Monday, March 28, 2011

Can we say goodbye to our trainers until next winter?

In the summer of 2009 I bought a trainer to use whenever time and weather prevented me from riding outdoors. My CycleOps fluid2 trainer has served me well for 1.5 years now, which absolutely blows my mind. Who knew I could stand pedalling so hard to go nowhere? After a very wet winter, I think I'm finally done with trainers until next winter. But I did learn a few tips for trainer workouts that I want to preserve here for future reference. I have lots of teammates who are very strong riders and watching them taught me that dedication and self-discipline are required to succeed in racing. Some of their dedication was epitomized by their ability to perform very hard trainer workouts with astounding regularity. How did they do it? I picked their brains for inspiraton and come up with some very basic tips:

  • Stay cool. I just wear shorts and a headband (with extra headbands in reach) and position my trainer outside where there is the most wind, and in the shade. I keep a couple of hand towels for wiping down sweat. Some day I will buy a strong fan.

  • Rock out. I play lots of rock and heavy metal while on the trainer (never on the road though!). This truly makes the time pass faster. I focus on the lyrics and see if there's a story as a distraction from my gasping breath.

  • I have a very hard time focusing on movies and TV while at threshhold, so I don't bother with that. But I have sometimes watched big-wave surfing DVDs while training indoors and that was kind of helpful. When I buy that fan I may do this more often.

  • Lose track of time. I try not to look at my watch because it seems that time moves verrrrrryyyyy slowly when I do. I'll think I'm 10 minutes into my interval but if I check my watch it says I have only been riding for 1:08 or something. The music helps me forget time a bit too.

  • Spin hard. I always shift into my tallest gear to get the highest inertia from the spinning wheel. I adjust the resistance against the rear tire so my cadence in top gear in my power zone is somewhat low; usually about 60-70 rpm for me. This works much better for me than spinning faster against lower resistance for the same power. And the higher wheel inertia seems to mimic the feel of riding on the road better. (I suspect this is personal though, as everybody seems to have their own ideal cadence; experiment for yourself.)

  • Display current power. Rather than displaying the current interval's average power on my power meter, I set the display to show the current power. That allows me to constantly stay in my target power zone without the power peaks and valleys typical of riding while displaying the average power. (If you only have a herat-rate monitor, start out easy and allow your HR to gradually rise until the very end of each interval. Then save up money for a PM!)

  • Refuel. It's tempting to think that the shorter trainer workouts are less demanding of calories than those longer road rides. That is not true, because the extra time in a road ride is mostly spent rolling down hills, waiting at traffic lights and just getting to and from wherever you are doing your workout. By drinking a bottle of sports drink during my trainer sessions I am able to bang out even 4x20s with confidence.
Heck, now I am even thinking of voluntarily hitting the trainer, even when the weather is nice... how weird is that! The quality of the workouts is so high, the time-savings so very welcome, and the faster recovery may help me become a stronger rider than taking those long rides outside does. Last year I rode 11,438 miles and I intend to reduce that number this year. I believe that will make me faster. We'll see.