TURBO / WIND TRAINER BIKE TRAINING
A variety of different articles offering various workouts & general info on turbo bike sessions
IMPROVING YOUR SPIN
Have you ever noticed the average person pedaling a bicycle? The novice pedals a bike like a stepping machine, with rhythmic down strokes and high quad usage and usually with the seat too low. Of course with standard pedals there is no upstroke to be had. The old flat pedals with no toe straps are what we all grew up with as kids, and it is here where the bad habits may have started.
The "off-season" can be ideal time to improve your pedaling efficiency and remove old habits, when the rides are slow and easy and the miles are short.
We have the mashers; we have the riders who ride with their knees out, the one leg pushers and the spin, rest coast spin cyclists. As a club of many abilities and varied levels of interest, you can see it all. I especially notice the varied styles of pedaling on the TFCE every year. Even those who have ridden for years can carry some nasty habits even in clipless pedals.
Let's start at the beginning. What is a good pedal stroke? A good pedal stroke contains the following elements:
-A smooth spinning motion.
-No dead spots on the down stroke or especially the upstroke.
-Knees in close and parallel to the top tube.
-Cadence at least 80 rpm on flat sections.
-Use of some ankle flexing though the circular motion.
-Constant spinning. No "digital pedaling". (A great term from my friend Marino Anderson!)
Rather than focusing on better riding techniques regarding pedaling here, let's look at some drills to improve your pedal stroke. These can be done outdoors or on a resistance trainer.
The first and most important drill is spinning or under gearing to force a high rpm or cadence in your pedal stroke. You should strive for 95 to 110 rpms for as long as is comfortable without compromising form. This will engage the fast twitch fibers in your legs and clean up the mashing effect of riding in too low a cadence. It will also remedy any sporadic on/off habits in your pedaling as well. Try to imagine a smooth light circular motion. This drill also develops your aerobic base.
Another couple of good drills that will highlight any weaknesses are muscle tension pedaling and one-legged spins. These drills will lessen those same weaknesses over time.
To do a muscle tension drill, shift into a big gear, say a 53t 13t, (Big ring front, small ring back), and a slow cadence of 50 to 60 rpms. Speed is not a factor as this drill allows your leg muscles to work through the entire pedal stroke, including the dead spots at top and bottom. This is on the bike resistance training, so warm up prior to starting. This type of training should follow at least a few weeks of high rpm spinning workouts.
One legged spins should be done on a trainer if possible or a quiet street. Using one leg at a time, spin with resistance at around 70 to 80 rpms. You should feel or hear the weak spots as you turn the crankarms, using one leg at a time. Try to pedal in circles with a constant smooth motion. Do both legs for a total of 3 sets each of one to two minutes with a break in between sets.
Remember that your legs are your pistons driving you forward. Overuse injuries come from errors in form and inattention to details. Review the elements and critique your improvements.
By balancing your pedal stroke, you allow more muscles to engage, creating better endurance and economy and balancing of strengths that may reduce lower back problems and foot problems on long rides.
You don't need to pedal like Lance Armstrong to be a good spinner. Even he needs to be vigilant regarding proper pedal form. Everyone has too. Just try these drills and you'll be spinning nicely when the TFCE comes around again!
Wind Trainer Warm-up:(Suggested warm-up before each of the 4 sets below)
10' - 15' min easy spin, build to 80% in last 5'
2' easy recovery
6' @ 80-85% cadence of 98rpm
2' easy recovery
2 x (15" fast - 15" easy, 30"/30", 45"/45", 60"/60"). Set 1 = 108rpm, Set 2 = 75rpm
20' @ 75%, cadence of 98rpm
15' @ 80%, cadence of 80rpm
10' @ 85%, cadence of 96rpm
(no recovery between sets)
...this is a tough session, and a typical session for Time Trial practice...get yourself some banging tunes for this one. As you get fitter, you can lift each section by 5mins to give you 1hr in total.
