Showing posts with label cycling. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cycling. Show all posts

Monday, 1 April 2013

Hour of Power on the Road

Had a day off yesterday because my legs felt quite tired after Saturday's 3 hour ride. I only had an hour to spare so rather than sit on the turbo I got out on the roads for an Hour of Power around my local loop. I last did this on 2nd March when I set a new PB of 313W.

The long rides of last week's training camp have affected the way I perceive time when I ride now; previously an hour felt like a long session on the turbo, now an hour on the road feels quite short and time seems to fly by.

I'd planned to set 275W as a base between the 450W+ 'bursts of power' but I was soon up to my old tricks and letting my power sit around 300W at base. After 20 minutes I'd averaged 311W and then I went on to maintain this out to 40 minutes when I started to flag a little. With 10 minutes to go my power had dropped to 308W average to I upped my game and even put in a couple of extra bursts in the closing minutes to get my power back up to a respectable 311W average for the hour, just 2W off my last session. Powertaps have an accuracy of approx +/- 1.5% so 2W is really neither here nor there.

Looking at the data, my HR seems a lot more stable and less peaky. This may just be a normal variation between different sessions or it may be a result of the distance and time of the training camp, time will tell. Average HR was 160bpm (163 last time), and NP was the same at 317W. So I probably haven't gained any fitness as a result of the camp, but I haven't lost any either!

Red = HR, Black = power

Saturday, 30 March 2013

3 hour hard road ride

After a fairly busy and successful road camp, I thought I'd have a couple of days off to recover to reap the benefits of the hard work. After all, the fitness improvements are realised through recovery, without recovery there are lots of problems; injury, burn-out etc.

I managed to get a free morning so I headed out at 0730 for a 60 miler covering a lot of the training camp roads. It was a lovely calm morning and the sun was slowly thawing the last of the overnight frost as I got to the main road and started.

I wanted to set a fairly conservative 270W for as long as I could maintain and I fully expected to be able to hold this for 3 hours as it was only 86% of my FTP and I'd had a lot of training and recovery recently too. The first hour was fine and I paced myself through the hills and kept out of the red so I didn't suffer too much later. At the turn I'd managed 271W and I was surprised to see my average speed at a healthy 18.6 mph despite the hills which normally reduce average speed, especially when there are so many potholes on them.

Throughout the ride I was very aware that I needed to keep eating and set a nutrition routine of a drink every 20 mins and something to eat every 40.  Hopefully I'd avoid 'bonking'.

After 2 hours I started to feel somewhat tired and my legs felt quite heavy, and it stayed that way until the end. The second hour had seen my average power reduced to 265W and the 3rd was a measly 245W. It wasn't a 'bonk' like I've had before, just a gradual decline in power but luckily it was on the flat on the way home. So much for the good intentions of 270W for all 3 hours!

I got home a couple of minutes short of the planned 3 hours so I stayed out until the clock ticked over the 3 hours at 58 miles at an average speed of 19.4mph. This was better than expected, especially as I'd done 90% of the ride on the hoods so I wasn't exactly trying to keep my speed up. By the time I got home I'd ridden for 3:05 without stopping, probably a record for me, and my back let me know it hadn't enjoyed it.

After the ride I looked at it on Golden Cheetah and realised that I'd set a PB for power between 90 mins and 3 hours, which is nice. Compared to the training camp rides, this speed and average power was above what we'd achieved as a group. For example, on day 6 a group of 9 of us achieved an average of 18.1mph at an average power of 178W (mainly due to the benefits of hiding from the wind behind other riders).

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Training Camp

After a winter on the turbo I was grateful to ba able to have a week off work to run a training camp in the wonderful Yorkshire countryside. Fortunately, while much of the rest of the country suffered from blizzards, we only had occasional snow showers despite the strong easterly winds and near-rfreezing temperatures.

I split the riders into 3 groups according to ability (and training objectives) and planned routes accordingly.

In the week I rode 368 miles (86 on the longest day) in 22 hours and climbed 15,200ft (5,750 on the same long day).

I'm hoping to have gained some endurance by riding further and longer in a week than I previously covered in 3 weeks of turbo work. Average intensity was only 0.699, so it wasn't a constant beasting, and riding in a group of 8-9 means there's a lot of time off the front in relatively easy power zones.

