Yesterday was a rest day. As I mentioned previously, I have changed things up, and am planning a rest day every 3 days. But a rest day doesn’t necessarily mean putting my legs up, and do nothing. It means no hard training. Yesterday, I did 15 minutes of stretching, followed by a 30 minute, simplified core workout, and then a 2 hour walk in the afternoon.
Test days are also days that I plan to complete a few chores & errands. For example, yesterday while out for a walk, I got a haircut, shopped for electrolytes, and coffee for the week. This way I keep training days free from errands when I have less time, or want to train more.
Sometimes, rest days include a recovery ride. Other times, I’m too tired to even do errands. So, I take each rest days as they come. If I’m feeling really well, I may skip it altogether, and fit in a workout. I have also discovered I can do upper body, or core weight training sessions more often than leg workouts. I may do arms, shoulders, or core training on rest days without affecting cycling recovery.
You can see rest days are flexible. I do as little, or as much, as I feel like doing. If I feel well rested, I do more, but don’t overdo it. If I feel tired, I may do nothing.
How do I determine how I feel? Well it’s somewhat subjective. First, I check my resting heart rate after getting out of bed. If it is in the mid 30’s bpm, I’m usually well rested. I have seen it as low as 31 bpm. If it is 42+, I need to rest. I have seen it as high as 45. I also pay attention to how my legs are feeling. If they are unusually stiff, or sore when I first get up, they usually need more rest.
Rest days are key. This is when your body adapts, gets stronger, and more flexible. It is a mistake to skip them, because they enable you to train harder when you return to training. But for me, these are the most difficult days of the week. I don’t like them. For years, I never rested. I’m so accustomed to getting up, and training for a few hours.
I train on month long blocks with 3 weeks on, and 1 week off.
Each month I change things up a little, partly to remain motivated, but mostly to progressively increase the load, and volume of my training. This month, I am making 3 changes.
I have been training inside for several months. As the weather begins to improve, I plan to ride outside more often, at least once a week. As a rule of thumb, I do not enjoy riding outside unless it is 10+ Celsius. It’s almost there, so as long as it is not raining, I’ll venture out.
I usually take 1 day off each week, after 6 days of training. This has worked well, but recently I have felt more fatigued than usual. So, I plan to train for 3 days, and then rest for a day. I will still only rest 1 day in 7, but slip in a rest day every 3rd day. The idea is to do an interval workout at the start of each 3-day block when I am most rested, which will give me 3 days between each of these sessions including a day off. This way I will get a little more rest, particularly preceding the interval workouts.
And lastly, I plan to complete 2 of Caroline Girvan’s follow-along workouts every training day. This will mesh well with the 3 day on, 1 day off schedule. Each day I will do one of the Arms & Shoulder, Legs & Glutes, or Chest workouts, plus one of her Ab sessions. This way I complete 2 full body sessions each week with an emphasis on the core.
These are small changes that I hope will better prepare me for a century ride at the end of the month, and help develop a more thorough, varied workout routine going forward.
Yesterday, I rode outside for the 1st time in 2021.
It was nice to get outside after several months on the indoor trainer. But it was cold. As I get older, the less I enjoy cold weather cycling. I have all the right gear, but it makes little difference. I’m not saying I can’t do it. I can. And did for many years. I just don’t enjoy it the same way any longer. Now that I have invested in a smart trainer, I understand why they are so popular.
Today, I rode inside. I completed 2 FulGaz rides, each about 30 minutes in length, one more difficult than the other. In an hour, I had a good workout. As good, perhaps better, than my 2 hour effort outside yesterday. And, I was warm. There were no cars. No pedestrians. No traffic lights. And, no potholes.
I started a new training block this month. As I mentioned, I like to change things up every month, and set new goals. Throughout March, I plan to ride outside 1-2 times each week, weather permitting. I’ll continue doing the structured workouts on the smart trainer. It’s more effective. But I’ll try to get outside for longer rides each week.
