How to change up your indoor training

By: Molly Hurford

Whether you love the trainer and have spent the last year excited about Zwifting with your friends or you can’t stand the sight of your trainer or rollers after a long winter, let’s be honest: In Ontario, riding the trainer is just part of training for cyclists hoping to come into the spring and summer races at their peak fitness. While the snow is starting to melt and many of us can finally opt outside, rainy days and late season snowfall will still force us back to our basements, so let’s look at a few ways to improve our time spent inside on the trainer. We chatted with several of Ontario’s high performance athletes who’ve spent the winter primarily indoors rather than away at training camps, and they have some great tips for reinvigorating your trainer setup.

Make your environment more fun (and practical)

“I love to use any kind of colourful lights such as LED strips, skylight, or a disco ball,” says mountain biker Ava Holmgren. “Having these multicolour lights helps make the indoor environment more interesting and fun!”

“One big thing that keeps me motivated to ride the trainer is having a really good upbeat playlist,”  road and track racer Mackenzie Watson adds. If you’re training in a busy household, consider splurging on good Bluetooth headphones if you haven’t already, so you’re able to blast your music without irritating your family in the process. (They’ll just have to get used to the disco ball, though.)

And make sure your playlist matches your effort: Ballads are probably not going to be ideal for sprinting. “To pass the time faster during my active training, I listen to classic rock to help me focus on timing and power, so I don’t get distracted,” says track cyclist Reilly Pargeter. (He watches comedies for warmups and cooldowns, though!)

Create an incentive

“The one rule that I have about this is that I can only watch the show or movie when I train so that it can motivate me for the next training session,” Holmgren adds. ” It also helps when the show has some action, suspense, or even just a great plot because it’ll feel like the time passes quickly and I actually want to watch more.”

Mountain biker and cyclocrosser Kelly Lawson added that lately, she’s been looking for concerts that are being live-streamed. “Over the past year, many artists have had online concerts and I’ve found that it’s a great way to pass the time,” she adds. “I also watch old cyclocross races!”

And of course, there’s always treats: Mountain biker Jocelyn Stel says she keeps fun snacks (like gummies) on hand to get her through trainer rides.

Stick to your schedule

“I stay motivated just by planning out my day, and knowing how many hours I have to get in on the trainer without interruption before I have to get ready for work,” says mountain biker Noah Ramsay. “So that way I can stay focused on getting the most out of my training in the few hours I have to do so, so that I can be ready when races return.

You can even use easier rides to get some work done: “For me, riding time is balanced between a part-time job, and school,” says road racer Conan Shing. “This means I’m watching or re-watching lectures as I ride, so that I’m killing two birds with one stone.”

Make it social

“I began coordinating races with teammates, friends and acquaintances from across Canada and around the globe. I was able to get on the phone with some of these people which meant I got to ride with others that I wouldn’t normally get to see, let alone race with,” road and track racer Carson Mattern says. “At one point I had myself waking up at 3:00am for a month to do a race series Jumbo Visma was hosting for juniors. Getting spectators in the form of grandparents and other family members for virtual races that were live streamed added an extra bit of race-day pressure as well.”

If you can’t ride with your friends right now, you can always meet up with them on Zwift… but you can also take that a step further. “To make Zwift more fun I participated in meetups almost daily with my friends and teammates,” says track and mountain bike racer Nicole Bradbury. “We also started doing trivia games on Zwift Companion or Discord during the recovery parts of the rides to make them more social.” If you don’t want to set up virtual training, just make a FaceTime or Zoom date with a friend while you both do a recovery ride—no Zwift required!

Get out of the basement

Your pain cave might be getting a little stale after months of use—both literally (eww, sweat dripping on the floor) and mentally. “I brought my training setup upstairs and stuck it right in the middle of the family room,” says Mattern. “Initially, I was in an isolated part of the house for rainy days and supplemental rides, but once riding the trainer became a central part of life, I wanted to be around people and less isolated. Once the weather got nice enough, I even took the trainer outside for the weekly Canadian Junior Virtual Series.”

And get comfortable: “A riser block is huge for staying comfortable on the bike,” says Shing. “If your bike is tilted forwards or back you’ll get uneven pressure on either your hands or your bum, and over the span of an hour or more this results in pretty bad pain and discomfort. Having the bike flat and parallel to the ground is key!”

“I built myself a desk to put my computer, bottles and towels on, and set up next to a window so I could use that and a fan to keep cool,” says mountain biker Cole Punchard.

Make sure you have a why

Having a purpose for each trainer ride, and a goal for the season or year as a whole—fitness or race-related—can help get you onto the trainer when your motivation is low, Watson adds. Write it somewhere that you can see from the trainer for a regular reminder.

“A big part of getting used to being on the trainer so much was recognizing the mental challenges that I was going to face along the away and being aware of how I would approach and overcome these obstacles,” Mattern says. “I know it will serve me very well throughout the rest of my athletic career and academic career.”

About the writer:

Molly Hurford is a journalist in love with all things cycling, running, nutrition and movement-related. When not outside, she’s writing about being outside and healthy habits of athletes and interviewing world-class athletes and scientists for The Consummate Athlete podcast and website, and most recently launched the book ‘Becoming A Consummate Athlete.‘ She’s the author of multiple books including the Shred Girls, a young adult fiction series and online community focused on getting girls excited about bikes. Molly is a little obsessed with getting people psyched on adventure and being outside, and she regularly hosts talks and runs clinics for cyclists and teaches yoga online and IRL… And in her spare time, the former Ironman triathlete now spends time tackling long runs and rides on trails or can be found out hiking with her mini-dachshund DW and husband, cycling coach and kinesiologist Peter Glassford.

To read previously released blogs:  OCA BLOG