This was my third camps and again I noticed that the first day seemed to weaken my legs, the second day really hurt them and on day 3 I was quite weak. After a recovery day (due to weather) on day 4, I felt quite strong for the rest of the week.

Hopefully a couple of days of recovery will allow my body to convery the effort into fitness and I'll feel some real benefit. Maybe I need another 20 minute power test to see if it made a difference.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Revolver Road

Next in the series of indoor sessions completed on the road is Sufferfest's Revolver, essentially 16 1 min intervals at 133% FTP (400W for me) with 1 min recovery intervals between. I've done it a couple of times on the turbo and it gets a bit challenging around the 12th interval. Today I planned to do 2 sets of 10 intervals and hit a Strava segment in-between, the one I failed to beat yesterday.

HR=red, Power=black

The first bunch of intervals went well but started to grate a bit towards the end, but I was regularly exceeding the target 400W and regularly around 420W. HR was always under control and the first 20 minutes averaged 290W (xPower 314W and NP 340W).

A short 6 mins recovery later I was lined up getting ready to hit the Strava segment start point (traffic lights) at full speed. It started well, but I caught the second set of lights and that killed my overall time but I did knock 20 secs off my previous best time and I moved from 6th to 5th. I'll have to keep trying.

The second set of intervals was done on busier roads so they were a bit more disjointed and I had to do an extra one because the 4th one was stopped short by traffic and extend the 8th as I caught traffic lights near the end of it. At the end of this set of 10 I was spent and pleased to stop, achieving just 399W with a lot of grimacing on the last interval.

As sessions go, it was quite interesting to do a turbo session on the road and I seemed to suffer less than the indoor version. It's quite a simple session too, so easy to remember.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

20 min power test on the road

After my painful 20 minute power test last week, I wondered how an outdoor 20 min test would compare to an indoor one, and I took the chance to find out today. By taking the 2 tests so close to each other I have hopefully minimised the effects of increasing or decreasing fitness between tests, and I also felt well-rested for both.

The headline is that I averaged 340W for the 20 minutes, compared to 335W for the indoor test, BUT the following things were different between tests:

Bike - I was using my stiffer race bike
Effort - I was too exhausted to stand up at the end of the last test, today I was just exhausted
HR - My peak HR today was 171, on the indoor test it was 178. 178 is very high for me, 171 is quite common.
Warm-up - for the indoor ride I did a proper warm-up. Today I just went for it from the front door.
Backing-off - due to poor pacing indoors I was unable to maintain my power output and had to back off. Today the pacing was better.
Cooling - outdoors was very cool today and I had the equivalent of a 20mph fan. Indoors I didn't use a fan (see previous post about me being tight).

The plot from today starts off with the 20 min power test. Compared to the indoor test there is no collapse in he second half so I'm pleased that the pacing was better today and that the 2 sets of traffic lights I caught (at 4 and 14 mins) didn't affect me too much. My HR rode quite steadily too and never maxed-out, which is quite surprising.

I think that if I could do an outdoor power test without traffic, potholes and lights I could probably stretch to 342 or 343W.So, it appears that outdoors I had more power available and I didn't suffer so much. I expected this to be the case, so it was nice to see. But, even if I had achieved 342W this would equate to a mere 2% improvement over my indoor figure which I find quite surprising.

After a 4 min rest I then did 50 mins of tempo riding to get some miles into my legs. At the end I tried a Strava segment that continues to annoy me. There are 3 sets of traffic lights on it and I hit EVERY SINGLE ONE and I always do. To get the KOM I'd need to time the lights and work out the best time to start to make sure I hit them all on green, but I'm not that sad. Yet.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Road ride with a couple of Strava segments

I decided to brave the freezing Yorkshire wind to do an 80 minute road session before the forecast snow arrived this afternoon. It was all very pleasant, music blasting as I dragged myself into the 15 mph wind, holding my power and letting my speed drop off as a result. At the turn I picked up a serious tailwind and struggled to keep my power up because I was running out of gears on my compact chainset.

Using the wind I attacked 2 local Strava segments that are usually into-wind, and smashed them as a result, earning 2 KOMs. It's just cheating really, knocking 45 seconds off my previous best with less power. The 2 segments are clearly visible towards the end of the ride when my HR rises.

Quite a fun ride despite the big puddles. Average power had been in the mid 280W until I got to the segments, but I let it drop off so I was rested before each.

With the forecast poor weather I think I'll be back on the turbo this week and hitting the Sufferfest vids for some sweaty pain.

