cycling · training · Uncategorized

When the Rubber Hits the Road: Leaving the Cocoon of Indoor Biking

sketch of fast cyclingI may have grumbled a little bit about my winter of basement biking on the trainer. I’m not a huge fan of loud music. And one of the reasons I avoid fitness classes is that I get irritated when instructors holler out commands and tell us to work hard.  It motivates some, but it’s not my cup of tea. The other day I had the dreaded spot right beside the instructor. Cheryl is great, but please don’t put me right beside her with the speaker two feet behind me ever again.

But given a choice between slogging it out by myself on a trainer, even while watching some gripping TV series on Netflix as Sam does, or doing one of those indoor bike classes with the music blasting and the instructor hollering, I’ll take the class every time. I need the group to get me into the saddle at all.

Confession: I paid Coach Chris to give me workouts, to be done solo, for the in-between days and I skipped pretty much every single one.

Once I get to class, I’m good. I show up and do the workout as instructed.  I will push myself hard even if you don’t shout at me (thank you Chris and Gabbi, neither of whom have the shout-at-you approach. I like Gabbi’s reasoning: there are no drill sergeants in your face on race day, roaring at you to squeeze out that last kilometre).

And for all that, I feel strangely comfortable with the indoor training. It’s not the best scenery and you don’t feel the wind in your hair (the sad little wisps as the fan turns my way don’t count), but it’s safe. There’s no gravel to slide out on. No traffic to live in fear of. No headwind to battle. No actual hills threatening to stall me to the point of one of those slow, inevitable topples.

In the indoor classes, I’m never left behind or struggling to keep up. No one can miscalculate the timing or the distance. None of this kind of thing: “Oh, we thought it was 40K but it turns out to be 60K. Oops, sorry.” (See my post on Suffering for that story). Or this: “Come ride with us to Port Stanley and back,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said. (See my post “Epic Ride and Some Reflections on Learning to Like the Bike” for that story).

I’m loving the thaw for my outdoor runs, but unlike Sam (see her post about getting back to outdoor biking), I haven’t taken to the road yet on either of my bikes.

Besides my fear of the road’s unpredictability, there’s more. The results (or not) of my training will show themselves in my performance on the road. Did I actually get stronger over the winter with the two classes per week instead of the three sessions that were recommended to me?  It’s got to be better than the nothing I did on the bike last year.

I spent a lot of last triathlon season watching people flash by me on their bikes. In training, in races, riding with friends…I was always, always the person at the back.  I don’t need to be at the front of the pack. But at least in my races, I would welcome a season where my bike time doesn’t erase all the gains I might make in a strong swim.

One thing I know for sure: I’ve successfully increased my ability to suffer. That counts for something.  But did the watts training and the trainer classes increase my power?  That remains to be seen.

I’m not interested in riding while it’s still cold. I want to start on a positive note, you know, happy riding on warm spring days. Maybe April. Pretty certainly not March.

Not that I want to get too comfortable. Last year I think I was too attached to the association of cycling with leisure.  That made me resent having to work so hard on the road bike.

But a winter of indoor training has thoroughly disassociated cycling from leisure. I can push myself hard on the bike when it’s not going anywhere.

Despite my fears, I’m also curious to see how that translates to the road.  April isn’t all that far away.  Before long, the truth will out, as they say.

14 thoughts on “When the Rubber Hits the Road: Leaving the Cocoon of Indoor Biking

  1. Can’t wait to get out there with you in April. I’m certain you’ll be faster and I hope it’s a lot more fun. Yay!

  2. I apologize for yelling near you, but I never want to be the type of person who yells at someone! Or a bouncy cyclist. Thanks for zee feedback 🙂 And I hope that you join up for the rides outside, because we are all getting left in the dust or getting to the top of the hill first depending on the day. I have a feeling you’ll surprise yourself, alone or in a group!

    1. You’re right. You didn’t yell at me. Just beside me. You’re not a drill sergeant, just a tough instructor. But that’s what you aspire to be, right? I’m just a quieter type — I’m the person who asks the restaurant if they can turn the volume down, you know what I mean? And yes, I will join in on the Thursday rides probably.

      1. I want to be the instructor that invites you to challenge yourself and leave your comfort zone but never makes exercise punishment or a way to beat yourself up if you just need a day to take it easy. I think sometimes in the trainer classes I find it harder to encourage intuitive exercise because we have intervals and such to go by, and I’ve never really thought about how this relates to the kind of instructor I want to be! 🙂 Now for the snow to melt and the sun to come, because snow and biking outside for me do NOT go together!

      2. I like that. A blog post about the kind of instructor you want to be and how that fits with your overall view of these things, and when/how different kinds of classes challenge that might be fun to write. I know I’d enjoy reading it!

  3. Hi Tracy! Liked your blog post here! I was just wondering from a training perspective if you ever strength trained and/or with plyometric training to increase your power? I am a trainer who has worked with triathletes before and found some great increases can be made off the bike, but for the bike. Just curious! Hoping spring comes soon and you get on the road again shortly.

  4. Tracy– congratulations on doing indoor cycling at all! I admit I did very little work on my trainer, which sat all alone in my study. And this winter riding just wasn’t possible for anyone but the most serious diehard cyclists, and even they couldn’t ride for at least a month. It will be interesting to read your reports from the road– in what ways did indoor cycling help? not help? Writing more about the phenomenology of road cycling from your perspective (sorry, non-philosophers– I just mean how the experience of cycling feels to her) would be great.

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