I am no stranger to grueling indoor training rides. During my competitive career, sometimes I would opt for two weeks of tough indoor sessions to avoid a trans-Atlantic flight for a training camp. While I would often question this decision mid-indoor training ride (some of those efforts included spending four to five hours on the bike), I was always thankful to have a few extra weeks of normalcy before leaving home for an upcoming season.
Having the right kind of space to do those grueling sessions is really important. As we head into the winter, many triathletes are contemplating setting up some sort of a home gym. Forced to adapt to a new normal with the COVID-19 pandemic restricting training options, I am envious of those with a designated room, or corner, in their home where they can set up a bike trainer or yoga mat without having to rearrange the entire living room. It is nice to have a dedicated home training setup (as was the case when I lived with my parents), but now that I’m living in a one bedroom Toronto apartment with two people and a German Shepherd, it’s going to be hard to explain to my girlfriend why, in addition to the multiple bikes, we will soon have cycling trainer tucked away in a corner.
One thing I have learnt during this pandemic is that almost any space can be rearranged to allow you to sneak in a workout. Whether it is setting up a trainer or using that yoga mat for a micro circuit, I have found ways to make use of a tiny training setup. The essentials include: a number of yoga mats, blocks, resistance bands, free weights and an ottoman for dips and pushups. The final notable mention in our tiny home gym is a wall for those dreaded wall sits. I learnt over the lockdown during some virtual Pilates classes that you do not need much room to really suffer.
Individuals set up their training dens according to their needs, but one essential for Canadian triathletes has to be a bike trainer or stationary bike to get those winter cycling kilometers done. These days, with so many using Zwift or other online training platforms, making sure that you have access to a powerful tablet or computer has become a must for your workout space, too. Even if you’re not going to be connecting with others online, make sure you have a decent set of headphones so you can at least listen to music or a podcast while you’re working out.
Those who can fit a treadmill into their workout space enjoy an added bonus. Other essentials include an assortment of free-weights, a yoga/stretching station and any other cross-training tools that help keep you moving through the winter months.
While public gyms and training studios will be forced to limit capacity this winter, many training centres have introduced virtual Zoom cycling workouts, which provides a great way for athletes to stay connected. I’ve seen similar comradery and community in the Yoga and Pilates community, too. Being prepared to go virtual is shaping up to be the best way to stay fit over the winter, from connecting for a virtual workout with some friends or signing up for some races on platforms like Zwift.
With that in mind, a tablet or laptop computer has become a must to be able to connect.
As we head into the winter months, there is no better time to figure out what extra pieces of equipment will make a difference to your home-training setup.
Sean Mackinnon is a former national-team cyclist and regular contributor to Triathlon Magazine Canada