The northern hemisphere winter is drawing to an end and as a bear emerges from hibernation, I am starting to prepare to leave the torture chamber for fresh air and outdoor cycling. I realise this sounds like the soft option. There are rules about this stuff! The ever popular Rules 5 and 9 would indicate that bad weather riding makes you a badass. Period. However after putting myself through nearly 3 consecutive months on indoor only riding I think this needs to be revised.
I have been following a training plan set out by TrainerRoad. All my rides were done at the local gym on a WattBike and all rides done during a working week, Monday to Friday. Here is what I have learnt for this terrible experience.
- Riding an IDT 5 days a week requires more dedication and focus than riding outdoors
Riding indoors is not fun, not even in the ‘I rode 2 hours in the rain, coz I’m tough’ kind of way. There is nothing to distract you from your suffering. No scenery to look at. No wind (no matter how cold or wet) to blow in your face. The thought of spending an hour or even 90 minutes on the WattBike come Friday evening is enough to bring the strongest to their knees. Rule 9 is invalid
- The local Gym is not set up for your Suffering
Gyms are for posing. Temperatures are set to allow gym goers to parade around in strappy tops and short shorts. So that in the course of a ’60’ minute workout put their muscles under maybe 10 minutes of stress and not get cold. This however, is not conducive to 60 minutes at 88% to 94% FTP sessions. Heat and lack of ventilation are killers. Bikes are also for general use (obvious) so everyday it’s the struggle of pairing power and cadence meters, re-setting seat height, saddle position bar height and position. Bikes are not loved, like your steed at home, so sometimes you end up on the ‘dud’
You need a goal to survive the IDT winter hibernation
Without a clear reason to do this to yourself, and do it properly, you will fail. Emerging after 3 months poorly prepared for the spring season, over weight and having wasted those precious hours of your life. For me, an early spring sportive in Mallorca has been the beacon and guiding light. The thought of not finishing the 312km has been sitting at the back of my mind on the days that have been really difficult to start (and there are many of those!)
So how can you survive the IDT?
Get a training plan that sets power targets with structured workouts and sustainable weekly hours
I started over eager, trying to knock out 2 to 3 90 min sessions per week, some may have stronger will power than me, but after a long day in the office, 90 minutes on the IDT is even harder. If this sounds like you, then stick with 45 to 60 min sessions at the beginning. TrainerRoad is excellent for this, you will also need an Ant+ Dongle
Get into a routine
Once you have you plan do it every day at the same time. Remove choice from the equation as this provides the opportunity to deviate, loose focus and fail. If you are a morning person, set the alarm, get up and get on the bike. Everyday. No excuse. Even if you only do the first 10 minutes of the session. If, like me, you prefer to do your session after work, leave on time, schedule the session in to your diary, promise to look at any work after you are done (it’s only an hour, you are probably can swing it).
Learn to art of focus
You are going to be uncomfortable. It will be hotter than you would like and possibly the bike set up is not going to be as comfortable as your bike at home. This is a field day for your brain giving you excuses to quite. Don’t do it. Focus in this case is the ability to stop thinking, quiet the mind and get the job done. Focus in passive, it requires no thought or it is thinking. The breath is a great place to learn to focus. Working hard, expelling air from your lungs, gives you something to focus on. Strong exhaling breaths to keep you in the zone. For those who want to learn more about focus and quieting the mind, Headspace is the place to go, but more on that later.
Beat yourself up, but only on the bike
You are going to have good and bad days. Some days you won’t be able to get your focus right, others you will not be able to get the legs going. Listen to your body, not your brain, learn to tell the difference between the two. When you have really had enough let it go and move on to the next session. If you have a good, sustainable plan in place this should be the exception. If it’s not, re-look at your plan and adjust.
Track your progress as you won’t have any of the usual markers
As you won’t be going out on club rides, it’s hard to gauge your current performance. Use the weekly TSS build figures in TrainerRoad and your fitness and freshness chart on Strava to gauge gains. This is also a great tool to help refocus when motivation drops. As a serial Strava user, there are little to no rides that weren’t captured and uploaded. Looking back at my current fitness score I can see how I am doing relative to how I have done. This gives me context as I remember how I felt at this fitness level from previous rides. The TSS build also helps quantify my stress load showing that the workouts are doing something again relative to other periods.
My time in hibernation is coming to an end. Here is to a productive season ahead!