Cycling, Podcast

Indoor bike training with World Tour level coach Kevin Poulton | EP#261

 November 20, 2020

By  Mikael Eriksson


Kevin Poulton

Kevin Poulton is a World Tour level cycling coach who has worked with top cyclists like Caleb Ewan, Alex Dowsett and Mat Hayman. He is also a former employee of Zwift and is incredibly knowledgeable in how to effectively incorporate indoor cycling in a training program, for professionals and amateurs alike.

In this Episode you'll learn about:

  • Kevin's coaching and training principles
  • Equipment and setup advice for indoor cycling
  • How to effectively incorporate indoor training and racing into your program
  • Heat adaptation and two-a-day's when training indoors
  • Measuring core body temperature non-invasively with new technology
  • Indoor block training in preparation for key races and Grand Tours
  • Using INSCYD testing to refine training objectives and approaches
  • Best practices for low-glycogen training

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03:30 -

  • My name is Kevin Poulton and I have been a cycling coach for nearly 25 years now.

    Through the years I have been lucky to have been working at the absolute highest level of cycling, for example with the Katusha Cycling Team and I have coached many world tour riders to multiple great successes.

    Over the years, I have also been involved with several indoor cycling platforms, and have plenty of experience from building and translating indoor performance to success outdoors.

Coaching philosophy

05:40 -

  • Working with professional world tour riders, my main goal is to set them up for an entire season of racing, which is quite different from triathlon where you do a build up for a specific race, and you may only race once or twice a year.

    In the build up period for the season my main aim is to make them as aerobically fit as possible so that they become really efficient in terms of using fat as a fuel rather than depleting their glycogen stores.

    Consequently, during the pre season we work with different energy systems in order to achieve this and during the session, we instead focus on race specific training (depending on what type of rider you are).

    During the build up, we also play around quite a bit with heat adaption training (mainly achieved by indoor training).
  • In terms of what kind of training the riders are doing, this completely depends on what type of rider they are.

    The sprinters always hit their absolutely best 5s power in January, but at this time they lack all kind of endurance, and as we start building the endurance, the peak power will go down.

    So for the sprinters, I try and preserve this super high 5s power as much as possible at the same time as I try and make them more resilient and improve their aerobic capacity, which is achieved by really easy and very long (6-7h) of endurance riding combined with super short and extremely hard anaerobic work.

    The GC riders train completely differently, they do plenty of tempo work (in the ”middle” zone) for instance in form of 40mins intervals including surges, as well as sustained efforts at high torque, sweet spot and threshold training and of course a massive amount of volume.

    The classic riders are among the hardest to train as they need to be good at ”everything”, they do a little bit of all this kind of training.

Indoor training

13:00 -

  • In regards to setup, unfortunately it can be expensive but the better you’re setup and training environment indoor is (smart trainer, a nice ”pain cave”, maybe even a bike designated for only indoor riding so you don’t have to switch around, etc. etc.) the more likely you are to use it.

    Therefore, my recommendation is to get a really great setup for indoor riding!

    Even though you have the possibility to ride outside all year around I would still recommend to do plenty of sessions indoors.

    One explanation to why I would recommend this is because we have seen really strong indications that indoor training (due to the increased body core temperature) increases plasma volume, raises VO2max and makes the riders more aerobically efficient so that they utilize fat better as a fuel, all factors massively important for cycling performance.

    The heat adaptation processes from indoor riding do not only seem to generate good performance in hot conditions, it also seems to translate to really great performances in colder environments as well.

    Lately we have also started to utilize a thermometer measuring body core temperature, which has really been ground breaking in terms of being able to control the heat adaptation processes occurring when riding indoors, for instance, this has been used to knowing when to turn on and/or wind up the intensity of the air flow from the fan.
  • When switching to doing purely indoor training, the total volume of training can be reduced quite substantially, from between 28-30h to 18-22h (for world tour riders) because of the extra amount of stress in form of the heat that indoor riding poses.
  • Most riders produce slightly more power indoors than outdoors, which I believe has to do with the fact that there is nothing like traffic or other obstructions that limits the ability to ride on.