Friday, 8 March 2013

20 minute power test

It's been a long long while since I last did a 20 minutes power test and I really really hated it. I needed to do one, and as I have been lazy and done nothing for the last 2 days I felt like today was the day!

Considering I have recently set a 1 hour PB I was expecting to do at least as well as the 331W I achieved last time, so I set myself a target of 335W. Things started off rather well, I felt in control and had averaged 340W for the first 10 minutes, HR slowly rising to 172 bpm. At this point I started to feel quite powerful and I forgot the most important rule of a successful test; pacing. Between 10 and 13 minutes I averaged 345W and like an idiot, I knew what was going to happen and did nothing about it. I purposely wasn't looking at my HR so I didn't notice it creep up to 175 bpm, but I did start to feel the effect and my power started to drop off after 13 minutes.

HR=Red, Power=Black

By 15 minutes I was in a world of hurt (point A) and by 17 I was seriously considering stopping, sweating profusely and breathing very heavily. At 18 mins (C) I was in tatters and had to shift gear to be able to keep any power so I took 30 seconds to recover and prepare for the final push. HR dropped a little and the clock ticked down, at 19 mins signalling the final push to the finish, averaging 400W for the last 30 secs.

At the end I was completely spent and had to climb off the bike and kneel on the floor, breathing heavily for a full 2 minutes before I was recovered enough to stand up again.

The good news is that I increased my 20 minute power from 331W to 335W since the last test, using the same equipment and conditions. The bad news is that this could just be variations between the 2 tests. I am also very amazed at my ability to do stupid things (go off too hard) and hard things voluntarily (work so hard I can't stand up). If I was being chased by a bear I don't think I could have tried any harder.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Road Ride with intervals

Had a day off yesterday so I wanted to do something hardish on the road. I settled on trying to do 10 intervals of 360W (115%) x 3 minutes to get a total of 30 mins above 360W. I've got some good flat straight roads that I can use so it's like being on the turbo just with a bit more traffic.

The first 2 intervals were quite easy and the third was curtailed by poor timing which meant I found some red traffic lights. The next interval was the first of 5 up the the same strip with the 5th getting an extra minute to make up for the shortened interval, and then the last ones were on the way home.

HR (red) never got above 170bpm and power was relatively well controlled but did tend to drop off towards the end of some intervals because I was getting tired from going off too hard. The best interval was the one shown as number 13, a nice even effort throughout, but real life isn't as controlled as these intervals so I'm happy to mix it up a bit more as long as I achieve the average power.

It was actually quite a hard workout but it would be better if I could do it with less of a break between intervals, but the roads don't allow it due to traffic. As I get closer to racing I need to do more of this with shorter breaks and some harder intervals thrown in too.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Strictly Tempo road ride

With a new FTP (313W based on yesterday's ride) I set a target of 285W (tempo) for an hour on the road. As a hardish recovery ride it felt fine throughout and always comfortable. Not much to say really except that my fitness seems to have taken a step up in the last couple of weeks.

This wekk I have achieved 4 workouts, 3 of which were on the road. Total time of only 4 hrs 38mins but more than half of this was in power zones L4 or L5 so there was some good intensity in there too.

Tomorrow will be a day off and then I'll be back on it again on Tuesday.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Hour of Power and New PB!

Thursday (2 days ago) was a rest day after 2 days of hard intervals and I planned a road ride yesterday. Unfortunately I was delayed at work and had other commitments when I got home so I had another day off and several glasses of wine and some chocolate too. Not exactly the highly disciplined training I had planned in November when this experiment started.

This afternoon I grabbed an hour to myself and headed out for another Hour of Power on the sunny roads, planning to repeat the hard session I did last week when I averaged a respectable 296W.

Today I felt great straight from the start and rather than trying to maintain 275-285W between the high power bursts, I just rode on feeling with occasional glances at my power. After 24 minutes I had averaged 317W (a new record) and then went on to set a PB right out to 60 mins. Other than a slight 'wobble' at 48 mins I just felt fine, though I was on the limit at the end and pleased to stop.

At the end I had averaged 313W compared to my last 60 min PB of 308W on 1 Jan. Then I tried to even out and control my effort, whereas today the Hour of Power workout is specifically designed to disrupt your flow and I would expect that to reduce your average power. So, I guess I must have got fitter. Last year's 60 min PB was 296W and I was absolutely shattered at the end of that, so I'm quite pleased.

