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.

The Wahoo KickR Core … 😃

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.

In posts to come, I’ll share the experiences.

Look what I found … 😉

Look what I found.

For the past month, I have transitioned to a body-weight strengthening program because I didn’t think I would have an equipped gym near the cottage. I don’t want to stop strength training for the next 2 months. I will ride more frequently, and longer, but I also want to maintain the strength I have built up over the winter months. So, I switched to a body-weight program – squats, lunges, leg lifts, windshield washers, planks, hamstring curls, calve raises – using only my own body weight that I can do anywhere. Surprisingly, it is the only weight I need.

I was in town today, and discovered a local gym that includes a spinning/yoga studio upstairs equipped with the Keiser spinning bikes I’m accustomed to, free weights, kettle bells, exercise balls, and stretching matts.

I loved it.

It was quiet, clean, and well equipped. I plan to go 1-2 times a week depending on the weather. When it’s sunny and hot, I’ll prefer to be on the bike. But when it rains, or I’m in town to shop, I’ll drop in, and do my customary 60-90 minute workout.

I have been travelling to the cottage for decades (longer really), and never knew this studio existed. It’s funny how the people you need, appear when you most need them. Last year, I wanted custom cushions made for an old rattan couch I treasure, and low and behold, I discovered an upholsterer living in the area looking for work. Ten years ago, I needed a new roof for the cottage, and low and behold, I discovered an experienced, out-of-work roofer renting one of the cottages across the way. Several years ago, I was looking for other road cyclists to ride with once a week. Turns out there is an ex-racer operating a small bike shop in one of the nearby small, very small, towns. Little did I know he services the entire area, started a local cycling club, and has successfully advocated for improved cycling signage, bike routes, events, and improved road surfaces in the area.

Who knew?

All you have to do is look, keep an open mind, and listen.

So here I am in remote, rural, northern Ontario, 10 km to the nearest single-purpose small town, and 30+ km to a major centre where there are restaurants, a variety of shopping options, and big-box stores. So, who would have thought I would have all I need right at my door step?

Do you need inspiration?

IMG_4268

Do you need inspiration this year? Inspiration to get off the couch, and out on the bike? Inspiration to train in the off season when the weather is less than ideal for cycling?

I was given a copy of Clara Hughes’ memoire “Open Heart, Open Mind” for Christmas. I am a fan of Clara Hughes but this is not the kind of book I would normally read. For those of you who may not know Clara, she is a 6-time Canadian Olympian, a 6-time medal winner, and the only athlete to win multiple medals in both the summer (cycling) and winter (speed skating) games.

I have a friend who competed in the 1972 summer Olympics. She did not medal, not even close, but it was, and still is, the highlight of her life. She is very proud of the experience, and it has shaped her life since. Imagine, if you can, what it might feel like to qualify not for 1, but for 6 different Olympiads, and to contend for a medal each time.

What is truly remarkable about Clara isn’t the results. They speak for themselves. What surprised me, and makes the medals so remarkable, is the difficult upbringing she had. She came from a highly dysfunctional family from Winnipeg, enduring an alcoholic, and abusive father. She was destined to a life of alcohol, drugs, and trouble until she discovered speed skating as a teenager.

Despite all of her success, Clara suffered, and still does today, from acute depression. Her story is about how she battled this demon, and became an advocate for all those suffering from this debilitating disease. Despite all of her success, she remains down to earth, the girl you would love to have live next door, and mentor your kids.

So, if you are having trouble motivating yourself this year, I suggest you pick up a copy of “Open Heart, Open Mind“. This book may not make you an Olympian, but it will make you want to get off the couch.

Winter training …

Ugh! It’s almost winter. Damn!

For the first time since last winter, I wore my full-on winter kit yesterday – long sleeve wool top, waterproof helmet cover, jacket, gloves, pants, and booties. And, still got wet. Cycling in the cold and wet is an adventure for sure. Oddly, I like it. Well, I like it as long as there is a hot shower waiting for me afterward.

This video has several good tips for the winter. Like working on your weaknesses. For me, that’s climbing. I get up. Even long steep climbs. And, with good form. But I’m not fast enough. I need to work on my power and strength.

During the winter, I put a lot of miles on Thatch (Chas and Lou get a spin when the roads are dry). And, hit the gym frequently. Back on the spinner doing power workouts and intervals. And weights. That’s funny. Me lifting weights. I visited a website last night (strengthlevel.com) to see how strong I am compared to others.

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 9.05.50 AM

There are a lot of people out there a lot stronger than me apparently 🙂 And I thought I was doing pretty well.

Entitlement eating …

IMG_2413

I planned to lose 5-10 pounds this winter before the start of the cycling season. I exercised more, worked harder, and ate well. I wanted to be ready for more climbing.

I don’t weigh myself often. Once every several weeks at most. I can usually tell whether I am gaining or losing by the fit my clothes. Tight, and I am gaining. Baggy, and I am losing. Simple. It’s not rocket science.

