Tag Archives: Turbo Trainer

The Simple Pursuit of Cycling

On the face of it, cycling is a simple pursuit; man and machine in harmony.  Technology has enhanced the experience, providing us with feedback every inch of the way, but in doing so it’s introduced complexity.  Have we lost the connection by staying connected?

“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.”
John F Kennedy

Cycling outside…

When I ride I use a Garmin Cycling Computer to capture some basic information; GPS tracks my journey, recording undulations and forward motion.  It also records each turn of the wheel, and every turn of the pedals; a magnet on the rear wheel beats out a rhythm reflecting distance and speed, while a similar magnet on the pedal indicates cadence.  A monitor on the frame “listens” for movement, broadcasting every action.

I also wear a Heart Rate Monitor to make sure I exercise within reasonable limits.  This, too, broadcasts to the Garmin, allowing it to record my exertion.

Of course, when I’m on the road I take my smartphone with me, “just in case”, but it’s generally double-bagged to keep it dry and kept safely tucked away.

When I finish a ride I connect my Garmin to my laptop to upload details of the ride to Strava, where I record all my activity and share what I’ve been up to with the outside world.

You would think that riding in the garage, protected from the elements, without any physical movement would simplify things, but instead things have got a lot more complicated…

In the garage…

The Turbo Trainer introduces another set of gadgets.  It is controlled by a display unit that sits neatly on the handlebars.  It provides me with feedback on my ride, cadence, speed, heart rate, etc. but I only really use it to control resistance.

In order to give my rides some structure and make them a bit more interesting I have subscribed to Zwift.  It provides a virtual cycling environment, as well as lots of fellow cyclists to “ride” with.  As well as tracking my ride, it also provides me with feedback on my performance.  An Ant+ dongle connects the Garmin to my laptop, transferring all the details, so I can view speed, cadence, heart rate and estimated power on the screen.

Zwift uses an App to turn my smartphone into a control unit so I can control elements of my ride, choose when to turn and interact with other riders (not that I generally do either as I find it a huge distraction when I’m trying to focus on riding).

When I finish my rides Zwift automatically syncs with Strava, safely recording my efforts.

Cycling Connections

My Cycling Connections

Just in case I don’t have enough feedback, I was given a FitBit for Christmas.  This records all sorts of interesting information about me throughout the day; physical activity, sleep, heart rate, etc.  Handy!

So, this simple pursuit is now supported by a spaghetti of cables, 5 display units, and an array of recording devices.  A failed connection, or the briefest of power outages can result in chaos… and often does.

Perhaps it’s time to de-clutter and get back to basics?

Surf’s up!

There was a window earlier today… I was sitting in the office, looking out of the window at a perfect February morning, sun shining, a clear blue sky, not a breath of window and bone dry roads.  After the miserable weather of the past few weeks, it was ideal conditions to get out on the bike.

I felt like screaming “Surf’s up!” and heading home.  Screw the four o’clock Friday, it’s stopped raining and the sun’s out!  A spontaneously extended weekend…

But I didn’t… and the window was a short one.

A momentary glimpse of spring in Scotland!

Having spent part of the afternoon planning my weekend cycling route, I met the girls for a Valentine’s Day trip to see a film.  After a couple of hours in the dark, we emerged into a torrential storm!  To make matters worse, by the time we arrived home the precipitation had turned to snow.  Marvellous!

Momentum is starting to build to the Euro City Cycle now.  Having got the “all clear” from the cardiologist, I’m keen to break free of the shackles of the Turbo Trainer, get some wind in my hair and some real miles in my legs.

Recently I compared my performance today against what I was capable of in October – I’m so much stronger now.  I’m able to do more than 40% more distance in the same time now as I was then (following the exact same video workout).  I’m really keen to see how this translates onto the road, but unfortunately it looks like I’ll have to wait.

The view from our front door… and the snow keeps falling!

As the snow falls outside, I feel I need an injection of something to keep my spirits up.  My “Nordic Noire” Christmas Box-set didn’t really seem to fit the bill so I’ve cracked open my BBC “London Olympics 2012” extended highlights DVDs.  That should do the trick!

C’mon Chris (Froome)! C’mon Bradley (Wiggins)! C’mon Mark (Cavendish)!  I know it didn’t come off last time, but maybe there’s an alternative ending on the DVD version!!!

The biggest hurdle

Recently my training has revolved around four different Turbo Trainer sessions.  Each is quite different, and I rotate them, using a shorter one when time is limited, a two-hour “marathon” once a week to help build my stamina, but generally alternating the other two.

As a result of the limited repertoire and frequent repetition, I have become very familiar with the various courses, and comfortable with the work-outs.  I know what’s coming and I can effectively pace myself to get the most out of each session (factoring in how I’m feeling on any particular day)*.