Pyramid: choose 4 gears / resistances - easy (90rpm), moderate (75rpm), hard (104+rpm),
Pyramid block of 1', 2', 3', 4', 5', 6' and then back down…
Each block is divided into 4 equal parts (e.g. 15" easy, 15" mod., 15" hard, 15" recovery
for the 1' block)
Go through the pyramid as thus, using recovery to be easier than the easy set.
6 x 5' @ 85%, with 2' easy recovery between each. Alternate one at 98rpm, one at 85rpm.
...obviously with this one you could vary the number of intervals from say 4 to 10 and the length of the intervals from 4' to 10'
Russian Sprint Pyramid:
5" fast - 55" easy, 10" fast - 50" easy, 15" fast - 45" easy…all the way up to 60" fast (110rpm).
Take 2' recovery, then 4' TT effort at 98rpm, and then come
back down sprint pyramid in reverse order.
1) a warm up of about ten minutes starting in a low gear and cadence and slowly increasing both to get you warmed up (10 mins),
2) then one legged pedalling intervals in as high a gear as you can comfortably hold at 50rpm for one minute, 15 seconds to change over repeat four times in each leg (10 mins),
3) then some high cadence work (~100rpm in a gear that you can comfortably hold at that cadence for seven minutes)
4) then low gear work 6 minutes in your highest gear and about 50rpm,
5) Then three pyramids, 3 minutes in low gear, 2 minutes medium, then 1 minute high all held at about 90rpm
6) Then 9 minutes warm down, all adds up to an hour.
1) 30 minute warm up
2) 4 minutes at an even hard pace at a cadence of between 90 and 110
3) 6 recovery
4) repeat another 2 times
5) warm down for 15 minutes.
Take note of your perceived effort V's heart rate for the efforts and adjust for next time to try to make the efforts even more consistent. Once you become the king of those try 2 minutes with an 8 minute recovery period. You don't have to have 6 or 8 minutes recovery, it just keeps it neat and tidy with the time.
Indoor Trainer "Skill Drills" For Improved Pedaling
At least one time each week during your indoor “trainer” rides, it is important to devote some time to improving pedaling efficiency and skills. Among your goals for this skill work are: 1. to refine your pedal stroke and promote pedaling efficiency/coordination/strength, and 2. to develop easily referenced drills that you can employ in training and racing situations.
Though it is common to think of these skill drills as “winter only” or offseason training, I believe there can be great benefit to performing these drills through out the entire training year.
Some additional goals for these drills are:
1. To improve your ability to sustain a higher overall cadence during rides at A-Race “goal speed/pace.”
2. Learn to be able to feel and reference all aspects of the pedal stroke (to more effectively vary muscle recruitment and spread the workload out)
3. Learn new skill drills that help you to keep your indoor training fresh and interesting
4. Improve neuromuscular coordination and strength which eventually will turn into greater power production and efficiency at your “goal speed”
5. Learn to “float” a leg, e.g. shutting one leg off while pedaling so that it can have a rest. This is a valuable skill that can be employed in racing situations.
The following conventional (well known) and non-conventional (not so well known) drills will help you to achieve all of the above.
Please note: ALWAYS include a thorough warm up period prior to beginning these challenging drills. A proper warm up ensures that you will reduce the likelihood of injury while also increasing the potential benefits.
Conventional Skill Drills
1. ONE LEG ONLY Drills (OLDs): These drills are the hallmark of a serious cyclists off season training program. They are the most efficient and cost effective way to develop your pedaling efficiency and technique. Remember when you pedal with both legs, the leg that pulls the foot through the bottom of the stroke, up the back and over the top, gets lazy. That’s because the other leg is pushing the pedal down, a much more powerful and natural action than pulling the pedal up! Now, think about it: if your leg doesn’t help bring the pedal up and over the top, it’s just dead weight. It increases the resistance your muscles must overcome to move your bike down the road. Learning to complete a 360-degree circle with each leg makes you a better more efficient rider, which automatically makes you a better more efficient runner too! The key “feeling” you want is to have constant pressure on the pedal at all times during the entire cycle. Here’s a tip: think of your pedal stroke as a box: push earlier over the top, push down and then pull straight back at the bottom.
