Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Coach's Tip on Indoor Grinding...I mean Training

This is the time of the year when many riders move indoors. There are many reasons that riding the trainer when the weather is nasty makes sense, not the least of which is safety. While some claim to actually like indoor riding, most people seem to just grin and bear it. Having not ridden indoors for three years until the other day, I can’t claim to be an expert, but I do have a tip that might help you pedal through the drudgery.

There are always a lot of articles published on how to minimize the boredom of riding indoors by using very structured intervals. “Survive” is the title word in the first article I spotted today:

Words such as “descending ladders, pyramids, over and under, muscle tension, and surges” are common in indoor workout descriptions. Expectations are that you monitor what gear you are in as well as what zone, your cadence, power, heart rate, and even whether you are in or out of the saddle. Yes, you also have to watch the clock and count intervals as well as sets. No doubt that while this approach is highly motivating for some riders, for other riders it may drive them right off the bike for the entire winter.

Listening to music helps and watching DVD’s of riders in the Tour de France is supposed to be motivating. Rather than stare at a bunch of guys I don’t know go fast on TV, I prefer to visualize myself going fast. And oh yeah, I find structured intervals on a trainer about as appealing as walking on a bed of hot coals. All of this stuff is too much work for me!

When I must “ride” indoors, I visualize being on one of my favorite routes on an 80 degree summer day. For pace and timing, I use the chronometer in my head, and only occasionally glance at real elapsed time. This makes it seem more real, and I can feel the wind and hear the birds chirping; well OK, almost. If I want to ride the trainer for an hour, I can still use a route that takes me two hours outdoors; I simply condense the non-essential sections. Give it a try the next time you saddle up.

If you are in the base training cycle, pick a route with shallow climbs, and picture yourself out for a ride by yourself. If it’s time to do some threshold or Vo2 max work, visualize a route with steep climbs. And oh yeah, don’t forget to visualize shedding riders off of your wheel as you climb higher!

My friend Justin shared a great visualization trick he uses when doing solo outdoor climbing repeats: Imagine riding the first 1/3 of the climb in a group of ten or so riders. During the second third, see those riders drop off of your wheel one by one as you steadily apply pressure. On the last third, you are now riding strongly by yourself, and during the final minute you dig deep to put as much time into the other riders as you can! This image might just distract you enough indoors that you will almost enjoy the “climb.”

A possible alternative to indoor riding is to find a great outdoors “indoor” track. Pick terrain close to your home where the roads are good and traffic is light at the times you might ride. When I lived in Downtown Seattle, Magnolia/Discovery Park was my go to area. As I now live in Issaquah, I can see the steep 1000’ Squak Mountain climbs from my window, and come spring I’ll be riding there quite a bit, rain or shine. If I am looking for something a little less challenging in the winter, I can head in the opposite direction up Grand Ridge. I can do a 3.75 mile climb that starts almost right outside my front door.

The climb to Grand Ridge couldn’t be better in terms of safety, as the first part is on the paved Issaquah Creek Trail, and the remainder on the bike lane equipped very low traffic (at least at non-rush hour times) Park Dr. in the Issaquah Highlands. I finish off with a loop around the Harrison circle to the top of the west end of Grand Ridge. For variety, from Harrison I can ride out Grand Ridge Drive amongst the mega-sized homes that have popped up in the trees. I descend the top section via a different way than I go up.

Riding up to Grand Ridge and down for an hour or two is great. I am never far from home, and I can quickly bail if I get cold. I can repeat the climb as many times as I like without it feeling like “repeats” for some reason, and I don’t have to deal with cars on narrow roads. I can do this climb in bad weather and not feel like I am risking my neck just to get in an outdoor ride, and there is an incredible view of Bellevue and Seattle from the top (the Olympics are there as well on a clear day).
If I rode at night I’d still feel comfortable, but the view would be of city lights. The average grade is 5.7%, but the final .5 mile goes at 9.5%. You still get a nice view if you skip this last section, but it’s not as dramatic, so that is a motivator to finish the climb off.

A long climb that is not too steep is perfect for those longer “Sweet Spot” intervals that are nice to do at this time of the year, but are so hard to do indoors.

It’s raining lightly and 48 degrees outside as I write this, and I am out the door to head up to Grand Ridge.


Tank Man said...

Yep, this is JT. I guess you have learned in the short time living in Issaquah that it rains twice as much here as it does in Seattle! Unfortunately, I will be hitting the trainer as well - recovering from a mtb mishap that has kept me off the bike for a few weeks . . . BTW - I set the trainer up on the back deck - 35F is perfect motivation to keep the heartrate up . . .

Tom Meloy said...

Yeah, we knew that before the move. Tracy lived in Issaquah in the 90's.

But hey, the rain means green, and it is really green around here.

I ride the rain bike most of the time in the winter since the roads are always wet, even if it doesn't rain.