How to Stay Focused and Motivated for Indoor Trainer Workouts

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Arleigh Jenkins is a new mom living in Denver and a veteran of the bike industry, with 15 years of experience in bike shops, cycling advocacy, and a range of other roles. You can see more of Arleigh’s work by following her on social media, where she goes by @Bikeshopgirl on Twitter and Bike Shop Girl on Facebook.


Often when I mention to my friends how much I’ve been enjoying my trainer workouts they look at me like I have two heads. Perhaps this is because I live in Colorado where there is easy access to outdoor wonderland activities, or perhaps – I have developed a unique skill to accept and embrace my dedicated workouts on the trainer because I know they were designed to make me a better rider and racer.

As an additional perk, the trainer makes it so I never leave my house and I’m typically done with my workout before two episodes of NCIS are done. With kids and limited training time, focusing on specific intervals on the trainer is now a requirement, but anyone can benefit from embracing trainer workouts.

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Make Sure You Include Race Specific Intervals During Your Limited Training Time

This season I am training almost strictly for events under an hour, and as we get closer to race season my workouts are really starting to be fined tuned by my coach to mimic these future race efforts.

In late January, I was in a lactate threshold block which as my coach, Noah Collins, explains, “The whole point of this block is to train your body to clear out the byproducts of anaerobic work more quickly.” My two favorite workouts during this block were “SteadyStatePower” and “OverUnder” intervals.

The SteadyStatePower intervals pushed me up and over my lactate threshold but below my VO2 max for 4 minutes with short recovery intervals around 1:30 minutes, and before I had a chance to fully recover I would be starting my next interval.

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The OverUnder interval felt like a game after I did it the first time. You keep yourself just below your lactate threshold for 4 minutes, and then over for 2 minutes, under 4, over 2, spin easy for 6 minutes, and repeat 2 more times.

Trust the Plan You and Your Coach Have Developed

Both of these workouts kept me focused, but also reminded me to concentrate on what I could control which were my watts and my heart rate. When I was recovering I really tried to focus on relaxing into my pedals and spinning to bring my heart rate and breathing down. As I moved through this lactate threshold block I made sure to ask questions, and to fully understand what each of these hard workouts was doing for my fitness.

Trusting your coach to provide key workouts is critical to embracing each workout as they come. For me, accepting that my training and long-term success isn’t made in a day, week or month is one of the most important parts of building motivation for each workout. Throughout the winter, it is easy to get depressed that you aren’t riding outside, or move on to a different sport because sitting on the trainer seems painful.

Workouts Are Important Building Blocks That Bring You Closer to Your Goal

Personally, I am starting to view the winter months as the most important time to have a coach and to dedicate time indoors to knock out important workouts with little time investment. You don’t have to sit on the trainer just to churn out miles. You should think of these workouts as more than just a workout, they are important building blocks for making you a stronger athlete.

As Noah put it, “The whole purpose is to make you a more efficient rider, not to torture yourself for no reason. All the pain that you feel is forcing your body to adapt just a LITTLE bit more to the workload and that is when you start to see gains.”

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When I am kicking my butt on the trainer and my legs are wanting to fail I find motivation in knowing these workouts are helping me make small, but critical gains toward my goals, and that many of my competitors are having another glass of wine with dinner while I dedicate myself to becoming stronger.

Related Articles

A 3-Step Plan for Maintaining Training Motivation This Winter

3 Easy Ways to Fit in Trainer Workouts When You Have Kids

3 Indoor Cycling Workouts to Match Your Goals


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Comments 3

  1. Great article. It reinforces my feelings about indoor trainer workouts. The weather is getting nicer, and sometimes I feel like a jerk for not getting outside to ride more. But, due to the fact that I live in major suburb of a major metropolis, I find that while outside rides can be more fun, they absolutely are not as efficient. Indoors, I can cut out all of the variables like traffic and such, and focus completely on my training. I subscribe to the time crunched training philosophy and HIT, and by riding on the indoor trainer it is simply easier to accomplish my goals. I also bought into Zwift, and I write my own custom interval workouts. I love the colored “gates” at the start and end of interval segments. I ride in a cool environment with a large fan. However, nothing short of a leaf blower in my face is going to keep the sweat out of my eyes, and I can still see 32″ TV that I have my laptop connected to and Zwift displays your power and cadence on the screen as well as the interval start stop gates. It takes a little discipline to not get sucked into competing with other riders on the screen and stick to your workout, but that is the only distraction. I know that compared to past years of trying to train on the road, I am getting more “bang for my buck” on the trainer.

  2. Be it winter months or work schedule, I find that I “have to” do some sort of interval session. 3×20′, 4×15′ 6×10′, 6×4′ SE etc while watching old cycling videos on YouTube. Then, I sort of, somehow “enjoy” the turbo sessions.

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