The thought of shelling out money and committing the time to join a gym or sign up for classes is about as exciting as booking your next teeth cleaning. Plus, you have a perfectly good bike that you love to ride just collecting dust. Or, you have your eye on a sweet new bike but are waiting until Spring to pull the trigger. Why wait around until the leaves start budding when you can be pedaling right now in the comfort of your own living room.
If you live in the frozen tundra, like we do, it gets pretty brutal outside and a trainer becomes a necessity. Now, to be very honest about trainers.... they aren't nearly as fun as being outside. They just aren't. But, they are a great way to be able to still get some "miles" in on your bike during the deep freeze months. Personally, when it is well below zero outside I love the fact that riding on a trainer is way to sweat and momentarily forget how cold it is. So, if you're new to the idea of riding a trainer lets talk about how to make it more enjoyable.
HOW TO MAKE INDOOR CYCLING FUN
First and foremost - distractions. Music, TV shows, movies, whatever works for you. For me, trainer time is TV time. It makes me not feel guilty about coming home from work and flipping on a movie or TV show as I am burning calories while I do it. It also makes me feel like a "deserve" the beer (treat) afterwards! In my experience, I have found that something fast-paced tends to work best while I am riding my trainer. I have tried to watch a documentary before and it was brutal… Fast-paced entertainment definitely helps the time pass quicker. I have also found that TV shows can be good way to do "Intervals" - (more on that later) - as your typical structure for a show is 7 minutes of content then 3 minutes of commercials.
The next thing to think about is time. How long should you ride for? I have read a bunch of articles from personal trainers, pros and experts and a lot of them will say you should keep it to 90 minutes max on your trainer so you don't burn out. Quite honestly, it is insanely rare for me to ride more than 30 minutes on my trainer. That said, knowing that I am only gonna put in 30 minutes I tend to try and keep a pretty brisk pace. Here's where intervals come into play. A 30 minute TV show is a perfect format for interval training. I tend to switch back an forth (depending on how I am feeling) between 2 different paces on the trainer. The first of which is for when I am not feel all that energized where I will ride at a decent pace for the 7 minutes of TV show then hammer it for the 3 minute commercial break, then back to a normal pace and repeat till the 1/2 hour show is over. The second for when I am feeling strong or like punishing myself is essentially the exact opposite. Give it all I can for the 7 minutes of TV show, catch my breath over the commercial break then back at it when the show it back on. There is a zillion different games/strategies/workouts like this that you can make up, but this is my usual regiment.
CHECKLIST OF TRAINER RIDING ESSENTIALS
Towels - I would suggest 2 and towels. The first (AND THIS IS IMPORTANT) needs to go over the top tube of your bike and your stem. Why? Sweat is corrosive. When you are riding outside it isn't a big deal because the wind dries a lot of it or blows the sweat off of you. Inside is a totally different deal. If you ride a trainer all winter and let your sweat drop onto the top tube of your bike you will find that it will rust and corrode. Working in a bike shop, you see this problem every year when spring rolls around. People bring in their bikes and are super bummed that they look totally thrashed now after a 3 months of indoor riding. The 2nd towel I would keep at arms reach as you tend to sweat a lot more in a room with minimal moving air than you do outside.
Water - Just like on a normal ride, its a great idea to have your water bottle full and within reach. Need a bottle? The Handsome Purist Water Bottle
Fan - Again, you are inside with virtually no moving air and that can mean you get pretty hot pretty quick. So I find a small fan blowing makes a huge difference.
Headphones - This may be not be a necessity for everyone, but I am huge fan of them. The trainer is going to make some noise, then I have a fan going and that is going to make some noise too. So if I am then trying to watch a show I would have to have it blaring to be able to hear it. I've found that headphones are a smarter route (and I think my wife would agree). If you have them or are feeling like splurging I upgraded this year to bluetooth, wireless headphones which I have found to be pretty great so I don't have to deal with a long cable getting in the way.
Somewhere to put your stuff - You'll want to mess with the T.V. remote, or look at your phone while you are riding. You could mount a basket on your bars to hold everything, or at least have a table or ledge nearby that you can reach while on the bike.
I hope this in-depth look at using a trainer hasn't made it look too complicated and thus scared anyone away. It is honestly a great tool that, once you get your set-up dialed in, is pretty easy to hop on, grind out some miles, then go about the rest of your day. For those of you that live in places where it is 70 and sunny year round - I am sorry you just spent the time reading this. Although, I am not that sorry, because where you live it's 70 and sunny year round.
FIND YOUR HANDSOME HAPPY PLACE
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