Sunday, January 2, 2011

Hitting the Trainer - How I spent my Winter Vacation

Some days I feel like packing up all my things and moving to Arizona.  Why?  Because between November and March, Old Man Winter seems to get his jollies from kicking the holy heck out of us up here in the Great White North.  But as soon as I finish digging out loading up the car, I remember I'd be leaving my friends, family and steady employment behind.  Bah.  I guess I'll be sticking around after all.

So, if I AM going to stay in this wintry mess, how the heck am I going to keep my training up?  I know that the pool isn't going anywhere, so there really isn't a lot to change with my swim workouts.  For running, once you find a plowed trail, it's basically just a matter of proper attire to keep from freezing off your bits 'n' pieces.  Granted, when the trails are icy or rutted, you really can't do much interval training.  But, I've been making it out at least once a week to get in a longer run.  Once my muscles get warmed up, it's actually kinda nice.

The REAL problem though is with cycling training.  I haven't hit the road for a proper ride for almost two months.  Sure, there are some hard core commuters and cyclo-cross riders around here that just throw on some studded tires and head out into the elements. Us roadies though, we hit the trainer. It's basically a small frame that holds onto your rear wheel and provides resistance.  The good news is that you can use your own bike rather than some bike at the gym that hasn't been disinfected since the Earth was cooling.  The bad news is that you've got to be creative when it comes to the actual workouts.

Here's my current setup:

Note: Those are The Wife's Minnie Mouse Ears, so zip it!
In the past, I would just watch some television while I worked out.  I'd keep it at a moderate pace during the shows, and then hit the gas during the commercials.  Sure, it was kinda-sorta interval training, but it really wasn't as effective as it could have been.  Most workouts were in the 30-60 minute range.  Honestly, without a lot of direction, it was easy to find excuses to stop early.

Then, my uncle Dave gave me this little bad boy for Christmas:
Everyone knows that the best kind of love is 'Tough Love'.

Now, I've done Spinnervals workouts with the Twin Cities Spoke crew before, so my first thought was, "SWEET!  Finally, a Spinnervals DVD of my very own!  Thanks Uncle Dave!".  Then, I took a closer look at the title and saw that at 3 hours, it was almost 3 times as long as any workout I'd done before.  In addition, the difficulty was 9.9/10.  So, my second thought was, "Gulp.  I can't be sure, but I think Uncle Dave may be trying to murder me!" 

Well, as it turns out, this DVD was the perfect choice.  Yesterday, I filled a couple water bottles, cracked open the windows and popped this little guy into the player.  The best thing I can say about the disc is that it breaks up the monotony of what could be a very boring 3 hours and keeps you focused the whole time. 
You've got prompts for the gear to use, how hard to work and total workout time remaining.
Through a series of 10-30 minute intervals, I was instructed to change gears, alter my cadence and occasionally stand up.  At no time was I ever bored.  Now, I did have to pause the workout a couple of times to re-fill my water, grab a snack and use the little boy's room, but by the end, I was nice and tired. 

In fact, I was more tired than after a regular 3-hour ride during the summer.  Why?  Well, there are a couple of reasons.  First, you're pedaling the whole time; there's no resting on the downhills here. Second, Coach Troy does a pretty good job of pushing you to keep going.  Who's Coach Troy?  He's the host of the Spinnervals series.  He looks like this:
Coach Troy
Although, by the time you're on your 10th straight minute-long interval out of the saddle, he starts to look a little like this:
Coach Troy?!?
Yeah, these workouts are tough SOBs.  Sure, it's not the same as going for a real, honest to goodness ride, but at least I can be sure I'm keeping my fitness up so that I've got good legs once the snow melts.  Although, next time I do this workout, it would probably be best to put a towel down first so that I don't have to explain to The Wife why there's a funky puddle of nastiness on the floor.

In other news, I'm starting to pull together my race schedule for next year.  I'm hoping to do a couple familiar favorites and mix in some new experiences to keep things interesting.  I'll keep you posted.

Oh yeah, and before I forget - Thanks Uncle Dave!

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