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.
I never appreciated the social features of STRAVA as much as I have since the start of the COVID lockdowns.
I have a new set of cycling mates 😂 I actively follow local cyclists that get out regularly to learn new routes, and share “kudos” and messages of encouragement. Since all of the cycling events have been cancelled, and group rides discouraged, I look forward to sharing rides with my new friends.
I follow men and women of all ages that live in the area, that have cycled 3,000+ km to-date this year. I’m surprised how many serious cyclists live nearby. And, I’m surprised how strong, and fast some of them are. Stronger, and faster than me ☹️ Some are a real inspiration. One woman gets out EVERY morning at dawn for a walk and coffee posting beautiful pictures of the sun rise. Another young woman, who just returned from Europe after completing her PhD, completes all of the local routes in record times. One fellow, a local cycling coach, climbs all of the local mountain regularly.
My new mates are an inspiration. They get out regularly, and encourage me to do the same. I actually feel I’m letting them down if I don’t ride 🤷♂️ And, they don’t just post rides. They also record swims, walks, SWIFT sessions, and Peleton workouts.
I walk a lot these days, taking every opportunity to get outside, and have begun to record these as well. A walk is a workout, right?
If you aren’t already using STRAVA’s social aspect, I encourage you to check it out.
During the cold, wet winter months, I usually train at a public gym making regular use of the spinning bikes. I would use all of the equipment – free weights, cable systems, the landmine, and squat rack – but mostly I enjoyed the social aspect. I like meeting people, and learning from them. But because of COVID, I’m not anxious to return. They are open, with limitations, but I’ve decided not to go back for at least another year, maybe never.
Instead, I purchased a smart trainer, a Wahoo KickR Core, and setup a corner of my room for it, and one of the bikes.
I’m a big Wahoo fan. I train with the Wahoo Bolt computer and can’t say enough about it. It provides all the stats I need, and then some. It has a long battery life. The setup is on my iPhone which makes it much easier and more convenient. And, it integrates seamlessly with STRAVA. So, when I was considering a smart trainer, the KickR line had to be a consideration.
I spoke with a lot of people, and even reached to STRAVA followers using SWIFT regularly to ask what setups they preferred. Three trainers were mentioned most often – the Tacx Neo, CycleOps H3 (Solaris), and Wahoo KickR Core.
I would have been happy with any one of them. But supply was an issue. They are a hot commodity as the winter months approach. Only one shop in town had any, and fortunately it was the KickR Core. Because of my experience with the Bolt, it was the one I preferred. Within a few days I had it setup, and paired with the Bolt.
I’m working my way through all of the options – Bolt workouts, FTP tests, GCN YouTube spinning classes, virtual rides, and lastly SWIFT. Like the BOLT, I can’t say enough. It’s quiet, feels like a real outdoor ride, and feature rich.
I haven’t been on this platform for 3 months. I don’t have a good explanation, other than COVID has rearranged my priorities.
And, a few bad habits have appeared ☹️
I didn’t get to Camp PedalWORKS this year, the 1st time in over a decade that I haven’t spent at least part of the summer there. Each year I look forward to the solitude, and less travelled, rural roads. It’s a time to refocus, train, and simplify. It didn’t happen this year.
During COVID I stopped reading and began watching more TV. Every morning I’d get up, make coffee, and watch the morning news, anxious to follow COVID developments, and the government’s economic responses.
What I miss most about Camp PedalWORKS is the simplicity. There’s no TV, and no internet. Instead, it’s a place where a lot of books are read, and many cycling miles are accumulated.
I still train. Harder in some ways. Fewer kilometres, but more climbing. I’m stronger and fitter than this time last year. It’s inevitable in these mountainous parts. But there’s something missing.
I’m going to hit the reset button, and stop some of the COVIDian habits. Less TV. And more reading.
Instead of watching the morning news, I plan to read, or write. It’s what I do when at Camp PedalWORKS. I make a cup of coffee and get back under the covers until I’m ready for a ride, or workout.
At the end of each month, I rest for 2-3 days, and then re-test myself. When the gyms were open, I’d complete an FTP test on a spinning bike. These days, I time myself up the steepest, most challenging, local hills. I’m fortunate to have 4 right out my back door. They are not long (1.5 km), but have grades ranging from 5-13%. These are my new monthly test.
Yesterday I climbed them all in succession. My objective was to set a PR on each, and claim the #1 ranking for my age group if possible. Surprisingly, I did both 😃
I have been climbing more this past month, and have been feeling stronger, but I didn’t really expect to claim all of the top rankings.
