A real training problem

January 12, 2016 § 27 Comments

A couple of days ago I took a cheap shot at Zwift, the online gaming-cartoon subscription service that lets you fabricate a simulated bike race while you are grinding away precious seconds of your life on an indoor trainer.

I was immediately admonished by a couple of readers whose criticisms I would have completely ignored had they not possessed the high and holy status of paid subscribers. The gist of their criticism was, “STFU you cupcake SoCal poseur who calls three rainy days ‘winter.’ I’m stuck in Fang, Alaska, where the average daily high is minus forty and the sun doesn’t come out until June.”

Pretty solid counterpunch, actually.

The other criticism was, “Hey, I like Zwift and its imaginary fantasyland, so STFU. Next thing I know you’ll be criticizing my taste in underwear or my favorite flavor of ice cream.”

So in order to preserve that precious $5.96 per month ($5.20 after PayPal takes its processing fee cut), I’ve had to nuance my stance on Zwift and its ilk.

Rather than calling it a completely inane waste of time and money and a refuge for mentally confused, let me offer some alternatives. It’s true that there aren’t many days when I can’t ride because of weather, but my indoor trainer palmares aren’t insignificant.

Remember the original Turbo Trainer? I had one of those in 1984 and regularly rode it indoors for 2-3 hours. My all time record was four hours, and that was without a TV, radio, iPad, or Zwift. And yes, I lost many brain cells that day.

Over the course of the last seven-and-a-half weeks as I’ve recovered from my fractured nutsack, I have done at least a dozen indoor sessions on a Lemond trainer and on gym bikes. With one or two exceptions, all the sessions have been for two hours or longer. Although I lack the motivation of my youth to do mondo multi-hour sessions for the pointlessness of “fitness,” I can offer some pointers for those forced to ride inside.

  1. Don’t check a clock or a watch. No truer adage was ever spoken than “A watched pot is slow to boil,” except perhaps “Timing your indoor session is the definition of infinity.” Anything with a time display is death.
  2. Don’t do work outs. Yep, that’s right. Don’t do all those silly sprints and jumps and faux climbs and other crap. Start with an easy warm-up, and after a while move into a steady pace. Shift around when your butt gets sore, but keep your effort constant. The session goes more quickly that way.
  3. Make your head work. Don’t watch TV or videos or listen to music; put on headphones and listen to language tapes. Don’t treat your workout as a workout, treat it as study time that you happen to be doing on your trainer. If you really do have to ride indoor all winter, two hours of language study every day will have you speaking Farsi by spring. And whereas your fitness will soon fade, you’ll be able to say, “Excuse me good sir, how much for your daughter?” for the rest of your life.

There. That’s all I know. I hope it helps.



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§ 27 Responses to A real training problem

  • Johnny French says:

    The weather in London isn’t as bad as Moose Droppings, Alaska, but bad enough for me to have enjoyed the entire boxed-sets of Flight of the Concordes and Dad’s Army while whirring away on my hamster wheel of death.

    I am actually fatter than I was in November and I now hate my garage

  • Gus C says:

    Hello Seth, tho I don’t subscribe, I have been following you for years. I live in the Boston area, and granted, tho it’s not Fang, AK, we have our fair share of super long cold winters. I ride indoors *a lot*. I don’t like it, I have to admit. But actually having one of those insideride rollers, i find that it’s the best alternative. you get to ride your bike as if you were on the road, and a little goes a long way. You’re blessed w perpetual good weather and naturally scoff at confined riding – i understand that. The rollers are not cheap; but if you wanna have a prayer at hanging at rides, or even racing, this is the way to go. btw, i hate trainers – they do destroy brain cells and boners at the same time. sort of like voting republican, or listening to too much fox news.
    here’s to a new season. all the best, g

    • fsethd says:

      The boner-destroying effect of Republican voting is well documented and an important pubic health advisory. Thank you!

  • sorta_TX_racer says:

    Work keeps me at work during daylight hours and I hate riding outdoors in the dark so the trainer is my best friend Mon-Fri from October – March. But I will say that if Zwift were Abraham Lincoln, I wouldn’t mind being John Wilkes Booth.

  • Paul Thober says:

    For me the essence of cycling is movement through the real world. No trainer or rollers can ever provide that. My level of physical fitness is a byproduct of my cycling not the reason I ride.

    “Timing your indoor session is the definition of infinity.” is a gem.

    I think that Farsi comment might be a slur, but I’ll let your Persian friends make the definitive judgement.

  • Mark Preston says:

    I’ve been riding for over thirty years and for many years I rode rollers in my garage before work. I still have my old Kreitler rollers. Yeah, ther’re “dangerous” but they force you to spin smoothly and they perfect your bike handling skills. When you can get ide rollers no handed and make the transition from the bars to no hands and back again, without a wobble you’ve got chops IMHO. I always regarded stationary trainers as the ultimate in self flagellation.

