Wednesday, February 15, 2012

How to Survive Indoor Training

A challenging early-season goal is always the best incentive to stay on top of regular training in the off-season. Even so, most cyclists dread indoor training, and consider it one of the more unpleasant things you can do on a bike (the others are: breaking a collarbone in a crash and accidentally aspirating electrolyte).

There are some strategies to overcome the tedium of indoor training. I think the tallest hurdle is the mental one. You have to be able to tune out the little voice in your head that doesn't want to ride a tough 90 minutes without going anywhere. That little voice is really hard to muzzle.

I've been sticking to a fairly strict indoor plan for the past few years, so I know a little about motivation. Here are a few things that work really well for me.

1. Have a plan:
If your only plan is to 'ride the trainer for an  hour', you're doomed from the start. You're never going to last that long unless you have a detailed plan of what you're supposed to accomplish on the bike that day, preferably broken into smaller chunks of time that you can mentally tick off as you progress. I like to print out my workout plan and tape it up somewhere where I can see it and follow it through the entire allotted time. It's amazing how much faster time goes by when you actually have a written plan to follow.

 2. Environment
You will need all of the following before hopping on your bike:

  • A fan, preferably a standing fan pointed directly at your face.
  • An open window. No matter how cold it is outside, fresh, cool air makes the ride more enjoyable.
  • A towel or two (one for you, one for the floor. I have a mat under my bike/trainer set-up)
  • Fuel/hydration
  • A view, preferably a monitor. If no monitor or TV, then a window beats looking at a wall 

3. Minimize unwanted distractions
Set up your trainer so you're at eye level with your monitor, if possible. In the very least, DON'T put your bike somewhere where you can see all the distractions around you, like the overflowing laundry basket or the 1/4" layer of dust on the furniture. (Guys, you have no idea what I'm talking about, do you?) Turn the phone off, close the front door, rid your mind of all those things you 'should be' doing instead of training.  The (bills, laundry, whatever) can wait until you're done.

4.  Bring in some motivating distractions
Put on some energizing music, or,  if you have a DVD or computer monitor, find some cycling videos and play them as you ride. I've got a stack of Tour de France DVDs for just this purpose. I can put in Disc One of the 2001 Tour de France, and exactly 90 minutes later I'm at the top of Alpe d'Huez.

Even with these simple strategies, indoor training gets old fast. Take advantage of opportunities for CompuTrainer sessions, class settings where you can ride with a group, or outdoor rides when the weather cooperates.

If you've got other strategies for surviving the off-season, let me know!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Getting Ready for the Hell's Gate Hundred

In just under 8 weeks, I'll be once again in my favorite springtime stomping ground, starting my cycling season the way I've been for the past couple of years. AdventureCorps moved its CorpsCamp back a month, to the end of March, to coincide with its annual spring century. I hope the later start dates help to avoid the wicked wind storms of the past 2 years.

The 100.7 mile route covers two of my favorite Death Valley features: the deliciously-grueling climb up to Artist's (F**king) Palette, and the ghost town of Rhyolite. The good thing is that the Artist's Palette climb happens in the first 20 miles of the century, and then there's just the 4400" climb to Daylight Pass before turning around and coming back into the Valley.

From the elevation map, the descent back to Furnace Creek looks positively indulgent, but I've learned not to trust things that look like downhills in Death Valley. Without exception, wind conditions have prevented any enjoyment of any perceived descent every time I've ridden out there. I think I've finally figured this one out: don't count on slacking off before the ride is over.

In the meantime, I'm starting my intense training plan to get ready. I'm following Chris Carmichael's plan designed for Experienced Century riders. You can see the entire plan in his book "The Time Crunched Cyclist". That training started earlier this week. Prior to that, I was going to Ohio Indoor Cycling twice a week, so I think I've got a good jump on my conditioning.

Especially with a formidable goal, training needs to be non-negotiable. I've blocked out every training day from now until the end of March, and I've got every training session written out so I'm not dithering away precious time trying to figure out what I'm supposed to be doing during the hour and a half (or more) I'll be on the trainer. There's nothing quite as unmotivating as knowing that you've got about 2 hours of indoor riding ahead of you.

And there's nothing more motivating than knowing that you've got 100-some miles of California desert highway awaiting your arrival in the spring.