Most importantly, vary gearing and also build volume slowly. It’s best to start with an easy gear (for neuromuscular development) and then progress to a very BIG gear for force development. Start with short repetitions of 30sec and build up to 2-5 minutes. Cadence should also vary. As a general rule, keep cadence below that point when your stroke begins to “break up.” Avoid constantly hitting dead spots – slow to a lower cadence and then increase over time as you improve.
2. “SPIN UPS” – Leg Speed: These “speed” drills are excellent for developing your pedal stroke. There are two ways to approach these. Here’s both ways:
1. In a low gear, spin at 70 rpms for 60 seconds. Each minute increase cadence by 5 rpms. You’ll know when the cadence gets too fast to sustain for 1 minute because your butt will begin to bounce on the saddle. Focus on “planting” your butt on the saddle and don’t bounce! Stay smooth and relaxed at all times. Maintain “pressure” on the pedal at all times, but keep the pressure “light”.
2. Again, in a very easy/low gear, begin spinning at 80 rpms and quickly increase your cadence to a speed that is as fast as you can possibly pedal (over 130 rpms!). Do this for 20-30 seconds, and then “soft pedal” to recover for 30 seconds to 1 minute before repeating. Start with 3-5 reps and build to 10 or more.
3. “SUPER SPINS” – Leg Speed: You know the drill here: in an easy gearing (these are neuromuscular drills so high tension is not wanted or needed) spin your legs AS FAST as possible and don’t bounce! Like spin-ups, keep the pedal pressure light and focus on staying relaxed. Reps should be 15-30 seconds long. Increase number of reps over time.
4. “SUSTAINED HIGH CADENCE SPINNING: Sustaining a “high” cadence (any cadence that is slightly higher than what you are comfortable with can qualify as a “high” cadence) for increasing lengths of time is great neuromuscular training and also great aerobic training. Here’s how:
Using an EASY gearing, build your cadence up to 100-120 rpms and sustain that cadence. You can begin with short reps of 3-6 X 5 minutes (w/ short rest intervals), gradually building up over a period of time up to 1 hour duration. The goal is to learn to relax and become comfortable sustaining a higher overall cadence. Relax and spin your legs!
5. “JUMPS” – Stand and Sprint: These explosive efforts are purposeful drills designed to increase your ability to quickly accelerate. Here’s how:
1. In a moderate gear, jump up quickly (time your “jump” so you stand as the pedal comes over the top, to maintain speed and momentum) and sprint at about 120 or more rpms for 15 seconds. Then sit and spin the same gear easily for about 45 seconds. Repeat this sequence.
2. Next, in a large gear (perhaps 53x15), stand and sprint hard for about 10 seconds. Sit down, shift to an easy/low gear and recover for about 50 seconds. This means each rep would be approximately 1 minute. Harder efforts will require more recovery.
6. POWER ACCELERATIONS: These are also designed to help you develop force and power like JUMPS. The primary differences are that you are seated for Power Accels and the focus is on BIG gear strength. Here’s how:
When you are ready to begin, soft pedal while shifting to a BIG gear such as 53/12-14. (If you are a beginner/intermediate level cyclist, choose a slightly easier gear until you get the necessary strength). Your cadence will be very slow, i.e. 30-50 rpms. At the beginning of each repetition you want to EXPLODE by pulling up hard and pushing down as hard as you can with maximum pressure, accelerating for up to 20-30 seconds. Shift to an easy gear and recover with “soft pedaling” for 30 sec to 1 min, depending on the length of the repetition. Repeat at the end of the rest interval. Stay seated at all times!
Non-Conventional Skill Drills
The below drills are those I consider to be non-conventional. They offer a great opportunity to get outside of your comfort zone and take your skills to a higher level.
