Power On: How to Stay Focused (and Entertained!) on Long Trainer Rides

By Sarah Wassner Flynn

When I decided to train for my first 70.3 triathlon last year, I was totally excited to break out of the sprint and middle-distance mode and step into the big leagues. Yes, the thought of swimming 1.2 miles, biking 56 miles, and then running a half-marathon was daunting, but I needed the challenge to boost my motivation.

So, I chose a spring race, and, with the help of my coach, I soon had a winter season stacked with training planned out. Because I live on the East Coast where winters can be harsh (hello, polar vortex!), nearly all of my workouts would be inside. Swimming wouldn’t be a problem (I hate cold water and welcome the warmth of my indoor pool), and I’ve always been more of a treadmill runner. But there was just one thing: How on earth was I going to stay occupied—and awake?!—for a three-hour-plus power trainer ride?

What I’ve learned about triathlon training—and training for anything major, in general—is that you have to constantly evolve and adapt throughout the process. You figure out what works for you, what doesn’t, and you make tweaks here and there. It may take time, but stick with the program and what might feel impossible at first can soon seem second-nature.

Don’t get me wrong: my first long trainer rides were just that: LONG. Endless, even. I’d constantly check the clock to see how much time had gone by and would feel frustrated to find out I was only a quarter of the way in. But as I fine-tuned my workouts and focused more on the outcome (strength and endurance) rather than the obstacle (the length and difficulty of the workout), those hours rolled right by.

Through the process, I picked up on some ways to make the time pass less painfully. So here are some of my hacks for busting boredom on the bike trainer.

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Have a Trainer Party. You’ve heard of BYOB. But how about BYOT? Clear out an area in your basement or garage or look into renting a community space. Invite your tri and cycling friends over, lay down some mats, crank the tunes, sweat buckets, push each other, and crush your workouts. Just because triathlon and cycling may be solitary sports doesn’t mean the training has to be.

Plug In. This is what I like to call Netflix and...sweat. When I know I have a long trainer ride coming up, I store up all of my favorite shows or podcasts so I can binge on the bike. Setting your trainer up by a TV (and having easy access to your phone or remote) is key so you can flip from platform to platform—or turn on a killer playlist when you need that extra oomph.

Get Smarter. The coolest thing about smart trainers (like Kinetic interactive and fluid power trainers) is that you can tap into all sorts of apps while you’re on the ride, giving you workouts to follow plus instant feedback on your speed, power, and cadence among other stats. Not only that, you can connect with other cyclists through social communities (think: Zwift and Rouvy) and with a few swipes you can be pedaling alongside people all over the world. How can you ever be bored while pushing watts and trying to beat your training buddy to the virtual finish line?

Nail that Nutrition The nice thing about being on the trainer in a controlled environment, like your basement or garage, is that you can really work on your race nutrition plan on the bike. There have been many outdoor bike rides where I was too distracted by the elements (or the scenery) to take in the right fuel. But once I started almost exclusively training indoors, I was able to get it all right for race day. Before you start your ride, set up everything you need within reach: water bottles, gels, snacks, etc. Focusing on fuel—say, a gel every 45 minutes, finishing a bottle every hour—helps the time tick right on by...and it helps you become a stronger, more aware athlete at the same time.

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