9 Ways to Make Indoor Trainer Season Better

9 Ways to Make Indoor Trainer Season Better

For many of us, indoor training season is quickly approaching of not already here. Keep your setup clean and dialed in so that each watt really counts.

It’s that time of year again. The time when everyone wakes up grumpy, ready to gripe about their political stances. No, I’m not talking about election season, but rather the annual end of Daylight Savings Time in the Northern Hemisphere. While you may not agree with those extremists calling for the abolishment of DST, there are a few hard truths about this time of year. Foremost of which is the shift to indoor training.

Just like the annual assault of all things pumpkin spiced, soon enough you too will be racking up the miles and going nowhere again. Whether this is your first indoor season or you’re dusting off ye olde battleaxe computrainer (and all 15 cord adapters), I’m going to walk through a few things to keep in mind as we stay indoors.

Keep It Clean

All that sweat, snot and snack wrappers only go as far as you do. Make sure you wipe up, throw away, and launder your setup on a regular basis. At the least, trashy workout spaces are a mild annoyance. At the worst, sweat accelerates corrosion and can cause unexpected and dangerous equipment failure. Ripping off cranks and snapping handlebars should only be a figure of speech.

Maintain Equipment 

I’m looking at you, treadmill owners. If you’re anything like me, your treadmill hasn’t seen fresh lubrication since the day it left the factory. Perhaps it’s time to buy a bottle of belt deck lubricant, read your owner’s manual, and give your stationary roadway some TLC. Bike trainers too. That cultivated patina of dust and grease on your cassette will sap your watts at a shocking rate. This is also a good time to check power cords, refamiliarize yourself with mounting and dismounting bikes to trainers and generally look for anything loose that shouldn’t be.

Update Apps (And Maybe Hardware)

Unless you’re running the low tech notebook ‘n Timex training plan, your preferred apps have probably pushed an update or five since last winter. It’s good practice to give your setup a test ride after the update. Warming up for your virtual crit start isn’t the time to find out that your creaky old trainer computer is only wheezing out 1 frame per second.

Buy a Strength and Conditioning Plan

While a lot of training will make your primary muscles strong, the secondary support musculature just doesn’t get nearly the same workout from basic bike time. If you’re serious about racing, maybe set aside time to lift a weight or two to keep your body on the right side of joint injury.

Clarify ‘Why’

Whether you are prepping for a Kona bid or just trying to keep up with fellow Zwifters, there is a diverse range of values that motivate indoor training. Being unclear on that ‘why’ is a recipe for brain-numbing drudgery when the scenery is four walls and a fan. Take a moment to clarify what value your training is in service of and orient your training in that direction. This way, every workout will be meaningful and satisfying, even if it’s repetitive and uncomfortable.

Invest in a Fan (or Two)

Did I mention that indoor training gets sweaty? The cruelty of working hard without actually moving through space is that the air around you sticks to you like bad polyester in the tropics. You don’t have to get fancy. A reasonably priced box fan aimed across you works wonders to keep from overheating.

Keep It a Sacred Space

In both time and physical location, your indoor training needs to be contained and maintained. If you can set aside a garage stall, balcony, shed, or spare bedroom dedicated to training, the physical location can amplify the purpose and prevent intrusion into your other living and working spaces. Same with training time. Train when prescribed and rest when prescribed. Easy access to indoor training means it’s that much easier to overdo it. Burnout and overtraining start with “just a little bit more.” Keep that time and space sacred and that treadmill will never become the dreadmill.

Indoor Racing Special Considerations

Racing indoors requires extra emphasis on cleaning, maintenance, and cooling. Depending on your racing category, consider portable AC units. Cooling is one place where equipment doping isn’t frowned upon. And take extra precautions securing your setup to the ground. A sandbag or two can be the difference between finishing the sprint and an unplanned meeting with the ground.

Treat Yo’ Self

The fixed position of indoor biking is tough on the sit bones. Consider treating yourself to a new pair of bibs or even a rocker plate for added comfort. For additional comfort, look for small opportunities to improve your setup. Personally, an extension cord with an inline switch to control my fan while riding, and an extra-long charge cable for my phone have made the dark days that much more enjoyable. Address the little things and treat yourself for a better indoor season.

Indoor training and racing can be fun and engaging. Get your space and setup refined and you will be rolling through Watopia or Streaming-and-Dreaming in no time. If you’re struggling to connect with your core values, email me for a free 30-minute video call on how to clarify values specific to you.

Patrick Smith

Patrick Smith is a Training Peaks Level 2 Coach licensed through USA Cycling. He offers consultations, fully customized training plans, and prewritten training plans you can purchase through the TrainingPeaks plans store. You can learn more at his TrainingPeaks coaching page, his website, or by reaching out.