For the past decade, I complete the 1st century ride of the season the first week of April. It is cancelled again this year because of COVID, but I plan to complete a solo 100 km ride just the same. So during the next few weeks, I will tailor my workouts for this effort, including progressively, longer rides outside.
Dr. Becky Gillaspy is a Doctor of Chiropractic, and recognized as one of the top up and coming internet health professionals. I discovered her by accident, but agree fully with her approach – no complicated diets, just a few common sense, practical habits.
Get sugar out of your diet
Implement an intermittent fasting strategy
Adopt a low carb diet
Her lifestyle advice makes sense. It is a practical approach to make small, but lasting, changes to eating habits. I already follow many of her recommendations. I’m vegetarian, mostly vegan. I practice intermittent fasting almost every day. I exercise regularly, often in a fasted state. I have eliminated refined sugar from my diet. I think. Its a challenge because it is a hidden ingredient in many packaged items. I only drink filtered tap water, and black coffee. No pop or juices. I eat little bread. If there is anything I can do is reduce the amount of carbs I consume. I eat pasta, homemade pizza, rice, and muffins more than necessary.
My daily bowl of porridge is a ritual that I refuse to give up. It is made with Steel Cut Oats, water, a tea spoon of natural peanut butter, a sprinkle of flax seeds, and 1/2 banana and/or local frozen berries. I love it, and it fuels me until dinner. But, I can snack on more protein and healthy fats throughout the remainder of the day – things like hard boiled eggs, avocado, raw nuts, and seeds – instead of a muffin,Dr Becky Gillaspy, or scone.
I don’t need to lose a lot of weight. This time of year when I’m not cycling as much, I usually put on a few pounds. That’s not unusual. And, I weight train more during the winter, so hopefully, I put on a few pounds of muscle as a result. But I want to return to my optimum cycling weight. The more I cycle, the more I realize that carrying unnecessary weight, even a pound or two, makes a huge difference on the bike. I’m a few pounds over my ideal weight, but I know that will come off with extra mileage. For now, I simply want to lose a few pounds by Spring so that I can get to my ideal weight more quickly come Summer.
Dr. Gillaspy challenges her followers to reimagine their meals in the following ways:
Exercise while fasted
Only eat 1-2 meals a day
Only eat when hungry
Do not eat after dinner
Think of a salad as a meal
I plan to take this challenge on.
These are small adjustments for me. I think. I practice most of them already.
Take the challenge to disrupt your eating patterns, and let me know if how you make out.
Since COVID, she has become an internet sensation. The story goes that with the lockdown she made a video to help her friends, and family workout at home. She is a personal trainer, and competitive triathlete from Ireland, with no previous on-line experience. Since then, she has made numerous videos, refined her presentation, and gained a huge following along the way.
These follow along videos target specific muscle groups using only body weight, or dumbbells. They are all set in what appears to be her living room. Over the past 10 months, the videos have become more professional looking, and sounding, but are all based on high repetitions with little, or no rest.
Initially, I watched her videos to learn new variations of exercises I was already doing. I have never liked doing follow along programs, but yesterday I tried one of her ab workouts. It was 12 minutes of continuous effort. That’s right. No rest. There were 4 body weight exercises targeting the upper, lower and oblique muscles completed in succession. I thought this would be easy. Well, I was wrong. By the end, I was exhausted. And sore.
I enjoyed this workout so much that I completed one of her Arms & Shoulder workouts this morning. Again, it was tough. She is one strong woman. This one was 20 minutes long with several short rests. I emphasize short. I never fully recovered. She did all movements with 2 twenty pound dumbbells. Amazing. I started with 20’s but quickly needed to reduce the weight. Again, by the end of the workout, I was exhausted. The exercises worked the muscles from several angles, never giving the them a rest.
