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Breaking the Boredom

I frequently post pictures of myself on my bike trainer in the corner of my bedroom.


I love these pictures mostly because of the context.  My daughter, Swim Bike Kid (age 4) has, in all trainer picture contexts, snatched my iPhone off the dresser and proceeded to say, “Smile, it’s your picture, Mommmm.”

Too bad she’s a great photog.


And sometimes, I turn the camera around on her.

This one, the whole family, was piled up in the room. (Pardon the mess. I only claimed to be a lawyer and a mother… I have never claimed to be a good housekeeper.)


[James, the boy Swim Bike Kid, is under the covers somewhere in this picture.]

Why they love to watch me ride the bike to nowhere for hours is beyond me.

But the kids love it. And really, it has sort of become a weird “family time.”  The kids bring in their little toys, gadgets and books;  James likes to ask me to read to him, as he holds up a book, on demand, “Read this one, Mom,” and I’ll start the Berenstain Bears from my post on my Adamo saddle. Which is tough, because I can’t see it very well.  Still, trainer time is pretty special, all in all.  All 2-3 hours of it.

Yes, I spend a lot of time on a bike to nowhere.

So I’ll post one of these pictures of me on the trainer, and usually, I get one of three reactions:

“OMG, THREE HOURS on a trainer!?!? What is wrong with you?”


“I could NEVER ride the trainer for 3 hours!”


“Why don’t you ride outside, you sissy!?”


I usually respond to all emails I receive (I try, at least)… and I say, “I couldn’t ride today outside because I had to be at work at 8:00, so I had to get up and ride the trainer at 4:30”


“It’s raining, and klutzes should not ride in the rain.”

But I have a hard time answering questions about “how do you DO it for three hours?” or “aren’t you bored?”….I’m not sure why—but  those questions are hard for me to answer.  So I set out to figure out how to answer, and hence… this post.

I always go back to Chrissie Wellington… she mentioned something in her book, about having an “endless capacity for boredom,” which is why she can run and swim and bike for hours upon hours, and just deal with it.  Maybe since reading her book, I just channel her mentality—that I, too, have (or want to have) that same endless capacity for boredom.

So I do my long, boring workouts, and I accept it. And I do them.  Minute after minute, hour after hour. And that’s that.

Then there’s the dear Coach Monster.  The King of Pain.  The Prince of his trademarked “Purposeful Suffering.”  Who always reminds his Spinning class (and me), that we must learn to love the pain in order to grow as athletes.  That we must learn to love to climb on a bike.  (Check out my post here… if you do not love (or know how) to climb on your bike). That we must invite the pain into our homes, and love it.

So I have begun to live his mentality too.  Chrissie and Monster… two triathlon geniuses. Endless capacity for boredom.  Learn to love the pain.

Check. Check.

image (5)

So I received an email recently from SBM friend that said, “Will you write a post about busting boredom while riding/running long workouts indoors? Would love to know how to kill 2+ hours on the trainer…”

So here goes.

If you really cannot stomach the “boredom,” here are my best hints for surviving life on the bike trainer:

1) Music (play some)

2) Movies (place your iPad on your aero bars, or on a table nearby; put your trainer in front of the tube)

3) Internet (you can get away with some minor web surfing with the iPad on the aero bars)

4) Make sure you have a bike that fits you, with the best saddle for you

…And finally, the best advice I have is:

5) Suck it up.

To survive the hours in the saddle, you must channel your endless capacity for boredom. And you must accept the pain. Does the Mother Queen hurt like a mother after 3 hours in the trainer saddle?  Hell to the yeah, she does.  But sometimes training hurts.  And every painful ride, I walk away (limping), ever that much stronger.


You must suck it up to beat the boredom.

Suck up the 2 hours. Suck up the 3 hours.  Suck up the 4+ (!) hours. Yes, movies and music help. But frankly, I spend a lot of my time with the music playing and just staring at the walls, zoning out, embracing the hurt.  Working through my issues for the day. Counting calories. Envisioning finish lines. Loving my family. Thinking about my children. I just take the time to brain through a lot of my life, work, issues, and stuff.  I think.

When people say, “I can’t run on a treadmill for more than 20 minutes”—I must say the same thing as the trainer. Why?  Why can’t you?  Do you have a special brand of treadmill that ejects you from the belt after 20 minutes?  Do tiny ninjas come and attack you after 20 minutes? What happens? Why why why?

Of course, we’d all love to ride and run outside in beautiful spring weather.  But that’s not always an option. For me, it’s about the schedule – I can’t ride my bike and run outside at 4:30 or 5:30  am… I must use the trainer or get on the spin bike. 


So in response to “how I survive the boredom” of the trainer and the treadmill, I simply say that I follow the advice of two amazing triathletes—Chrissie and the Monster.  Learn to develop a love of boredom, and a pretty good enjoyment of the pain.