1. “RUNNERS”: I call this drill “runners” for lack of a better term. This is a great drill for increasing strength, balance and coordination. Here’s how:
Shift to a moderately big gear (53/15-17). While you are pedaling, stand up to an upright position WITHOUT holding onto the handle bars. That’s right, leg go entirely! Continue to pedal for 15-30 sec, then return to your seat and soft pedal before trying again. This is a challenging drill and takes time to master. It will help if you: 1. stand up straight, not hunching over the handlebars. 2. keep your hands up and use them to help balance. 3. keep pedaling without any dead spots...keeping pressure on the pedals helps you stay in control.
Over time, experiment with using an ‘easier’ gearing. This increases the difficulty.
2. RISERS (muscle tension intervals): Again, I call these “risers” for lack of a better term. These are excellent for strength enhancement. Here’s how to perform them:
They’re called risers because the focus of this drill is raising your butt up SLIGHTLY off of the saddle so that muscle tension and pedal pressure are increased. Rise up 1-2 inches - just enough to increase the pressure on the pedals and on your hands/forearms. You should feel increased tension in the leg muscles. Start with reps of 10 seconds and build up to 1-2 minutes in length. Vary gearing and keep cadence up around 90-105 rpms. These are excellent for inserting into ‘high cadence’ spinning drills and spin ups.
3. FLOAT DRILLS: Float drills integrate many skills and can be great for enhancing coordination and pedaling efficiency.
Keep a couple of things in mind-
1. Although most of these drills contain some “one-leg” pedaling focus, they are not OLDs, e.g. both feet will remain in the pedals when performing these drills. The idea is to focus & concentrate on one leg only while the other foot “floats.” Goal cadence (work up to) should be 100+ on all drills....
2. In terms of a general approach to the following drills, I’d recommend that at the conclusion of each one-leg interval, spin both legs out for 15-20 sec at a very fast cadence, i.e. SUPER SPIN spin at a very high cadence!
3. Use an easy enough gearing so that resistance is virtually non existent. These are neuromuscular training drills so a lot of resistance isn’t appropriate.
4. Make sure to warm up well with some easy level 1 spinning, and then build into your aerobic zone before beginning these.
Drill #1: SINGLE LEG FOCUS
90 sec one leg, 15” both legs together
Note: remember to use both legs together for 15” after each single-leg drill; observe how muscles get very tired and suggest the need to be able to vary muscle recruitment within the pedal stroke.
Drill #2: LEFT/RIGHT - LEFT/RIGHT
45” right leg, 15” left, both legs together 15”, vice versa
Note: shorter 15” interval should see a higher overall cadence.
Drill #3: SINGLE LEG BUILD
30” moderate, during the next 30” increase cadence each 5” to maximum, 15” both legs
Note: cadence should never slow down.
Drill #4: BOX DRILL
This two legged drill focuses on the concept that you should think of your pedal stroke as a 4 sided rectangle. Spend 15” focusing on each part of the box, e.g. top, front side, bottom, back side. In other words, for the first zone, concentrate on pushing both feet across the “top of the box,” e.g. from back to front. Think of driving the knee forward over the handlebars. For the 2nd zone, drive the feet down, e.g. from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock. For the 3rd zone, think of scraping mud off the bottom of your shoe by pulling across the bottom, and for the last zone, pull up hard, driving your knees up to the ceiling.
Drill #5: LEFT/RIGHT DESCEND
20” right leg, 20” left leg, for 2 minutes
15” right leg, 15” left leg, for 1 minute, 10” right 10” left for 40”, 5” right 5” left for 20”
3-4 x 1 minute a maximum sustainable cadence, Rest Interval 1 minute.
3-4 x 15 seconds progress to spin out, rest interval 45”
Drill #6 SPINOUTS
3-4 x 15” spinouts, using both legs, build cadence to spinout, make note of the highest cadence you can achieve.
