Monday, January 13, 2014

The Weather outside is Frightful...

Last week was one of the coldest weeks in decades for many cities across the US.  For me personally, it was probably the coldest week that I had experienced in over 20 years.  There something about highs that are not above freezing (and lows in the single digits) that didn't inspire me to go out for my typical lunch rides to get base miles.  Instead, this was an opportunity for me to do more testing on how I can (and will) use the trainer this winter.

During the fall I wrote about getting a trainer, and using a couple of different software solutions to record and evaluate my workouts on the bike.  Both TrainerRoad and GoldenCheetah were successful in recording a workout, but the larger obstacle  that I ran into was wanting to complete the workouts.  Watching TV (or Netflix as the case may be) while grinding away on the bike just really didn't motivate me to give my best efforts, even when I had instructions in front of me.  Over the course of the last 6 months I had gotten a couple of different trainer workout demos free to try out, so with the week of bad weather I figured it was worth giving them a shot.

I completed 4 rides on the trainer this week while evaluating videos from 3 different companies:  1 from Endurance Films, 1 from Carmichael Training, and 2 from The Sufferfest.  All of these were downloaded files on my laptop that I had integrated into Golden Cheetah to sync/record my efforts while watching the video.  The actual data gathered was Heart Rate, Speed, and Cadence from my ANT+ meters I use with my Garmin 305.  Beyond that GC has an option to estimate power based on my trainer (Cyleops Fluid 2) and speed.

screenshot of Golden Cheetah playing The Sufferfest Downward Spiral

The first video I checked out was the Demo of RIDES: Florida - Paradise Road  from Endurance Films.  This was a BRO (Big Ring Only) Interval set, and the demo video included the first half hour of the workout.  This includes a single interval set and a warm up period.  Overall I liked the layout of this video, and at some point I will look into getting the full version of this particular workout.  The workouts were simple to follow, and it had great video footage along with good music to keep you entertained throughout the workout.  The goal of this workout was base strength, thus attempting to hold a low cadence (under 60 rpm) at a relatively high Wattage.  As a downside, most of the RIDES series is DVD (not download/mp4) and the pricing was not inexpensive.  There are 3 of their videos that are download friendly and run $19.95.  The DVD videos run approximately $29.95 + shipping from their site.  Currently they are running a promotion with the demo video to get 25% off your order when you use a code provided at the end of the video, though.

RIDES Florida FREE Workout Interval from Endurance Films on Vimeo.

The second video I used was from Carmichael Training.  CTS is famously known for training many major pro cyclists, and for getting results.  They run several "Bucket List" rides throughout the year, including rides that follow the Tour of California and the US Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado.  I have getting "Bucket List Certified" on my goals list for the future, as I'd love to ride the Pro courses at some point in the future.  The video I demoed was from a Strava challenge during the summer, where by participating I was able to get the video for free.  The title is "Threshold Power", and as the name implies the goal is to increase your FTP.  This is a full hour long video, going through multiple intervals.  While this video had a lot of great instruction, there wasn't much to see on the screen except for other folks on trainers with the occasional outside training ride shot, and very little music to keep you grooving.  Thus time didn't move very quickly.  I did find that their instructions for how to find your goal range, based on % of Power as well as HR or RPE to be effective at helping me zero in my goal range.  CTS has download options, as well as DVD options, for all of their videos, and the pricing starts at $9.99.

Preview of CTS training videos on YouTube

The last two videos I used during the week were part of the Starter Kit from The Sufferfest.  This is one of the most popular of the trainer series that I see my friends posting about online.  Ranging from $5.99 to $14.99 they for the download videos, you can get DVD backups of the videos for a fee.  The names on these videos are interesting, and descriptive.  With  names like "the Blender", "Revolver", and "The Downward Spiral", you can tell that the folks that created these videos definitely are a creative bunch.  The HUD on the video is very minimal, it's like they are expecting you to be using another program like TrainerRoad or GC to integrate your efforts, and they put the extra time into making an interesting video experience instead of a detailed HUD of your workout.  The two videos that I have used from the Starter Pack so far are "The Downward Spiral" and "Extra Shot: The Long Scream".  Both of these workouts left me tired and drenched, but with good video and music, the time passed relatively quickly.  I say relatively, because when you are working at threshold for 30 minutes on a simulated time trial, I'm not sure you can call any time passing "quick".  Of the 3 different series, this is the one that I would gravitate towards using regularly.  

Preview of "The Downward Spiral" on Vimeo

One of the big advantages that The Sufferfest has over the other training videos was that I was able to easily find and import ERG files to use with GC for the workouts.  This allowed me to have a "target power" number to try to hit to stay in my effort zones, based on a FTP workout, instead of having to guess by my own perceived effort or heart rate.  I tend to push way too hard early in effort levels, as can still be seen in my workouts on the trainer, and thus I cannot push at a level for nearly as long as I can if I know where my target is and my target is realistic.  I'm sure I can find or create ERG files for the other videos, but having them readily available just made it easy.  

After spending 4 days on the trainer, the weather was finally to a point where I was able to get out on the road and ride with some friends on Sunday.  This was the first "checkpoint" on if the trainer sessions were going to translate into actual gains while out on the bike.  For 2 years I've mostly attempted to figure out efforts effectively based on RPE, or perceived effort.  The problem I've had with that method is that I overexert too early in the effort, as I don't have a good feel for experience I should have at a given effort level. What I was focusing on was not jumping out to too big of an effort early to just be reeled back in late.  While I didn't get Personal Records on the route, I did feel like I had success in my goals.  I can see if I spend time on the trainer focusing on knowing what an effort feels like in my legs, and not just training myself on perceived effort, I'm going to see a big difference in long efforts over time.  

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