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While indoor training has real benefits, it can still be a challenge to stay hyped to ride indoors day after day (after day, after day….) But indoor training doesn’t have to be so mind-numbing. In fact, with the right approach and the right plan, you can make indoor training something to get excited about. Here are some solid tips for staying motivated to ride indoors.
Set goals, have a plan, review often
Goals are critical. Your mindset before you get on your trainer to workout is key. If your workout is absent of goal-oriented thoughts, you put yourself at a disadvantage. All serious cyclists and triathletes know this.
When you think about what your goals are, you become inspired and prepared. Getting mentally prepared is the toughest part of overcoming a lack of motivation. When your mindset is right, everything is easier to do.
Here’s something else that’s key. While it’s good to know the “why” part of training, knowing the “how” is even more important. Just because your goal might be to complete your first triathlon, that goal means nothing without a plan for achieving it.
This is one of the reasons structured training plans are so effective. The exact steps you must take to reach all your cycling goals are laid out in perfect order. This gives riders extreme clarity. Clarity is a powerful asset. It helps to squash any lack of inspiration you could have during your training by keeping you laser focused on your goals.
Reduce decision fatigue
Decision fatigue is an unsuspecting reason triathletes can suffer at times from a lack of motivation to train. It comes from the widely studied idea that the act of making decisions, no matter how simple, weakens a person’s willpower. The more decisions you have to make throughout the day, the more at risk you are of making poor choices (say, skipping a workout or making the wrong kind of adjustments during it.)
To reduce the effects decision fatigue can have during training, structure your life to conserve willpower. There are many ways to do this. Here are just two tips to take into consideration:
First, make commitments—not decisions. Saying you’re going to work out on your trainer tomorrow is a lot different than having your training schedule in your phone’s calendar, with notifications going off at 7:00 a.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Make things easy. Decide once the times you can commit yourself to working out. Doing this will improve training consistency and take up less of your mental energy each day.
Second, make tomorrow’s decisions today. What do you need to eat to feel good during your workout? What do you need to wear in order to recover afterwards? What tools or devices should you have on hand? All that goes into getting ready for your indoor workout, think through the day before.
RELATED: Indoor Training for Triathletes
Create an inspiring and comfortable environment to ride
The place you do your indoor workouts should be two things: inspiring and comfortable. You’ll spend several hours a week there, so why not make your personal pain cave as awesome as it can be?
I prefer a dedicated, tidy, dimly lit area with a brightness that borders on mood lighting. That’s how I like things when I’m putting in my hours on the trainer. There are other athletes who find the opposite inspiring. Some prefer their trainer on the carpet, beside an open window, with their pets close by.
The lesson here: Discover the setup that energizes you and create it.
Regarding the comfort factor of your indoor training environment, there’s really only one thing you need: a good fan. Place it at the base of your bike and aim it at your body, or put it front in center on its high setting and you’re good to go. If you want to take things up a notch, buy an appliance to control the ambient temperature of where you workout. In this case, a portable swamp cooler or air conditioner will do just the trick.
Use entertainment to combat boredom
Indoor training has long been typecast as boring by cyclists and triathletes. This is changing. Especially in the last several years as new tools have made it to market. Now more than ever, your indoor riding experience is what you make it. This translates to boredom no longer being a strong excuse for dismissing indoor training.
Whatever entertainment you love, you can have it right there as you ride. Use this to your advantage as you work up the motivation to train. Think of your favorite show or movie. Then think about how good it would feel to watch it while getting a killer structured workout in. There are a handful of training software options available now that allow you to use your favorite entertainment platforms while you ride indoors. These tools make it so your structured cycling workout sits discreetly at the bottom of your computer screen as you watch content on Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and more.
During pandemic lockdowns, “group rides” via video calling were all the rage, with training buddies hopping on Zoom to share miles and gossip. This isn’t an activity limited to lockdown, however. Why not use your trainer time to catch up with the friends you’d normally be riding with outdoors? Whether you choose to get together in-person at your local bike shop or meet virtually from the comfort of your respective homes, there’s no reason why you can’t train together through the winter.
Opt for indoor training tools with multi-device compatibility
Technology should help you achieve your training goals—not keep you from them. That said, if you want to invest in an indoor training software like Zwift or TrainerRoad, consider your devices beforehand. Ask yourself, “What are the devices I use most often, and do the training tools I want to invest in support them?”
It’s best if your indoor training software and apps have multi-device compatibility. This helps make your life a little easier and gives you a Plan B if you ever need it. Life throws a lot of curveballs. Sometimes your daughter needs your laptop to do her homework assignment, even though it’s your scheduled time to train. Sometimes said laptop can burn up in a big ball of smoke unexpectedly. When curveballs happen, it’s nice to have a no-fuss backup plan, like switching to another device, to help keep you motivated and your training on track.
Chad Timmerman is a USAT Level 1 certified coach and the head coach and co-founder of TrainerRoad.