Leap Day Sports - The Triathlife of Jesse Thomas

11 Tips for Riding the Trainer…A Lot

Winter is an important time to build base fitness, which typically means a lot of time doing your thing.  If it rains 24/7 where you live (like me), you either ride on the trainer, or you ride really slow when you race. 

Why The Trainer is Important

People love to gripe about how riding on the trainer sucks, but here’s the truth:

  • It’s by far the most efficient way to train on a bike (for me, 1 hour on the trainer = 1.5 hrs on the road, boomshakalaka)
  • It makes you strong physically and tough mentally

Even when it’s nice out, I still hit up the trainer once a week.  So get over it son, you gotta do it! 

When You Can, Ride With a Class

If I have the option, I always ride with a class.  It's easier to make yourself do it, easier to push yourself when you're there, and you get to talk to another human being.  I lead a “Pro Brick Class” at Multisport Advantage here in Eugene, and it’s always my favorite workout of the week.

When You Have to Go Solo

Work, life, family schedules don’t always line up with a class or group, so sometimes you’ve got to go solo.  For better and worse, I’ve done a lot of solo trainer this winter and below are my secrets to not only tolerating, but actually enjoying it! 

Mental Approach:

Don’t make it worse than it actually is.  Yes, it’s boring, but that doesn’t mean you have to agonize over it.  My mental trick is simple:  I literally just pretend like it doesn’t bother me, like I actually enjoy it.  I kind of go into a Jesse La La Land during my trainer rides where everything is happy and awesome regardless of how boring or painful it really is.  Is that any different than pushing through while you're knee deep in the hurt zone during the middle of a race?  I don’t think so.

The All Important Set Up:

Jesse on the trainer

However, there are some key setup items that can make it easier to enter Jesse La La Land, they are listed below and correspond with the graphic above:

  1. A Garage – Set up your trainer in the garage, it’s worth it.  Cons are it’s cold, away from people and TV.  Pros are you can leave it set up, sweat all you want, rock out to music that would drive everyone else crazy and let odors flow without inhibition (you know what I’m talking about).  It turns out if your married the garage is less of an option, and more of a requirement.
  2. Your Trainer – Obviously, got to have a trainer.  You don’t need anything too fancy, usually increased price means a smoother ride, quieter trainer, and eventually power monitoring, like a CompuTrainer.
  3. Kit & Jersey You Wouldn’t Wear in Public – Your inside, probably alone, go ahead and wear something that would make all your road buddies pretend they don’t know you.  Between my jersey, shorts and leg warmers, my clothes span three kits and 8 years.
  4. Magic Wrap Around Table Thing – Some type of setup thing that makes it so you can hold lots of crap within reach and ideally in front of you.  I made mine out of a metal garage rack, the top of a Goodwill desk, a spare 2×4, clamps, and some TLC.
  5. Laptop – The key ingredient for less boring rides.  I stream Pandora, watch movies, and actually do a fair amount of “work” while I’m on trainer – yes, I literally sit in the aero position and type on the keyboard.  Nerd Alert!
  6. Leg Warmers & Booties – Seriously, it’s cold enough in my Eugene garage that I wear leg warmers and booties for most of my trainer sessions.  Don’t be afraid, nobody can beat you on the trainer, you’re ALWAYS the champ in your garage.
  7. Speakers – When you’re working hard, nothing is better than loud, awesome music.  Make sure you can blast it into your face when you need to dig deep.
  8. Adjustable Fan & Lots of Sweat Towels – Speaking of blasting it into your face, a fan is key.  Its really easy to get too dehydrated on the trainer during long rides and keeping a fan handy (and close to adjust) is great for keeping your temp down a little bit.  Sweat will happen regardless, so have towels available.
  9. All The Food Your Pockets Could Never Hold – I once ate 7 Picky Bars and two bananas during a 4 hour trainer session, which was no problem because it was all on my Magic Table.  Sometimes I’ll throw something different in there like an oven roasted chicken sandwich and potato chips on a plate.  Hey, you’re riding inside, alone.  Let yourself enjoy it.
  10. Ridiculous Amounts of Water – Drink LOTS while you’re on the trainer, you sweat like crazy, way more than normal (I’ve lost 8 pounds on the trainer, while drinking 20 oz an hour)!  If you want a cool bottle to drink out of, check out CleanBottle – with a twist off top AND BOTTOM which makes it a snap to clean.
  11. Bedhead and Confused Look on Your Face – This might be unique to a Jesse trainer session, but I see it consistently, so I thought I’d throw it in there.

Those are my secrets to killing some solo trainer sessions.  Let me know if you have any questions, what does and doesn’t work for you, etc.  Happy riding nowhere!

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