I thought I should post and update on my use of Trainer Road and my progress since my first post on my beginning to use it.
Earlier this week I finished up my first 6 week training plan, the Sweet Spot Base – Mid Volume I, and have started on my second 6 week plan, the Sweet Spot Base – Mid Volume II. I have been fairly religious in my schedule and only had a few instances where I needed to shuffle days mostly due to holidays and other events.
To say that I have seen an improvement would be an understatement. Towards the end of the first 6 weeks I could feel things getting easier and sure enough when I took my second FTP test as the beginning of this week I made a 10% improvement in my power output over my first test! Of course now with an increased FTP the workouts just got that much harder and I’m definitely suffering more on the harder workouts but it’s worth it knowing it is making me stronger on the bike.
Now I can’t honestly say that all that 10% was done just on training alone since I may have left a little on the table during my first FTP test since it was my first time testing like that and really wasn’t sure what type of power I could put out consistently for 2×8 minutes or the fact that I have fine tuned my position on the bike ever so slightly – funny how 1-3hrs in the saddle will lead you to improvements. But the fact is that the majority of my gains came though my hard work and time in the saddle.
Some of you may ask what has been the hardest part of the training so far… Isolated Leg Training or ILT’s as they are referred to. This is where you unclip one foot and just work on pedaling with one leg at a time. It’s hard, trust me. My left leg is the weakest so that one always burns sooner than the right but like my FTP gains I am able to pedal 15-20 seconds longer than I was at the beginning which is almost at the same duration as the right leg.
What is my favorite part of the training you ask? Either it’s Form Sprints where you produce a very high cadence for a short period of time (and it’s been at low power so far) and watch your form. You don’t want to pedal faster than you can without bouncing or knocking. Or my other favorite is the standing drills where you practice getting out of the saddle while keeping constant power. This requires a slowing of your cadence, changing of gears and smooth transitions out and back into the saddle. Depending on the workout sometimes they are 10 seconds or upwards of a minute. On the real long rides these are my favorite just because it provides me some saddle relief.
So all in all even though I haven’t been able to get outside on the bike thanks to Mother Nature, I’m still getting in some quality saddle time thanks to Trainer Road. It has really transformed my off season riding.
For my whole life I have never been able to touch my toes. I have often been told that it was because of tight hamstrings but I never really thought much of it as it really didn’t affect my daily exercise and activities. In my effort to become a better cyclist I have been stretching after my rides to stay flexible but even after months of stretching my hamstrings I was no closer to touching my toes than I was on day 1. I started to research the subject and as it turns out my issue isn’t with tight hamstrings after all it’s with not properly bending at my hips and instead trying to bend at my lower back. The “fix” is easy as a specific set of stretching exercises that had me touching my toes in a matter of minutes. Basically the progression is retraining your brain/body into accepting it can do this. This video explains the progression very well:
In case you are a skeptic here is another video showing how it works on someone who could not touch their toes beforehand.
Now I still have some tight hamstrings but I can at least touch my toes now. I still need to do the progressions after a day or so but that should subside once I retrain my body.
It’s been a while since I’ve made a post so I’ll use this last post of the year to bring you all up to date.
I haven’t been able to do much, actually none, outdoor riding since sometime in November. I get home too late and on the weekends either it’s too cold or I have other commitments to attend to. But that is not to say I haven’t been on my bike. I discovered Trainer Road and have been riding almost 5 days a week on one of their training plans. I’ve had an indoor trainer for years but never used it more than a few times in the off season. Cycling videos helped break the monotony but something was still lacking. Trainer Road changed all that for me and I can’t wait until my next session on the bike. It only costs $10 to try for one month so if you have a trainer and can’t seem to get into using it I’d recommend trying one of the training plans for a month. I’m finishing up 5 weeks of a 6 week plan and I know I’m a better rider for doing it. Plus since the workouts vary in time from 30 minutes to 3 hours(!!!) I have also been able to dial in my bike fit. Riding 3 hours outdoors is vastly different than on a trainer where there are no stop signs, red lights or coffee stops that allow you to get out of the saddle for short periods of time. I’ve made very subtle tweaks to my position to where I can stay comfortable on the bike for even the longest training sessions. That just translates in to even more comfort on the bike even for the shorter durations.
Even though I am enjoying my time on the trainer this winter I do hope to make it out on the roads again soon. Apparently I was a good boy this year and Santa brought me the Castelli Alpha Jacket in red so I’m even more prepared for the cold than I was before! I can’t wait to try it out.