That all sounds good, and probably is on some levels, but it’s not real life.  Wouldn’t it be great if we always knew what the future held in store for us, if we always knew what was waiting for us around the next corner.  Wouldn’t life would be easy!

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As we all know, life is full of surprises.  No matter how much we dislike them, we have to be able to deal with them.  We can get better through practice, but that requires work and sometimes more than a little bit of courage.

Today I selected a new work-out, something different.  I was surprisingly nervous given I wasn’t going to be moving from the same spot in my office.  For the first time in some time I was going to expose myself to something quite new.

As it happens, the new work-out didn’t work out, but that’s another story (equipment rather than health problems so nothing to worry about!).  So, for the time being I’m going to take some satisfaction from the fact that I tried… the biggest hurdle has been overcome.  I’m sure actually completing the session will be no trouble at all!

***

* Thinking back to winter training during my days as an athlete, I remember some of the Fartlek sessions we did as a group. 

I used to love them when I was calling, when I was the person who decided what came next.  Simply knowing what was coming made it easier in some way.  I’m sure everyone else used to hate it because I think I made the sessions much tougher.  

When I was in the group following someone else’s instructions, the glove was on the other hand, and I used to find it much more difficult.

Positive Feedback

I broke my personal best for 40km on the bike today.  Actually it’s the third or fourth time I’ve done it over the past month.  In reality I know it’s all relatively arbitrary as all my recent cycling has been done on the Turbo Trainer so, to a degree, I can control how easy or hard the miles are.

That said, I’m always eager to see how far I’ve managed to “get” when I finish each session… to see if my Garmin Bike Computer has any new records to report.

Competitiveness is a bit of a double edged sword for me.  I will only get stronger and fitter if I push myself, but I have to make sure I stay within safe limits… my maximum Heart Rate is still only 118, and I don’t think will ever change.  So, I find myself in a constant balancing act between my Heart, my Legs and my Head… which will be the weakest link on any given day is anyone’s guess!

For me, having a Heart Attack hasn’t dampened my competitive spirit.  In fact the exercise I have been doing as a result has probably made me more competitive, if only by the fact that I am now fit enough to compete again!

What I really need to do now is to focus my competitiveness on going long rather than deep… I need to build stamina rather than power, for distance rather than speed.  This is not what I’m naturally inclined towards but it’ll benefit my “engine” (Heart Healthiness) and lay the foundations for the challenges to come in 2014.

A funky seat will make all the difference!

For the time being, there’s plenty of scope for me to set many more personal bests… I’m still very much at the novice stage.  In time my rests will get shorter and the need to give my derrière a break will (hopefully!) abate.  As a result, I should improve without having to dig too deep.

So I will continue to watch the Garmin with interest, because despite the fact that we know it’s a little childish it’s always good to get a bit of positive feedback, even if it is from a Bike Computer!

(Not) Hitting the wall

I sometimes worry about the frame of my Turbo Trainer failing and me being catapulted into the wall of my office at 25-30 miles an hour…

… but I’ll take my chances.

I am definitely an indoor cyclist at the moment.  I’m clocking up the miles on my Turbo Trainer, without moving an inch (and long may it stay that way!).  Cycling standing still.

Not the most glamorous location, but it works!

I’m sure the cyclist purists wouldn’t approve, but it’s a convenient way for me to get regular exercise.  It will also help build the strength in my legs and my “engine”.  Given I had precisely zero miles under my belt in July, every little helps.

The weather really hasn’t been conducive to getting outside either, so this is what it has to be.  Having negotiated the winter solstice, the days will start to get longer again offering the promise of evening outside on the bike… in time.

Working out on the Turbo Trainer is different to cycling outside in many ways:

Firstly, you have to pedal continuously as you don’t get any benefit from free-wheeling.  This means continuous pressure and continuous effort.  A good, controlled work out is guaranteed!

Unexpected Turbo Trainer incidents to one side, it’s obviously safer.  It’s very hard to fall off a fixed bike, and there isn’t any traffic to negotiate.  Being seen isn’t an issue and there’s no need to navigate pot-holes, ice or any other obstacles that may present themselves.

A very high tech set-up… the picnic table and cardboard box work a treat!

When you’re standing still you obviously don’t get any wind resistance or experience any friction from the road.  This makes clocking up the miles a bit easier.  The difference when cycling outside amazing, particularly the impact of dodgy road surfaces.

It feels much hotter cycling inside.  That sounds a bit silly as it is much warmer, but without a cooling breeze to help moderate the temperature, the only outlet is sweat.  I sweat a lot.  A variety of towels have been commandeered to help fight back.  It’s really not a pretty sight!

One of the areas that concerns me a bit is that I’m not getting a chance to build my bike handling skills.  As a result, I’m less elegant and generally more of a liability when I get outside.  I just have to gain comfort from the fact that this will come in time.  The more time I can spend outside when I finally get there, the better.