These strength workouts are clever. They are short, so they can be combined with my smart trainer workouts. Each video targets specific muscle groups – abs, arms & shoulders, chest, back, glutes, legs – so 1 or 2 of them can be done every day, hitting all muscle groups several times a week. I don’t like long smart trainer sessions. The longest I have done is 90 minutes. Instead, I prefer to do 2-3 each lasting 20-30 minutes, and between each session do a 10-20 minute strength workout. These videos are perfect for that. In 2 hours I can have a good cardio & strength workout.
If you are looking to change things up, learn new routines, and get motivated, I highly recommend Caroline Girvan’s videos. You won’t be disappointed. They are suitable for all ages, fitness level, and sexes.
I took on this STRAVA Challenge in February to walk 4 days a week for 4 weeks.
It wasn’t difficult. Since COVID, I walk most days regardless. What was different is that I considered these walks as workouts, progressively walking further, faster, and climbing more. I have often spoken about the local park located at the top of “Little Mountain“, where I have trained on my bike for many years. Since COVID, it has become my go-to place, where I walk, ride, do repeat hill climbs, relax on a bench, take photographs, and stay safe.
Each walk is 90-120 minutes long. I climb up-and-over the top of “Little Mountain“, and I usually stop for a coffee and muffin along the way. Two of my favourite local coffee roasters are nearby. Each has outdoor seating, but one in particular has an outdoor patio facing the afternoon sun, comfortable chairs, and overhead heaters. This is usually where I stop.
In the warmer weather I cycle, but this time of year outside rides are not much fun. As least not for me. So, instead I walk. And, like when I ride, I search out the steepest routes I can find. When I first began this routine, the climb to the top was difficult, and slow. Yesterday, I did it 6 times from different directions. And, surprisingly, I felt like I could have done more.
This is my time. I always walk alone, but never feel lonely. I have said this before. On the contrary, I’m comfortable with my thoughts. Every day I photograph things that interest me. Things I never knew were there before. When the lighting is right, I may take as many as 10-20 photographs. Many I keep, and some I post on STRAVA along with the walk. I return feeling relaxed, and energized.
When Spring arrives, I will cycle more, and walk less. Maybe. I say maybe because I look forward to these walks, and believe they are good for both my physical, and mental health. Of course, cycling is as well, but the slower pace, and reduced effort, is more relaxing making me more aware of my surroundings. The smells, lighting, and found objects. On a bike, I race by.
I have been cycling indoors with a smart trainer. Initially, I thought I would only do this during the winter. Now I’m not sure. I find that I can do an effective workout in less time, easily vary the difficulty of a ride, not worry about traffic, or the weather.
I also completed a STRAVA Cycling Challenge in February.
Ok. I know. 400 km is not a lot in a month. But, and this is a big but, those km were more focused, and harder than they would have been on the road. They included more elevation gain than I could do locally. I was climbing in the Dolomites, Pyrenees, Alps, and Mallorca. Sometimes, I was even racing with professional cycling teams.
So, this is what I think. I think I’ll continue to train indoors, just not as much. Maybe only a few times a week, or as a warmup to a ride outside. I’m not sure about this, but that is what I’m thinking right now. Like my daily walks, these indoor smart trainer sessions have been more enjoyable, and beneficial, than I expected.
The walks have kept me local, learning more about my community, and appreciating it more. The smart trainer sessions have me travelling, at least virtually, all over the world completing epic, exhilarating rides.
Yesterday I outlined STRAVA’s Fitness & Freshness chart. Today I planned to do a difficult interval workout. Before jumping on the trainer, I checked the STRAVA chart, and my resting heart rate (RHR).
STRAVA had calculated that I was in good Form based on the power, relative effort, and time of my last workout. And, my Garmin activity tracker recorded a 35 ppm RHR first thing this morning. These numbers combined indicate I was fully recovered, and ready for a hard interval workout.
And I was.
I completed the threshold+ intervals. They were hard. But they are supposed to be. The point is I did the workout, and it felt easier than the previous interval workout a few days ago. Either I’m getting fitter, or I was more fully recovered today.
I didn’t need STRAVA, or the Garmin activity tracker. I felt ready to work hard. I could tell by my warmup. I felt relaxed, and strong. However, it’s reassuring to see that the STRAVA measures told me the same thing.
