"I would rather stare at a blank white wall and surf the inner recesses of my mind than read a book" - Arthur Sheehan (with whom, one year after he had uttered this tour de force, I had an absolutely compelling discussion about "The Crying of Lot 49")
Unlike a lot of other people, I don't have that one seminal trainer episode where I did three hours or seven hours on the trainer and got completely torqued out. The longest I've ever been on a trainer was almost two and a half hours, and it was because the workout segments didn't add up to their advertised sum. Nonetheless, it was a challenging enough workout and I felt okay enough that I just got through it.
This is not to say that I particularly enjoy the trainer. I don't. Most of the enjoyment of cycling for me comes from seeing things (although the enormous dead bird of prey that Chris and I saw on River Road on Sunday wasn't exactly the coolest sight), going fast, banking turns, having good conversations with interesting people, etc. None of these happen on a trainer.
This year, I am being assisted by a "coach." I put coach in quotes because in actual fact we are more like mutual guinea pigs; he has experience and wants to see if he likes coaching, while I trust his input and feel confident that I'll be able to give him good objective feedback on how things are going. The best thing in this relationship so far has been the efficiency of workouts. Get on, warm up, do a couple of intervals, cool down, get off. I really don't have enough time on the trainer to really climb the walls, but there's enough intensity there to provide real benefit. No January hero in the making here. There's actually a very deliberate intent to temper my enthusiasm and impatience, which is only compounded by last year's accident and subsequent extended break from cycling.
So, apart from not spending too darn much time on the trainer, what helps me get through the time I do spend on it:
1. Surfing the inner recesses of my mind. When I'm not working at a level that requires a lot of concentration to maintain, I just like to get quality thinking done. I spend a lot of time in action and conflict at work and get little to no time to just plug into thoughts, which is something I crave.
2. Zoning in to my body. I like to do this particularly during hard intervals. Focus on breathing and how it affects heart rate. Isolate specific muscles and get every bit of feedback I can from them. Stuff like that.
3. Recent race videos. I can't do the old ones for whatever reason, but the newer ones I get into. The crappy thing about these things can be when a bunch of guys who are now suspended are making the race. I watched the stage before Alpe D'Huez from this year's Tour not long ago, and Schumacher was all over the place. So was Kohl. CERA works, I guess.
4. Race Day with Robbie Ventura. As many times as I watch this thing, I still enjoy it. Probably it has a lot to do with it reminding me of how hard racing can be, how you have to force yourself to dig and light the fire even when you really don't want to.
5. Visualization. Sometimes I'll just imagine that I'm riding one of the courses we race on around here. Walkersville is one I enjoy in real life and in my mind. I find it easy to pass 20 minutes riding this course in my mind.
6. Variety. More than any individual thing that gets me through the time on the trainer, having several different tools in the arsenal makes it work. When one gets boring, bail on it and move to the other.
Of course when all else fails you can watch American Flyers, starring the only girl from Baywatch (with a brief topless bit even) who'd ever been a member of the IBTC (Itty Bitty Titty Committee - now you know).