Maybe.  But all I know is that 4 hours in the saddle… make all of my time out of the saddle that much sweeter.



  • Heather

    January 30, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Good stuff! I was thinking about how long you ride in your trainer as I was breaking in my new trainer last night doing 45 minutes feeling like I could do more (it’s all I had time for). It was doable, and as you said a great time to think. Now, 3 hours is an entirely different beast than 45-60 minutes, but I’m getting where you are coming from : ).

  • Kim Possible

    January 30, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    And you have to want it, really really bad.Whatever the goal is, you have to want it, believe in it and see yourself achieving it. That finish line is a beautiful place when you have EARNED it!!! Keep it up SBM

  • deirdre

    January 30, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    So, how does riding inside for hours on end, help u mentally when u have to race outside without all the distractions (i.e.: tv, iPad, family etc).

    • Swim Bike Mom

      January 30, 2013 at 4:26 pm

      Deirdre… I log 150-200 hours OUTSIDE on the bike each year…200 hours on the bike
      seems to prepare me for the 4-7 hours during a race. 🙂 At least I hope.

  • Jackie

    January 30, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    I live up north so trainer rides are the norm for me as well. I highly recommend The Sufferfest video series. Each video addresses a different strength or skill (climbing, speed, pacing, etc.) and are hysterical. Almost (almost!) makes me forget about the pain 🙂

  • Sarah (Shh...Fit Happens)

    January 30, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Great post, I always wonder what others think about when they work out for such long periods of time! I signed up for a 90 mile bike ride once, I was soooo bored training inside on a bike, I just couldnt do it! Consequently, I only made it 40 miles in the event, but atleast there was an open bar at the end (that I got to by bus)! Creative way to get some family time in too!

  • Paulette

    January 30, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Great post! I am one of those can’t stay on the treadmill people…but I suppose I just don’t WANT to. Of course, if it’s the only option I will. 🙂 Way to go on overcoming boredom!

  • Carrie @ Fitness and Frozen Grapes

    January 30, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Just saw this post on Twitter. I’m training for short-distance races (just sprints and Olympics), so my longest trainer ride is two hours during which I listen to music and watch college basketball games on TV. 🙂 I think you’re absolutely right about learning to love the pain. Sure, it’s discomforting, but it also means you’re putting in work!

  • Lori

    January 30, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    I so agree. You have to really really want it. But for me, the sheer terror of, “what if I don’t do this and I’m completely unprepared and I have a terrible race where I will think, omg why didn’t I just DO that workout on the trainer/treadmill?” compels me to keep going. Being unprepared is a deep dark fear of mine, because the only person I got to blame is myself. Gulp.

  • Mary Sue

    January 31, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    Question for you SBM (or others) – I’ll take all the advice I can get!:
    Did you find it hard to switch to aero bars – or did you always ride them? I have been doing sprint tris for 4 years on a road bike, and recently bought my first real tri bike. The saddle is tha ISM Adamo and perfectly comfortable, but I am having a hard time getting find an aero position. I always feel like I am kneeing myself in the gut. Now my gut is bigger than yours, but I am working on that. I did go through a proper bike fit but the angles feel so different. Any advice in moving to aero? You look so comfy on your bike – I’m jealous!

  • Kate

    February 6, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    Oh, this made me laugh! The treadmill this morning was killing me… no amount of music or TV distraction was helping. The next time I feel the urge to bail on the treadmill I’ll look around for ninjas… and then keep going!

  • lydia

    February 7, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    in one of the photos it looks like you have your ipad mounted. can you recommend one? looking to get one on the cheap. thanks, and enjoy the blog!

  • Erin

    February 8, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    I have to have training targets to help break up the monotony. The trainer is GREAT because it is a great tool for strength intervals. The intervals really help the time go by, because you’re focused on that one little interval, not OMG, I have 3 more hours left on this thing.

    I also find that TV shows are good. Movies take a while to build up but with TV shows, they’re on for 45 min and have more going on.

    My max is 4.5 hours. Not because I wanted to, but because I had a 6 hr ride scheduled and it was snowing. I maybe cried at bit when I realized it was snowing. But Ironman is mostly about mental toughness. There is no better tool for mental toughness than 4.5 hrs on the trainer.

  • Molly Nance

    March 3, 2013 at 9:50 am

    Way to get it done. People ask me how I can possibly manage swimming laps for hours at a time without going bonkers. You just DO it. I don’t listen to music because I don’t want to get dependent on it. You can’t listen to tunes in a marathon swim or triathlon, so I don’t train with it. There’s just hours of looking at a black line, so I think about my stroke form, about our next vacation, about our last vacation, about my daughter and how she’s doing in school, about work projects, about anything. And, when the muscles get tired, I think about how “interesting” that feels. I admire your efforts!


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