 Average HR was low at 163, cadence was tightly grouped around 80rpm (yes, I do pedal slowly). 1100kCals for the hour and a relative intensity of 0.999, so hard work!

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Road Session

Felt good when I got home from work and, motivated by the sunshine, I decided to head out onto the road for a mixed interval session. There's also a local Strava segment I wanted to attack.

The first interval was 2 mins at 400W which felt quite easy, then I did a 3x350W and a 30secs x 530W which felt very straightforward with a nice controlled heartrate. These were really just preparations for the Strava segment so I had a couple of minutes of easy riding before I got to the start point. Unfortunately, I chose a bad day for this segment with a slight headwind all the way along it but I thought I'd still have quite a good chance as it's a shortish segment. I was SO wrong. Although I gave it everything and averaged 415W for the 2:53 it took me to complete it at an average speed of 24 mph, I was still 21 seconds of the KOM for the segment. This is a ridiculously lousy result and one I'll have to do again. The KOM averaged 27.2mph so I 'm guessing there was something going on there.

Anyway, once I'd recovered I did another 4 of the same segment targetting 360W+ for the roughly 3 minutes it took to complete it, then did some 300W intervals on the way home including a 10 min one which drained me of my remaining energy and I was pleased to get home and warm up.

Average power for the whole ride (including 2 minutes picking a motorcyclist up after he fell off) and lots of soft pedalling between intervals was a fairly respectable 230W and I used approx 1100 kCals and covered 23.5 miles at an average speed of 19.2mph.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Shorter Harder

Friday's fun knocked me out on Saturday so I didn't fancy turboing. Sunday was 'family day' and then yesterday turned into 'get-up-far-too-early-and-spend-the-whole-day-on-the-back-foot' Monday. By the time I got home I felt the need to lie down and then I woke up an hour later so I decided to bin the planned turbo session.

So, today I had to do something so I did Shorter Harder (long version). Things started off well, I had Ministry of Sound blasting out and some video of this year's skiing holiday running on the laptop and then I got skyped. I tried to carry on the session but it just got a bit weird with me shouting at the screen and looking all red and sweaty so I decided to have an early rest. I then combined the next 2 intervals to make up for it and get back on the original timeline.

On the last interval before the mid-way break I really pushed it and went longer and harder than was required because I felt quite good, and then the first 2 intervals after the break were harder and longer again. Then I started to suffer a bit and regretted showing off but I just had to dig in and keep on going to the end, sweating in the dark. Once the last interval was over I gave myself a short recovery before going all-out for 30 seconds, averaging 493W and peaking at 660W.

Overall it was a good workout and I'm looking forward to another tomorrow and the day after to make up for my weekend of laziness. After the ride I had a very dull pasta and tuna dinner and then sorted the gears out on the turbo bike because they were getting a bit lazy and didn't always change when I wanted them to.

Friday, 22 February 2013

2 Hours of Power

I've been suffering from some early starts this week so I haven't felt like doing too much on the turbo in the evenings. I got a lucky break on Wednesday and was home early enough to set up for an Hour of Power. I last did this on 13 Feb and did a shortened 54 minute version so I needed to do full hour this time. Last time I suffered around 38 minutes and I had to back off for a while to be able to recover then complete the session. I was well motivated and keen to get the whole session done...

Unfortunately, my body decided otherwise. The good news is that I was disciplined at achieving the 275W (90% FTP) baseline and 450W bursts and that I lasted longer before I failed than the last time I attempted the Hour of Power, the bad news was that it was the start of a complete failure and I was unable/unwilling to complete the hour even though I knew I really needed to. My HR wasn't excessively high, peaking at 171bpm so I'm not exactly sure why I seemed to be suffering quite so much. Obviously there are daily variations in performance, but this seems like a fairly fundamental failure to perform rather than just a weaker performance.

Today I decided that I'd try the Hour of Power on the open road rather than suffering in the heat and boredom of my kitchen. I had quite a hard day at work yesterday, including getting a bad dose of CS gas, and several glasses of wine last night, so I thought I might be lining myself up for a big failure.

