It is now that time of the year once again. You are probably aware that now is the time to start working out on the treadmill. At this time of year, many cyclists are forced to choose between getting their miles in on a trainer or not riding at all because of factors such as limited time, the change from standard time to daylight savings time, or poor weather. And because riding on a stationary trainer is, for the vast majority of cyclists, not the most pleasurable aspect of the sport, I’ve compiled a list of suggestions that should make your time spent on the trainer more tolerable.
Setting up your training environment
There are several things that you should do to have your training environment set up the way it should be, and this is true regardless of the kind of indoor trainer (air, mag, rollers, or computerised ergo trainer) that you choose to utilise.
- An Important Note on Safety
If you have young children or pets, please make every effort to keep them away from the trainers or rollers while you are using them. This is especially important if you are using the rollers. You may construct a protective barrier around the back of the trainer by wrapping those flexible gates around it in order to keep inquisitive fingers at bay. Additionally, the resistance unit of trainers may get quite hot once a ride has been completed on them. Be mindful of this fact whenever you move the trainer or remove your bike from it.
- A simple floor fan will help to keep you from overheating.
Even at moderate speeds, the wind that you generate when riding outdoors is considered to be your own. After getting on the trainer and seeing how rapidly their bodies heat up when they ride at any form of effort, many cyclists don’t appreciate the cooling benefit of this self-made wind until they discover how quickly their bodies heat up.
You may experience a chill if you turn on the fan as soon as you begin, so you may want to wait a few minutes before turning on yours. Alternatively, if you have a remote control, you may want to begin the fan’s intensity on a low setting and then gradually increase it as your body temperature rises.
Your front wheel may be brought up to the same level as your rear wheel with the assistance of a front wheel stand. When you position your bicycle such that it is being worked on by a stationary trainer, the back wheel is raised a few inches. If you do not have a front wheel stand, you will get the sensation that you are falling forward, and you will discover that aches and pains spread rapidly across your hands, arms, and shoulders. You may either purchase supports that are already manufactured or create your own. Some store-bought stands have adjustments that let you place the front wheel level with the rear wheel or even above level, which helps replicate a climbing posture.
When you exercise on an indoor trainer, you spend your time in a controlled atmosphere, which is something that you can replicate over and over again. This is one of the advantages of this kind of workout. This indicates that the same amount of work may be exerted on any given day in order to achieve the same degree of success, regardless of the day of the week. Make sure that you use a floor pump to inflate your back tyre to the same pressure every time you go on the stationary trainer. If you ride rollers, do the same for the front tyre as well. If you want to be able to replicate this atmosphere again and time again, make sure that you utilise a floor pump. Also, bear in mind that even road tyres that are inflated to high pressures may lose PSI over the course of a single night.
- Calibrate your trainer’s tension setting
A’screw type’ tension adjustment is standard on most types of stationary trainers. When you get on the bike, you should always utilise the same trainer tension. This is just as crucial as maintaining the correct tyre pressure. There are several trainers on the market that include a cam system that allows them to maintain a consistent level of tension no matter how many times you ride them. My trainer is computerised, and it comes equipped with a roll-down calibration utility that assists me in maintaining consistency across the board.
- Protect your equipment from sweat.
Cycling produces a corrosive by-product called sweat; under the correct circumstances, even metal will corrode. Even if you ride a bike made of titanium, the headset on your bike most likely includes some steel components, which makes it susceptible to damage from the perspiration that accumulates on your body during exercise. Protect the region around the frame and headset with a towel or one of those things designed specifically for bikes that are made of terry fabric. In addition, I keep a tiny hand towel next to me on a stool or hung over the bar so that I can wipe my face and blow my nose whenever I need to.
Note: Try to remember which side of the towel you blew your nose into before wiping sweat from your face.
- Listening to music or wearing ear protection can keep you sane.
All trainers create noise. While some produce little more than a high-pitched whine, others, such as air trainers, are quite loud. Regardless, when I’m working out, I prefer to have music playing via my headphones so that I can drown out the monotonous sound of the machine. If I had to go on one of those air trainers, I would be so uncomfortable that I would even use ear plugs. When the training becomes tough, I find that listening to punk rock helps me push through it. Music is a terrific motivator.
- Watching something other than the wall can keep you sane.
In most cases, when I am not working out with my head down for an interval, I will play a cycling movie or some vintage footage from the Tour de France so that I have something to look at. The volume of the sound is nearly always turned down, and I listen to music instead (see above).
- Have something to write on nearby.
It is astonishing how simple it is to lose track of how many intervals you have done, which is why I find it helpful to have a tiny paper and pen available at all times. “Did you say three or four?” As a matter of course, I usually tend to round up, so I began drawing small tick marks on the pad merely to help remember myself where I was in the middle of my exercise. This helps prevent me from rounding up.
Get some feeback about your workout
As I mentioned earlier, trainer workouts take place in a controlled environment. There are no cars, stop signs, rocks, or roots to get in your way when you’re on a trainer and, while it might not be as much fun as riding outside, you gotta do what you gotta do. I take advantage of this environment to do some quality training and, part of getting a good training session in involves knowing how you are riding day to day.
Some trainers have a variable resistance and others get harder as you go faster. I have a Tacx Ergo trainer that displays power output, cadence, velocity and heartrate and can control the power output regardless of my cadence / velocity.
One of the best investments you can make is a bike computer with a rear wheel cadence meter. It will measure velocity and cadence for you at the rear wheel. A lot of the better stationary trainers — Cycleops, 1-Upusa, Kurt Kinetic — have power curves that give you a correlation between wattage and velocity / cadence.
A heart rate monitor is also a good feedback tool when used properly.
Making the time fly
Hopping on a trainer and just riding is utter agony for me and I can last only about 50 minutes while doing this. In order to make my trainer time fly, a structured workout is a must. With a structured workout, I find that rest periods go by in a heartbeat, although the ON times sometimes seem to go longer than I wish. And while it ain’t singletrack, there can be a sick type of fun from a really good trainer workout.
In fact, it is really hard to get this kind of quality training when you are worried about cars, trees, and just staying on the road or trail. When I’m doing intervals on the trainer I put my head down, close my eyes and go for the gold.
If you need a bit of outside motivation, there are several cycling specific training videos such as the Coach Troy’s Spinervals series. These are a great way to pass the time if you don’t have your own plan and, given how strong my wife is riding from doing these videos twice a week, they really work. Personally, I follow the Dave Morris training program and, using this system, my time on the trainer is spent wisely.
My workouts usually range from 30 minutes to 60 minutes with a few that go to 90 minutes (including the warm up and cool down session) and I am constantly amazed at how fast time goes when I’m on the trainer and have a defined plan to follow.
For example, this Monday’s workout is composed of 3 sets of 7 reps with 1 minute ON, 1 minute OFF with 3 minutes of rest between sets. I do the intervals at a set power output. Without a power meausurement I’d do them at a set velocity / cadence. And while it doesn’t sound like a whole lot, 7 reps x 2 mins x 3 sets + 6 minutes rest equals 48 minutes. And that doesn’t include warming up or cooling down. It is also an uncomplicated system, which is important when you start working really hard.
Riding on a stationary trainer seems to be at odds with the free spirited soul of cycling but, for many of us, there is no real alternative, especially if we want to race well. Hopefully, these tips will help your trainer sessions go well until spring comes and daylight savings time makes getting outside a viable option.