With gyms closed, I make due with a couple of 15 pound dumb bells, and a series of body weight exercises. Once or twice a week I do 3-4 sets of 15 full-body exercises, gradually increasing the # of repetitions. The 1st set is a warm up doing ~ 10 reps. The 2nd I do 15-20 reps. And the final set I continue until I fail. Until I can’t do another rep. That might be 40-50 reps for some of the exercises. The entire workout takes ~ 90 minutes, and I’m left fully spent.
This week I came across the above video that outlines the use of strength training to failure. It can help to break through plateaus, and build strength. Even with light weights.
I suppose I could purchase heavier dumb bells. I might still. But I realize heavy weight is not the only method to improve strength, and endurance. High reps with pauses, and slower reps increase the time muscles are under tension, which has a similar effect as high weight and low rep workouts. It may even be better. There is less of a chance for injury.
During the summer months when I cycle more, I intend to continue with this approach. In the fall when I’m inside more, I may consider purchasing more weights.
I’m spending too much time on YouTube, but it has its benefits 😂
Phil Gaimon was a professional cyclist. He retired in 2016 to find a real job (he wasn’t that good apparently), and developed a YouTube channel called The Worst Retirement Ever, where he travels the world trying to earn KOMs on the worlds toughest climbs. A formidable task, and the worst ever retirement.
Or is it?
I learned of Phil when he visited my hometown to attempt the Triple Crown. We have 3 local mountains, and each year there is a race up each of them in succession. Phil attempted to KOM each of them. I don’t know if he was successful or not. I haven’t found the video yet but it got me thinking.
I identify with Phil.
I’m retired, and all I really want to do is train, and cycle. I’m nowhere as fit, or fast, but then again, I’m also a lot older. By a long shot. And, I never raced professionally. No, I’m a recreational cyclist with an obsession. Instead of chasing KOMs around the world, I chase local PRs. It’s encouraging to see that even at my age, I can improve.
So maybe my blog needs to be renamed from PedalWORKS to The Worst Retirement. Certainly most people my age are not interested in pushing themselves physically the way I do. But I look at it differently.
What is more important than your health? My health?
Cycling gets me out the door, challenging myself, and engaged. What more could I ask for?
There is something.
Warm weather all year round. When we are done with COVID-19, I hope to spend the summer months at Camp PedalWORKS, and the winters in Arizona 😃
Well, I have been researching how to become a better cyclist, learning more about HIIT, polarized training, fasted cardio, intermittent fasting, the benefits of drinking coffee, optimum pre and post workout meals, indoor training workouts, core training exercises, Everlasting, and why oatmeal is the perfect food.
As a result, I have revised my training schedule. I train 6 days a week, fast 16 hours a day, complete 90 minutes of cardio while fasting, eat oatmeal with a banana and blueberries every day, complete two HIIT workouts each week, train indoors mostly using a power meter and heart rate monitor, drink 3 cups of black filtered coffee a day all the while contemplating my next cycling adventure.
This week I’m heading to Scottsdale, Arizona with my carbon road bike. I’m looking forward to the warmer, dryer weather, and cycling outdoors again. We have experienced one of the wettest Novembers on record, and I have not had many opportunities to cycle outside. I have never been to Scottsdale but understand it is a cycling friendly city featuring epic dessert rides.
I can’t wait. If you are in the area, let me know 😂
It’s a bitter sweet moment. I’m sad to leave, yet pleased to go home.
I have been at the cottage for 2 1/2 months, mostly on my own, without TV or internet. Few would think this would be much of a holiday. No amenities. A lot of cycling. 200-250 km a week. A lot of reading. 10 eBooks – biographies, historical and mystery novels. And, simple, wholesome meals.
Time alone helps me focus. I train better. I’m more sensitive to what needs the most attention. Cycling is different in these parts. The terrain is flatter but there is a relentless north-westerly wind almost every day. I ride on the drops mostly, and stay on the small ring when fighting a headwind. I eat better. I prepare simple vegetarian meals – vegetable wraps, frittatas, salads, sandwiches. No desserts. No sweets. And, I sleep better. To bed at dusk and at sunrise. This is the recipe for successful training, and why I have begun to refer to the cottage as Camp PedalWORKS.
On the side of my bike travel case, I have an oval sticker of a cyclist heading down a windy road. What do you think? Would this make a good tattoo? And, if so, where would you put it? On the forearm where it can be readily seen and enjoyed? On the back of the calve so those in hot pursuit know you will not be easily passed?