Trainers aside this has been my best year on the bike ever. I’ve always rode here and there but this is my first full year on the road after many years of sporadic mountain biking and I’ve loved every mile of it. I won’t bore you with my stats but this little video from Strava should fill you in on the details.
Let me briefly talk about hydration for a minute, which will be especially useful on this New Years Eve. We’ve all heard and have maybe even used Skratch Labs before (I personally love their hydration mixes and have both cook books!) but did you know you can make a
margarita Skratcharita with their hydration mix? Neither did I until Competitive Cyclist sent out the video recipe yesterday. Now I love me a good margarita and this is a nice take on an old friend.
Now with all that said, I want to thank those of you who read this blog and wish you all a very Happy New Year!
Since my last post I have been enjoying riding in 50-ish degree weather with the occasional dip into the high 40s with a bit of wind. Nothing that some arm & knee warmers, along with a good wind vest/jacket and some embro for the exposed legs couldn’t handle.
That was until this weekend when the temps dropped and the high of the day was about 39 degrees, although the rides started much closer to the 35 degree range. This mean full leg warmers, long sleeve jersey, warm jacket, toe covers, gloves and skull cap.
Saturday I managed about 20 miles with a midway stop for some hot coffee. I actually rode to a nearby park which has some open fields and single track in the woods to practice some ‘crossing skills. It was a bright sunny day out so it really didn’t feel all that cold out when you were in the sun.
Sunday, however, was a different story. The temps were about the same but the sun was hiding and it really felt brutal cold out there. After about 13 miles my toes were protesting, the light insulation of the toe covers just were not cutting it sans the sun. I called it quits earlier than anticipated but it was still a good ride exploring some new roads and climbs. This the highlights my need for some proper insulated shoe covers as well as insulated gloves. I have windstopper long finger gloves with a light insulation but while my digits weren’t suffering like my toes they could of been warmer.
Today we are supposed to be back into the 40-50 degree weather but it’s raining cats and dogs outside. Monday is usually my rest day anyway so no great loss. Unfortunately the temps wont stay that high for long as tomorrow the “real-feel” temp will be in the teens. When it’s that cold I’ll pass on the outdoor rides and will be hitting the trainer instead. I have a DVD of a century ride in CO which is fun to ride to, but I really can’t wait until I can use Zwift!
Over the weekend I participated in the Ride & Run to Remember charity event that benefits the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund. If you are unfamiliar with that fund I suggest you head over here to check it out. But as you might guess it goes to benefit the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and since I’m involved in LE it’s something I like to support to honor our fallen brothers & sisters.
I had signed up to be a “Road Warrior” which would involve me running the 5K and then doing the 55 mile ride the following day. My girlfriend decided she wanted to participate but due to an injury she wouldn’t be able to run but we decided on the 2K walk instead. Unfortunately the day of the run/walk it decided to rain. Plus with us being over the bridge from the start and not exactly sure where we were going we sorta missed the start. What’s the saying about best laid plans? Even still we still walked anyway even if it wasn’t “official” and covered way more than 2K. After all we were in DC and there is a lot of national treasures to see!
Thankfully the day of the ride Mother Nature decided to give us a reprieve from the rain and let the sun shine even if it was a little cold. There was no being late for this as the hotel we were staying at was located across the street from the start/finish line. 55 miles isn’t the longest ride I’ve done but I was still a little nervous going into it since I have never rode in this area before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The elevation profile estimated about 2800′ of ascent so it was a manageable elevation, especially for a northern boy (heck, I’ve done 30 mile rides with more elevation than that). At the start we got a few pre-ride photos along with a nice introduction and singing of the National Anthem. With that out of the way, the sirens went off and we were on our way!
I wont bore you with excruciating details of the ride but it was a great route in a nice area and I found it very flat. It was funny listening to people from the area complain about the “hills” and I’m looking around saying to myself “what hill?” Actually there was a nasty headwind for about 1/3 of the ride that was far worse than any hill out there. There were 4 rest stops on the route and I made good used of each of them (i.e. used the loo). I went with my typical on the bike nutrition but did help myself to some Kind bars they had at a couple of the stops. By the end of the ride I was still feeling good and not suffering at all. I could of probably pushed the pace a bit more but ended up finish with a respectable 15.1mph average with a final mileage of 59 miles.
Can’t wait to do it again next year!
With that I leave you with a few photos.