    This deviates slightly from many amateur athletes that witness of that they have a harder time producing power indoors.
  • As most people find it harder to do long (4-5h) aerobic rides on the trainer, one can compensate the less time spent training indoors by implementing short 5, 10 or 20s bursts into the endurance rides, and this will provide the same stimulus as a longer steady aerobic ride performed outdoors.
  • When it comes indoor racing (like Zwift races), I think implementing it in the correct way, it can be a really great way of doing high intensity sessions.
  • In terms of how much time one should spent on the time trial bike when riding indoors, my advice would be to do the key workouts on the specific race bike and the rest of the training on the bike where you feel most comfortable.

A sample winter training week for an amateur triathlete (60-90mins on weekdays and up to 3h on weekends of cycling)


  • This of course depends highly on the particular riders profile and what his or hers goals are.

    But in general, I would advocate for high intensity sessions (for instance a Zwift race) during the week days or just some simple very easy and quite short recovery rides and longer endurance aerobic rides during the weekends.

Measures of intensity

54:20 -

  • I am of the opinion that the more we know, the less we have to guess.

    The power is the most important metrics (the one I usually use when I prescribe sessions as well as analyzing them) but I am also a very big fan of RPE and I am looking at HR and HR drift as well (nowadays also in relation to body temperature).

High intensity interval training (HIIT), tempo and threshold training

56:50 -

  • I am a big fan of HIIT but this training is only great for certain riders.

    Inscyd and the work of Sebastian Weber has really ”stirred the pot” in the ways how we look at training, threshold and and the demands of racing.

    For GC riders, a lot of work is done in order to lower VlaMax, mostly by tempo efforts in combination with high torque and low carbohydrate intake.

    Correspondingly, the sprinters should avoid this kind of training as much as possible, and instead focus on very short high power efforts, which builds up plenty of lactate.
  • In terms of threshold training, for GC riders, having a high threshold is super important so these athletes do plenty and prolonged efforts at around threshold intensity.

    Sprinters on the other hand use to do shorter efforts at threshold, often just after a ”pre-threshold set”, which is 4-5mins well above threshold, in order to let the lactate build up.
  • We also do ”low carb training” (notice low carb and not ”no carb”), which often constitutes of a high intensity session post breakfast (comprising of plenty of carbs), and then after this session, no carbs are taken in through lunch (only fats and proteins), after which an endurance ride between 3-4h follows when the athletes take in about 20-30g carbs per hour.

    This we do at a maximum of twice a week (more than that will probably pose a too big of a metabolic stress for the body), and we often block these periods as well (most commonly 6-8 weeks block of this in the lead up to the season and sometimes again in the build up towards a grand tour), and this is where the riders gain the biggest aerobic efficiency during in the training.

    During race season and as we are getting closer to the season the training intensity is ramped up and then carbs are needed in order to fuel for the sessions and recover from the workouts.

Common mistakes

01:13:10 -

  • Many age groupers do too much of low carb training, in order for this regim to work it needs to be done carefully and on the right time and quantity.
  • Another mistake I see amateur athletes do is to take rest days when they actually do not need it (as a part of the weekly routine), and over the course of a season this can build up to almost 20 or 30 days of resting, which is basically unnecessary.

Current areas of particular interest

01:15:30 -

  • As I have already mentioned, measuring core body temperature during training and setting up a heat training protocol to make heat training more effectively is definitely one of the most interesting areas at the moment that I am currently exploring.

Rapid fire questions

1:17:00 -

  • What is your favorite book, blog or resource related to endurance sport? I mostly read scientific journals as much as I can and hence, I don’t really have any specific book tips.
  • What is your favorite piece of gear or equipment? At the moment the core body thermometer.
  • What is a personal habit that as helped you achieve success? Supporting the athletes and be happy about that they have chosen you as a coach.


Mikael Eriksson

I am a full-time triathlon coach, founder of Scientific Triathlon, and host of the top-rated podcast That Triathlon Show. I am from Finland but live in Lisbon, Portugal.

Please contact me if you have feedback on the podcast or want to make suggestions for improvement or send in a question for a Q&A episode.

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