  • Tom Paterson says:

    These most recent have been truly evocative posts. Thank you, from the bottom of my cold, darkened basement…

    But seriously: I used to like riding the trainer (sometimes just because it was “dark outside”), and I had one of those *dual* hamster-wheels-with-rubber-band things that scratched your bottom bracket shell, and a heart-rate monitor that looked like an iPhone kinda, had a handlebar mount bracket, and connected to the corpus with an ear clip. And a Seth Thomas black Bakelite AC power metronome. Wore all that good stuff out.

    Rollers were good, too. Still have old Weyless set. Wore the first set of bearings out, at leas; steel drums’ wear characteristics being far superior to those of rubber bicycle tires. Friend I tried to give these to replaced the bearings, sent same back along to my place with the old Weyless rollers wrapped around them as a returned favor, seemingly having something to do with “lost innocence”. Curious if I could still ride them if I wanted to ride them for some reason.

    What? Oh yeah, “skills”. You bet! Skills!

    Well, skills seem OK at this time for current use. Meanwhile: rollers safe, leaning against inside wall. I hear you can still get belts, too. “Neoprene”, the good stuff.

    Last time riding trainer was ’09 warmup for TX States Wrinkle-Crit Championships. Worked good, held on for 6th. Cyclops Mag with front wheel block, good stuff. Probably still works, too. Good to keep around, for sure, like the rollers.

    “LIfe is all about wearing stuff out” and I hope The Road is way down the list.

    Heal, Wanky-san, the season is upon us.

  • LesB says:

    In an earlier posting you admonished readers to avoid being distracted by “the first thong of spring”. Being a loyal subscriber, I totally ignore your advice. What I need is a Zwift programmed to indulge my disloyalty instead of distracting me with other cyclists.

    • fsethd says:

      When you spot the first thong of spring, it is okay to get off your bike and tick it off your list.

  • 900aero says:

    Indoor cycling is a lot like masturbation. Occasionally necessary, possibly has health benefits and we all do it from time to time – but it’s best not discussed at the dinner table or with strangers. Further, any involvement of groups and the internet is mildly alarming and should be avoided if possible, it won’t end well.

  • Mike Hancock says:

    I differ on my use of the trainer.
    1.) After 90 minutes, I get off the damn thing. If I can’t accomplish what I need to in 60-90 minutes, I’m not going to do it. I don’t have a race or outside ride for 3 months or more, so endurance is not something I’m worried about.
    2.) Intervals make the time go faster. The shortest period of time is the rest period between V02max intervals, no matter what the actual duration is.
    3.) If I can type, write, or think coherent thoughts, I’m not working hard enough (see #1). LSD rides on the trainer (how is that possible when you’re stationary?) just make your ass hurt. If I wanted to do that stuff, I’d get a fat bike and brave the cold.
    4.) Anything that takes your mind off the fact that you’re on the trainer is awesome, even if it’s just repeatedly punching yourself in the lady parts.
    5.) The trainer burns off all of the calories that I consume because it’s cold and dark outside. Amazing how highly processed simple carbs take the edge off the winter months.
    6.) If I lived someplace more temperate, I would melt my trainer into modern art with a blowtorch and go riding outside.

  • Raymond Wright says:

    You mean since I am a subscriber I can now comment on the content of this blog and you’ll listen. Wo0 Hoo, let’s get started.

    Zwift, Trainer Road, Sufferfest – I just did the math and as of this weekend I am spending about $ 22 / month to ride my bike in my garage. Hmmm. I work 12 hour rotating shifts, It is often dark when I get up and dark when I get home. I do not dare share the roads with the yahoos here in Southern Maryland at night, hell they try to kill my in the bright sunshine.

    I look at any time on the bike as better than sitting at my computer reading about people riding (or crashing , I hope you keep healing, take it slow) their bikes. I can get 30 -60 min in on the trainer much easier than on the road.

    That said, I bundled up the other day and rode outside and it was GREAT!


    • fsethd says:

      $22/month to ride safely in your garage will take approximately 86 months to equal my one ride to the hospital. And I’m all about bargains.

  • Naftali says:

    I love how certain terms of endearment sound so perfect and cannot be used anywhere else. “you cupcake SoCal poseur” could not be used as “you cupcake Cleveland poseur” or “you cupcake Des Moines poseur”

    Vancouver BC allows for riding outdoors most days, but with asthma, I have to ride indoors during that season. Luckily, we have a Velodrome here, so I at least get to ride and race instead of hours and hours on the trainer. Also, use rollers just for a change of pace.

    • fsethd says:

      Yes, the phrase “poseur” fits best when worn in its indigenous setting, i.e. profamateur masters doper wankers on a test/HGH/EPO program to get the extra-extra 10% for 46th place.

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