Last year when the snow and cold came I let my cycling drop completely. The result: weak performance on the cycling leg of my triathlon. Sam finally convinced me that if I want to get stronger on the bike, I need to spend time on the bike through the winter. I can’t just pick it up in March or April and expect to keep up.
Hence: the winter cycling tour of 2015. By the end of the season, I’ll have spent hours on my trainer in group classes in basements across the city, listening to music I wouldn’t otherwise be listening to, sometimes louder than if I was in the front row at a rock concert.
And the classes are tough. So far, I’ve had three different instructors in two different basements. Chris is Sam’s coach. He’s a serious cycling coach who works with high level athletes. It all began in his basement. Every Tuesday at 5 p.m. six of us haul our bikes and trainers around to the back of his house and let ourselves in. We set up in the basement. Chris teaches the class and each week is more difficult than the week before. We started with a one hour class back at the beginning of November. Then 1:15. And now we’ve leveled off at 1:30.
It’s heart rate zone training. Besides your bike you need your trainer, your heartrate monitor, and a cadence monitor. Also: a towel for the sweat, two water bottles to stay hydrated, and something to munch on so as not to pass out. I have worked so hard in that class that I felt ill.
Chris had me fill out a form when I first started going and one of the questions asked me to rate my ability to suffer (I think on a scale of 1-10). I can’t remember exactly what I said, but if I was doing it again I’d say I can now suffer more.
His classes challenge me, with climbs and sprints and lots of upper zone 3 work. But there are rest and recovery periods interspersed between the harder efforts. I’m getting very comfortable with the bike. Granted, we’re not going to anywhere, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt so confident about shifting.
And where I couldn’t get a smooth cadence when I was standing up on my pedals a couple of months ago, I’m getting there now and even made it to the end of some standing intervals on Tuesday for the first time without having to sit down early.
Cheryl, from Happy Is the New Healthy teaches the class sometimes and she has also taught for Jodie. Jodie is an Ironman triathlete who subbed in one time just before Christmas. Her class challenged me perhaps more than I’ve ever been challenged on a bike, and not even as tough as it could have been. She said Chris had asked her to dial it back.
Jodie teaches another class, Saturday mornings from 7-9 a.m. in the basement of a chiropractor’s office in north London. It was the perfect thing to carry me through the holidays. For her Saturday class, she doesn’t have to run it by Chris. I think everyone in that class is an Ironman triathlete. Jodie pushed us so hard that I spent a good portion of that class in Zone 4. Some people had to refill their water bottles partway through. There was no way I was making it through that class without eating a Clif Bar, some nuts, and some coconut covered dates.
When the two hour session on the bike ended that morning and I started packing up, someone said, “Aren’t you coming running?” Saturday is not just a killer session on the trainer. It’s a brick workout. But no, I’m not doing that right now. I’ve got my long runs on Sundays with my marathon training group and there’s only so much my body can handle in one weekend.
I did another Saturday with Jodie, and then she went to Mexico and Cheryl filled in. I don’t know if they’re all competing to see who can teach the toughest class, but honestly. After Cheryl’s class last weekend, it was the first time in a long time I needed a nap a couple of hours later. I crawled into bed and bam, I was out cold.
These classes are all using a regular trainer. I like my the trainer I bought. It’s got an adjustable resistance so if it gets too easy at the setting it’s on now I can make it a bit tougher.
Starting Saturday, I’m doing something a bit different, in a different basement. Gabbi, my swim coach, runs the Balance Point Triathlon club. In the winter, she does watts training on computrainers. Gabbi swears that this is the very best way to gain power on the bike. So I’m adding Gabbi’s basement to my winter tour.
I have to say, I’m grateful for these basements. I just moved into a condo and strictly speaking I’m not supposed to use my trainer in my unit (no exercise equipment). I can sort of see why. It does vibrate a bit on the floor despite a few layers of padding and it might bother the people who live below me.
Don’t tell anyone, but I’m going to try it on the carpeted section and see if that’s any better because Coach Chris gave me an extra workout a week to round out my training. It would be great to offset the basement tour with a view from the 23rd floor once a week!