Surviving Indoor Training

I have to admit I’m a Juliet Elliot fan. Her videos are entertaining, informative, and inspiring. She’s not a professional racer, although she does race, and does make a living through her bike. She has an eclectic background. A pro snowboard at one time. A model. A bike courier. And now, a YouTuber. Her latest video does a good job summarizing how to make indoor training fun, and effective.

Why I like training indoors …

There is nothing I enjoy more than getting out on my bikes, particularly on hot, summer days.

But, when the weather turns, I start thinking about training indoors. Although I have persevered through rain, snow, and gale like winds, I prefer to workout indoors. As a rule of thumb, when the temperature dips below 10 C, I head indoors.

When shifters were on down tubes, I had a wheel-on, noisy trainer in the basement. When the kids were in bed, I’d head down there for an hour, sometimes longer, battling the inevitable boredom with a selection of up tempo music. When the kids got older, the basement was repurposed, first as a playroom, and later as a bedroom. The trainer started collecting dust, and I headed to the local gyms to spin.

With Covid spiking, I’m not returning to the gym any time soon. Instead, I have repurposed a walk-in closet in my den into a “pain cave” with a wheel-off smart trainer.

My how things have changed.

The smart trainer, and the wide variety of training apps available, have transformed the experience into what feels very much like a real ride outside. I’m not going to discuss the various apps now. That will come later as I test a number of them. Instead, I’m going to list a few reasons why I prefer to train indoors.

Its a continuous effort. No stops. No resting. As a result, a 45-60 minute effort can be an excellent workout.

My bike never gets dirty. Occasionally, the drive train may need lubrication, and the trainer needs to be calibrated every few weeks, but otherwise my bike is maintenance free.

There is no wind, rain, or snow to dampen my spirits 😃

Its convenient. I can train whenever I want, regardless of the time of day, or weather.

There are no punctures to repair. I hate breakdowns on the road, especially if I have to call for a ride ☹️

I can experience rides all over the world, in places I am not likely to ever visit. For example, this off-season I plan to ride all of the iconic European routes.

If you are serious about cycling, I’d recommend purchasing a smart trainer, if you haven’t already. Covid is here for awhile. Stay safe. Gyms are not the safest places to train. Stay home instead.

I didn’t know …

I wish I understood this 30 years ago 😃

I spent most of my working life sitting at a desk, hunched over a keyboard. I’m certain you have heard that “sitting is the new smoking”. It’s true. Sitting is just as bad for your health, maybe worse, than smoking.

I understood this, at least in part. I’d take every opportunity to get up, stretch a little, and walk outside whenever possible. Coupled with regular running, swimming, or cycling, I thought I was in good shape. And, compared to many, I was. But, my glutes were always underdeveloped, imbalanced, and unstable.

I could have been a lot better ☹️

I know differently today, 30 years to late. For the past several years, I have focused on strengthening and stretching the glute muscles, and notice a significant difference in mobility, stability, and power.

The glutes are the largest muscle group in the body, and key to a powerful, and efficient pedal stroke.

If you want to become a stronger, faster, and more efficient cyclist, focus on your glutes 😃

My first Rouvy ride … 😃

If you have been following this blog, you know that I am evaluating different indoor training apps. I’m down to two – FulGaz and Rouvy. I have already dismissed Swift, Sufferfest , TrainerRoad, and a host of others because my primary selection criteria is to make training indoors like cycling outdoors with real video footage of epic rides.

Today I had my first Rouvy ride, and must admit, I was pleasantly surprised.

First, it was quick and easy to download, install, and setup the app. It immediately recognized, and connected all of my sensors – Wahoo KickR Core and Heart Rate Strap – and the user interface is friendly, intuitive, and feature rich. I had all of the numbers I would ever need – speed, power, cadence, grade – and the ride profile showed where I, and other riders, were positioned on the ride. The app introduces augmented reality, graphic avatars superimposed on top of the high quality video of the ride. I didn’t think I would like this feature, but as it turned out, it more than anything made the ride real. There were other cyclists on the road. Other cyclists to chase down, and race, just as I would do on the road.

