When it comes to riding indoors, motivation is absolutely crucial, inarguably more than when pedaling outdoors. Both require dedication, discipline & a healthy dose of ambition, but riding indoors is seldom about anything more than conditioning – be it intervals, butter burning, or the dreaded indoor endurance ride – while riding outdoors has numerous other, almost always more enjoyable motivators. The idea of getting out on the road on a pleasantly cool, early morning, the sun just cresting the mountains to the east, the promise of what lays ahead…I’m giddy just describing it. But when was the last time you got butterflies pondering the experience of indoor training?
For me, it was Saturday (I know, riding indoors on a weekend!?) but not because I preferred it to riding outdoors; rather, I looked forward to my indoor session because I had a specific workout on tap, one I knew I couldn’t perform all that well during a group ride (something I tried last Saturday), I had limited time, and most importantly, I love my training environment.
Once you’ve recognized the obvious benefits of training indoors, e.g. the controlled environment, the lack of traffic, pollution & lately forest fire smoke, etc., the biggest obstacle to saddling up without leaving the house is a lack of motivation that too often accompanies the unimaginative & uninspiring training environment in which you’re about to spend the next hour or two. But if you were to dress up said environment, tantalize or reward yourself with incentives, or simply make it more comfortable, then the act of throwing your leg over the top tube and settling in for any length of time becomes more tolerable, more probable.
With respect to the environment itself, I prefer a dedicated, tidy, dimly lit area with a brightness that borders on mood lighting, I even went as far as blacking out the small windows in the photo above. Romantic, no? But seriously, try training in a cluttered room in full daylight, or worse, artificial fluorescent light inflicted by fixtures which further punish you with a relentless humming that would tempt a zen master with thoughts of suicide. Is it any wonder some people absolutely loathe indoor riding? And all it takes to create a similar space is a dimmer switch (or simply turn off the lights) and a little bit of housekeeping that, if you’re anything like me, will clear your mind and allow you to focus on the task at hand, distraction-free.
When it comes to furthering the rewards of supreme fitness with something a little more immediate, I prefer music or video, very occasionally both if I’ve seen the a show enough times that I no longer need to hear the dialogue – Archer and The Office spring to mind – or I’ll simply turn on the subtitles while enjoying the far more inspiring sounds of some workout-appropriate tracks from my latest fave bands, e.g. Queens of the Stone Age, Divine Fits, and The Black Angels to name a few flavors of the moment.
Furthering this particular form of reward, I’ve set aside some of my favorite shows & movies for recovery workouts, allowing myself to watch them when, and only when, I’m on the bike logging some easy mileage. And before I’m accused of excess, all of my A/V equipment is comprised of leftovers from defunct indoor cycling centers, e.g. tower speakers & subwoofer, HD projector and 80-inch screen, remote control mouse & amplifier. But none of this equipment has to be high-end expensive, unless that’s simply how you roll – get it? 😉 – and need only match your level of indoor training time investment. What I mean is, if you’re going to predominantly train indoors, perhaps fully outfitting your training environment makes sense while riders who only do a couple days of intervals might be just as happy with a laptop & some headphones.
Finally, regarding the “comfort factor” of your indoor suffering, this is mostly a matter of ambient temperate, air circulation, and body temperature, each of which can be addressed individually or in one fell swoop. If you’re a less-is-more type of rider, simply park a big fan at the base of your bike and flip it on its high setting. For those riders who are more inclined to address each factor individually, I recommend a portable swamp cooler or A/C to affect the ambient temp, a big-ass fan to handle the evaporative, wind-in-your face effect we’re deprived of when training indoors, and a KewlFit cooling vest (use coupon code TRAINERROAD for a 5% discount) to thoroughly cover all the bases.
The gist of this all is quite simple: find a way to enjoy yourself. Without a measurable level of pleasure, consistent, productive training is doomed to fail, or at best, become inconsistent. This goes double for indoor training. So give yourself a fighting chance and assess your current training space. Is it everything you want it to be? Does it make you want to hop on your bike and gut out some VO2max repeats? Does it at least invite you to wile away an easy hour or two of aerobic base-work? If not, maybe it’s time to spoil yourself a little bit with a few choice purchases in order to reap a deeper satisfaction from your indoor training experience.