After a short warm-up (it was too cold to be riding too slowly) I got on with business. Above is the 60 minutes ignoring the warm up and cool down. The good news is that I managed to complete it. I had a bit of a brain-dump after 6 bursts and I forgot to do the 7th on time, so I threw in an extra one as soon as I realised and accepted that I'd have less time to recover before the next one. Heart rate was similar to the turbo session, peaking around 171bpm but I just felt a lot better throughout the whole session and never felt like I was going to fail. For the bursts I was standing for 20 revolutions as a practice mini-sprint and there's a lot more variability on the baseline as a result of corners, traffic, junctions etc.

The excellent news is that I was consistently above the 275W baseline and my bursts were well above the 450W targets too. As a result I managed a 60 min average power of 296W (equal to my second best ever recorded power output) and at the end I was even able to surge to 312W for the last 6 minutes, though I was pretty knackered at the end. The 60 mins of hurt had a relative intensity of 0.949.

So, overall a very good day to get me over the bad turbo session earlier in the week. It's also clear that riding this on the road MUST be easier than on the turbo, possibly as it was cooler and possibly as it was possible to to the bursts out of the saddle rather than seated on the turbo. I'm sure the wine didn't help, but maybe, just maybe, that's the answer!

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Sunday Morning Road Ride

After Friday's fun on the road I made the effort to get up early and get a longer ride in today. The sun was up by 8am, shining brightly trough the morning mist, and after a bowl of cornflakes and a cup of tea I was ready to go, immediately hit by a cold blast of air as I opened the front door. When I set of it was a chilly zero degrees (C) and I was dressed for something a bit warmer than that, but I really couldn't be bothered to go back inside and change.

For the first hour I set a brisk tempo pace (90% FTP around 275W), just enough to feel like it's on the border between comfortable and uncomfortable with an average HR of 159 to match.

The ride was a nice mix of rolling terrain and steep hills and a couple of times I embarrassed myself by having to change down to the smaller chainring (34T!!). I wasn't trying to smash the climbs so I changed gear accordingly, but on a hard day I would have been able to all of the climbs in the big ring (50T) except Dalby Bank, which is a b'stard.

After the first hour the temperature had increased and I dropped down into the beautiful village of Hovingham and then home via Brandsby and Crayke on more terrible Yorkshire roads. It really is a matter of time before somebody dies as a result of hitting one of the many massive potholes.

I was lucky to not fall off on ice on Dalby Bank which just seemed to appear once I started climbing. After 15m I was just wheel spinning so I had to walk 50m or so to clear the slippery bit and try not to get hit by a wheelspinning car slithering its way up the 1-in-12 climb.

By the end I was pleased to finish the ride and get into a hot shower and have a hot coffee.

The rest f the week looks like turbo sessions, but as I'm starting work early and not getting home until 6pm I don't know how much enthusiasm I'll have.

Totals for the day:
Distance - 45 miles
Ave power - 245W (incl the first hour at 275)
Ave speed - 18.3 (including some ice walking)
Calories - 2160

Friday, 15 February 2013

Road Session

After a day off from training I was really pleased to drive home in glorious sunshine because it meant that I could finally get out onto the road again. The North Yorkshire roads are made of cheese and are dangerously maintained by a bunch of incompetent idiots with little funding, so it was nice that they were dry enough to ride on without sinking up to the hubs in all the puddles.

After a gentle warm up I tried to regain a local Strava segment which some local scrote had stolen off me a couple of months ago, and I'm pleased to report that I managed to win it back with a time of 2 mins 30 and an average power of 395W. This is quite a low power for such a short interval but I struggled to get the power down for some reason. The road is obviously different to my turbo which seems to give a constant resistance rather than the variable resistance of real-world riding.

Then I did a couple of 340W intervals (6 mins then 4 mins with a short rest between) starting each with a big dose of power and then settling down to achieve the average, and I was really feeling it towards the end of both of them but it was lovely to be outside and getting the benefit of the cooling air to control my heat build up. It's easy to get used to having sweat running into your eyes and down your face if you do a lot of indoor work so it was a pleasure to finish the ride dry and warm rather than soaking wet and boiling hot.

After another short rest I settled in for a 40 minute interval at 275W (90% FTP, sweetspot) over a gently rolling triangular route. I think I've lost quite a bit of efficiency as a result of doing a winter of static turbo sessions so I made a point of sticking in a single gear and giving my legs a good work out and making them work hard by varying cadence rather than sticking to my favoured 86rpm. There are quite a few power peaks and troughs associated with corners and the slight hills and I also noticed that I put out the best power on the long into-wind leg because I felt that I had more to work against.

