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Antony Wallis,Good Advice.

Good morning everyone.

I got engaged in a debate yesterday that had initially started regarding the risks of riding in groups, and I think most of us are agreed by now that this is no longer something we should be doing. I took it one step further and suggested that we actually shouldn’t be riding outside at all to avoid negative impact on the NHS should we fall and injure ourselves, this was also to some degree based upon a conversation I had three times over the weekend with my 84 year old father who has been out every day. My advice to him stays the same but I totally get why 95% of people on here would disagree with me and with the balance of all of our mental health by not going out against the very small risk of injury I totally understand that. It was also a little unfair of me to suggest that training indoors on rollers, a wattbike or turbo is easy if that is not what you do. It was unfair of me because that is what I do summer and winter already and for two reasons, firstly it’s very efficient, you get on ride, generally don’t puncture and get off in a relatively short period of time compared to a road ride, and secondly the traffic, I absolutely hate it, I do go out on gravel and mountain bikes but traffic avoidance is top of the list.. I still believe that we should do anything and everything to reduce impact on the NHS, but if you have no other option than to go out, you either live in a flat, or simply will kill someone if you have to train indoors then I am sure you will do everything possible to reduce risk.

If however the almost inevitable lock down comes or you have already decided to stay in I would just like to cover four points that may be helpful. This is not an ‘I know best post’ or designed to stimulate any negative debate it’s just my view on the world of indoor training, so all I would ask is that if you disagree or don’t like what I am saying you have two choices, either throw in an alternative and positive idea for others or hit the delete button, I really don’t mind criticism but I am not going to add to the collective cabin fever and reply to anything other than positive questions.. So you know why I train indoors these four points are a little attempt to explain how I manage to do that all year..

#01 How do I motivate myself?

#02 Measure everything (also see #01).

#03 Cadence.

#04 ONE NUMBER… This is the opportunity to experiment..

#01 How do I motivate myself?

The simple answer to this is that I don’t, motivation, self-discipline and will power are overrated and extremely fickle, they can come and go on not only a weekly and monthly basis but by the minute and hour, they are also the things that keep smokers smoking and other addictions addictive, we have all had something in our lives that we didn’t want to do but felt compelled to, we felt that we were weak willed and lacked discipline, this simply wasn’t the case it was just our brains telling us that we needed superhuman courage to overcome something, smoking being the most obvious.. It doesn’t require superhuman strength it just requires understanding of the subject at hand. Well the great thing about exercise is it is entirely a positive experience as opposed to something like smoking, so when just the thought of training indoors makes you feel utterly miserable this is completely natural, it’s also just a matter of interpretation by your brain, so as soon as you understand that the thought is what makes you miserable not the actual activity, it’s easier to stop worrying and just getting on with it. Whether I am working 20 hours a week or soon to be 60, I will still be jumping on the rollers for half an hour or so either end of that, I am not particularly motivated and do not feel possessed with huge amounts of self discipline, what I have is a routine that has been in place for so long now that it is purely habit, and no different to the habit of the smoker lighting up when the phone rings or after a meal.

Most clinical studies suggest that a new habit can be formed from anything between 14 and 72 days. Now this sounds like a long time, but here’s the good news, you are already a cyclist, you already have the habit of exercise and you already ride the bike, all you are doing is adapting your passion, your way of keeping fit, your mental health stabiliser to a different way of doing it. And if after all that, you are locked in, you accept the fact you cannot train outdoors but still absolutely hate it then don’t throw yourself at 3 hour rides on the turbo to try and match what you do on a Sunday, do twenty minutes at the start and twenty minutes at the end of the day, and this is probably going to be a more successful way to form the habit than getting sweat rash on the rollers because you spent too long not able to get out of the saddle..

#02 Measure everything.

This is simple measure everything, and visualise everything. I cut a roll of plain lining wallpaper into three and produce a long strip that I call a timeline, I have developed my own shorthand on it that means I can see what I have done the week, the month before, and if I want I can post next to it the same time last year. Now it doesn’t actually matter straight away what you are measuring, it takes no time to develop a code that tells you what day, how you rode (turbo etc) what time of day you rode, and any intervals. Now how this helps when you are forming a new habit is to see progression and mark achievement, and by placing it somewhere that you can instantly see it, it’s also a good way to see that achievement grow and keep going, this is a good motivator too, to keep you on track. (despite point #01 telling you that you don’t need to be motivated, well quite simply you don’t once the new habit is formed but there is no harm in retraining your understanding of what motivation is either)…

#03 Cadence. This is the ideal time, all of our targets and goals for the year have just disappeared over the last week, so now is the perfect time to practice something new. Before buying a power meter there are three things most cyclists can do to improve, stop drinking alcohol, lose weight and pedal. The first two are obvious and at the moment a discussion for another day, but pedalling, cadence is a great one to practice when having to train indoors. Quite simply higher cadence equals lower torque, lower torque means less fatigue, less fatigue means better recovery and the ability to either go again within a race, go longer or train at intensity again sooner… Cadence is easy to practice on the rollers as this is a very fluid motion, the back of your bike and hips move very easily, but on the turbo slightly less so as the back of the bike tends to move less which means your hips move less which in turn reduces the fluidity of motion, but this isn’t really a problem as that isn’t dissimilar to seated road riding. Now the only way to improve your cadence is to measure it (see #02). If you do not have a device or trainer that provides this for you then stick a stopwatch in front of you and count every third minute on one side of your crank revolution, and if training indoors really does drive you crazy at the start then counting every third minute actually passes a thirty minute session really quickly. Once you have established your cadence is say 85 rpm then just work on improving it, by maintaining the same speed with the same resistance but in a smaller gear. I pretty much only ride one hour circuit races, I first got a power meter about 5-6 years ago, and only four years ago did I start recognising the importance of reducing torque to improve recovery. Four years ago I was at about 85 rpm in most races, I gradually improved that to 100 rpm (rollers 120rpm, from 105 over same two years).. What I found was that my ability to recover from efforts within a race was massively improved, and then the ability to train sooner after the race improved considerably too. Spinners are winners, it’s something to focus on if you aren’t used to training indoors and as most of your rides will be recovery and not intensity it’s also like having a free massage for your legs and head whilst being stuck inside.


As with cadence this is a great to experiment. If you do have access to a power meter but don’t focus too much on the detail, for a two or three week period just focus on one number and see if you can improve it. It may be a two minute interval or ten, but try and find some recent data that you want to focus on and that you can see peak periods 2, 3, 10 minutes and every third day you ride and decide to do a small interval session focus on that one number alone, so say your peak is 320 watts for three minutes, make gradually improving that number your goal, you may only do two or three efforts during that ride so give yourself time to recover, if all you do is three 3 minute intervals in a session then leave at least twelve minutes recovery in between, the world class pursuiters don’t ride a pursuit and then five minutes later expect to do it again so to ramp up that number do less intervals recover more but aim at your ability to increase that number. This is quite a good way of goal setting too when you have lost all of your immediate goals.

This is not intended to offend or insult anyone, but for those who hate training indoors and soon may have to it’s just designed as a starting block to get past the ‘what shall I do and what’s the point’ question.LikeComment

Rob Fowler

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