7 Ways to Make Indoor Cycling Feel Easier

Awaken Your Inner Coach

Remind yourself how strong and capable you are. Remember that you are an athlete who has conquered numerous physical challenges—tell yourself that you own this ride! In other words, harness the power of positive self-talk. A 2014 study from the U.K. investigated the effects of positive self-talk on ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) and endurance performance in cyclists who rode to the point of exhaustion: When the cyclists used motivational self-talk, their RPE was lower and their endurance performance was higher.

Look at Happy Pictures Before You Ride


When people viewed photos of happy faces before cycling, they rode significantly longer and felt like they were exerting a lower effort as they cycled to the point of exhaustion than when they viewed sad faces, according to a 2014 study from the U.K. The altered perception of effort and the altered endurance performance stem from subliminal visual cues that relate to mood and behavior. So check out some happy faces before you ride!

Have a Well-Timed Cup of Coffee

Java junkies, rejoice! Having caffeine before a 30-minute cycling session can make the ride feel easier on your breathing, your legs, and overall, according to a 2013 study from Middle Tennessee State University. In another study, researchers from the U.K. had cyclists perform a protocol of riding 2 minutes at 100 percent maximal power output followed by 1 minute of “all out” effort—very high-intensity intervals! Those who consumed caffeine before the intervals had a lower RPE despite putting out a greater “all out” effort during the 1-minute segment. In other words, caffeine can rev up your performance while making it feel easier.

Listen to Music You Like

It’s not just a pleasant distraction. Doing a high-intensity cycling workout to tunes you enjoy can help you perform better and make the effort feel easier than when you do the same ride to music you don’t like, according to a 2010 study from Brazil. So make your own playlists for solo rides and look for indoor cycling classes with instructors whose taste in music is similar to yours.

Make It a Visual Experience

Believe it or not, viewing a video and listening to music while you’re cycling can help you work harder while feeling like the effort is actually easier. When researchers in Taiwan instructed cyclists to “bike as hard as possible” for 12 minutes under four different conditions, it was while listening to music and watching a video that the cyclists exercised harder (based on their heart rate and the distance they covered), and yet they had lower ratings of perceived exertion than those who only listened to music, solely watched a video or had neither distraction. You may be even better off if you opt for green scenery: Research from the U.K. found that when indoor cyclists rode while viewing video footage of a green rural cycling course, their RPE was lower and their mood level was higher than while watching the same video with a gray or red filter on it.

Snack on Raisins

During an intense, 120-minute cycling session, munching on sundried raisins every 20 minutes can improve endurance and power output while reducing ratings of perceived exertion, according to a 2011 study at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. The performance-enhancing, effort-easing effects were as dramatic as those found with Sports Jelly Beans but the cyclists rated the raisins more palatable and they’re certainly inexpensive and convenient.

Schedule Your Cycling Workout for the Morning


In a 2014 study from the University of Cape Town in South Africa, researchers found that when trained cyclists cycled at 60, 80, and 90 percent of their maximum heart rate at five different times of day (6 a.m., 10 a.m., 2 p.m., 6 p.m., and 10 p.m.), they reported higher ratings of perceived exertion when cycling at all three intensities in the evening (both 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.) than during the other exercise sessions. This perceived difference was despite the fact that there was no variability in their power output, speed, or cadence. In other words, the same workload simply felt considerably easier in the morning hours of power

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