You've got a bike. And, you've got an indoor trainer. You can ride all year, right? Many people don't find it so easy. The problem isn't physical, it's motivational. On the trainer you don't get to enjoy scenery, you don't have the distraction of changing terrain, and it's difficult to set up the head-to-head competition that makes outdoor cycling so exciting.
Never fear. We're here to help with our best motivation ideas, tricks and distractions to ensure that you enjoy your indoor training, get the most you can out of it and end up having the best season ever because of it! Let's get started...
Get on the bike
Don't let excuses keep you off the bike. Many riders moan about not being able to really ride on their trainer, to go for more than an hour or to get a good workout. We can tell you from long experience that you can do as much intensity and/or volume as you would outdoors just so long as long as you don't convince yourself otherwise ahead of time. And indoor rides like this are quality rides that'll get you fit and make you feel great. All it takes is believing in them and committing to them.
In fact, you might even find, as we do, that it's a lot easier to ride the nowhere bike because all you need is a pair of shorts and your shoes, as opposed to outdoor rides where dressing for nasty weather takes seemingly forever.
TIP: If you want to make things super easy, consider getting a second "trainer" bike and leaving it on the trainer for the winter months so it's ready to ride whenever you are! This prevents you having to mount a bike to the trainer before you can ride and it saves your best bike from tire and drivetrain wear and ensures it's good to go should you get a nice day and want to ride outside.
Prepare your body. Cars won't run without fuel. Ditto for your body. And, studies have shown that overall ride intensity is often determined by blood-sugar levels at the beginning of rides. So, even though you're technically not going anywhere on your ride, before you climb on the trainer, make sure you're well-hydrated and have enough blood sugar to make it through your planned workout. If you start the ride shortly after you wake up, make sure to drink and eat a little extra to make up for the deficit you've incurred while sleeping.
TIP: No matter what time you start your indoor ride, if you drink either coffee or tea, you can pump up your excitement about the ride by having some, so this is the time to do it. The perky liquids will get you psyched to push the pedals and also enhance fat metabolism on longer rides.
Have a goal and get excited about it. Having a set route or workout plan motivates you for outdoor rides. The same goes for indoor sessions. Usually the best indoor goals are based on measurements of riding output, such as a given speed or perceived effort, or heart-rate zone or wattage for a set amount of time, or even a calorie target or specific drills. These all provide an excellent reason to keep pedaling. And, any measurement can work, as long as it interests and motivates you. Find the one that's best for you.
Track your progress with training tools and a training diary. We find that it's helpful and important to be able to track workouts, which allows determining what's working and helps in planning the right indoor rides to achieve your goals. Whether you're using a cyclo-computer with a speedometer, heart-rate monitor, or best of all, a wattage display, regularly monitoring your progress with it and writing down your workouts and stats in a training diary provides a record of what you've accomplished so far, gives you a way to look back and see what worked and what didn't, and provides one of the best reasons to keep riding. Another great benefit of training tools like this is that they make it easy to break trainer sessions into smaller, more manageable intervals because you can so accurately quantify the intensity levels and time spent in each zone. Being able to focus like this ensures you get the most out of your rides and don't simply spin and sweat.
TIP: If you need suggestions for cycling measurement devices, please let us know and we can explain and recommend what the different ones do. From simple cyclo-computers that display average speed, to heart-rate monitors that track your ticker, to wattage meters that are like having a coach on your handlebars, we can set you up.
Stay on the bike
Trainer time is TV time! Watching TV is one of the best ways to make trainer time pass fast. And, we're not talking boring old ad-riddled network TV, though that can have its uses (ride intensely during the show/rest during the ad/repeat). No, we use trainer time to catch up on all those favorites in our TiVo Season's Pass or cycling events caught on our DVR (digital video recorder). You could do the same with your VCR, remember those? These devices ensure that we always have a backlog of programs that we're looking forward to watching and lets us zap the commercials for non-stop entertainment, letting us watch the shows in less time, too. Plus, it's great to be able to do two things we love at the same time: go for a ride and watch our favorite shows.
Don't have a way to record? Watch movies or cycling DVDs instead. There are also special indoor-training DVDs for excellent, short, intense workouts. And, 2- to 4-hour sporting events like the Tour de France or NBA games are a great choice for any type of workout. The built-in intensity of watching your team score, or your favorite rider charge off the front, provides the perfect surge of adrenaline to keep you jamming and revving your heart rate in no time! And, before you know it, you've put in a good quality ride that'll make you proud.
TIP: One of the tricks of long indoor training rides is variety. We watch different types of shows that correspond to the workout we have planned (for example, sitcoms for easier rides, action films for intense rides), and use commercials or lulls in the action as breaks to get out of the saddle and stand a while, or to spin easy and read for a bit.
Reading works, too! This might surprise you but books and magazines are great distractions, too. You can prop them on your handlebars or hold them (photo) and unlike a movie or show that might slow or break for commercials, books will continue to engage you for as long as you want to ride (unless you're a speed reader). Consider starting with some pulp fiction. The light plots are engrossing and won't become too confusing if you miss a word or two due to your exertions. The limitation of reading is that it's hard to do while standing so we've found that it's best done in conjunction with TV. Try standing up every time your show comes back from commercial break and then start reading again at the next commercial break or vice-versa. Use your mute button to silence the TV so you can concentrate on your reading.
