training plans digitally from us and can upload them into virtual worlds if they want to, and run the programs there in ERG mode, for example. That also applies to Alpecin Cycling Challenge. The programs can be run anywhere. It is the right duration and intensity of the respective session that are crucial.

What would you recommend to beginners to get them excited about riding on a bike trainer?

On the one hand, a big advantage of this kind of training is the cost-benefit effect in terms of time and increased performance. With regard to this, the bike trainer is unparalleled. On the other hand, the athlete is offered the chance to find his personal set-up, how he enjoys training the most. Maybe he gets motivated best by music, a film or maybe by listening to a podcast. My recommendation: noise-cancelling headphones. This way athletes can dive into their own world in their heads and the noises that the bike trainer and they themselves make are faded out.