Cycling Wed Exercise

CW: Five simple tips to enhance the enjoyment of indoor cycling

As a heart doctor, I frequently counsel patients on the importance of regular exercise. The problem with this discussion is that it often devolves from heart physiology to life coaching. And most heart doctors have not been trained in life coaching. Heck, many of us have trouble coaching ourselves.

But maybe this blog affords an opportunity to delve into the ‘coaching’ realm. I mean, I have learned a lot about successful strategies for incorporating exercise into normal life over the years as a competitive athlete.

Let’s take the challenge of exercising during the cold weather months.

One option is to buy outdoor clothes, prepare oneself mentally and physically and then go brave the cold. HTFU. An especially hearty bike teammate once proclaimed, on a miserably cold and wet ride, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate gear.”

Another option, one that I prefer, is to ride inside on a trainer or stationary bike. I love riding the trainer. The hum of the back wheel along with the constant tension of the pedals soothes me. There are others, however, that find spinning like a hamster on a wheel unpalatable. That’s too bad, because as a low-impact safe exercise, indoor cycling works wonders, whether you are a seasoned cyclist or a patient with advanced heart disease.

Here are five basic tips that will make indoor cycling more enjoyable: 

1. Don’t ride too long. Doing three-hour base training rides on a stationary bike isn’t sustainable. Thirty to sixty minutes works fine.

2. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Start with low tension. It should feel really easy at first. And at the end of the session, get off the bike before reaching the point of misery. Leave yourself wanting more.

3. Create a nice environment for riding. You will need some basic things:

  • A fan to prevent over-heating.
  • A TV to watch.
  • Good tunes.
  • A bonus: get two trainers so you can ride with your spouse, child or friends.

4. Invest in a device that gives you feedback about your body’s achievement. Advanced cyclists like to look at watt outputs, which are reproducible metrics of truth. An inexpensive heart rate monitor works too. Remember, riding indoors differs from outdoors: outside you can feel the fruits of your wattage in the amount of the swoosh. Inside you will need more feedback.

5. Mix it up on the bike. I like to make up workouts on the fly: 1 minute hard-1 easy. 2 min hard-two easy. 5 min hard- 3 easy. The combinations approach infinity. The core message: not only will doing intervals break the monotony, it will also make you fitter.

Not everyone will love indoor riding. It’s hard to replace the sensations of a real bike. Don’t try. Just embrace the indoor bike for what it is: a great tool for getting, or staying fit, during winter.

I hope these suggestions help.

Please feel free to add to the list.


7 replies on “CW: Five simple tips to enhance the enjoyment of indoor cycling”

I hate riding the trainer/rollers anymore. I used to spend hours now i can hardly stand 15 min. I have found spin classes are fun though. Suffering with the masses is so much more fun than solo.
I also try to get out on the MTB at least once a week this time of year as well. A friend of mine do night rides throughout the winter so long as the snow is not too deep. Coldest we have ever ridden was -5 with a windchill of -40.

Great post! I don’t read enough about indoor stationary cycling. (I can’t bike outdoors for a variety of reasons, including the neighborhood.)

What do you think about shoes for indoor cycling (old-fashioned, not spinning)? Are they as important as with outdoor cycling?

I love my stationary bike! I put on a movie and I’m good to go. Another idea I’ve heard but have yet to try is to keep track of the “distance”, marking it on a local or world map” and play appropriate music / watch an appropriate film for each region as you “go through” it.

Yes. Shoes that clip in and allow tension to be delivered throughout the entire pedal stroke are also very important. I prefer road cleats as they have a wider platform. Shoes that clip would be number 6 on above list. Thanks for saying.

If you have a show(s) you love to watch- dvr it and only reserve for when you are working out. The only time I watch tv is then. Cycling shoes a must. And I too enjoy the rhythmic hum of a trainer-very peaceful.

I am lucky enough to live in an area where we (usually) get a lot of snow. Rather than ride indoors my preference is to switch to cross-country skiing in the winter time. Mind you, I am not a serious cyclist so putting the bike away when the season changes does not cause me any separation anxiety. 🙂

Cold weather without snow (like this winter) is misery.

Good post. Just what I needed. I beat myself up for hating the trainer this time of year. Luckily I can still get out most weekends here in north TX. While I’ve road cycled in temps as low as the upper 20s, my preference is to have it be 40. Mountain bike helps. It’s heavy enough that I warm up pretty quick!

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