Cycling: Now is the time to make your leaps for next season… A few tips for the turbo trainer when snow shuts you down.
Cycling season is winding down – it’s not quite dead yet, but it’s not all that far off either. Assuming you’re not out on the bike through the winter, there are few ways to have a go at next season:
- You can hibernate. Take some time much needed time off, maybe hit the gym a time or two a month. You plan on going more often but life gets in the way as it always has. Thanksgiving through Christmas is eating season anyway… You can get going after the first of the year anyway, right?
- You can do enough to get by. Spin a couple of times a week to keep your legs, maybe take advantage of a decent day or two during the week to squeeze a ride in and worry about hammering into the spring, later.
- Use your turbo time to your advantage to get you in shape to be a better cyclist, right now so you’re ahead of the game going into the spring.
Folks, options one and two are pretty much par for the course but what if you could actually use this time to get used to being better on your bike? Look, if you’re going to ride on a trainer, there isn’t much you’re going to do to get stronger but what if there were a way to work on riding better? I opt for that.
A fellow blogger wrote a funny little quip the other day… He wrote, “Running is hard, until it isn’t anymore”. The way I take that is we end up hitting our stride once we adapt to the effort. Make sense? Well, that’s cycling in its entirety – hitting your stride. I always look at turbo season with disdain but it’s always useful, and here’s how.
First, having been a runner, I tend to be a masher. Too hard a gear, too much effort up and down. Trainer season means it’s time to turn the up and down into more of a circular pedal stroke. This is simple enough, it’s just a matter of getting used to using the full pedal stroke again (I’ve gotten better in the last four years, of course, but there’s always work to be done, yeah?).
Next, I love to do intervals twice a week. It’s a shorter but much more intense workout that just turning the crank. 1 minute on, two recovery, repeat 6 more times…. with a 4 minute warmup and 5 minute cool down. I think, if memory serves, that works out to 30 minutes. By the time I hit that cool down I’ve usually puked in my mouth at least once. I did this last year and I went into spring stronger than I’d ever been and I felt ripples from that throughout all of the spring and even into summer.
Finally, I like to devote one day a week to riding in the drops, taking the opportunity of not having to worry about looking up for traffic to get used to being lower than I normally ride. For instance, just yesterday, I’d ride for a while then rest the top of my head on the stem while pedaling. I’d pedal till that was uncomfortable, then raise back up to my normal position in the drops. The lower I ride now, the more comfortable I’ll be come springtime. The lower I can ride, comfortably, the better I’ll be come April because riding in an aerodynamic position on the bike is free watts.
As a last little note, my normal way of getting through Thanksgiving and Christmas is to continue to train but keep my diet the same as it was in riding season. Not this year. I made some serious headway into becoming a slimmer, more muscular me this past summer. I’m not going to throw all of that hard work under the bus. I took a couple of easy weeks but I’m right back on the ball, making the most of my time and eating better than I ever have in the process. Thanksgiving dinner will be no different than years past, it’s the one day a year where I really don’t care – I eat like I mean it, but I’m not going to continue that through Christmas.
Depression is a tough problem to work through in the best of times without a little help. As a sober fellow, it’s even trickier because the medication often prescribed can be abused… and if it can be abused, I will abuse it. I’ve actually seen the effects of someone doing this and it’s not pretty. In fact, one of my good friends is now feeding worms because he couldn’t treat his medication properly. It’s a sad story. Now, rarely will I advocate for medicine over fitness, but in the case of depression, my bouts with it were minor enough and the cause for which was obvious enough that getting myself back on track was possible without a doctor’s help (medical or mental). There are those who aren’t so fortunate. There are those who need professional help and they should, without reservation, seek it.
That said, as numerous studies have shown, one of the best, simple steps to achieving excellent mental health is to stay active. Whether it be running, hiking, riding, swimming, kayaking, camping, or any of the hundreds of ways to enjoy oneself while being active, as long as you’re moving and enjoying yourself, it’ll help.
Enter my $700 anti-depression machine:
While my anti-depression machine looks an awful lot like my Magic CPAP Machine:
…the two should not be confused. The Magic CPAP Machine is awesome, of this fact there is no doubt, but my Anti-Depression Machine is something special because it provides the owner with a special ability: The ability to ride it darn-near anywhere. Single-track bike paths, over roots and rocks, up ridiculously steep hills, the mountain bike can laugh at most terrain and this is special to fighting depression because, with enough practice, it can make the user feel like a kid again – and the key to happiness is to see the world through the eyes of a child. Now, I had a great childhood, not everyone was so lucky – but that’s where the magic of the mountain bike shines through… This isn’t the key to the childhood of your past, it’s your key to the childhood of right now, the one that you always wanted to have but circumstances made impossible.
I encourage you, if your childhood sucked and you didn’t have much of an opportunity to smile, buy a mountain bike, put that baggage in a Camelbak backpack, and ride your ass off. Chances are better than not, you end up with a smile on your face before long and you’ll come to know exactly what I mean by “your childhood of right now”. No better time than the present.