I know, I know… It’s only the second week of January. Most of us in North America and many in the Northern Hemisphere are cooped up indoors, pounding out miles on trainers and rollers hoping just to maintain some semblance of fitness, so how could now possibly be the time? Oh, it is and the fact that we’re stuck indoors is a positive, because some of this is gonna suck…
This post is going to ouch on my experience and deficiencies when it comes to cycling – your experience and deficiencies my be different, so the results may vary. Additionally, results will be effort-based. No effort, no results.
My biggest shortfall when it comes to riding fast is wanting to push harder on the pedals. That’s overly simplistic and it’s only part of the issue, but for our limited scope and the time of year, it’ll do. The whole enchilada is pushing harder on the pedals in an efficient manner. Once I get to a point where fast starts hurting, I run out of “want to” fast, so to fix that I train to push harder on the pedals, efficiently – and for me, that all starts on the trainer.
The trainer is the perfect place to work on this, if one has the proper trainer. I’ve got a few trainers and I can tell you, the cheaper trainers don’t offer enough resistance to build fitness – maintain, maybe, but not build. Rollers? Forget about it. Also, this post isn’t really for racers. Maybe Cat 5’s, but for the faster guys, you’re beyond me and most trainers – you’d have to get into the smart trainers that can deal with elevated resistance.
So here’s my big tip for what I do to go into Spring stronger than I was when the last season finished: I push hard gears on the trainer. Two days on, one easy day. Rinse and repeat. Basically, I know what 20 mph feels like on the road. I ride harder gears than that. On the one hand, and before you ask, yes. It sucks.
On the other hand, it beats playing catch-up the whole month of March or April.
I know I want to be pedaling my 52/12 gear, dabbling in 52/11 when March rolls around, so I start out easy for five minutes and then shift into 52/13 for 35 minutes before warming down for five. After a week, my 52/13 becomes the easy gear. Five minute warm up, upshift to 52/12, 35 minutes, five minute warm down. On the easy days I pedal the easy gear the whole time.
Now, for me, that 52/12 on the hardest setting my trainer has, really starts to suck after a week, so I take a little more time and even take a day off here or there so I can keep my legs fresh and my motivation to progress up. By the end of January, though, I should be dabbling in that 52/11 gear now and again. By the end of February, I’ll be pushing that gear for the full 45 minutes at 90 rpm on the hard days and it will hurt. But I’ll be ready for Spring and a lot of my friends will be playing catch-up to me.
The point is this: You can pay now, or you can pay later… Winter on a trainer sucks anyway. If I pay now, I actually have something to work for instead of just cranking the pedals around as if I were on a hamster wheel, and I can have fun when I start riding outside, building up for the summer.