What are your thoughts?
I’m serious about this. I figure it’s about time. While I was packing my bike this afternoon I began looking more carefully at this sticker, and thought, it is me. It is how I enjoy cycling most. Alone on quiet, rural roads. It would make the perfect tattoo for a cycling enthusiast like me.
I said previously, I am a slave to numbers. Here are some of the stats I have accumulated while at Camp PedalWORKS. The RED highlights indicate new lows. My goals for the past 2 1/2 months while at the cottage were:
Cycle more frequently getting my weekly average up to 250 km;
Get down to 160 pounds, an optimal cycling weight for me;
Adopt a “polarized” training schedule, spending ~ 80% of the time in Zone 1, and ~ 20% in Zones 3&4; and,
Complete the Horseshoe Valley Century ride in reasonable time.
Well, I accomplished all 4 of these items, and in so doing, also increased my daily average speeds, and morning resting heart rate. I’m leaner and fitter. And, I feel more confident on the bike, frequently positioned on the drops, even while climbing, and effortlessly switching between chainrings maintaining consistent power to the pedals. I even got in several fast-paced groups rides, working on my pace-line and drafting skills.
Average speed doesn’t mean much. On every ride the conditions are different. Hills. Flat terrain. Headwinds. Helping winds. But I noticed my average speeds were increasing to ~ 25 kph. That’s an average. Often I was doing 25-35 kph. Sometimes faster, particularly on descents.
I have 6 weeks to prepare for the Whistler GranFondo, a 122 ride with 1,900 meters of climbing. This week I am heading to the West Coast to cycle the mountains in preparation.
So, what have I learned from these past 10 weeks at the cottage, at Camp PedalWORKS?
I have been without TV and regular internet all of this time. And do you know what? I don’t miss them at all. I’m behind with the news, but does it matter? I have missed a few yearly sporting events like Wimbledon, the Tour de France, and the Open, but does it matter? Not really. I get the headlines on the radio news, if I choose. What did I get in return? I read a lot. I have finished 10 books so far – biographies, mysteries, and historical novels. I trained a lot. More than I would otherwise. And, I had time to prepare better, simpler foods, and as a consequence, lost 10 pounds.
I have not ridden in traffic. No stop lights. No stop signs. Just quiet, scenic, rural roads connecting the farms and nearby lakes. It was continuous cycling out the back door. I had 3 routes. West to the big lake. East to the small lake. And, north to another small lake. Each route is a 35-50 km loop. And, on the weekends, I might connect the loops together for a longer ride. Cycling in the city can’t compare. Although we have well developed dedicated cycle paths, traffic calm streets, separate bike lanes, some with dividers, it is not the same. It’s not continuous cycling. It’s not as safe. And, it’s not as enjoyable.
I learned I don’t have to always work hard. Rest is good. You need to recover. Particularly when you get to be my age. I gradually increased my training load by riding longer distances, and increasing the intensity (i.e. hill repeats, sprints) but made certain to take rest days, and alternate hard and easy rides.
I learned I was not the best house keeper. I vacuumed the pine floors for the first time in 50 years, and was devastated by the amount of dirt and dust dislodged from between the boards. I cleaned the oven for the first time in 25 years. I am (was) a stove top chef. Now I bake and roast! And, I cleaned the eaves for the first time in at least 25 years, maybe longer. They had things growing in them. The cottage has never looked, or felt, so good.
And, I learned that time alone is cleansing, empowering, and cathartic. I need it more often than I am accustomed. Or, maybe it’s the company I keep. Anyway, it’s always an adjustment at first, but once settled in, everything opens up. I have more energy. I sleep better. The creative juices flow. I write. Poems even. I cook, and enjoy it immensely. I am more sensitive to the the world around me, particularly the wildlife. The osprey, loons, herons, blue jays, chickadees, wood peckers, robins, geese, ducks, beaver, pike, bass, and deer. And, time flies. I’m never bored, and there never seems to be enough time in the day.
So, Camp PedalWORKS has been good. The cottage and I are better for it. Cleaner. Fitter. Slimmer. Faster. Stronger. More confident. And, more relaxed.
I return to the city in a few days. Back to city traffic. Congestion. TV. The internet. And, people. I’m not used to having people around. Not used to making idle conversation. Any conversation. Back to hills. And mountains. The cycling will be different. Harder. More climbing. And the weather will be different too. No humidity. But warm.
I return with mixed emotions. It will be as big an adjustment as coming here.