I have a lot of other features to check out, but I give Rouvy a 👍 for this first ride.

If you have experience with the app, I’d like to hear from you.

The glutes are key … 🚴‍♂️

About Cori

Cori Lefkowith has helped me workout better, and more efficiently at home during Covid.

I discovered her website quite by accident. Somehow it showed up in my YouTube feed. The first video of hers that I watched outlined a number of pre-workout dynamic stretches. I wasn’t doing much stretching at the time, certainly not before training. Today, I incorporate a number of her suggestions before every workout.

After that first video, I watched many more, subscribed to her channel, and even reached out to her via email, as she suggests. I couldn’t find any cycling specific workouts, and wondered if she had done any. She responded quickly saying:

“So no. I don’t really have any specifically for cyclists. In general I focus on unilateral glute activation, ankle mobility and thoracic mobility.”

This didn’t mean much to me at first, but once I understood what she was talking about, I realized her approach is relevant to all sports, and in particular cycling.

The glutes are the largest, most powerful muscles in the body, and are key to a powerful, efficient pedalling stroke. Cori has taught me how to activate, strengthen, and stretch these muscles (there isn’t just 1 but 3 of them. I discovered mine were underdeveloped, despite years of cycling.

And if you cycle, you know that ankle and thoracic spine mobility is essential. The better your ankling technique, the more powerful your stroke. And the more flexible your lower back, the more aero position you can hold and maintain.

Imagine if I had focused on these things 25 years ago 😂

Since incorporating Cori’s stretches, and strengthening exercises, I have become notably more flexible, stronger, and confident. My posture has improved. I’m more balanced when walking. I have less right hip, and lower back discomfort. And when I ride, I’m more conscious of my glutes being engaged, resulting in a more efficient stroke, and I can get into, and hold a more aerodynamic position.

Phil Gaimon taught me how to chase local PR’s during Covid. And Cori Lefkowith taught me how to better activate my glutes, pedal more powerfully, and hold a more aerodynamic position.

I’ve learned a lot during the Covid lockdown.

I have new respect for Phil Gaimon … 😂

I have new respect for Phil Gaimon.

Not because he smashed the STRAVA records for our 3 local mountains in one ride. That in itself is crazy good. No. I understand better how strong a rider he is after doing some 15-18% FulGaz climbs this morning.

Phil is currently training for his next Everesting record attempt, and expects to do it this fall when he finds the right climb. The right climb for him is a 15-16% pitch with no turns. He expects to motor up averaging 300 watts on the way up, and speeding down as fast as he can. And keep doing this for ~ 7 hours.

Here’s the thing. I hit 300-400 watts this morning for short, very short, periods of time. There is no way, no way, I could do this for 7 hours.

He has given me a new appreciation for pro cyclists. Phil was not the best. Far from it. If he is in this good of shape at the end of his, dare I say mediocre career, imagine how powerful elite cyclists are at the peak of theirs.

Where does that leave the rest of us mere mortals?

This is how I do it … 🤷‍♂️

This is how I do it.

This is how I make decisions. I talk with as many knowledgeable, experienced people as possible, and I watch a lot of YouTube videos 😂

The above video did it for me.

There is no doubt in my mind that Swift is not for me. Putting Swift up beside FulGaz tells the tale. Kudos to DC Rainmaker 👍 It’s a brilliant idea to match the apps this way. It answered all of my questions.

Swift is not realistic at all. Not the scenes, and certainly not the cyclists. On the other hand, FulGaz is the real thing in every way.

My single most important criteria in selecting a smart trainer app, is to bring my rides inside. I want them to look and feel like what I experience on the road.

This morning, I rode one of my favourite local rides on FulGaz. I know this ride well. It is an iconic Vancouver road ride that I have trained on for 30 years.