I think that's only my 4th or 5th road ride since I started this blog. Now that the nights are getting lighter I'm going to make more effort to get out on the road more to complement my kitchen turbo torture sessions.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Hour of Power - nearly

Today I did a shortened version of the infamous 'Hour of Power' devised by Bill Black. It's based around 60 minutes at a solid 90% FTP (for me 275W) with 15 sec bursts to 150% FTP (450W) every 2 mins and 45 secs. In the hour you should complete 20 bursts and 20 tempo intervals between.

There are lots of variations of the ratio of power but I looked at 90/150 and thought it would be achievable although I only planned to do 54 minutes as part of a 60 min workout. I'm going to add another 3 mins until I get to the full 60 plus warm-up and cool-down.

It started off well enough until I got to the 12th burst (the big red A) when I suddenly felt pretty crappy and was happy to back off and recover for 45 seconds or so. This also ties in with my highest HR and not being able to achieve the 450W burst. Luckily my HR strap was working today so it's easy to see that my HR was nowhere near it's 175 LTHR and only up to a measly 167-170 for the 6 mins leading up to the A. I know from experience that I usually suffer if I stay in this HR zone for too long so I'm not surprised that I hated it today, though I'm always cautious to not look at HR during the workout because I don't want it to make me think about stopping when I get up to these levels.

After the A I seemed to settle down a bit and just had a bit of weakness immediately after the bursts and then I did the last burst as an all-out 30 secs at 400W. And then I was done and beaten by Bill.

Next time I won't do anything different except stick to the 275W intervals and add another interval to take it up to 19 bursts. The time after that will be 20 intervals.

Overall stats for the 54 minutes:

Work done - 945 kJ
Average power - 290W
Average HR 160
Relative Intensity .93

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

60 mins around 310W

I last did this on 3 Feb and quite liked it even though it gets tough towards the end. After a poor night's sleep and a crappy day at work I was in 2 minds whether to do a workout to day or not, but I guilted myself into it knowing that I need to keep working hard to gain/maintain fitness ready for the race season.

The session went almost exactly as before until my Garmin Premium HR strap started to play up after 35 minutes. I don't have a lot of luck with these and they normally fail after 4-5 months and this one was no different. I was unable to complete the 4mins x 320W interval at around 46 minutes and instead converted it into 2 intervals of 2 mins at 320W with a short recovery in between. I think my HR data at this point was correct as the recorded 167bpm is usually where my body starts to whinge and moan about the effort and I start to think about quitting.

The last interval is 1 min all-out. Today I managed 445W and I felt very ill and light-headed at the end.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

The Hunted

I was going to do a roller session yesterday but after 20 minutes I stopped. Just didn't feel like doing it and I wasn't going to get much out of it. I've been feeling a bit throaty for the last couple of days coinciding with a selfish b'stard at work coughing and spluttering at an adjacent desk.

So today I planned a Sufferfest 'The Hunted' session which I found challenging and unachievable last time I did it. However, being an idiot I forgot that I was just unable to get to the end of the middle 20 minute session and had to back off. In a way this was actually a good thing because I went into the workout expecting to be able to compete it and probably tried harder as a result.

So, it went well through the first taster and then all the way through the 'middle 20' until I got to the section marked with the big red A (for Aaaaaaarrrgh!). With a high HR my body just said NO! and I had to stop, feeling quite miffed because I thought that I had completed this bit last time.

The last session was achievable, but I was really suffering on the 5x350W+ intervals at the end and was very pleased to stop and when I did I realised how hard I had been working; gasping for breath and my throat slightly constricted. I'm not asthmatic, but I think it was the same feeling.

So, I probably won't do this again for a long while. There are 2 hard bits that are too hard and the rest is too easy and really just foreplay waiting for the pain. It's quite like a race in that respect, but racing isn't necessarily the best way to increase fitness.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Post-cold leg spinner

After 6 days of feeling too ill to train I was looking forward to getting back on the turbo tonight to give my legs a spin to make sure I'm over the cold and ready to train again. I am usually lucky with colds and don't normally suffer for more than a couple of days, so I was a bit concerned when I had to have a day off work because I didn't feel well enough to go in.

Today's session went quite well. Basically I just pedalled at a comfortable working level while I monitored my heart rate, keeping it below 165. As the 45 minutes passed I seemed to get stronger with power genty rising from around 250W to 290W and HR rising to 165. So, providing I feel OK tomorrow I'll be back into the groove with some intervals again.

