1st Ride Outside in 2021 đŸš´đŸģ

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.

Challenges in February …

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.

It’s no so bad.

The FTP Test â˜šī¸

I did the FulGaz FTP Test today. As expected, there was little difference from the last test taken ~ 2 months ago.

2 watts.

I didn’t plan this test well. I was rested. That’s good. But, I went too hard during the warmup, particularly on the 2 preliminary climbs. More importantly, I started the test too soon. Apparently, FulGaz changed the visual display that counts down to the start, and I wasn’t sure when to go. So, I started going hard too early. Would it have changed the result? Maybe.

Next time I’ll pay more attention.

The test is hard. It is supposed to be. At the end, I was fully spent. My legs felt like rubber. That’s the way it is. It’s not a pleasant experience. If it is, you are not working hard enough. Next time, I’ll pace myself better. The grade isn’t consistent during the climb, ranging from 4-8%, and I didn’t react to the changes quickly enough, losing power on the easier grades. I’ll know better next time.

I may also do the test using the Wahoo computer as well to see if there is a difference. I’m curious. I understand that different platforms provide different results. I suppose it doesn’t matter what platform you use. It’s really only important to be consistent.

In any event, I have a number.

So, I can begin FulGaz’s FTP training program. Actually, I have already started, so will continue where I left off a month ago. The plan is to complete 2-3 of these interval sessions each week. Each of the sessions are ~ 60 minutes long, I have already completed 10 of the 39 workouts.

Only 29 more to go.

There is another scheduled test in 3-4 weeks, and one at the end. The plan is to make improvement. Remember? The goal is a wattage gain of 5% during February. I haven’t decided the goal for March. It will depend on how I do this month.

The work begins.

Time to resume … đŸš´đŸģ🏋ī¸đŸ—ģ

This morning my resting heart rate (RHR) was 31 beats per minute (BPM). This signals that after 3 days of rest, I have recovered. I certainly feel recovered. I have fewer aches and pains, and the legs are lighter feeling.

I know it is controversial whether RHR is an accurate indicator of recovery. There is no conclusive evidence apparently. Some suggest better ways to monitor recovery include the quality of your sleep, and your general feeling of well being. For me, how fatigued I may feel, or how much sleep I get, are too subjective. At least RHR can be quantified. I have noticed over the last 3 days, my RHR has progressively decreased. Together with the way I’m feeling, RHR is a reliable measure of recovery. At least for me.

I’m ready to resume training.

GOALS

My goals for February are simple.

1 – Increase my FTP by 5%.

2 – Lose 5 pounds.

What’s the plan?

TRAINING PLAN

I will return to a monthly training block with 3 weeks on, and 1 week off. And, I will continue to ride, strength train, and walk for ~20 hours per week, or 3-4 days, with 1-2 rest days per week.

I’ll start with an FTP test. I don’t expect it will be much different than the last one. I have done few HIIT or interval workouts the past few months.

Then I will complete FulGaz’s “Keen FTP Program“, and expect to finish it in 6-8 weeks, doing 2-3 interval sessions each week. Each of the progressive workouts will be based on my recorded FTP.

On the other days of the week, I will do 2-3 smart trainer sessions ranging in length from 30-45 minutes, varying the intensity of each for a total of 60-90 minutes.

Between each of these trainer sessions, I will complete a 20-30 minute focused strength training workout, progressively increasing the volume or intensity each week of the block. All I plan to change is to include a few additional plank and bridge variations. Otherwise, the circuits I do for core, arms, chest, back, and shoulders will remain the same.

WEIGHT LOSS PLAN

I don’t need to change much to lose 5 pounds.

I am vegan (mostly), and already have a healthy. natural diet eating a lot of fruit, and vegetables. Also, I advocate intermittent fasting. For several years now, I have been on a 16/8 hour regimen, often training in the morning fully fasted. All I need to do is cut out second helpings at dinner, and late night snacks. I have started having a piece of bread with peanut butter at night for some reason. I don’t need it.

The only way to lose weight is to maintain a calorie deficit diet.

Training plans need to be simple, and easy to follow. Otherwise, it is too easy to lose focus, and motivation. This plan is simple. It has just 2 realistic goals, and few changes to what I am already doing. Does that mean I am not reaching high enough. I don’t think so. The key is to take small steps, train consistently, and make steady progress.

I’ll report back here in a month.

What recovery looks like …

What does a recovery week look like?

I know what it looks like. I just haven’t been doing it this past year. All cycling events were cancelled because of COVID, and without one to train for, I became less disciplined. I still cycled, and set new goals, but my training was less structured. Although COVID is still with us, and very likely events will be cancelled again, I plan to return to a more structured schedule. For me, that means monthly training blocks with 3 weeks on, and 1 week off.

This week is a recovery week, the first in a very long time.

What will it look like?

Well, the plan is to only stretch, and walk, for 3 days. Maybe longer if I am still feeling tired, or my RHR is elevated. Over the years, I have developed dynamic and static stretching flows that take approximately 45 minutes to complete. I’ll do them every morning after a cup of coffee. Also, if you have been following this blog, you know I walk for 1-2 hours every day, usually up and over “Little Mountain”. I’ll continue to do that but take the easiest route to the top, and only climb it once. I’ll try to get more sleep, eat well, and reduce as much stress as I can.

I’ll also spend time reviewing my training during this past month. You can see in the above schematic that I trained every day during January. Usually that included 1 or more sessions on the smart trainer, a targeted weight workout, and a walks over “Little Mountain”, averaging about 20 hours per week.

Was this the right amount? The right distribution? Or, was it too much? These are the questions I will explore over the next few days, with the intent to come up with a more effective plan for February.

The following STRAVA schematics show that I completed over 100 training activities over almost 90 hours, cycling almost 745 km on the trainer with an elevation gain of over 11,000 metres, representing a 21% increase in “Fitness” during this period. Whatever that means.

So, what did these training session look like?

I follow a local professional triathlete on STRAVA. She has completed over 40 triathlons all over the world. This past summer she was hit by a truck while training on her bike, and broke her neck. She can’t run, or ride on the rode yet, but she has been spending a lot of time racing on SWIFT. She has taught me how to mix trainer session up. Sometimes she will do long sessions from 2-4 hours. I find these mentally difficult. Other times, she will do a series of shorter ones for 30-45 minutes. I liked this idea, and began doing 3 shorter sessions with a modified weight workout between each trainer session. These workouts would take me 2+ hours, and I felt they were more effective than longer sessions. I would vary the 3 bike sessions. For example, I might start with a 30 minute flat tide, followed by a 30 minute climb, and finish with a short climb with a fast descent. And between each ride, I would do a 20-30 minute weight session focusing on different areas of the body.

I liked this approach. It gave me an opportunity to try a variety of virtual rides. This helped to keep me motivated, and challenged. Over the next few days, I will consider how I can improve on this approach. I’ll also refine the training mix. This time of year. I like to spend more time on strength training, and working on specific cycling skills.

I’ll also evaluate my walking sessions. I have been making them progressively longer, faster, and more difficult. Do I continue doing this, or spend more time on the bike?

That is what my recovery week looks like. A time to rest, reflect, and re-evaluate. At the end of the recovery period, I’ll do another FTP test. This will help me establish a new plan.