How to Use Watts to Plan an Indoor Cycling Workout

Woman on exercise bike
An indoor cycling workout is performed on a stationary bike. (Image: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Watts are a way of measuring a rider’s power output while turning the pedals during a stationary bike workout. Most modern bikes have an option on their digital display to show the number of watts you are producing. The workout you choose will depend on your specific goals for your exercise session and will drive the number of watts you generate.

Workout No.1: Managing Power Output

This is a balanced but challenging workout. Warm up for 10 minutes, gradually increasing your pace to a moderate power output of 80 to 120 watts. At the end of the 10 minutes you should be at a cadence of 70 to 90 revolutions per minute, or RPM. Your power output at this point will be your Baseline Watts, or BW. Over the next 10 minutes, increase your power output by 10 to 20 watts each minute. Decrease your power output incrementally by the same amount each minute for the next nine minutes, returning to your BW. End the workout with a 5- to 10-minute cool-down period.

Workout No. 2: Cycling Ladder

This descending ladder will help train you to adjust your power output, based on varying durations. Warm up again for 10 minutes until you reach your BW. Begin the main workout by completing five minutes of cycling at your BW plus 10 watts, then rest for 60 seconds at a relaxed, easy pace. Ride for another three minutes at your BW plus 20 watts, then rest for another 60 seconds; follow with 60 seconds at your BW plus 30 watts, and three minutes at an easy pace. Repeat this 5/3/1 sequence again, this time increasing your output by increments of 15 to 20 watts instead of 10 each interval. Finish with a 5- to 10-minute cooldown.

Workout No. 3: Max Interval Training

The max interval training routine can be particularly challenging for your cardiovascular conditioning. Begin the workout with a 10-minute warmup to gradually reach your BW, followed by 5 minutes at your BW. Next, maintain a sprint with an output of as many watts as you can achieve for 60 seconds, followed by two minutes of relaxed, easy movement to catch your breath. Perform this cycle four times. Next, maintain the max output sprint for 30 seconds, followed by 60 seconds of easy cycling; perform this cycle four times as well. Finish with a 5- to 10-minute cooldown.

Continuing Program

If you have ever considered entering a triathlon, then watt-based training can help prepare you for the event by letting you if you are riding a smart race. Continue with your workouts in order to prepare for the big day.

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