Drill #7 MAX SUSTAIN
2-3 x 1 min at maximum sustainable cadence using both legs, without bouncing!
Remember that by practicing these drills, you’ll learn where the gaps are in your pedal stroke and thus have the impetus to improve your skills and efficiency. Also, variations of these can also be used during your outdoor rides. For example, practice “floating” one leg for several revolutions, then the other leg, and then use both together and see how your speed magically improves with no change in effort!
After all, though practice may not actually make you perfect, it will make you a lot more efficient! Use every opportunity to improve your pedaling skills and you’ll go faster easier in your most important races. Good luck!
The workouts always began with the athletes in the small chain ring where I would have them concentrate on various sectors of the spin and revolutions. Soon, I had them "Spinning" at what I called "HRPM Spinning" or "high revolutions per minute". Sometimes they'd reach 130 rpm's.
I found this type of spinning to be quite effective in teaching a most efficient spin and thus, included this regularly. In particular, after threshold, V02 and lactate efforts I had the athletes spinning at minimums of 100 rpm. During race pace intervals the rpm was 90.
Perhaps, the best drill I came up with was the "One Leg Spin". Simply, I had the athletes emphasized the spin with the right leg and let the left follow without force. Then switch over to the left. Over time I realized the best way to teach this was when using the small chain ring and say, a 21 free wheel cog. This gearing forced the athlete to remain focused on the spin where a more forceful gear would not.
"Descending One Leg Spinning" then became the drill of choice. Start out with say, 10 with the right and 10 with the left then 9 right, 9 left, 8…7…6 and so on. Follow the drill with a normal spin for about 60 seconds. You can do this drill on the road or trainer and along with dozens of other possible drills you can make your turbo training fun.
Here's a workout in detail:
1. Warm up in small chain ring at hrpm spinning start a 90 end at 105 for 20 minutes.
a. TF Drills 2(4 x 2 minutes) two sets of the following:
i. Work the downstroke (forward and downward)
ii. Descending One Leg Spins from 20
iii. 4x30 seconds alternating One Leg Spins
iv. hrpm at 110 and 115 for 1 minute each
b. Anaerobic Threshold
i. 6 x 6 minutes at 40Km pace plus 1 minute rest
ii. Or, 8 x 3 minutes plus :30 seconds rest
i. 3 x 3 minutes @ 100, 110 & 115 rpm
d. Warm Down
i. 10 minutes of One Leg Spins alternating every 30 seconds
Best to do this one out on the road, rolling terrain but a good flat road is best. It can be done as a loop or using turnaround points about 2 miles apart.
Warm up at 70-80% MHR for about 30 mins or 10 miles.
1) On the session circuit, ride a high gear and then stand on the pedals and attack all out effort for 5-8 pedal turns. It has to be everything you have in those 5 turns. After the effort, sit down and spin in a lower gear for 2 mins. Repeat these intervals for 10 reps.
2) After 10 reps, part 2 of this session will get a little tougher. This time, use the 5 turn burst and then instead of relaxing, sit down and keep the full pressure on for another 30 seconds. At then end of the effort, relax and spin for 2-3 minutes. Repeat this one 5-10 times.
3) The icing on the cake in the final part is to repeat the sprints and the full pressure riding for a futher 10 intervals, but this time without resting in between, so it becomes a standing sprint, 30 secs of full pressure effort, standing sprint, repeated 5-10 times before taking a 10-15 minute rest.
Not an easy session but great for road racing top end power.
This is my typical IM/100mile TT training session. Given that most triathletes who do IM distance are not full time pros, and cannot fit in daily rides of 6 hours plus and incorporate 3 hour recovery rides, this session is perfect.
Warm up for about 20 mins and select a circuit of rolling roads of about 8-10 miles. After the warm up ride the circuit at about 85-90% effort of what you would do for a 25 mile TT, EG 25 mile power is 330 Watts, so first lap is around 280-300 Watts. When doing the first lap, you try to keep the effort in that area, doesn’t matter if the average is not bang on but staying below 300 is important. The other thing is to ride as consistently as possible, so no sprints uphill or out of turns, try to stay relaxed and aero.
