Yeah, the days are short, its cold out, usually raining or snowing depending on where you live, and you don’t want to put on the 10 layers of clothes to brave the elements. So since ya’ll are dedicated you pull out the trainer, pop in a movie, and spin endlessly while watching Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.
There is a better way. My basic philosophy for most indoor workouts is to limit the workout to no more than an hour and half and keep it very structured. Basically get warmed-up, do some structured work like 4 x 5min intervals, cool down, and get off the bike. So what if it only takes 45 minutes. You got the quality work in that really matters and spending another 45 minutes spinning with no real purpose won’t really make the workout that much more effective.
I am also not a big fan of watching TV while on the trainer. It tends to lend itself to just noodling and not getting in an effective workout. There are some exceptions though. I have an athlete on the eastcoast that like to watch football so on Sundays when he has to ride the trainer he does his “Football Workout.” Basically he goes hard from the snap of the ball till the whistle blows and pedals easy between plays. This works out to be a series of 10 – 20 second really hard efforts with 40seconds to 2 minutes of rest between. I still have him limit his ride to an hour which usually ends up to be a really hard workout.
My personal choice is to put on a pair of headphones with a mix of fast, hard, motivating music and stomp out a hard set of intervals. There are numerous studies (for example) that show music can increase an athletes output and mood during hard efforts. If my ride is going to be longer than hour, which is pretty rare on the trainer-I would rather be out in the cold rain at that point, I put in a good race video from the Tour or a little Hell of the North along with a nice mix of tunes to get me through the suffering. Good times…