I just got done with my first actual workout on TrainerRoad and, since I have a feeling this is going to change a lot about how I bike, I’m going to track my thoughts and progress over the course of the 6-week plan that I’m following. I actually wish I would have written down some thoughts before I started the workout, because a a significant amount already changed during that hour on the trainer.
A big part of the idea behind starting this blog was about being 100% honest, both with other people and myself. Especially myself. And I really didn’t like admitting it, but I did not want to start that workout. Part of this was thanks to TrainerRoad’s Ramp Test, which, to quote their website, is set up to “give you the most accurate estimate of your current fitness and establish a benchmark for tracking progress.” I did the ramp test a couple days ago, and the number it spit out for me was 122. Divide that by my weight in kilograms, and I get a ratio (FTP, or Functional Threshold Power) around 1.93. In other words, low. On a chart containing ranges of “fair” to “world class,” that literally puts me on the line that goes from “fair” DOWN to a section called “untrained/non-racer.”
Okay, fine. I’m untrained. I’m not exactly a racer. That just means I have more room to improve, right? Well, that’s part of the problem. For a multitude of reasons that I’m not going to go into on this post, I have very little faith in my ability to improve significantly – and that made me very hesitant to start any sort of training plan. No matter what I told myself rationally, I was pretty much convinced that I would either be in excruciating pain for the entire experience, or literally nothing would change. Great – I’d be paying $15 a month just to prove that I’m a failure.
But I digress. I’d picked the base phase “Low Volume II” training plan, and since I completed the Ramp Test previously, that meant I started with the Ebbetts workout. Looking at it didn’t help my nerves. An hour? Of intervals? Made to push my specific limits? And did I mention it meant an hour on the trainer? I usually manage to get about half an hour on the trainer before the pain in my legs and my boredom both become so acute I throw in the towel. (Okay, if I’m being totally honest, the boredom usually tips the scale more than the pain.) Either way, the fact that all the rides in this plan were at least an hour long made me apprehensive.
I made one other change on this ride, and that was the addition of a cadence monitor. The hubby really wanted this – I thought it was essentially unnecessary. After all, our trainer (Wahoo Kickr Snap, will review later) already tells us heart rate, speed, and power – how much difference can cadence make?
You bikers are shaking your heads at me, I can see it. It turns out, cadence can make a big difference, and this was the start of my evening revelations. The hubby had previously been listening to a playlist with 90 bpm songs to keep his tempo correct; TrainerRoad suggested I keep my tempo at 85 bpm or higher. When I started the ride and settled into what I thought was a decent cadence, I was biking at about 50 bpm. Oops.
To my extreme relief, the workout didn’t kill me in the first three minutes. In fact, it actually began at a far slower pace than I would have started myself, at 50% of my FTP, before gradually ramping up. (Hey, I actually did a proper warm-up!) By the time I got to the main intervals, I’d decided I could finish the hour – and I was already eleven minutes in! By the second interval, I’d figured out how to read the entire display, and over twenty minutes had passed. For perhaps the first time ever, I’d worked up a decent sweat on the trainer without fighting boredom.
It was around this time that I started to pay more attention to the tips on the screen. I’d expected things like “pedal faster” or “go harder now.” I didn’t expect the mix of tips showing me how to engage more muscles (“focus on pedaling horizontally for a while”), motivation (“Just be relaxed and make it look easy, and even YOU will begin to believe it”), and gentle reminders (“fatigue is never an excuse for poor form”). Waiting to see what would pop up next, I forgot to focus on the seconds dragging past. After countless hours of training alone with only my own , the commentary was a novel concept – and I loved it.
The other thing I noticed and appreciated is that TrainerRoad takes the mental aspect out of going harder. There was no need to muster my willpower to do the sprints – the target power went up, and I matched it. It told me when I could rest, but only at a certain level with a certain cadence for a certain amount of time. While I can see this being annoying for more advanced riders, I’ve known for a long time that I’m bad at pushing myself. I’d been curious to see if a preset plan would help or not. Since it definitely did, I’m very excited to see what I can actually do with someone else setting the bar.
Writing this post has been another revelation in and of itself: every issue that has held me back previously has not been physical. Confidence, boredom, and willpower are my biggest enemies, not the muscle or lack thereof in my legs. In that context, improving doesn’t seem quite so daunting after all.