How to Make the Most of Your Indoor Trainer Rides

Indoor trainer

The bad weather and temptation to pick up that book or TV remote, sit on the couch and stop working out is hard to resist. But be strong! The hard-earned fitness gains made during the spring and summer months can be lost in an instant by taking the winter off.

Riding indoors is the ideal way to keep your legs, lungs and heart in shape when it is too cold, wet or dark to venture outdoors. Keep in mind that even during peak cycling season, there are times when an indoor trainer can come in handy, so you’ll use it more than just in the off season.

You can get even stronger and start the next season in better shape than when you left off in the fall if you commit to your trainer.  Here are a few suggestions and tips about indoor training to help you keep riding right through the off season – not just through the cold winter months.


Think carefully about where you’re going to set up your trainer. Make sure the room is cool, well ventilated and has a hard solid floor. Garages can be perfect but, if you live in a cold environment, you may have to start with layers and peeling those off as you go is quite the distraction. Your workout is going to require a lot of concentration and focus. Make sure it’s a space where you will not be disturbed.


Intervals are individual timed efforts followed by rest. Doing intervals while riding on the trainer not only helps pass the time, but can also lead to huge improvements in your overall fitness, endurance and speed.

There are many forms of interval training but each includes a period of high intensity, then recovery, often repeated several times. Although intervals can be done anywhere, the beauty of doing them on an indoor trainer is that there are no outdoor distractions so you can really focus on quality. However, intervals are very intense – so don’t attempt to do them every day.  Allow yourself enough recovery time between each attempt.


The main purpose of threshold training is to help you maintain a faster ride for a longer amount of time.  It’s similar to an interval, but done for a longer period of time – up to an hour – where intervals are as short as a few seconds.

Threshold training will help your entire body improve for a race – sprinting, cycling and overall speed. You’ll see yourself push the pace in situations where you may not have been able to do otherwise.

One-Legged Pedaling

Not only will you improve your cardiovascular fitness, but you can improve your technique as well by incorporating specific drills on your indoor trainer. Try pedaling with alternate legs individually for one minute on each side – you’ll see how hard it is to do on your weaker leg. You can work on any imperfections you may have. Regular one legged exercises will help to improve your overall pedal stroke when you return to the course.


Even though it’s cold outside, once you get going you’ll start to overheat.  If you don’t set up fans to keep cool you will compromise the effectiveness of the workout.  Make sure to set up a couple high powered fans.  They’ll make the difference in your performance and your comfort level.

You Will Sweat

The fans will help but you’ll still sweat. Make sure you have a towel to wipe yourself down. When you set up your trainer you may want to put it on a plastic mat to catch all the sweat underneath. And because the salt in sweat can be corrosive, it might be a good idea to protect your bike by covering it with a towel when you’re riding.

Be kind to your Behind

Unlike when you’re riding in a race, you won’t be shifting your position much, if at all.  This can be tough on your backside.  Make sure you invest in a really good pair of padded cycling shorts and stand every five to 10 minutes to give yourself a break.


On the indoor trainer, seconds can seem like minutes and minutes can seem like hours – so having some type of entertainment can make a real difference. You can either watch movies or television, but when you’re really trying to push through you can’t beat some of your favorite music. There are also several indoor trainer videos you can find which have workout cues and put you into a simulated race.


Any inspiration to keep you pedaling or to squeeze a few more watts of effort out is great. Remind yourself of why you’re doing the workout. Maybe a picture of a you at the last triathlon you finished or a photo of Kona to remind you of what you’re working towards.

While indoor trainers may get more use during the colder months there’s no reason why you couldn’t fit them into your year-round plan to help you achieve your fitness goals – from general conditioning all the way through to getting in shape for your first tri. When it comes to using your time efficiently it’s hard to beat the indoor trainer especially when it can be done in the comfort of your own home.

I hope these tips are helpful. If you have any questions, I’m here to help!Contact metoday to learn how I can help you with your training needs!

Train Right, Tri Right!

Coach MJ


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