9 In bike/ on the trainer

on the trainer // buh-bye boredom

ON THE TRAINER LOGO3This is the third post in the series, on the trainer.

The trainer doesn’t have to be boring. Sure, it’s not quite the same pedaling through beautiful countryside in the summer sunshine, but it is a great way to make solid gains in the off-season. Even during the season, it’s perfect for intense, focused workouts.

So, how do I stay motivated to get on the trainer at 5:30a and to keep pedaling? To be honest, the trainer is rarely boring for me anymore. Staring at my watts and holding them during intervals keeps me focused and entertained; in fact, if I’m too distracted by the TV, my watts fall well below where they should be (does that happen to anyone else?!). That said, there is plenty of getting comfortable with the uncomfortable and wishing time on my Garmin would pass a bit faster.

Here are a few tactics I use to pass the trainer time…

Social media catch-up

Most of my trainer rides start with an easy 30-minute warm-up – the perfect time to catch up on my social feed… twitter, facebook, instagram and occasionally I’ll try make a dent in my bloglovin’ feed.


Power has turned the trainer almost into a game. Intervals usually fly by because I’m concentrating on holding target watts. If you don’t have a power meter, you can still pass the time quickly by doing a specific workout (i.e. intervals) rather than just riding mindlessly at a steady cadence.


Intervals are quite possibly the best way to pass time on the trainer. All but one of my trainer rides a week are interval based and range from long steady-watt intervals to shorter high-watt intervals to big gear work with low cadence, for example. They’re a great way to break up a two-hour ride into shorter, more manageable blocks of time. During particularly tough intervals, I break them down in my head to five-minute intervals – because you can do anything for five minutes.

DVR + Netflix

Our bikes are permanent living room furniture, which means access to the DVR – and, we DVR a lot. Between all things HGTV, the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, the Daily Show, Modern Family and everything single minute of the Sochi Olympics, among many others, our DVR is nearly full. We still haven’t jumped on the Netflix bandwagon – I know, I know… House of Cards, right?! – but it needs to happen.

TED talks

TED talks are fantastic! There’s a TED iPhone app, but it requires wifi (and even then it can be slow), so I usually just watch via the YouTube app. A few recent faves:

Why 30 is not the new 20 by Meg Jay
Less stuff more happiness by Graham Hill
In praise of slowness by Carl Honoré
The power of vulnerability by Brené Brown
The power of empathy by Brené Brown
Your elusive creative genius by Elizabeth Gilbert
My philosophy for a happy life by Sam Burns
What I learned from Nelson Mandela by Boyd Varty


While I haven’t used TrainerRoad, several of my friends rave about it. The basic premise: It uses your power meter, power curve of your trainer (if you don’t have a power meter) or heart rate to create real-time structured workouts for you. Think lots of intervals, focused training plans and tracking for faster + stronger cycling.


So many great podcasts out there! Start here: Rich Roll and Endurance Hour (MBK’s latest with Dave Scott is great!). A couple food-based podcasts: Balanced Bites and Chris Kresser. This one, being your best from Jen and Liz Talk Triathlon, is solid, too.


My current go-to: Girl Talk. It’s gotten me through many high watts intervals. I love that it’s one continuous loop of music with a kick ass beat that always makes me pedal harder. I’ve also been digging Passion Pit, old school Madonna (her Confessions on a Dance Floor and Hard Candy albums) and some Coldplay. Watch for a playlist in an upcoming post.

What about you? What’s your favorite way to pass time on the trainer?

Happy riding, friends!

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  • Reply
    02/28/2014 at 8:36 am

    These are great tips!! I always forget about the TED talks, so thanks for that reminder ;)

  • Reply
    02/28/2014 at 10:48 am

    I love intervals on the trainer but I hate intervals on the trainer.

  • Reply
    02/28/2014 at 5:49 pm

    Love this series! I am loving the trainer lately, even though I live in beautiful SD. I am surprised by how following a really specific workout can make the time fly. My cure-alls? 3-min ILT repeats, cadence drills, standing climbs, and power intervals. I’ll do podcasts/music/movies if it’s raining and I’m just trying to get saddle time in, but for my 2 dedicated intensity workouts a week, it’s all music, all the time.

  • Reply
    meghan @ little girl in the big world
    03/01/2014 at 3:28 pm

    Great suggestions!! I have gotten to the point where I view trainer time as being so boring. I need to plan shows and books to entertain me. I love podcasts for long runs too when I’m out alone. And I actually haven’t listened to many TED talks, but I just heard a speaker at a conference this week that was magical, and I found out he has a TED talk. That made me want to start listening to TED talks.

  • Reply
    03/02/2014 at 7:43 am

    Great tips. I do all those same things. Some wireless headphones and a stand to mount my iPad has really made watching Netflix a lot easier.

  • Reply
    Kristen L
    03/03/2014 at 11:44 pm

    I love TED talks! Sometimes NPR can be fun to listen to also. And I agree on the intervals helping the time fly by!

  • Reply
    03/04/2014 at 10:04 am

    Great tips! I think I’m going to have to start watching some TED talks!

  • Reply
    Leslie @ TriathleteTreats
    03/06/2014 at 10:59 pm

    I totally agree!! Watching the watts and cadence does make the time pass. I like to listen to music. I love Girl Talk. I usually listen to the new tunes I have downloaded until I am too sick of hearing them I change the playlist!! :)

  • Reply
    03/09/2014 at 3:56 pm

    Agree completely! Watts + intervals are where it’s at!

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