Imagine my horror, and surprise when I weighed my self last weekend. Instead of maintaining weight, I actually put on several pounds. I weigh more today than I have in several years. I am in better shape, stronger and, climb hills more easily. Still I am 10 pounds above my “ideal” weight.

Or, maybe not. Maybe I have a new “ideal” weight. Maybe this weight includes more muscle than the previous one. My legs are certainly larger, and stronger. And, I can do pushups now. My pants fit in the waist, it’s the thighs that have gotten tight.

The more I workout, the more I eat. I am entitled. Aren’t I? I have expended extra calories, surely, I can take a few more in.

I have a new plan. I’m going to get cut and lean like a body builder. You know the look. Keep all the muscle, and lose all the fat.

How do they do that?

 

Cycling in the rain …

Bikes

I was planning a long ride today. But, it was pouring rain. It started last evening, continued throughout the night and has yet to let up. This is not cycling weather. No. It’s gym time.

I am determined to cycle every day in April and, thought I would test my resolve. I put on my wet weather gear and headed to the gym on my bike. And, look what I found. Bike racks full of bikes. It seems I am not the only one wanting to get more miles in.

My commuter is highlighted at the back partially protected by the overhang. It is unusual to see so many bikes even in the warm, dry weather. What’s up? I’m known as “the biker” at the club. Members I don’t know will come up to me, introduce themselves and say “You are the guy on the spinner all the time, aren’t you?”. Or, “I see you locking up front all the time, don’t I?”. I have a bit of a reputation and, it seems, people are taking notice. If the racks are full today, we will have to install more come the better weather.

The club is in transition. Next, I will be organizing Sunday group rides.

 

reclaimed spaces …

VRC

I belong to the Vancouver Racquets Club, an unpretentious athletic club in my neighbourhood. In years past, I was a competitive squash player. These days, I train for cycling in the gym.

There are two squash games. The International version played on a wider court with a softer ball and, the North American game played on a narrower court with a harder ball. In the 1990s, the North American game fell out of favour. The VRC has courts for playing doubles, International and North American singles. When demand for the North American game began to decline, the club converted the courts into a workout gym. Fortunately, the courts were beside one another. An opening was built between them, a glass wall and doors were installed to open up the space and cardio & weight training equipment was installed.

I like the space. It is seldom busy. This is not a macho gym. A good mix of men and women of all ages use the facility. We even have a personal trainer available. Initially, there were no spinning bikes, just the traditional cardio, sit up bikes. I petitioned the club to acquire a proper spinning bike. We purchased one with the intent to add more as necessary. Interestingly, it is hardly used. I think of it as my bike. It seems I am the only regular user. It appears racquet sports and cycling don’t mix. The tread mills and step machines are busy but the spinner, not so much.

I usually cycle to the gym. And, I am not the only one. You wouldn’t know it from the picture above but the bike racks are usually filled. These members don’t spin in the gym often but there are a number of serious cyclists among them.

If I were ever to build a home gym (and I have considered it) it would be like the club’s gym. It wouldn’t be too big, only include equipment I need and would reclaim unused space. I always hesitate because the club has features I can’t replicate. A steam room. A sauna. A wide selection of beer. And, a social aspect that keeps me motivated. I hang out with a group of like minded people, learn the most effective training techniques and, improve my fitness at the same time.

Yesterday, I completed an 85 km ride in preparation for the Pacific Populaire, the first century of the season. Throughout the winter months, I have been training in the gym for this event. I commit to the ride because it keeps me training during the colder, wet months. I know my legs and engine can complete the century. It’s my butt I worry about. I have not been on the bike much in recent months. A 60 minute workout on a spinner or trainer is nothing like a 3-4 hour ride.

I was pleasantly surprised with yesterday’s ride. Although only 85 km, it was more difficult ride than the upcoming century. I finished the ride with a 3 km climb that was relatively easy. I am confident I can complete the century and am in better shape than any previous year thanks to the many hours spent in my gym.

Even my butt felt fine.

 

She asked “Why do I need to warm up or cool down?”

She asked “Why do I need to warm-up or cool-down?“.

As I have mentioned previously, I recently completed an 8 week training program prescribed by the American College of Sports Medicine. This is not the first time I have completed the program. It is what I do in the cold, wet months when I cycle less. I do the workouts indoors on a spinning bike focussing on endurance, speed and technique.

This year, I did something a little differently. First, twice a week I included a modified strength training workout that focused on the legs and core. Single-leg squats, planks, hamstring curls and a variety of Pilates exercises. After all, this is the cycling engine. And secondly, I included a 10-15 minute warm-up and cool-down before and after each and every session, regardless how I may have felt. In the past, I would neglect this thinking I didn’t have the time or, that it wasn’t really necessary. It’s the workout that counts. Right?

Not so fast.

There are real benefits to a warm-up and cool-down. I experience less muscle soreness following workouts and recover more quickly which allows me to workout more frequently.

