We’ve come to the end of the time of the year I affectionately refer to as Dream Season. With this year’s spectacular lack of snow Nordic skiing never quite got going, and exercise moved indoors. It’s in my subterranean cycling cave where I dream of the season to come, and fondly remember the season that was.
Riding indoors on a trainer or on rollers is a means to an end. Ask most people about indoor training…and the word FUN isn’t the first word that gets mentioned. Is there an alternative to sinking into a catatonic state while pedaling? I say, YES. We need to think of riding on the road and indoor stationary riding as two very different activities that happen to involve a bicycle. Clamped to a stationary frame, a bicycle becomes a piece of exercise equipment. Why muddy the waters by comparing this to road cycling? Once you get past this, you can appreciate indoor training for what it is – rather than curse it for what it ain’t.
It wasn’t so long ago that the Elders of the Cycling Tribe declared indoor training as merely a shadow of riding outdoors – a mockery of real effort and real results. Training methodology has certainly improved since the days when they rolled out with a baguette and a hunk of cheese in the jersey pocket. Most definitely the equipment has improved, and better tools make for better results.
That said, I’m a believer in indoor training: not because it’s fun, per se, but more because it gets tangible results. My love for the bike compels me to use this tool who’s chief virtues are focus and intensity. Watching Zombie Apocalypse for the sixth time while mindlessly grinding along at 15 mph doesn’t begin to tap the potential of indoor riding. We need something for the brain to do, as well as the body. What’s called for is the antidote to mindless work. We need a plan that varies the effort and invites concentration.
The undisputed king of plans for indoor cycling is TrainerRoad. With a laptop computer, a $29 USB receiver, heart rate monitor, and ANT+ sensors on your bike, you can train with remarkably accurate virtual power. Let me show you a screen shot of one of my sessions:
The vertical height of the blue blocks is power in watts, and the width is duration in minutes. The valleys are recovery periods. At the top center you’ll see a countdown timer of the interval with elapsed time below it. There are also data fields for pulse, cadence, target power and actual power. [Click on the picture to get a higher resolution image] You watch your workout in real time on the computer screen. How cool is that? Compatibility info can be found here. Features can be found here.
With a variable resistance trainer like my Cycleops Mag Pro, you can perform structured intervals that are hard to duplicate on the road. You can train a specific weakness, like climbing out of the saddle or high cadence power. You can easily target the aerobic zone for base building in the early season. An indoor trainer is also an ideal tool for improving pedaling dynamics. Take away traffic, road debris, steering, braking, combative dogs, wind and other riders, and what’s left? GLORIOUSLY SPECIFIC TRAINING FOR THE REAL THING.
TrainerRoad offers a really wide range of indoor training plans to match the goals of cyclists. I hit the road this spring with an FTP of 331 watts: which has translated into being able to hold 20-21 mph on rolling terrain for 30 minutes at a time.
I’m a TrainerRoad Brand Ambassador, and would be happy to send you a code for a month of free service. Give it a try, and let me know what you think!