On The Rack — Getting A Good Workout On The Stationary Trainer

ALegs1It’s cold.  It’s raining.  It’s windy.  It’s snowing.  How many times have you been looking forward to a great ride the next day only to get up in the morning, peer out the window, and see all your cycling plans disappear in an instant?  But, rather than sit in front of the computer or TV all morning, you decide to ride indoors on your stationary trainer.  So, you dig the trainer out of the closet, set it up in front of the TV, attach your bike, and resign yourself to an hour or so of crank-turning boredom.  Oh boy.

For cyclists, the stationary trainer is just a tool.  What matters is how you use it.  Use it well and you can get a great workout.  Use it incorrectly and you’ve just wasted an hour.  So, how do you get the most out of your sessions on the stationary trainer?  Following are a few of our suggestions for keeping the monotony out of your time on the stationary trainer.

1. Keep it short

Each session should last 60-90 minutes and include different aspects of cycling like climbing, sprinting, or tempo riding.

2. Embrace variety

It is important to vary your position on the bike during your trainer workout.  Think about how often you get out of the saddle when you ride on the road or trail — starting off from a stop light, climbing a steep section of trail, sprinting to the city limit sign.  Now, add that same variety of positioning to your trainer workout.

3. Be structured

The basic stationary trainer workout has three sections: the warm up (10 minutes), the workout (40 minutes), and the cool down (10 minutes).  Make sure to wear a watch or heart rate monitor so you can keep track of your interval times as well as your overall time.  Before starting, visualize how your trainer session will progress and choose a focus for your workout period (climbing, sprinting, tempo).

4. Eliminate distractions

If possible, set up your trainer in front of a window or a mirror and wear headphones so you can listen to music.  DO NOT watch TV, read a book, answer e-mail messages, or talk on the cell phone while on the trainer — these activities will actually distract you from the task at hand, causing you to lose your workout focus and reduce your effort.

5. Be prepared to sweat

Set a fan in front of the trainer so you have a slight breeze keeping you cool.  Keep a hand towel and water bottle within reach.  Wear an absorbent headband to keep the sweat out of your eyes and wear a sweatband on your wrist, too.  Put a mat or large towel underneath your trainer to help dampen the vibration of the flywheel and soak up droplets of perspiration.

6. Stretch after the workout

Riding the stationary trainer is hard on your muscles and the tendons that connect them.  It is imperative to do 10-20 minutes of active stretching after your session on the trainer.  To add some cross-conditioning to your trainer session, after your on-the-bike workout, do 20 minutes of core stabilization exercises before stretching.

Remember: variety is the spice of life!

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