When I cycle outside, I seldom warm-up or cool-down. I simply jump on the bike and go. I may start out slowly but always finish fast and hard and then, hit the shower. This season, I am going to at least make an effort to cool-down (and stretch) following every ride.

I said to her “These are the reasons you warm-up and cool-down …

The warm-up …

  • increases the body temperature
  • reduces the potential for muscle and connective tissue injuries
  • delivers more blood (and nutrients) to the muscles
  • increases blood flow to the heart reducing the occurrence of exercise-induce cardiac events
  • makes the muscles more supple helping to reduce injury
  • prepares the cardiovascular system for a workout
  • reduces excessive muscle soreness, and
  • prepares the athlete mentally for what is ahead (a hard workout)

The cool-down …

  • avoids sudden dizziness
  • reduces muscle soreness by distributing built up lactic acid away from the muscles, and
  • enables blood to circulate throughout the body caring nutrients and oxygen to the muscles accelerating recovery

Some of this is controversial.

Some athletes do not prescribe to the need for a warm-up or cool-down and, point out there is no conclusive medical evidence to prove either reduced muscle soreness or faster recovery. Personally, I believe it depends on how you define workout. A workout means different things to different people. Some workouts are more taxing than others.

I can comment on what I experience. My workouts were (and still are) difficult, taxing my leg muscles and heart to the limit. They are more demanding than most of my road rides. I find if I do not warm-up and cool-down for 10-15 minutes, I am sore and tired the next day.

Do you warm-up? Cool-down?

***

JJ Bean is a local coffee roaster with a chain of cafes strategically located throughout the city on all of my bike routes. The one pictured above has just opened in my neighbourhood and, I suspect, will become a regular pit stop following my rides. Great coffee, vegetarian/vegan lunch selections and, where this post was drafted.

***

 

I am “Excellent” !!!

yaya

I am “excellent”!

Yesterday, following a spinning workout, my Suunto M5 wrist-coach advised “Fitness level ‘excellent’ reached”.

I have just completed an 8 week conditioning program prescribed by the American College of Sports Medicine. The workouts are integrated with my Suunto M5 Heart Rate Monitor which tells me when and how hard to workout. Suunto also provides an on-line workout tracker (Movescount) that seamlessly uploads workouts from the M5 and summarizes the workouts graphically. This is a nice touch providing monthly summaries by duration, average heart rate and calories burned.

The program identifies six (6) fitness levels – very poor, poor, fair, good, very good and, excellent. You place yourself into one of these categories based on your activity level. At Christmas, I estimated I was “very good” for my age and began an 8 week program to become “excellent”. During this period, the workouts gradually became longer, more difficult and more frequent. They varied in length between 60-90 minutes including a warm-up, cool-down and post-ride stretching.

It has been an intense, highly-focused 8 weeks. I have completed 43 workouts, burned 17,000 calories and, pedalled for over 54 hours. Most of this time was on a spinning bike at the club although, I was able to get out on the road bike 5 times and recorded these rides as a workout.

I completed these workouts without the benefit of drafting, music or a spinning class leader to motivate me. These were 30 hours on the spinning bike facing a floor-to-ceiling mirror with only the Keiser computer and my M5 Suunto watch for company. I purposely decided to train this way thinking, if I could do this alone without external motivation of any kind, it would make me mentally stronger.

I am excellent!

This past week, I have been giving thought to what “excellent” feels like. It does feel different. I have experienced physical changes and, psychological ones as well.

My body has changed. It is firmer. Everywhere. My legs are more toned with noticeable muscular definition. My butt is smaller (I suspect the squats had a lot to do with that). My core, arms and shoulders are leaner. Even my face has a different look. I have not lost weight but it appears to have been redistributed leaving me with a slightly more athletic look.

I bound effortlessly up 5 flights of stairs two at a time every day. I climb 5% grades faster and more easily. I maintain a consistent pace on 3 hour rides without tiring. I walk taller with my shoulders back and stride more freely.  And, I sleep more soundly for 8 hours on most nights.

My clothes fit differently. The pant legs are looser, the waist hasn’t changed and, my shirt buttons pull a little. This is not what I expected. After burning 17,000 calories I expected to lose some weight, particularly around the waist. I am disappointed and remain 3-5 pounds heavier than my ideal weight.

My mental outlook has changed as well. I am more positive, more confident. My thoughts are clearly focused on the now and the inner chatter has lessened leaving me with fewer questions and more answers.

Excellent feels good.

But “excellent” does not mean perfect. There is room for improvement. There always is. Excellent, at least in this context, simply means I have above average cardiovascular health for my age.

Can I continue to improve? Can I get stronger? More flexible? Lose weight? Cycle faster? No doubt.

So, what’s next? Well, my wrist-caoch is not letting up. I checked the prescribed 7-day training schedule and it has me continuing to train at the same intensity 5 days out of the next 7. Also, the first century ride of the season, the Pacific Populaire, is March 29. I have completed this ride for the past several years and would like to do it again but beat last year’s time.

That’s the new goal.