I have learned I can depend on STRAVA to tell me when I am recovered, and ready for a harder effort.
I have rambled on how I didn’t like it at first because it turned every ride into a race. I rambled on about how I gradually learned to understand, and appreciate the app; how it helps me find new routes, meet other cyclists, and inspires me to train smarter.
Last year, I noticed that athletes were recording all of their workouts, not just their rides. Triathletes recorded their rides, runs, and swims. Others, recorded their weight training sessions. Some posted yoga, or Pilates sessions. And, some logged their walks.
At first, I questioned the value of doing this. Then I discovered that STRAVA has the ability to estimate my recovery, and relative freshness by using power, and relative effort data. It’s only an estimate, but consistent. When I realized this, I began recording all of my activities; indoor and outdoor rides; weight training sessions; and my daily hikes up and over “Little Mountain”. I learned when estimated fatigue is greater then the fitness measure, I am not at my peak, and this would not be the time to schedule a cycling event, or hard training session.
The more I monitored this, the more I realized it’s accuracy.
I am recovered when Form is zero or higher. I use this to schedule rest days, rest weeks, and training sessions. I use it to plan when to do intervals, repeat hill climbs, and recovery, endurance, and tempo rides. Some days, I feel like working harder, and I do. Other days, just the opposite. I have learned to trust how I feel, and not to train because I had planned to train that day.
After years of training, I trust how I feel. And, I have STRAVA to thank for that.
I’ve written frequently about STRAVA. How I use it as a motivator. How I discover new, more challenging routes. How I meet other cyclists. How my understanding of the app has evolved over the years. But since COVID, I have discovered another way it has been motivating me during these cold, wet, winter months.
There are several local cyclists that inspire me every day to get on the trainer, and hike up, and over, “Little Mountain”. I look forward to their daily posts, and establish my plans for the day accordingly. Interestingly, they are woman. This is not to say there aren’t interesting male cyclists that inspire me. There are. But four women, in particular, not only inspire me to train regularly, but have taught me a better way to train during these bleak, winter months.
None of these woman are young. By their own admission, they are in their 50’s. Not old, but not in their athletic prime. They all cycle a lot. 10,000 km / year, and in one case, much more. They all work. And, they each lead busy, complicated lives.
The first is a health worker, who regularly commutes 20 km to work on her bike all year, and during the warmer, drier months, regularly rides with her friends on their road bikes. But this is not what inspires me. A lot of people commute on their bikes, and do regular group rides. No. What inspires me about this woman is that each, and every morning she hops out of bed at 6 AM, and goes for an hour long walk at sunrise in her neighbourhood. The same walk, every day. The same walk, regardless of the weather. And, when she gets home, she hops on her trainer for 30 minutes before showering, and caring on with her day.
She has taught me the importance of regular, daily walks. They are good for the body, mind, and spirit, particularly during this COVID pandemic when we are expected to stay apart. She has inspired me to hike “Little Mountain” every day.
The second woman is an emergency room doctor. 2-3 times a week, after finishing a 12 hour shift, she hops on her Cervelo road bike, and heads out for a 100+ km ride in the dark. That’s right. In the dark. All year. In all weather conditions. It’s always the same, flat route, with stops to warm up, and photograph inspirational murals she discovers along the way. I have always been nervous to cycle at night, but she talks about how quiet, and peaceful the streets are, and how meditative the experience is.
She has taught me that cycling is more than an athletic adventure. It is also a relaxing, and meditative one. And, she has inspired me to try night time rides.
The third woman is a professional triathlete, having completed over 15 events all over the world. This past summer, she was hit by a truck while out on her bike. She broke her neck in several spots, and metal screws now stabilize her spine. Her recovery has been slow, and painful. But she perseveres. She can’t ride outside. So, she uses SWIFT to race, and train. She can’t run. Not yet. But she gets on a treadmill using a device that supports her body weight minimizing the impact. She can swim. She has a continuous pool in her yard, and uses it daily. So despite having back surgery this past summer, she continues to train. And, she trains hard. A typical day may include 4-6 hours on her smart trainer racing with SWIFT, a 3,500 metre swim, and an hour long run. I can’t imagine what her schedule will be like when she is fully recovered.