It's a real shame to have lost a week of training, but as I'm not trying to peak for a specific race I suppose it doesn't really matter. After all, most other riders are just doing longer versions of what I did today as they build up their winter base fitness. Ah, the traditions of cycling!

While I was ill I ate everything and anything I saw. Loads of chocolate, carbs, fruit, cake. You name it, I shoved it in my gob. So I'm also back on my New Year healthy eating plan and trying to cut out the carbs and cheese and increase the protein.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Mike's Guide to Turbo Training

The aim of this post is to provide guidance on the use of Turbo Trainers for those that haven’t used them before or have recently started. It’s based on my personal experience; other views are available and might be more sensible.

warning: if you're really fat, pregnant, stupid, diabetic or have a history of heart attacks, please consult a medical expert before attempting anything written below or it may kill you.
In fact, just close the browser now and walk away, these are not the tips you're looking for.

The Real Basics

A turbo Trainer allows you to use your bike to exercise by producing a resistance to counter your pedalling force. There are many types of resistance units (wind, gel, magnetic, nuclear fission) and a huge range of prices, so I won’t discuss which is the best as there are lots of reviews on the internet. But remember that a turbo is for life, not just for the first 3 weeks of a new year so think about getting a good one. There are lots of good quality second hand ones being sold by people who didn’t follow the kind of golden advice below and have given up on their dreams, so the classifieds may be a good place to get a lightly worn uber-trainer for little money.

What you’ll need. Other than the bare minimum of a bike and a turbo, there are various additions you may wish to consider to make your turbo session more enjoyable, or less horrible, depending on how you feel about turbo training. Some of these are physical things, some are mental things…

Physical things you need

The right environment. You will sweat on a turbo so make sure you have an area where you can work without worrying about sweating on your new carpet. Your bike will probably shed a small amount of chain oil too and can be quite noticeable on a cream Wilton. It’s good to have a surface nearby to put your‘ gubbins’ on so you don’t have to dismount. Kitchens, garages or even outside are good places to do a workout. Your mum’s living room is a bad place. Plan for success.

A drink. Particularly for longer sessions, you’ll be glad you prepared a cool refreshing drink to sip between the intervals. The most obvious side-effect of a good turbo session is the pool of sweat under the bike when you finish so staying hydrated is very important.

A towel. I like to have a towel draped across my handlebars to remove the sweat from my face. While it’s a great feeling to know you’re working hard enough to leak like a sieve, it’s also very nice to not have the rivulets of salty sweat running into your eyes. Riders who want to look more‘continental’ may consider a headband as well.

Entertainment/distraction. 60 minutes on the turbo sounds great when you’re sitting surfing the internet buying the thing. Once you’re through the first few sessions you’ll very quickly start to tire of the whirring noise, and the sweating, and the burning in your thighs. I use a complicated series of distraction techniques to make my turbo time less horrible including loud dance music and YouTube clips of the Tour De France or the European Spring Classics. If you’re using a laptop it’s best to use a mouse rather than a touchpad (due to the sweat) and have everything ready to go before you start. The entertainment should not distract you from your planned session (more on that in a bit), but it should enhance the experience. You will not be able to read a book or magazine on the turbo. If you can read on the turbo, you’re doing it wrong.

A big fan. I’m not talking about getting your loved-one to cheer you on, I’m talking about a remote controlled 30+ inch industrial fan to blow refreshing cooling air over you to reduce the sweatiness and keep your temperature under control. I’m too tight to spend money on a fan, but lots of people swear by them. I tend to open as many windows as possible to make sure there is some airflow across my sweaty back.

Loved-ones. If you’re turboing correctly you won’t want to spend your precious time discussing ‘trivia’ with somebody. Explain to likely distractors that you need some ‘turbo time’ and would prefer to not be disturbed. While your husband/wife/girlfriend etc is being considerate by trying to tell you about what that bitch Julie said to her at work or wanting to discuss what you want for dinner, you’re unlikely to be able or willing to properly engage in the discussion while you’re turning yourself inside-out on the fifth interval of a set of six. You’re likely to swear at him/her. If you find you are regularly disturbed during your turbo time you could return the favour and ruin something they enjoy.

