Monday, March 8, 2010

Indoor Training, How To Not Be Bored

The timing of this post by the newly married Fat Cyclist, and what I was thinking about writing this morning could not be better. Fortuitous, that is, in a most nonfortuitous way.

The topic on my mind is how to stay entertained when riding/training indoors in lieu of riding to work. He’s on about making sure Perfectly Good Excuses are the only ones that keep you from riding to work. I’ll refer you to Elden’s writings on the subject. It’s very good. He’s a lot better than I am, after all.

So, while he waxes on about the necessity of a Perfectly Good Excuse, I’ll just say that very few of my excuses for riding indoors since November have been “Perfectly Good” and leave it at that.

So, given that I can live with that, how do I make the best of it? I really want to keep in riding shape, but riding indoors on a trainer is boring. There are no gorgeous views atop the crest of a hill at sunset after a brief rainfall. There are no epic climbs to conquer with chest-pounding exuberance. There are no irresponsibly fast (but undeniably joyous) sweeps around the tight bends of bike/ped trails.

Then again, there are no momentum killing stop lights. There are no self-entitled drivers scoffing at the law and my safety. There are no bottles/bottle rockets being thrown at you from the passenger seats of hick pickup trucks (and I say “hick” with as much derision, and as little respect as I can possibly fathom – they are the scourge of the road). There is no cold rain.

What remains, is you, your trainer, and hopefully a relatively climate controlled room in which to train.

Oh, and that pesky need to stay engaged and entertained.

Personally, I’ve found two approaches work best. The first is music. The second is television.

I like using music as a distraction for a few reasons.
  • The rhythm makes for a tightly controlled cadence. A carefully crafted playlist can guide you through whatever kind of workout you want. You still control the resistance via gearing, but the cadence inspiring rhythm is hard to ignore.
  • The music allows the mind to wander. I’ve taken Hincapie, Landis and Armstrong on many times, and have always come out victorious.
  • The songs tend to break up the workout into smaller chunks. It’s not one long haul. Instead, it’s a bunch of smaller hauls, each with it’s own song.
  • But mostly it’s the rhythm.
  • Sometimes, however, music isn’t enough to keep my mind engaged while my legs push the pedals.
I like television as a distraction for a few reasons, also.
  • Getting caught up in a good show or movie makes the time fly by. Before you know it, you’ve reached your time or (virtual) mileage goal, and it’s time to unclick.
  • I do like my stories, and it’s a perfect time to get some training in while staying current. After all, it’s very important to me to stay abreast of what’s going on with the Graystones and Adamas.
  • The television doesn’t encourage a good steady cadence like music does, though. I’ve been riding long enough that I naturally fall within the 90-100rpm cadence I’ve heard is best, but there was a time when that wouldn’t have been the case.
Some tips from a rank amateur…
  • If you want to train early in the morning, try to find a place as far away from sleeping people as possible. Trainers are a bit noisy. The music and television need to be noisier.
  • Find a dedicated place to train if you can. Having to break down and set up the trainers can be a minor pain.
  • Make or find a plan and stick to it. Riding indoors is boring, after all, so at least make sure you’re making progress and getting stronger, faster, and better.
In the immortal words of Greg LeMond, "It never gets easier, you just go faster."