Now the painful bit. As you begin the 2nd lap, take a split time and try and change the tactic to attack the course, climbs, corners, descents etc. You are trying to get faster but still staying around 90% effort. The aim is to beat the previous lap by no more than 20 secs. On the third lap, same again but beating lap 2 time is the aim.
Everytime you start a new lap, you have to have the mindset that you will finish. Bailing out at 3 laps is a good start, but then getting up to 5 can really be a great distance workout.
This session is around 1.30 to 3 hours and at the intensity, far more beneficial as a TT training session for a limited time than the 6 hour century rides with stops.
To really make it hurt, adopt the approach of keeping going until you no longer can beat the first lap time. Over time, you will be able to gauge your effort perfectly to be within 10-20 secs on each lap.
WHY IT WORKS
There are, in fact, several obvious reasons that Frey elucidates. "You never coast downhill on a trainer; you never have traffic lights or stop signs. You can target a specific heart-rate zone and never fluctuate. And you can reach a higher heart rate on the bike and stay safe.
So obviously riding on a trainer is best for three things technique drills, anaerobic threshold [AT] workouts and lactate tolerance work. Simply put, when your focus is drawn to survival on the roads, you can't push as hard. And you can try things like one-legged drills on a trainer that would be prohibitively dangerous on the roads.
Frey suggests trainer workouts once a week, with a limit of an hour and a half because their intensity is higher than a road workout. But if long rides are not possible, as with Bowden, or other snowboard tris, you can adjust tempo and go a full three to four hours as required.
Technique drills: Frey adjusts his workouts to fit the athlete, but the rough outlines of a periodized preparation for a major ultra triathlon might begin with technique drills. He might start with 3 x 20 seconds on each leg, and then switch to two legs for 20 seconds and then go to the other leg for 20 seconds. This rests the one leg you have already worked and allows you to get your cadence back up, which may have dropped with the single leg. At the end of the training cycle, Frey says triathletes can expect to graduate to five sets of 50 seconds apiece on the one-legged drill. "At first it may be hard, so you will be in a lower gear; but eventually your technique will improve and you will become smoother pedaling with just one leg and you will be able to handle longer intervals," he said. The reason to do this is it teaches the leg to pull all the way through the rotation and not depend on the other leg to carry the load by constantly mashing down.
Actually, a perfectly circular stroke is not best, he cautions. "The best is an elliptical stroke where you push forward and pull backwards. This seems to smooth out the whole stroke and maximizes power. Imagine the upstroke going from 9 o'clock to noon and the downstroke from noon to 2," he adds. While great strides can be made with simple, inexpensive mechanical units, Reid and Bowden have enjoyed their computerized trainer which provides a constant computer readout of the efficiency of the stroke, complete with bar graphs to give immediate biofeedback.
Frey also advocates spin drills which ask the rider to start at a cadence of 90 and work up to well over 110. These are important, says Frey, to train the triathlete's neuromuscular synapses to maintain a faster turnover. A typical workout might start with 10 minutes of warmup, 10 minutes of single-leg drills, 10 minutes of spinning, and finish with 10 minutes of cool-down.
"The time goes by fast with music going and doing it with a friend," he said. But adjust with separate Walkmans if musical tastes are divergent. Reid prefers heavy metal Metallica, while Bowden likes fast paced dance music with a heavy beat. Roch likes the Canadian group Tragically Hip while Fuhr likes some MTV and dance videos - or they might settle on a good football or basketball game -or a tape of a marathon.
Anaerobic threshold (AT) workouts: After six weeks of leg drills, Frey advocates going to anaerobic threshold workouts. Start with 20-40 minutes broken up into intervals such as 5 x 3 minutes at a target heart rate of 80 to go percent of max, with one to two minutes of light spinning in between to get the HR back down. At first, maintain a 1: 1 work to rest ratio, then as you get fitter adjust to a 2:1 work to-rest ratio.