Clingfilm. As a cheapskate I use clingfilm on my bars to stop them getting sweat-soaked and smelling bad for the rest of the year. If you turbo with a bike computer it’s also nice to stop the sweat dripping off your nose and into the delicate electronics of your so-called waterproof electronic device. Clingfilm works on touch-screens and laptop keyboards too.

Minimal clothing. On the turbo I wear shoes, socks, a heart rate monitor and tiny shorts. With a headband I look like a 1970’s German fitness instructor, so I save that for special days. It’s nice to have a t-shirt to hand for the warm-up and cool-down, but I wouldn’t plan to be wearing it when you’re putting down the power.

Shoes. Cycling shoes are best for transferring your power through the pedals as their solid soles will stop your foot flexing which may become uncomfortable after a while. Clipless pedals or toe clips allow you to use more of the pedal stroke to transfer power. Flat pedals will do if you don’t have anything better. Oh yeah, and your shoes will get sweaty and may start to smell.

A method of recording your efforts. Whether it’s an expensive powermeter or a cheap cycle computer, being able to record your efforts and improvements is essential. If you feel like you’re getting fitter it’s great to have evidence to back it up. If you’re not improving, it’s time to change your workouts so that you do improve.
Mental things you need

A target. Setting targets will allow you to have a proper plan and give you the determination to complete it. Want to lose weight? Want to win races? Want to get away from ‘The Antique’s Roadshow’? Whatever, have a target and record your progress towards it and make sure your targets are specific, realistic and achievable. At 45 you’re not going to shed 40 kilos and win the British Road Race Champs next year, so don’t demoralise yourself by thinking you can then realising you can’t. A good example of a target is something like: By 1 June I will be able to ride for 60 minutes on the turbo at an average speed of 18 mph. This allows you to progress towards the target and monitor your progress. A bad example of a target is something like: I want to get fitter. After 2 days you’ll have achieved your target.

A session plan. This is probably the most important aspect of turboing. Without a plan you’re just mucking about and turning food and drink into sweat and noise. With a plan you’re turning your dreams into reality (providing you have a decent plan). The internet is full of great workouts and some rubbish ones too, so be careful who you listen to. Trainer Road (nothing to do with me) is getting increasingly popular as a source of training plans and individual workouts. I haven’t used it, but a lot of people think it’s great for motivation and there are several threads about it on the internet. Having a public record of what you’re doing is a good way to improve your determination to complete your plan.
A power test (optional). To properly determine your ideal workout load you should complete a power test to see what you're capable of. This is the pinnacle of suffering and any woman who says childbirth is painful hasn't completed a 20 minute power test. Basically, once you have warmed up you go as hard as you can for 20 minutes and then use the result as a guide for how hard you should be working for different workouts. If you average Xmph for 20 mins, you'd take 95% of this speed to give you an estimate of what you could achieve for 60 minutes (effectively your FTP), and scale workouts based on this figure. There are other ways of testing yourself and, using speed rather than power, there are lots of issues regarding repeatability, but if these are controlled you have a pretty effective cheap system. Add Trainer Road for a more expensive system, add a power meter for a really expensive system.

Determination. Once you have your plan you need to have the determination to complete it. However, just getting the turbo out and attaching the bike to it is usually the hardest part of any workout; that takes real determination. You know the feeling: your favourite soap is just about to start, you’ve had a very hard day at work sitting down in front of the computer, you deserve some ‘down time’, right? Wrong. You need some determination to get up, get nearly naked with a roll of clingfilm and give that turbo a seeing to. Think of it like this, your body is full of the physical energy as well as the mental ‘innergy’you need to turn your potential into success. Is that cheesy enough for you?

Bail-out plan. There will be times when you can't complete your chosen workout either because you're feeling weak or you've planned to do something beyond your capability. This is not a problem and everybody has bad days. Rather than just stopping and sulking, it's a good idea to have a bail-out plan so that you still get a decent session out of your time. For example, if I'm struggling I may decide to back my power off to a certain level until I recover, or let my HR come down to a certain level. Don't give up, give less, but make sure you give something.

Recovery. This is the period when your body turns your effort into fitness. If you plan to do 7 days of hard workouts a week you’ll end up doing 7 days of mediocre workouts and you’ll stop getting fitter. Bradley Wiggins has recovery days. You need recovery days. Some days you won’t be able to train due to other commitments; maybe you’re going to court or you’re confessing your sins on the Oprah show. If so, plan these days as recovery days and train around them.