For cyclists, February, not April, is the cruelest month. That adage is doubly true for cyclists in Canada. Trainer bound for months already, the luckiest Canuck riders will be indoors for least another month. (Save it, Vancouver.) Time to cue up yet another race video as you do another ride to nowhere, right? The only problem is, you’ve seen Alberto Contador launch his attack as Andy Schleck drops his chain so many times by this point, you are left only with a stomach full of “meh.”

So the question becomes, what to do to distract yourself from the monotony of the trainer? Downton Abbey is not going to cut it. House of Cards or Breaking Bad are pretty good if you are just plodding along, but it’s too hard to pay close attention to plot twists and turns while focusing on keeping the wattage high during interval workouts.

The answer? Action films. But not just any action films, Asian action films. Action sequences are a natural complement to high-intensity workouts. Somehow watching dudes beat each other to a pulp makes the interval feel that little bit easier and makes it go by a little faster. By sacrificing things such as dialogue or coherent plots, Asian action films are able to pack in more action like no other genre. The brief interludes between action sequences are just long enough to catch your breath, chug some water and prepare mentally for the next set of intervals.

While on the trainer, terrible dialogue, bad acting and paper-thin or non-existent plots are not an issue. You are too busy trying not to throw up to notice the terrible dialogue or acting. The paper-thin plot means you won’t be confused or miss something important if you stop paying attention here or there during your sets to focus on keeping your watts up. In fact, you can skip the obligatory preamble on these films and go straight to the action for your workout, and you will still be able to follow along just fine.

This winter, I’ve done some rigorous testing with many movies while riding the trainer. Below are three of the best. The Karate Kid’s got nothing on these guys.

Ong Bak

  • Thai gangsters steal a priceless artifact from a small village. Luckily, Thai action star Tony Jaa is a resident of the village. (All Asian villages have at least one bad-ass martial artist. It’s a rule.) and is sent to the big city to retrieve it from the gangsters. Much fighting ensues. The jaw-dropping action and sheer athleticism will power you through the toughest interval. The hilariously bad cartoon villain (he speaks through a voicebox!) will take your mind off the fact that you only have a 30-second rest before the start of the next interval.

    For trainer viewing The non-stop action starts at around the 30-minute mark. Start the movie 15 minutes in if you want to have a 15-minute warmup or adjust accordingly depending on your plan.

    Flash Point

  • No, not the CTV series. A rogue Hong Kong cop who happens to be amazing at martial arts (of course!) and his undercover partner take on vicious Vietnamese gangster brothers who are also amazing at martial arts (of course).

    For trainer viewing This one is a bit light on action, and heavy on setup for the first hour, compared to the other two recommendations. But the last half hour is some of the best continuous action anywhere, perfect for a 20-minute threshold test or workout. Cue it up at the 55-minute mark, good for an extra 5 watts for your FTP.

    The Raid: Redemption

  • An elite SWAT team goes into a heavily fortified building to retrieve a powerful, and wanted, crime boss because what else do you do with a SWAT team? Things go pear shaped quickly (of course!). Our hero has to fight single-handedly to save his team and apprehend the crime boss.

    For trainer viewing Start this one at the beginning. There are barely 5 minutes of setup before the action starts. Then it’s non-stop till the credits roll. Save this film for your longest, hardest workout.


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