Play, don't train. We also know riders who use PlayStations, Xboxes and GameCubes to keep them turning over the pedals for hours on end. The gaming console is hard to hold while riding so this should probably be left to slower, easily paused games.
Try tunes, too. Cranking to your favorite tunes can be a great break from TV or reading. And, up-tempo beats are just the thing to make you maintain your cadence and intensity.
Keep focused with drills. Indoor rides provide an excellent opportunity to work on drills that you might not have the time or place to do outdoors due to the challenges of terrain, traffic and stop signs. The most well-known is one-legged riding. Pick a low number of sets and reps to start, say 3 sets of 30 pedal strokes for each leg, and build upon this in successive workouts. This drill helps you smooth your pedal stroke and increase leg speed. As the amount of sets and repetitions you can do increases, you'll finish off larger segments of riding time.
Cadence variations are another way to make the time fly by. Divide part of your ride into 5-minute segments, with a segment at 80 rpm followed by one at 100. It's easy to get to the end of a 5-minute segment, the next quickly follows and before you know it, you've completed 20 or 30 minutes of quality riding.
TIP: One of our favorite trainer tricks is cross training. Here's how: Be sure to warm up for at least 10 minutes. Then get off your bike every 10 minutes and put in a set of push-ups followed by a set of sit-ups. Add 2 or 3 different exercises every time you get off your bike and you'll put in an hour before you know it. Plus, you'll be the buffest cyclist around!
Time flies when you're going fast. Okay, time may actually pass very slowly when you're grinding out threshold or VO2 Max power but regular intervals break up the ride and make it easier to finish large blocks of time. 5 interval sets of 4 minutes on, 4 minutes off, easily eat up 36 minutes. Do a warm-up, several sets of intervals and a warm down and you'll put in 2 hours in no time.
Consider placing your clock where it's hard to see, too, because watching it will make each individual interval seem longer. On shorter intervals you need to check your watch or cyclo-computer, but the focus of keeping your pace up keeps you from worrying about the remaining time so much. On longer intervals (5- to 30-minutes long) it's best to avoid clock watching or you'll feel like you did in that boring English class in high school and likely get discouraged and want to give up. TIP: We highly recommend countdown timers on watches for this. You just set them, start them and wait to hear the beep.
Don't forget to eat! Because there's no wind indoors, it's likely you'll sweat more than you do outdoors, and because you won't coast like you do outdoors, you'll pedal more and may need more fuel, too. So, we suggest surrounding yourself with extra bottles, energy food, fruit, etc. so that you'll never have to stop before you're ready to take a break or call it quits. TIP: Trainer time is a great time to experiment with different energy foods to find the one that makes you feel best. You can place them on a table next to your bike and sample only what you want and over time determine what's ideal. Organization keeps you on the bike. Okay, by now you know that it's easy to ride as much as you want on your trainer by using the right equipment, distractions and drills. Yet, this only works if you can stay on the bike. You can't be getting off every few minutes to prepare food, answer the phone, change the DVD, etc. Our solution is to drape a large towel over the handlebars, which not only keeps sweat off the bike and floor, and keeps our hands dry, too, it also forms a simple pouch (photo) for the remote, books, energy bar, phone, etc.
Or, if you prefer use a small table next to your bike, which has the added benefit of letting you use your towel to wipe off since it's not holding anything that way.
TIP: We even know one rider who swears he can actually get work done (tax returns!) while riding his trainer by placing it within reach of his desk. Who knows what you might accomplish!
Get comfy, too. We recommend having at least one fan to keep you cool, better simulate outdoor riding and help evaporate sweat, which can soak your clothing and cause chafing otherwise. And, because indoor trainers transmit vibration through their metal frames, which places more pressure on delicate body parts, it's crucial to have a comfortable seat. A good saddle supports you by the sit bones, so you can stay seated comfortably as long as you like. TIPS: Regardless of how comfortable your saddle is, we recommend that you stand at at least 5- or 10-minute intervals. This serves to relieve pressure and also relieves the monotony of sitting in one place for a long time. Also, don't save your most comfortable cycling shorts for outdoor riding only. Wear them for indoor riding, too, because the sweet fit and well-placed padding can make the difference between a good ride and a bad one.
Indoor training is even more fun with friends. It's also motivating to ride with friends. And with indoor trainers, as long as you have a little space (a basement, garage, warehouse, etc.) it's easy for your buds to come over, set-up their trainers and spin with you. If you're on a cycling team, you can do team rides this way. Or, if you share goals with friends like completing an upcoming century, for example, this is a great way to motivate each other and improve your workouts with a little spirited competition and conversation. Or, maybe one of you has a nice new bigscreen TV and the other brings the latest DVD to watch and another the energy bars. Forget pajama parties. Hold trainer parties!
No more excuses! We hope that these suggestions, tips and tricks help you get the most out of your indoor training this season and that the training helps you achieve all your riding and fitness goals. Who knows, you might even take to the nowhere bike with such a passion that you start preferring indoor riding to hitting the road? But, remember, that even if you just hit the trainer when the weather forces you to, every session over 30 minutes is a victory. You've stayed true to your goals and given your muscles the stimulus needed to maintain strength. We look forward to seeing you ride stronger than ever when the weather clears!