Overcoming mental block to stationary indoor training

So my buddy sees all the gains myself and others in our cycling club have attained through structured indoor training. He signed up for a free month of TR and did his ramp test at a fellow club member’s house. With an FTP of 272w and a power to weight ratio of 3.56 w/kg, he has potential to get crazy strong.

He had his bike and trainer all set up in his garage. But when it came to do do his first workout, he couldn’t bring himself to ride stationary indoors. He just couldn’t do it. There is some kind of mental block to pedaling but remaining stationary in space.

He knows the training works…he does NOT need an apologetic for structured indoor training. This is not a gamification or entertainment issue either. But what he could benefit from is your insight if you’ve experienced a similar strong mental aversion to indoor stationary cycling.

What helped you make a breakthrough to overcome it?

UPDATE: Thanks for the helpful responses so far! I’m adding some clarifiers:

  • No one is pressuring my friend to adopt an indoor training regimen, this was his initiative
  • He got mentally stuck before he could give indoor training a fair shot
  • As his friend, I want to help him get unstuck, if possible
  • At the end of the day, I respect however he decides to train
  • I’m NOT asking you to figure out or speculate about what motivates him
  • I AM asking what helped you if cycling stationary was a barrier that you overcame

Group rides and races in zwift were what helped me. I now seldom visit zwift.
Put your friend on a starting line with other people and see if that will charge his focus to just trying to perform.

I would suggest a group indoor session or two. Pop his cherry with some fun work together, that he can feel the full effect and experience.

Maybe after that, he can move on as a solo effort?

The idea of making it a group effort via Zwift or Discord chat may help as he moves forward.

Put something entertaining infront of him. That can be a show/movie/zwift/etc. And/or have him do some high intensity work. It’s a lot easier to sit on the trainer for an hour when your intervals are short and hard. It takes more mental discipline to sit on a trainer for long low intensity efforts than for something hard.

I used to pick a series that I wanted to watch, and only watched episodes while I was on the bike. And then wouldn’t let myself sit through them if I wasn’t pedaling. If you can find something you want to watch, it can help provide another excuse to get on the bike.


Pretty tough to figure out what will motivate someone else…

1 Like

Per the OP, @roflsocks, I don’t think that entertainment is the issue or part to solution…

Races are won and lost in the winter. Often it’s not pleasant or safe to ride outside. If he wants to be strong come the spring he needs to train indoors or drop a shitload of money on spending the winter in Tenerife or Majorca.

1 Like

What helps me is thinking about how much my body hates colder weather, especially my arthritic knees.

1 Like

We were having a post ride beer a few weeks ago, and a strong rider said he sold the Kickr because he can’t stand riding inside. Helps that we live where you can ride every month of the year, even if it’s a little chilly this time of year the worst is dealing with a handful of days with a little morning ice on some roads.

No matter the benefits, some people will refuse to lift at the gym or ride a trainer in the garage.

1 Like

What motivated me to train indoors was being run off the road two different times by mean drivers. I set up a pain cave with entertainment that I enjoy being in. Now I only go outside for large group rides and I’m still nervous about that.


My go to session when I started was Black. Nicely broken up into 3 minute efforts, 1 hour long and not too hard.

Of course you could just tell him to man up.

I originally eschewed the trainer out of a bs desire to be a “hard man” and train outdoors, despite the cold. Only tough guys brave the snow and traffic to ride outdoors, right? And only wannabes and wimps ride indoors on their cutesy little trainers, right?!

I dunno if this factors into your friend’s mental block, but I’m embarrassed I used to think like this, and I’m glad I don’t any more.

1 Like

Just keep smoking him on the road.

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

You CAN however, drown it in the river.


Bring him on an outdoor ride and get 4w/kg riders to slaughter him on the local climbs.
Then tell him that if he does his turbo sessions he’ll be able to keep up and one day beat them.
That’s what motivated me to get on my trainer when I started out.

1 Like

I think Zwift is a good starting point as it bridges the gap between outdoor riding and pedaling in space. At least you get the sensation of going somewhere. I’d start on that and just say to ride until he’s had enough. 15-20 mins at a time just to comfortable doing it. From there group rides and races could be next to get idea of working hard indoors, not just noodling around. Then I think looking at some short structured training workouts, 30 mins long or so to bring in ERG. This could be TR or Zwift. Once you get to that point, the introduction is over, he’ll either starting swimming or sink to the bottom.

1 Like

Does he like to work hard and push himself? The first workout I did when I got my trainer was Kaiser. I wanted to see how well I’d deal with a hard VO2max session - and this was perversely quite motivating for me.

This was a good article I read a while back. I think it captures one of the things that motivates a lot of cyclists.

1 Like

Sometimes, the ‘conditions’ outdoors just aren’t conducive to riding, especially if you’re trying to do anything structured.

When you’re time crunched and need to maximise your ride time, we all know that an hour on the trainer is an hour well spent. Add to that the fact that you won’t have to find the time to clean a filthy bike and indoor riding starts to make sense.

As others have said - motivation is a tricky beast, particularly when we’re talking about complete strangers.

I’d take a similar tack to what others have recommended - encourage your friend to tie their primary cycling objectives to training and a plan associated with it. Then leave it up to them on how they want to conduct that training - it could be done indoors or outdoors.

Once you’ve acknowledged that adding some amount of structure to your riding you will get faster and your improvements will be tied to how well you can adhere to the plan then he should end up leaning towards indoor rides as the simplest, most time efficient way to adhere to his plan.

Leave it up to your friend to decide if he wants to maintain that structure indoors, outdoors, or both. Indoor simplifies things but doesn’t work for everyone. If he wants to be faster he could follow a structured plan indoors or outdoors - who are we to say which will better suite his mental and physical needs?

1 Like

Agreed, @Adub ! But we can learn from the experiences of others. That’s why I asked what helped you overcome an aversion to indoor training if you have ever experienced one.

Process and Outcome.

Ask him if he thinks his Process(es) will allow him to attain his Outcome goals.

If the answer is not a resounding ‘Yes!’…then he has a non-congruent P-O system and one or both need to be redefined with self-honesty.