Years ago, my roommate had a universal gym machine in our apartment. We teased that it was a nothing but a very expensive laundry hanger. That was my only home gym experience for the longest. Then a friend trained for a century bike ride almost exclusively on an indoor bike trainer and that got my attention!
As much as I love working out, outside, it’s not always feasible.
What about the rainy days, the 100+ degree days, the snow days. Or, the days you only have 30 minutes to workout no matter how you try to arrange your day to fit your exercise? These are my inside-is-in days!
I have three go-to inside options for exercise that can work for almost anyone, any space, and most budgets.
I can handle riding in the heat (read more Training Tips for HOT weather) but I won’t ride in the rain or on super windy cold days. Call me a wimp!
For indoor cycling, I have a very small, simple bike trainer. Full disclosure, it took me quite some time to get used to riding on a trainer. I would get a little mental just pedaling away and not going anywhere. I have found so many ways to distract myself these days that I enjoy the bike trainer now. Mind tips below!
I use a USA1 folding bike trainer, so if I’m not using the trainer for some period, it folds up small and goes in the closet. My one splurge with the trainer was a separate bike wheel, tire, and cassette set to use only for the trainer. Trainers can tear up tires, and I didn’t want my road tires destroyed. It takes time for tires to get degraded so don’t let not having an extra set stop you! If you do get a rear tire set, get the same cassette that you have on your bike to keep the gearing the same.
If you choose NOT to buy an extra rear set, you will get good at changing out your rear tire in case (when) you get a flat on the road.
If you want to try a bike trainer, I always suggest borrowing or buying used or at the very least inexpensive at first. You want to be sure you are going to use it. I still have the same inexpensive trainer I’ve had for over ten years, and it still works great.
What you need:
1. Trainer – beg, borrow or buy. My suggestion is a simple magnetic trainer that can be folded to store when not in use. If your trainer does not come with an axel, buy a quick release axel attachment* so your bike quick release does not get damaged.
2. Wheel, tire, cassette – online bike stores have reasonable prices or make it easy on yourself and go to your local shop with your back wheel in hand. (HINT – if this is going to stop you from
training indoors don’t do it. Just use your bike as is and replace your tire later if you use your trainer like an animal and shred a tire!)
3. Front wheel block – If your trainer does not come with one, use a book. It goes under the front tire and keeps you level. This is important because even a slightly unleveled bike will have you leaning forward and having an uncomfortable ride.
4. Sweat net. Goes between your handlebars and bike seat post to catch the sweat and not have your salty sweat on your bike and your floor. Or, you can drape a towel over your top tube and on the floor. Don’t be surprised, without the breeze from forward motion and the extent of workout you can get – you’re going to sweat!
5. Floor protection is needed. A good beach towel or rubber yoga mat will work
6. Concentration Games. What are you going to do to stay occupied while riding? This is my first question every time. Riding on my trainer for 30 minutes + without a distraction just doesn’t happen! Suggestions:
A. Goal board on my wall & visualizations keep me going. I keep my cycling goals on my wall and write down what I did the ride before. If I can see that I got to 30-40 minutes earlier in the week, it helps keep me focused and peddling.
B. Most of my friends use a workout app these days, either on their phone or part of the trainer. You’ll find several suggestions in the footnotes.
C. Video program. You’ll find suggestions in the tip sheet but be prepared. If they say it’s advanced, it’s advanced! The first video I purchased was a “level 6.0” out of 10. It never occurred to me it would be too hard, it kicked my ass. Some people watch TV, I’m not a big TV fan, so these days I listen to podcasts and keep my phone on a stand on my bike so I can dictate notes if I get flashes of inspiration.
I associate paddling with beautiful, solitary rivers and so I resisted getting a rowing machine for a very long time. I was afraid it would take away from what I loved so much about kayaking. Rowing surrounded by 4-walls sounded debilitating. Still, I wanted to stay in top paddling shape when I wasn’t kayaking. Enter the rowing machine. My rower has one significant advantage over my bike trainer; it is a full body workout. From legs to core to back to arms to my heart – it’s all over exercise.
Once again, I needed this piece of equipment to be small enough that I didn’t trip over it, inexpensive enough that I didn’t feel guilty if it turned into a bad investment. I didn’t want something super noisy, so I opted for a folding, hydraulic rower. Is it the best on the market? No. Someday I may replace it with a water model but for what I need, 1 or maybe two days a week? It’s perfect. My criteria: small, foldable, good reviews, and less than $200. What I bought was Goplus Magnetic Folding Rower from Amazon. Took me about 30 minutes or less to put it together and it rows nicely.
Wall resistance bands for strength and stretching
When I first rigged up my pulleys I wanted to replace my gym workout. We don’t live near a gym so commuting to the local
gym is 15 to 30, minutes one way – depending on if I catch the train crossing or not. Long gym
commutes make me a little twitchy.
I think weights are one of the most important exercises to schedule into your workout. We’ll dive into weights in detail later. I use the pulleys for the times I’m just NOT going to get to the gym. Consider your pulley workouts to be lighter weight and multiple rep days! Be sure to download the tip sheet for some pulley exercise routines.
To set-up, I purchased three sizes of rubber tubing pulleys and used carabiners I already had on hand. You’ll need handles and wall anchor mounts. Check the photos at the bottom for more details.
In addition to these three indoor exercise options, I have a small area for stretching and yoga. Just a mat and a bench. No matter what I do aerobically and for strength, I shoot for at the least 4-5 days of 15 to 20 minutes of stretching each week. Stretching is the lube that keeps everything together and moving freely for me.
Today, make a decision your future self will thank you for. If you are skipping your workout because “outside” isn’t cooperating, bring your workout “inside.”
I use a 1UP USA resistance bike trainer. At the time of writing this is unavailable – this trainer is similar – https://www.cycleops.com/product/mag
Photo of the wheel and extra cassette
Bike workout apps Zwift, BKool, The Sufferfest, Kinetic, and Wahoo
Some trainers that attach via the rear wheel can accommodate different axle standards and offer inserts for that purpose. Make sure the trainer you’re buying has compatible options for the bike or bikes you want to use. I purchased a quick release skewer with my trainer
Bike Training Videos:
Ultegra 10 speed cassette ($70):
My rowing machine is a: Goplus Magnetic Folding Rower from Amazon
Resistance bands – I use 10ib, 20lb, 30lb, 40lb resistance bands with hand grips
Exercises for wall resistance bands:
Upper Body workout video:
All over body workout – not specifically wall mounted but some good suggestions: