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The Indoor Bike Trainer Makes You Mentally Tough

By on February 28, 2014

Do you dread the indoor bike trainer? Can’t seem to stay in the saddle very long? A lot of people will say, “Just ride outside and don’t worry about that pesky trainer” but I don’t have that option and I am going to share with you why it’s made me mentally strong for my races.

I have a little one and I am a single parent. This means I can’t ride outside a lot. I have done Three full Ironmans in the last two years and I had to get the miles in one way or the other so I turned to the trainer. The trainer does not completely simulate the real world of cycling outdoors and this is a good thing and a bad thing. Let me explain… (just gonna hit the highlights)

Cycling outdoors:

  • PRO – Works your core and upper body much more.
  • PRO – Terrain changes constantly.
  • PRO – Mentally you see new things, it’s an adventure, it’s fun, time passes by quickly.
  • CON – Must ride on roads… This can be dangerous and require skills… Cars hurt… I have a kid so, yeah..
  • CON – Must be prepared and have supplies, tubes, cash, food, drinks, etc.
  • CON – Bathrooms must be located or improvised.  😉
  • CON – Usually requires most people to plan a ride, with friends or a group, and get everyone on the same page. This is not always a bad thing but can sometimes be the one mental thing that keeps riders from getting involved and because they have the feeling of being “tied” down to ride exactly at a specific time or place. (I’ve seen it over and over… It’s real life).

Cycling indoors on the bike trainer:

  • PRO – Flexible + Spontaneous workout capabilities.
  • PRO – Weather does not play a factor.
  • PRO – Bathrooms are not an issue.
  • PRO – Climate/Temperature can be controlled.
  • PRO – Sun exposure risk is gone.
  • PRO – Cars will not hit you.
  • PRO – You can ride while your kid sleeps
  • PRO – You can listen to music and watch TV
  • CON – Does not simulate constantly changing terrain.
  • CON – Does not fully activate your core and truly prepare you for real riding.
  • CON – It’s a proven fact that time automatically get longer on the indoor bike trainer 😉 LOL (I think the ratio is 1:10… For every 1 min your ride on the trainer it seems like 10)

So what does this mean? Trainers are a tool that must be used in conjunction with outdoor riding but for most busy people it’s the ONLY way you can keep your bike fitness up. “Bike trainers are an off season tool”, Um NO! Trainers should be used all year long. 30-45 minute hard trainer sessions can be so freaking beneficial to your routine. You can do 3×45 min hard trainer sessions per week + 1 long ride per week and do a full Ironman with no problem.

But what I really want to share with you is how the indoor bike trainer can be used as a mental strength tool.  A few days ago I rode my trainer for 6 hours and it only started “really” sucking towards the last hour. How? Well over time I have forced myself to do one LONG ride on my trainer each month. No changing scenery, nobody riding beside me to talk to, push me, or add incentive to finish faster, and no adventure, no NOTHING! It mentally sucks because the whole time you would definitely rather be doing something else.

Ironman and endurance sports require mostly mental strength vs. actual fitness + talent. Ask any ultra runner or athlete if they could either have A.) More Fitness or B.) More Mental Toughness & Grit and they will choose the mental toughness. Fitness always has a breaking point and that’s when your mental toughness has to take over.

So try adding one long trainer ride to your training each month and I promise you will get more mental toughness.