Yikes. I hate to admit it has been that long ☹️

FulGaz did it right. The effort, and speed were bang on. And the video reminded me of my early morning summer rides!

If the rest of FulGaz’s rides are similar, I’m won’t be disappointed training with it.

Pain Cave additions … 🖥💬

There are a few additions I needed.

It’s not enough to just have a trainer, bike, and software. I needed a few things. First, I had to decorate by hanging several jerseys, medals, and other cycling trophies. This was free. Then I went shopping at Amazon to purchase a matt, and sweat protector for the bike. Next, I went to the local hardware store to buy a standing, oscillating fan. And lastly, I visited BestBuy to purchase a 22″ monitor, and a lightning to HDMI converter.

This is Version 1 of the Cave, the least expensive setup. I’m running the app on my iPhone, and projecting it onto the larger monitor. I already had the phone, and bike. I needed to purchase the trainer, matt, sweat protector, fan, monitor, and converter. All this cost less than $1,800 CAD. Next season, if I enjoy the indoor experience, I’ll switch to a large, wall mounted TV with an Apple TV. For now, this is a huge improvement to the spinning bikes I have been used to using in the winter months.

Oh. One other thing. I had an old towel.

My indoor setup … 🚴🏻

I have setup a “pain cave” as an indoor cycling studio.

I don’t like riding in the cold or wet weather. And, I don’t want to return to the gym anytime soon. As long as it was sunny and dry, I welcomed riding outside, and training in the local parks. Now that the weather is changing, and we are experiencing an uptick in Covid cases, I’m happy to stay home.

But I need more equipment. I have some dumb bells, an exercise ball, and a mat. This is enough for strength training. But what about indoor cycling?

I decided to purchase a smart trainer. You know, one of those direct drive ones where you remove the back wheel, and connect your drive train directly. I have an extra carbon road bike I can dedicate to the cause, and space in my den – a converted walk-in closet – to set it up.

Which trainer?

There are so many to choose from. I began asking around, and calling the local shops. In the end, I chose the Wahoo KICKR CORE. I’m a big Wahoo fan 😃 It gets excellent reviews for reliability, features, and noise. And, it was available locally for a good price. I had it setup in a day.

Now, what software to run on this smart baby?

Until I started researching, I didn’t realize there are so many apps to choose from.

I was familiar with Swift. Everyone seems to be using it. But I don’t like the virtual reality aspect. It’s not real enough. It’s like a video game. And, I never liked video games 😂 I know the social features are popular, but that’s not the type of cycling I enjoy.

That’s where I had to start. What kind of cyclist am I, and what do I expect from an indoor trainer?

I’m not a racer. I enjoy century events and Gran Fondos, but I do them for the experience, never expecting to win, or even compete, except maybe with myself. I prefer solo rides to group rides, and I like to train with structure. Despite my age, I still think I can improve, become more efficient, and get stronger. I want my indoor experience to be like my outdoor road rides.

This helps.

Given that, Swift is out. Sufferfest is more for racers. The videos actually put you in races. That’s not for me. TrainerRoad gives you all the stats you need, but is visually uninteresting.

I want a more realistic experience.

Two apps come strongly recommended. FulGaz and Rouvy. Over the next 1-2 weeks I’m planning to test them out – they both come with a 14 day free trial – and select one for the winter.

Stay tuned 😂

PS – If you have experience with either, let me know your thoughts.

One last thought about STRAVA … 🤦🏻

I have one more thought about STRAVA.

When I first began using the app, I didn’t think of it as a journal or training log. For years I kept a spreadsheet detailing every workout, and training goals. At some point along my STRAVA journey, I realized there was no need. STRAVA actually keeps a more detailed record of every workout, helps me set goals, and monitors my progress. I use it to record strength workouts, walks & hikes, indoor smart trainer sessions, in addition to outdoor rides. Everything all in one place.

When I first began using STRAVA, I underestimated its usefulness. Now, years later 😂, I understand it’s value and potential for athletes of all levels.

Give it a try, if you haven’t already ✌️