Riding the trainer can be boring, so the first thing that I like to do is have a plan for my workout. More often than not, people just get on there and ride which is why part of the reason why they find it boring. I typically do "The Friedman Power Hour" when I'm going for a trainer workout. Here's the original version:
Warm up 10 Minutes - easy spinning
- 10 Minutes - 120 RPM cadence @ 150 BPM heart rate
- 10 Minutes - easy spinning
- 10 Minutes - 120 RPM cadence @ 160 BPM heart rate
- 10 Minutes - easy spinning
- 10 minutes - 120 RPM cadence @ 170+ BPM heart rate
NOTE: Tone this back just a bit in the base period. Instead of 150 BPM, do 130 BPM, then 140 BPM, then 150 BPM, work up to it, because these are pretty hard efforts. Of course, everyone is a bit different, so adjust the intensity to your own current fitness levels.
Mix it Up with Sprints inside the 10-minute efforts
Now I change that up quite a bit depending what I'm working on. For instance rather than going straight through the 10 min effort 3 times which works well for TT efforts, just going hard and recovering etc I'll throw a 30-second to 1-minute seated sprint every 2.5 minutes. Obviously this makes it significantly harder to continue the workout due to recovery after a full sprint so I try to maintain (if using a power meter 250 watts) for a little, then back up to my 120 RPM/HR zone. It's very tough and takes a lot of mental perseverance to continue on at minute 6 or 7, but that again is the same scenario in many races/rides. You reach a mental barrier that has to be broken through to succeed sometimes.
NOTE: I can't do the mixed in sprint-effort rides in the off season. I'm not fit enough at this time to do that, it's that hard.
Less Can Be More
My point is you can get a heck of a workout in 1 hour, even less really, but it requires quite a bit of intensity. Think of this paradigm: If one can push themselves to the point of a strenuous workout for an hour the recovery is significantly longer. There are quite a few research studies now that show this exact theme, where Athlete A does base miles for 2 months, long slow miles, Athlete B does very intense short workouts for half the time, upon checking for mitochondrial density (our little engines within our cells) there wasn't a difference. Of course there is a lot more information neglected here, but the general idea is that the trainer can be an imperative training tool if the weather is poor, or time is an issue. Just make it purposeful by creating a workout that's worth your time; the harder it is, the faster the time goes.
Rider Bio: Mike Friedman started his pro career riding for Slipstream sports through the TIAA-CREF Days and Team Slipstream. Next, two years on Garmin allowed him to compete in some of the largest 1-day races in Europe as well as many races in the US. During his time on Garmin he also competed at the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing. In 2010 he spent a fun and fruitful year with Team Jelly Belly, learning how to lead a team of 12 guys and finished his illustrious career at Kelly Benefit Strategies / Optum Health / Rally Pro Cycling. He retired from professional racing in 2014.