Indoor training for people who don’t really ‘train’


So maybe riding around in the winter doesn’t appeal to you, or you find yourself with a limited amount of time each day to ride or you want to put in some focused training to gear up for a big ride in addition to an outdoor training regimen. Whatever the reason, you’ve decided that getting on the trainer is a good idea. I can sympathize.

Here I’ve outlined some things that help me get on the trainer, maybe they’ll help you too.

Getting Started

Disclaimer: Getting on your trainer 3-4 times a week will not make you Wonder Woman, Superman, or Alberto Contador, and everything that’s hard to ride up right now, will be hard to ride up later. What it will do is give you some confidence coming out of winter hibernation, or, like me, make you realize just how out of shape you are and help you combat that a bit…

There are a few things that I do that make getting on the trainer less of a hassle, and make doing it more than once more easily accomplished.

1. You’ll need a trainer. These vary widely in price, construction and noise. For the sake of this blog I’ll be focusing on stationary trainers (the ones that connect to your rear wheel), not rollers (where the bike is free riding on three rollers). Spend as much money as you can getting a good trainer. Many wind trainers are much less costly than their magnetic, or hydraulic counterparts, but they’re LOUD! This might not bother you while you’re riding, but it might wreak havoc on your kids sleep schedules. I have a wind trainer and yes, we got it because it was the cheapest we could buy. And yes, it’s loud. For this reason I generally get on the trainer when everyone is out of the house.

2. Bike. Generally any bike will do. I like geared bikes and single speeds for different reasons. Ideally a bike that you can leave on the trainer without having to take it off to go on a real ride is best.

3. Find a spot. Ok, you’ve got your spiffy new trainer, now you need somewhere to put it. Try to pick a spot where you can leave it up all the time. Nothing will kill your motivation to get on the trainer faster than having to drag everything out, set it all up and have to break it all down afterward. You can put it away if you’ve got company coming over, just put it back up before your next scheduled trainer session.

4. Entertainment. While you may be turning the pedals and getting a bit of a sweat on, your not getting to watch the scenery pass, or avoiding the box truck that is ever-so-slightly moving into the bike lane in front of you. For this reason you need some entertainment. Lots of people use music as their prime motivator, engaging their ear buds and rocking out to Mastodon’s latest epic. I can’t do this. I have to be engaged visually as well. For this reason, I set up my computer and watch any number of things, from TED talks, to artist conferences, to the newly released episodes of Dr. Who on Netflix. As long as it’s interesting, then I’m stoked.

Here’s my one caveat; it has to be something I’ve either never watched before, or something I haven’t seen in a while. I don’t know why, but this is the way it is. They are specific training videos for trainers that simulate actual riding as well. I have not used them as they do not appeal to me. Maybe they’ll be the right motivational tool for you though?

5. Timer. You’ll need a timer to keep track of minutes as you run through the intervals (more below) in the training session.

6. Dress the part. Now, I’m the furthest thing from a lycra clad dude as you’re likely to find, but when I put on my kit, I find the motivation to get on the trainer. Not only that, the intervals feel more like challenges and less like obligations. I’m no psychologist, but I can tell you that suiting up and looking the part motivates me more that getting on the bike in jeans and a flannel.

7. Goals. Alright, without trying to sound like a motivational speaker, it’s good to have goals. Whether it’s being determined to make it up that bitch of a hill on your commute come the spring thaw, or like me, you’ve got a big endurance challenge looming. Bottom line, have some sort of goal.

8. There is no substitute for actually riding. While getting on the trainer is a means to an end, if the winter clouds part and it’s 50 degrees and sunny outside, go for a ride! Even if it’s to the grocery store, or spinning around with the kids, get out there, you’ll be glad you did.


Ok, so how do you actually use a trainer? Lots of people have lots of different ideas about this, and I, like them, have my own opinions.

Because I tend to schedule my trainer sessions during the day, I like to get on and be done in less than an hour if I can (this will change as you tack on more time to your intervals). So I do what’s called interval training. Basically, interval training incorporates a lot of peaks and valleys, or low output spinning and high output spinning, over a short time (think gold sprints). I try to do the following 35 minute block 3-4 times a week and will increase the time in 5 minute increments every two weeks or so.

My 35 minute trainer session consists of the following:

  • 8 minutes warm up (20-50% energy output)
  • 2 minutes high (75-90% energy output)
  • 3 minutes moderate (35-50% energy output)
  • 2 minutes high (75-90% energy output)
  • 3 minutes moderate (35-50% energy output)
  • 2 minutes high (75-90% energy output)
  • 3 minutes moderate (35-50% energy output)
  • 2 minutes high (75-90% energy output)
  • 10 minutes cool down (50-20% energy output)

Too easy?

Add additional 2 minute highs output followed by 3 minute moderate output as needed, which will scale up your sessions in 5 minute increments.

Happy trainer training!

Look for upcoming blog entries, starting in February, as I chronicle my training leading up to the Dirty Kanza Half Pint race May 31, 2014.







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