Finally, and importantly for me, working out at home eliminates all concerns about me experiencing issues when I’m out and about cycling on my own.  Fortunately I haven’t experienced any problems yet, but the concern is always there (for others as well as myself).  Being within earshot gives everyone an increased level of comfort.

The Euro City Cycle in May has given me a real focus.  When I first decided to do it, it seemed like a HUGE challenge.  I’m feeling increasingly confident that I’m going to be physically capable of completing the 300 miles over 4 days.  The fact that I can continue to train despite the worst the winter weather can throw at me is a real bonus.

Happy cranking!

An “and” day

Recently I’ve been trying to be more of an “and” person rather than an “or” person…

We spend a lot of time and energy making difficult decisions, forcing ourselves to choose between different options, working around the constraints.  Often we forget that there may be an option that allows us to do both…  “and” rather than “or”… all we need is to be positive and think a bit differently.

Working on the principle of “and”, today was my first double exercise day…

Monday’s have become my designated rest day – I’m always tired after the weekend.  It takes me a day to properly get back into the swing of a working week.  So, I don’t do any exercise on a Monday.  Hopefully this allows my body to properly recover and set me up for the rest of the week.

A cold, dark and very frosty start to the day!

Having had a day off, I set my alarm early this morning so I could swim before work.  I left the house to be greeted by a heavy frost, the first of the winter.  As well as double exercise, it turned out to be a double scrape day – I had to scrape the windshield before I could head to the pool, and again after my swim before I could head off to work.  Great!

Louise (my wife) was also faced with a frozen car as she set off to take the girls to school.  I have agreed to clear the garage to create space for her to get the car in, making the school run as straightforward as possible.  Unfortunately the arrival of winter has beaten me to the punch.  I now need to pull my finger out and clear space for the car… space that is currently occupied by my bike and Turbo Trainer.

It did turn into a beautiful day… if a little chilly!

Using the principle of “and”, this does not mean that I will lose the use of my bike.  I just need to find the next best place to locate it.  Fortunately, there are a couple of options inside the house.  The main considerations will be (1) to keep it out of the way and (2) to minimise the chances of me over-heating when riding.  There’s the minor consideration of sweat and oil pollution too, but I’m hoping a couple of towels and some carpet offcuts will do the trick there!

In the immediate term the bike will stay where it is.  Shifting the kit around can be something to look forward to doing at the weekend.  So, I successfully completed my ride, and my double exercise day – a ride and a swim.

Another minor milestone (FD +47)

I feel like I’m making real progress on the exercise front.  Some of it is down to exercising.  Some of it is down to understanding the kit and exercising better.

Although I’m still a complete novice, I feel like I’m in a position to provide some advice on cycling (at least cycling in my garage):

Cycling Lesson 1:  It hurts less if you have the right kit!

The shorts, gloves and shoes all made a substantial difference to last nights “ride”.  Why didn’t I think of it earlier!

Yesterday saw the introduction of another training aid too…

I got a tip from a guy at work to try out a Sufferfest video.  Specialising in Cycling Training Videos, they have the motto:

“I will beat my ass today to kick yours tomorrow”  (IWBMATTKYT for short)

They have a range of “entertaining” videos targeted at the stationary cyclist market.  They create training sessions where you follow / copy / compete with professional cyclists performing in competitions (World Championships, Tour De France, etc., listening to fast music, and following instructions “shouted” out via text on the computer screen.

It might sound strange, but the videos provide some useful pointers for the novice cyclist and also create a major distraction from the clock.  In my limited experience, the biggest challenge with inside cycling is clock watching.  Every minute seems to last forever!

For me the intention is clearly not to have a Sufferfest, in fact not to suffer at all!  That’s not really what my exercise is about right now.  For me I’m treating it more as a Recoverfest (Trade Mark pending!).

Irrespective of what the on-screen cyclist does, or the instructions I’m given, the Heart Monitor is the most critical piece of equipment for me.  Keeping below my 118 bpm threshold is essential.

In time, I’m looking forward to testing / pushing the boundaries, but I have to keep reminding myself that I’m still only in week 3 of Cardiac Rehabilitation. Much as it would be nice to kick Bradley Wiggins’ ass in a Time Trial (albeit virtual), my goal has to be to put in the miles, to get myself fit and strong, to lay the foundation for the future.

Anyway, the video worked for me.  I would highly recommend checking out The Sufferfest if you’ve not discovered them already.

Breaking news…

All the exercise and hard work has resulted in another minor milestone for me at Cardiac Rehabilitation today…

drum roll…

wait for it…

I was allowed to jog on the treadmill!!!

I’ve got another 5 weeks of Rehab to go.  I’m hoping I might be able to fly by the end of it!

Man-flying-over-sleepers5

Someone’s going to get hurt!