Indoor trainers suck and you will quit using it in roughly 90 days, likely much, much sooner.
Modern indoor trainers are extremely expensive, easily costing $3,500 without including the extras which include everything from special mop-up towels to entire basement/person-cave renovations. And of course the time that you waste setting it up, “dialing it in,” coordinating it with whatever program you choose to purchase, and “analyzing the data” is time that will never come again.
The indoor trainer won’t make you fitter, faster, or help with your weight goals. Within the shortest of time spans it will join the treadmill, the dumbbell, the Nautilus, the jump rope, the yoga mat, and every other piece of home exercise equipment in “storage.”
The first problem with indoor trainers, whether smart or dumb, is that they are simply pieces of equipment and they require the magic sauce of “motivation” to use. There is no research I could find on how long people stick with their indoor trainer, but there is massive data on how long people stick with their New Year’s exercise resolutions. One such review, conducted by Bloomberg looking at over 100,000,000 exercise uploads to Strava, shows that these resolutions begin to flag on exactly January 17.
The same review, using Foursquare data, shows that gym participation fares a little better, beginning to crater in mid-February, when data shows that people’s fast food purchases equal their gym attendance. In real words: “Fuck this diet I’m getting a cheeseburger.” None of this is surprising. Americans are obese, lazy, and avoid physical activity whenever possible.
But what does it tell you for your indoor trainer purchase? Nothing good.
That of course is the opposite of what the winter bike/pandemic marketing hokum would have us believe. This article is a perfect example of the silliness that marketers spout, as it makes the preposterous claim that indoor training isn’t horribly boring, and that somehow the new technology makes sitting alone in a room sopping in sweat GOING NOWHERE is analogous to cycling.
The idea here is the same idea with e-bikes, that a thing can produce the special sauce known as “joy” or “anticipation” or “motivation” to exercise, except that in the case of the e-bike, or motorcycle as I call them, at least they are fun. Consider this piece of nonsense:
We’ve seen the technology used by the apps and the trainers themselves evolve at warp speed, and indoor training today is unrecognisable compared to what it was only a few years ago. The result is people are getting faster year-round, by riding their bike nowhere fast.CyclingNews
Indoor training is unrecognizable? What does that even mean? It’s indoors. It’s a stationary bike. I recognize these flagellation devices from 1984 when I bought my first and last turbo trainer. And people are getting faster year-round by riding their bike nowhere fast? Which people? And for how long do they keep it up? And is it some kind of infinite thing, where every year you’re faster until you are winning the Tour and ultimately outsprinting the speed of light? Or does it flatten out, as physics would suggest? Or do you finally quit because you hate it, as every gym owner knows and has known since the first gym was founded?
All of the benefits of training indoors are trotted out: It’s like a video game, it lets you do structured workouts, it allows you greater intensity, it allows better coordination with your coach, you generally won’t get hit by a car or fall off while doing it, it’s efficient, you can still be home and around your family (???), won’t wear down your tires, blah blah blah.
But no one bothers to answer this question: How long before you quit using it? Answer–January 17.
What is silliest, or “That’s dumb,” as Manslaughter would say, is that the purchase of an indoor trainer is predicated on racing fitness and race-prep activities like intervals, structured workouts, and simulated racing. I don’t know much about indoor training, but I know a lot about outdoor racing, and here’s a fun fact: Hardly anyone has the motivation to continue racing for more than a few years. It’s too fucking hard and it’s too miserable even when you are doing all your training outside. The idea that you need a training device to hit some imaginary fitness/speed/race conditioning that you are never going to use, while neglecting the fact that virtually everyone quits racing after a few seasons, is absurd.
And what’s worse, even if there were a core of racers who really bought these things and used them to sharpen the knife for Paris-Roubaix or the local crit, they are the wild, longest-tail exceptions. The great unwashed herd of indoor trainer purchasers are overweight, undertrained, and going to stay that way whether they buy a gym membership, a Wahoo, or a new set of sweat pants.
Before you sneer at the great unwashed herd, consider that they are the vast majority. And for the vast majority, who will never bump shoulders in a race, indoor cycling itself is probably not even what they need. Many women find after they fall in love with Peloton or SoulCycle that an activity focusing exclusively on the buttocks, thighs, and calves, leads to much larger buttocks, thighs, and calves. That’s fine but it’s nowhere to be found in the fine print. How many people would sign up for Peloton with this pitch: “We’ll grow your ass in 30 days or money back!”
People buying a trainer for weight loss will also be chagrined to learn that cycling is a poor choice for burning calories unless it is done in a way to put your muscles into oxygen debt. This is hard to do in a 60-minute spin class or indoor trainer session unless the workout is specifically tailored to you and you have the special sauce of motivation–and guess what? If you don’t have the motivation to get out on your bike when it’s cold, what are the chances that you can do a set of fat-burning intervals four times a week? Well, you can, but statistically not past January 17.
At least one fitness trainer is willing to talk about his gym’s numbers: 90% of all people quit after three months. Why? Many reasons, but in the final analysis for your indoor trainer purchase, all you need to know is that 90% quit and you’d be a fool to plunk down $3k in the hope that you’re the 1 in 10 rather than the 9 in 10. The adult OBESITY rate stands at 42%, and when you include simply being overweight the number swells to 73%. This isn’t because Americans fail to own an indoor trainer, it’s because of a capitalist-corporatist system that supports and encourages over consumption and depresses anything militating to physical activity. “Car society” means “sedentary society.” Oh, and don’t forget the fucking alcohols.
Buying home fitness equipment to achieve a goal has nothing to do with achieving fitness and everything to do with your psychological makeup, as shown by researchers who concluded that it’s not the presence or absence of fitness equipment but, shockingly, the presence or absence of motivation.
Meeting your own expectations also influences whether you stick with exercise. Study participants who were satisfied with the results of their exercise plan were twice as likely to keep it up as those who were not. While believing that you can do it and being happy with your results may seem to be obvious parts of success, researchers say that people often fail to take these psychological issues into account when they start an exercise plan.https://www.the-dispatch.com/news/20090106/with-the-right-motivation-that-home-gym-makes-sense
What is your confidence in your ability to stick to your exercise program when you’re on vacation, when you’re not feeling well, when you’re busy?” asked David M. Williams, assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University, who led the exercise study. “The message isn’t that home exercise equipment doesn’t work. It’s just one very small piece of the puzzle, because it might make it easier to exercise, but they still have to motivate themselves to do it.”David M. Williams, Alpert School of Medicine, Brown University
Research and experience strongly suggest that if you lack the motivation to, you know, ride your bicycle, you’re also going to lack motivation to train indoors, and even if you do, you aren’t going to do it for very long. So why the indoor trainer craze? Why is it that Peloton can’t sell its trainers and 3-year memberships fast enough, and every shill on BikeRadar and CyclingNews is jerking off to unvarnished publicity materials furnished by indoor trainer companies, with zero reportage, zero critical writing, zero critical anything?
Because if there’s one thing that sells in America, it’s stuff that promises to make losing weight and getting fit easy, preferably something you can do while watching TV and eating.
Too bad we have those damned bicycles rusting away in the garage. They are an ugly reminder that fitness and health are cheap, at your fingertips, and that without motivation they’re just things.