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.
Yesterday I mentioned how the social aspect of STRAVA has opened doors for me.
I outlined how I strategically follow men and woman of all ages that live in my neighbourhood (loosely speaking), and cycle regularly (3,500+ km year-to-date) – road cyclists like me that love to train, and race (sometimes).
Yesterday I had an interesting experience. I headed out in the morning to ride a familiar route with a few climbs, and a long gradual descent. 35-40 km in total. I was stopped at a traffic light. When it turned green, a young woman passed me in the intersection. She was keeping a good pace, and I could see she was experienced. She had a smooths, efficient pedalling stroke, and used hand signals regularly. I could tell she was an experienced road cyclist accustomed to riding in groups. I got on her wheel 😃
We kept a good pace for the first 10 km, averaging 25-30 kph to the base of the first long climb. I’m a good climber and thought I would pull alongside her to chat a little. Well, she put me in my place. She dropped me almost immediately. She was strong. She powered up the hill, and I never saw her again ☹️
Later, while going through my STRAVA feed, I realized we followed one another. I messaged her and we had an interesting exchange. We may never share a ride – I fear she is much stronger than me – but I hope to have more cycling discussions with her. I have a lot to learn from her.
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.
It is catastrophic in many respects. Many have died. Many have lost their regular income, and may lose their businesses. But good has come of it as well. As a society, we have been forced to reconsider our priorities.
The pandemic has affected the elderly, and marginalized groups the most – people of colour, indigenous groups, and lower income neighbourhoods. We have to ask why, and what we can do to correct it. Racism has no place in our pluralist society. Our elders must be cared for with dignity, and respect. Everyone has the right to be protected by the police. And, everyone has the right to support their family, and earn a living wage.
As an advanced, wealthy society, we can do something about these issues. We don’t have to accept the status quo. But we must react. We must do something. And we need to do it collectively. The same way we have listened to the medical experts to physical distance, wash our hands frequently, and wear a mask if we can’t stay 6 feet apart from others. This has been a huge change, but we did it here in British Columbia to flatten the curve. We did it. And we continue to do it. And we did it without listening to the politicians. We listened to the experts.
We need to elect politicians that listen to the experts. The climate change experts. The medical experts. Sociologists. Mental health experts.
It’s a matter of political will. Do we have the will to deal with these problems? Or, are we content to let things stand.
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 😃