When my to-do list expands beyond the threshold of manageable into the realm of overwhelming, a bike ride can be the perfect way to streamline productivity: by giving my brain the space it needs to reorganize thoughts and enable me to more efficiently and effectively tackle that daunting list. In fact, riding my bicycle is usually the best thing I can do for myself when life becomes busy, hectic and stressful.

On the other hand, while riding my bicycle during such times, I can’t help but think that every moment I spend pedaling is a moment I could be checking off something else on that monstrous to-do list. This seems to be a familiar paradox to many. When slammed with stress, we often instinctively react by doing exactly the opposite of what would best counteract the additional stress. Instead of taking time to prepare fresh, healthful meals, we’ll rationalize scarfing a ready-made meal on the go; instead of taking time for exercise, we’ll tell ourselves we just don’t have the time and either cut short a normal workout or skip it altogether; instead of going to sleep at a reasonable hour, we’ll tell ourselves we can use those extra hours to “get things done” and that we’ll catch up on sleep later once the stress settles.

Unfortunately, each of those seemingly natural, minor justifications reduces your ability to cope with said stress. When it comes to stress, your body copes the exact same way, whether the stress is emotional, mental or physical: in all cases, your body releases stress hormones which lead to a cascade of physical effects. The best way to stay healthy, stay sharp and maintain your ability to meet the demands that are causing the stress in the first place, is to give your body good nutrition, get sufficient rest, and to exercise.

The optimal strategy is to develop a routine that is robust enough to remain consistent, regardless of changing levels of stress in your personal or work life. When it comes to exercise, this is precisely where your trainer is your secret weapon.

1. Get More Consistency and Leave Less To Chance.

It’s absolutely true that consistency is key to building and maintaining good fitness; it is also key to staying healthy in the face of stress. Outdoor training is great for many reasons, but remains subject to the whims of Mother Nature. Road or weather conditions might make it difficult to create a consistent routine, especially when one must balance this with a career and/or family. Use your trainer to create a training routine for weekdays, when your time is most crunched and stress is highest. Head out for a nice long outdoor ride on the weekends, when your schedule might be a bit more open, and when getting a flat or getting caught in bad weather won’t cause you to miss work or an important meeting.

2. Fully Customize Your Workout Schedule.

You can work out on the trainer before dawn or after sundown, without worrying about visibility, bike lights, or uncomfortably cold temperatures or bad weather. Training indoors essentially expands the number of hours in which you could consistently schedule your workout. Meetings through lunch? Picking up the kids after school? Your trainer makes it possible to get your exercise and prioritize your health without compromising a busy schedule. I recommend creating a morning workout routine: it will leave you fresh and pumped for the day, and you’ll get your training done before any other unforeseen tasks or errands can impede your workout.

3. Save Time with a Faster Transition.

Kitting up for an outdoor ride requires a lot of pre-ride prep: adjusting tire pressure, checking brakes, lubing the chain, packing a flat kit, dressing in full gear, making water bottles… A trainer ride pares this down immensely – bibs, top, socks, shoes, water bottle, towel, DONE. No need to wipe down the bike when you’re done: just walk straight to the shower. To maximize this benefit, create a permanent trainer set-up in your home, so that you don’t even have to spend time putting the bike on the trainer, or setting up your laptop in front of it.

4. Get More Workout For Your Time. 

On a road ride, you’ll usually have to ride a considerable distance to get to a road suitable for intervals, which can provide a nice warm-up, but which binds you to the particular distance and terrain of that route. On the trainer, you can optimize your warm-up by doing 10 – 20 minutes of focused build, with no interruptions from cars or traffic stops; likewise for your cool-down. You can get to the crux of your workout – the intervals – much quicker and with more consistency. Another time benefit of a trainer workout is that forty minutes on the trainer equals roughly an hour on the road. Why? On the trainer, you rarely coast or stop; whereas on the road, you’ll be coasting down hills, behind other cyclists or cars, slowing for corners, stopping at lights. If you look at a typical road ride and calculate the volume at cadence > 0, you’ll find that only about 2/3 of your ride volume includes pedaling time. On the trainer, however, you’re pedaling for the entire workout, so physiologically, you’re getting more for your time on the trainer, relative to the same time on the road.

The trainer allows you to create a reliable training routine that saves time and can weather the uncertainties and stresses of everyday life. Creating and sticking to a consistent plan will best enable you to build fitness, keep healthy and better manage the ups and downs inherent in life.