SPINNING BUT GOING NOWHERE... Yes, it’s that time of the year again – and with the cold snaps we often see during the holidays; some of us may be driven off the roads by weather sooner than usual. If you already have a trainer; I’ll try to offer some tips that might be helpful. If you’re shopping for a trainer; here you’ll also find a great guide for what to look for and how to use it for your greatest success. Read on…
SHOPPING? THINGS TO CONSIDER: 1. Quieter is better, but tends to cost more. Aside from the irritation of noise (especially if you’re using it at night and have kids or close neighbors…); a quieter trainer makes it easier to apply some of the tips you’ll read later on. Wind trainers are the loudest. Avoid them if noise is a great concern. Other types of resistance are considerably quieter – but this varies by brand. In general the fluid-type resistance units will be the quietest.
2. Resistance is not futile to think about because different types of resistance units provide different types of resistance. Some require an adjustment function to get different levels of resistance. Others are “progressive” and adjust on their own as you change your own level of intensity. Additionally, wind trainer resistance feels different from magnetic, and different from fluid. Most notably: fluid trainers “warm-up” after a while and you can feel a difference in the resistance. Wind and magnetic trainers are less susceptible to this effect as are highest-quality fluid trainers like the Kinetic Road Machine ($360 at many stores)
3. All trainers are not created equal, but some are closer than you might think. Each company certainly has its strong points. Some, like my favorite brand; Kinetic, are pretty good at everything. Others will have a good stable base, or a clamping mechanism that is easier to use, or a resistance unit that is particularly realistic but may miss a few other details. CycleOps brand trainers are usually well-rounded as well, but aren’t a home-run every time - depending on your needs or wants.
4. Accessories aren’t just for fashionistas. If a salesperson is suggesting a riser-block, trainer mat, trainer tire, a “sweat net” or training videos as a really good idea: chances are they’re not trying to pad a commission check – but instead that they’ve spent enough time on a trainer to have some bad experiences and some good ones. (The good ones usually involve the afore mentioned accessories…by the way...)
Riser blocks level out the bike and can allow the front to be elevated to better replicate a climbing workout. A trainer mat keeps the floor cleaner from sweat, chain oil, and tire residue. Which leads me to trainer tires: which use low-carbon compounds to reduce tread separation and the residue that results from the friction of the roller. Perspiration is corrosive – and if you aren’t one to meticulously maintain your bike (or are just exceedingly proactive), a sweat net (or bike bra as they’re also called) protects your bike’s precious components from corrosion. Finally, training videos bring guidance, distraction and focus to what could just be mindless, aimless and less profitable pedaling.
TIPS FOR A BETTER EXPERIENCE1. Entertainment. As we already suggested above, having something to “distract” you from the fact that you’re pedaling inside, going nowhere, with scenery that isn’t changing can be a great benefit. For seasoned indoor riders, this one is a no-brainer; but may not occur immediately to everyone. Experiment with a few things and you’re likely to find something that works. Old Tour de France stages or great music work well for me. It’s a great time to catch up on your favorite TV series, watch some old favorite movies, listen to podcasts, or whatever your entertainment guilty pleasure may be. Music playlists that change pace, well designed training videos, TV commercial breaks, and movie catch-phrases are also popular interval training triggers to help shake up your session. For example; do a 30 second sprint every time Chris Farley says "schnikies" in Tommy Boy...
2. Don’t burn out. Trainer and indoor miles do not equate to outdoor miles. Don’t worry about trying to keep up your average mileage by replicating it indoor. Depending on intensity; indoor miles can equal 1.5 times or greater the outdoor equivalent. There’s no coasting, no tailwind, no one to draft off of. It is you and your trainer just pounding at each other. Set a time limit and assess your status when you get to the end. 30 minutes is a great place to start if you are new. I find it hard to do less than 45-60 minutes if I’m really focused, but can’t bear to do more than about 90 minutes before my mild A.D.D. kicks in to high-gear and I have to go do something else. If you really have to pile on the time, try doing 2 sessions a day rather than 1 marathon session.
3. Hydrate or die. Well, that’s a little over the top; but keep water or energy drink nearby – especially for the longer sessions. Keep as much fluid nearby as you would on an outdoor ride of the same duration – a bottle an hour is a good guideline. Depending on what your body requires – having some food handy is good thinking as well and sometimes help break the monotony.
4. Create a dedicated space if you can because it will make better use of your time (and reduce the excuses you can use to talk yourself out of it). If you don’t have dedicated space; create a quick set-up plan so you know you can be ready to go in short time and you don’t draw-out your preparation. You’ll end up with more time and energy (and fewer excuses) to ride - which will result it better fitness when spring comes back.
5. A Trainer tire and or wheel saves time and money in the long run. ”Hey, that was in the other section too! You're cheating. Busted!” Well, it’s a tip too – so there! Many of us ride around on expensive tires most of the year. My main bike is shod with tires which cost $67/wheel! The added heat and friction of trainer use is very hard on tires – wearing them out rapidly.
A trainer tire uses a purpose-specific compound which withstands the friction far better and lasts multiple seasons. The Continental Ultra Home Trainer is a great example ($40 - 45) The result is fresher tires ready to ride (and not in need of replacement) when the weather turns nice. The compound is much cleaner on your roller (and floor) than standard road rubber – which reduces damage and cleaning. Mount your trainer tire on a spare wheel to make wheel-swaps go faster (instead of having to change tires) and you’ll make the transition from outdoor to indoor in less time.
Have any questions? Any other strategies that have worked for you to get more from your trainer time? Share in the comments...