A typical AT workout might include 10-15 segments at 85 percent. So why not hop on and maintain 85 percent for 30 straight minutes? "The rest helps you maintain that intensity you need and allows you to keep going without getting burned out, flat, or taking too long to recover," said Frey.
To emulate hills, you can increase resistance, or change into a harder gear, depending on the type of trainer. just make sure you simulate a hill where your cadence will stay below 80 rpm, adds Frey, otherwise you won't be simulating a hill and won't be working the power and strength. To further emulate hills, you can set up the trainer on concrete blocks or telephone books to elevate the front of the bike. As part of the virtual hill training, he adds, concentrate on the upstroke rather than the downstroke.
Lactic tolerance work: Finally, the third phase is lactic tolerance. The perceived effort advances from "fairly hard to hard" at the AT threshold workouts to "hard and very hard" for lactic tolerance."The purpose of this phase is to get the body ready to tolerate painful buildup of lactic acid during sprint or international distance triathlons," he said. Target heart rate is 85 to 95 percent of maximum for 2-3 minute sets with a 1: 1 ratio of work to recovery. Total workout with warmup and cool-down is still under one hour. "It bums and hurts, and this teaches you to tolerate the discomfort," he said. A side benefit: It will move the anaerobic threshold at least marginally higher. But working at this intensity takes preparation as well."Go to the hardware store and buy the biggest fan you can get," says Frey. "And drink a lot of water and plenty of it.
"In order to get the best out of your muscles, don't train to acclimatize to Hawaii, keep cool and work the muscles and heart as hard as you can. And don't forget, place a towel on the handlebars and clean off the bike afterward so the salt in your sweat doesn't lead to rust." During Ironman preparation, the trainers can be used for acclimatization. Last summer, Reid set his up in the driveway of the condo he and Bowden rented in San Diego and rode like crazy in a heat wave with buckets of sweat making the driveway look like it was a carwash. "I could not have worked myself that hard on the roads," adds Reid.
Elite pros like Reid, Bowden and Fuhr usually stick to the brute force workouts and do not take advantage of the virtual courses on television screens with the computer based systems -sometimes they offer a welcome break."Once a month ago I tried riding one of those courses and thought I was an idiot for not trying it earlier because it was so much fun," said Reid. "But we have to keep on the program and it is just not as efficient as our designed workouts."
Ah, the schedule to success. Sometimes it tugs. "It is hard when we have trainer sessions scheduled and the sun breaks out and it is a perfect day for riding," says Bowden. "We just stay indoors. Then the next day, when it is rainy and cold and cloudy again, we will go for the scheduled ride."I guess it is good for us to show we are still tough enough to take what nature dishes out."
But they are better prepared - by the indoor trainer.
With my Ironman athletes I would have 3 key bike sessions per week at this stage in the game:
1. Tuesday - turbo trainer: a very simple but demanding session whereby you warm-up for about 15-20mins gradually lifting HR to about 75-80% and putting in some single-leg drills etc and then doing a hours worth of consistent work on the TRI bars as 25mins at 75%, straight into 20mins at 80% and then 15mins at 85% followed by a cool down of about 15mins. Its a long session but one which used to play a fundamental role in my training sessions and now those of the guys that I coach.
2. Thursday - long intervals: choose a flat - undulating, uninterrupted stretch of road, warm-up for about 20-30mins (all these sessions may need to be modified depending upon your time availability and current level of fitness) and then perform a series of 8, 10 or 12minute intervals at just above Ironman pace (about 10bpm above) and take half that time between each interval as 'recovery' but not letting your HR / pace drop too much more than 10bpm / 3-4km/h lower than Ironman Pace. Over the course of a 24 week Ironman program I would run these sessions so that you alternate each week and make it progressive, e.g. week 1 = 2 x 10mins, week 2 = 3 x 8 mins, week 3 = 2 x 12mins, week 4 = 3 x 10mins, week 5 = 4 x 8mins etc. You need to factor your recovery week in there as well obviously when I'd normally get my guys and girls doing a steady 90mins ride. The most I would progress this to would be about 6 x 10/12mins and 8 x 8mins.