She has taught me the benefit of micro training, doing shorter, harder efforts during the day, instead of one longer trainer session. Occasionally, she will do a long session on the bike, but usually she does multiple 30-40 minute workouts.
And the fourth woman is recovering from a double hip replacement. She is a local cyclist, but is fortunate to escape south for the winter months to train. And train she does. Her rides are legendary, regularly completing 100-160 km rides that include substantial climbing, sometimes as much as 2,000 metres. The long, difficult rides are not what inspire me. They are commendable, but many cyclists do this. What inspires me is her upbeat, positive attitude. With each ride ride she posts beautiful photographs along with an inspirational, sometimes philosophical, quote.
She has taught me how to remain positive, regardless of how I may feel, or what may be happening in my life.
I have never met these woman. Not yet. I want to. I want to tell them how inspirational they are. They know it. I can tell by the number of STRAVA followers they have, and by all of the complimentary comments they receive. But I want to tell them personally. I want to ride with them. When the weather improves, and I am back out on the road regularly, I plan to make it happen.
I just have 2 cycling goals for the month: increase my FTP by 5%; and lose 5 pounds. Simple. Right?
I got the scales out today. Surprise! I thought 5 pounds would get me back to my optimum cycling weight of 142 pounds. Well, it’s more like 8 pounds I need to lose. I haven’t been this heavy in a few years. Less cycling, the colder weather, and more eating are the culprits.
Eight pounds is too much to lose in a month with the volume of training I do. It just means it will take me 2 months – a pound a week – ready for summer cycling.
I mentioned previously, I do not plan to radically change my diet. I am vegan, and my meals are all homemade using fresh ingredients including a lot of vegetables and fruits. I only drink black coffee, and water. No pop. No alcohol. I don’t like sweets, or candy. I practice a 16/8 intermittent eating schedule, frequently training fully fasted.
The only thing I need to change is how much I eat.
This is the plan:
1 – Keep the scales out, and weigh myself everyday after each workout. Otherwise, I may not stay as focused on the goal. I do this when I am at Camp PedalWORKS, and find it is a daily reminder making me plan meals, and grocery shopping, more carefully.
2 – Eliminate second helpings at dinner. I have already started doing this. I quickly realized I didn’t need more food. I once heard a dietician say that a serving only needs to be the size of your fist. This seems like a good idea. One trick is to drink a glass of water the hour before dinner to fill the stomach beforehand. This way you are not hungry when you sit down to eat. Another trick is to eat slowly, making certain to fully chew every mouthful. This gives your senses time to realize your stomach is in fact full, and doesn’t need more food.
3 – Eliminate Fresh Baked Goods. There is a baker in the house, and every week there is a batch of fresh muffins, chocolate chip cookies, and scones that need to be eaten. Not by me so much, but they are a temptation. I like the muffins. I’ll leave the cookies, and scones for others.
4 – Eliminate late night snacks. I don’t do this much. If I eat anything it is a piece of bread with peanut butter. I don’t need this, but will keep a glass of water handy in case I get a craving.
5 – Eliminate afternoon cafe stops. Instead, snack on an apple while walking, and have coffee at home. I think I was doing this more for the social contact than the coffee and muffin. Since COVID, I don’t see many people, and would look forward to chatting with the baristas. I’ll find others on the walk to chat with.
This plan seems easy to follow. I’m not having to give a lot up. When I am alone at Camp PedalWORKS, I am more disciplined about food. It’s easier. I just have myself to shop, and cook for. It’s more complicated here. Other mouths. Other preferences. Other goals. We are not all on the same page.
Maybe this plan is not as simple as it sounds.
No. It is.
I simply need to be a little more disciplined about the food.