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9 Ways to Make Indoor Trainer Season Better

BY Patrick Smith

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

It’s that time of year again when we edge our way to colder days, longer nights, and the annual onslaught of all things pumpkin-spiced. Despite fall festivities, there are a few hard truths about this time of year — namely the shift to indoor training. Soon enough, you’ll be racking up the miles and going nowhere again. Whether this is your first indoor season or you’re dusting off ye olde battle axe computrainer (and all 15 cord adapters), here are nine ways you can make indoor trainer season more enjoyable.

1. Clarify Your ‘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 with four walls and a fan for scenery. 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.

2. 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 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.

3. 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. That goes for bike trainers, too — the 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.

4. 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 one frame per second.

5. 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.

6. 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. But to avoid this, you don’t have to get fancy. A reasonably priced box fan aimed across you works wonders to keep from overheating.

7. Keep It a Sacred Space

In both time and physical locations, your indoor training needs to be contained and maintained. If you can set aside a garage stall, balcony, shed, or spare bedroom for training, that 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.

8. Indoor Racing Special Considerations

Racing indoors requires an 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 to secure your setup to the ground. A sandbag or two can be the difference between finishing the sprint and an unplanned meeting with the ground.

9. 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. I personally use an extension cord with an inline switch to control my fan while riding and an extra-long charge cable for my phone, both of which 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 set up refined, and you will be rolling through Watopia or Streaming-and-Dreaming in no time.

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About 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.

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