Although we all love riding outside, there are numerous reasons we may at some point be forced to ride indoors. For some people it's weather, for some it's kids. For me, a severe shoulder injury I sustained while racing has me stuck on the trainer for 100% of my riding for the next 4 months. One of the biggest issues people tend to have with riding the trainer is that it's just plain boring and unenjoyable. Here are a few tips I use to make it just a little bit better.
1. Get a fan and a towel. The first thing you will notice is that riding a trainer is hot! Without the open air blowing in your face as you cruise through the countryside things get pretty hot and sweaty. Having a fan will keep you comfortable and remind you of those Iowa crosswinds we all love so much.
2. Have activities to keep you occupied. Riding the trainer can be one of the most mind numbing activities known to man. Make sure to have the trainer setup in a visually stimulating place, preferably not a dungeon-like corner of your basement. I have mine setup in an area with big windows I can look out and a big screen TV in front of me where I can watch TV, movies, and stream bike races. I've heard of people reading books and even playing video games on the trainer. I also spend a good deal of time on my phone catching up on emails and stuff like that for work.
3. Move around. I think a big mistake a lot of people make is to just sit planted on the bike pedaling constantly without making any of the movements you would make on an outdoor ride. If you think about it, you spend a lot of time coasting, standing, pedaling while standing, and maybe even getting off and walking when you ride outdoors. Try to simulate this by moving around on the trainer a lot while you ride. Stand up on the pedals and "coast", spend thirty seconds or a minute standing and pedaling for every ten minutes riding, get off and go get a snack! Alternating hand positions on the bars and sitting upright riding with no hands can help keep you loose and relieve pressure.
4. Keep it structured. I never ride the trainer without doing a structured interval workout. I used to just ride the trainer for hours at a pretty much mindless pace but really that just doesn't do a whole lot for you. Structured intervals not only make the time pass much more quickly, they benefit your physiologically much more than just riding along. Intervals consist of doing a set duration of intensity, followed by a set duration of rest, repeated multiple times. Some people think intervals automatically means super intense sprint type efforts that make your head want to explode. In reality an interval can be any amount of time, whether it's 10 seconds on 20 seconds off, 3 minutes on 3 off, or even 30 minutes on 10 minutes off. Lately, a couple of my go to workouts have been a 3 minute on/off workout and a 10 minute on/ 5 minute off workout. During the rest part of the intervals, you are typically wanting the time to pass slowly so you don't have to go hard again...this is why interval training passes the time faster than just riding. There are almost limitless resources available on the web for different types of intervals and how to do them properly. Find 2 or 3 workouts that work for you and try to vary them throughout the week.
5. Zwift. The Zwift app paired with a smart trainer has taken indoor cycling into a whole new dimension over the past couple years. To fully explain the Zwift experience would require another article entirely, so for more info I would recommend stopping in to your local shop to ask someone with first hand experience how it works. Some shops, including Sugar Bottom Bikes, offer free demo's so you can try Zwift out and learn about all the pieces you need to put together the ultimate training experience.