As I mentioned in the last post, the sessions you do on the trainer often differ from ones you may do outdoors. On the trainer you need to have set goals of what you want to do in the session - otherwise it will be too easy to back out of the session or stop early. Sessions also become much easier to complete if things are constantly changing. The goal here is keeping the mind active. When you’re outdoors your mind is active. Traffic, other riders and scenery provide ample distractions, but on the trainer that doesn’t happen, so people get bored.
The best way to keep the mind active is breaking the session up into bite sized chunks, where something to do with your training is being manipulated. For example, for an endurance session instead of just sticking to endurance power and not changing anything I like to mix it up.
One way to do this is by alternating between high and low endurance, e.g. 3min @ 60% of threshold than 2min @ 70% of threshold. Another example, for a 30min sub threshold session, is changing cadence every 2min. If your normal riding cadence is roughly 90RPM, you could do 2min at 80RPM, 2min at 90RPM and 2min at 100RPM, before going back to 80RPM and starting again. My last way of breaking up the monotony is using over/unders. For example, a 20min threshold effort can be broken up into 30sec blocks at 10W above threshold and 10W below threshold (or sometimes more than 10W). Keeping the mind active and concentrating on something other than the pain in your legs like this really helps the time go faster.
Another option is to complete your high quality interval sessions on the trainer. A great one for this is 6x4 min efforts at VO2 power. This session hurts. Outside, it might be hard to find a spot to do this without lights or traffic so the trainer can make sure you get the best out of the session. The same goes for a number of other good quality sessions -if you know it’s a good hard session and you might struggle to find a clear patch of road outside, then it makes it a better candidate for the trainer. These sessions are also often broken up into chunks as we discussed above.
A lot of you have probably heard the saying that every hour on the trainer is worth 2 on the road. While the numbers here may not be quite right, the sentiment is bang on. The main benefit for the trainer is it is a very effective use of your time. There is no coasting, no freewheeling, no lights, no riding to where you need to get to do efforts. If you’re time crunched, it can often be the best way to get good quality training in.
The trainer is also a safe environment to do your efforts, as when you are on the limit you know no cars or other riders are going to do something silly. It allows you to do efforts that aren’t feasible elsewhere like longer style threshold efforts. With these efforts you can also focus on putting out nice consistent power. As I mentioned in a previous blog (The Power of Zone 2) there are numerous benefits to keeping the power in the zone you are aiming at. Up and down power over a 20min effort may come out with an average power of a threshold effort, but you may not have spent as much time in this zone as you think. Often in a scenario like a race or a ‘chop off’, power fluctuates between below threshold and anaerobic.
One of the last benefits that I personally like, is it gives you some time to focus on your pedalling technique. This is something that can help you find a few extra watts at minimal cost. Without the other distractions that go with riding outside the rider can spend more time working on the minutiae of pedalling technique, such as the ankle movement during the pedal stroke.
This could be what is holding you back from getting on the trainer the most.
If every time you think about getting on the trainer negative thoughts enter your head, you are defeated before you even get on there. Zwift has helped tremendously with this by adding the social aspect to the trainer which a lot of people crave. However, what I wanted to focus on is what you can do yourself.
You need to learn to love the trainer, just like you learned to love beer.
If you are like me, your first beer didn’t taste that great. However, over time that taste became something you enjoyed more and more as your brain began to associate the good times you had with beer (yes, there is some neurophysiology in this). Now you love beer.
I propose having the same approach to the trainer. The trainer is hard, and a bit mind numbing at times. Instead of focusing on that, think of the benefits of the trainer, how time effective it is, how fit it is going to make you (and how happy this fitness will make you and how good it is to drop your mates) and how good the quality of the sessions are. Over time your brain will begin to associate these positive things more and more with the trainer. In the end you will begin to really enjoy the good quality hard sessions on the trainer just as you began to enjoy beer - you might even surprise yourself and want to ride less outdoors.
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