3. Saturday - long ride: At a "good" pace. Typically my athletes will progress from 2-2.5hrs in the first few weeks up to a max of about 6-6.5hrs (I will usually give them all at least one 180km "confidence" ride as part of this). Pace will lift as fitness improves. Nutrition and mental preparation are all practiced in these sessions as key elements. I always get my athletes to run off the bike after these sessions too and this will vary from 10 to 60mins at perceived Ironman pace. I have a very casual "you can ride with a group in the first half of your program", e.g. the first 12 weeks, but then a very strict "no drafting" policy for the last 12 weeks and will try to factor in a pre-swim for this brick session where possible in some of the later sessions. I will also factor in some intervals during this long bike session of between 10 and 30 mins in length to break up the monotony of the ride and to again tap into that "slightly above Ironman pace" as well.
The Tuesday turbo ride usually doesn't start until about 8 - 12 weeks into a program and prior to this my athletes will be doing skill sessions to address weaknesses on their bike, e.g. strength development, hills, basic handling skills (if necessary).
My first recommendation would be that with respect to any sort of strength work (be it specifically on the bike or in the gym) should be preceded by a block of foundation work of somewhere between 4 and 6 weeks (maybe longer...probably a better estimation of the time required is to look at your training history or "age" of the last few seasons). This foundation work would be done riding relatively small gears at somewhere between 85 and 100rpm and keeping HR below about 75% for the majority of your sessions. Having said that I am well in favour of incorporating short intervals of 'speed' and 'power' work throughout the course of the season, so rather than your training being very much blocked to pure endurance / strength / power / speed for 4 - 8 weeks each block, each block or 'phase' should incorporate varying degrees of the other phases, the balance of which would be determined by the point in the season or how long you had been training.
So, lets assume that you had spent 4 to 6 weeks familiarising yourself and your body to the rigours of training again, you had established the neuro-muscular pathways to facilitate coordination of movement on the bike, and generally you feel like you have 'prepared' yourself with a decent level of base fitness to move to the next stage, we can then look to sensibly and safely move forward to some specific SE (Strength Endurance) work. As Mr Shaggy appears to have got this with ~6 months of training under his belt doing the sessions he says he's been doing, I would be confident to suggest that he was ready to move to this phase especially if we had identified that leg strength were an issue with his riding. Any stalwart cyclist will tell you that it normally takes 2 to 5 years to develop the strength on the bike to allow you to be in a position whereby the next limiting factor to your progression would be your CV system. I think depending on the type of regimen you are following that you could probably bring this forward a little bit, but for all those newbie triathletes out there its definitely worth considering this time frame before you start to panic that your training is going "nowhere"...be patient it will come.
So, before we talk about the actual sessions you could do, first let me give you an imagery exercise that I give to all the guys and girls I take for a spin class or turbo session...it sounds really dumb, but I've found it works quite nicely. One big consideration for any SE work that you will do is that the increased force that you will be applying to each pedal stroke, if done with poor form may lead to injuries, as such its worth building into any session progressively even after you have done your warm-up. Without going into the mechanics of an efficient pedal stroke here, one of the best things to imagine is to "hold your upper body still" whilst driving your legs like pistons (be it in a cyclical manner though - "no chompers here please!"). The imagery exercise that I recommend is to think back to Neo (aka Keano Reeves) in the film "the Matrix." The director used some pretty funky effects in that film to give the impression that Neo was under total, relaxed control as he was fighting the bad guys...his core / trunk was totally still and relaxed whilst his arms and legs were going like wild fire, delivering powerful punches and avoiding bullets like it was the easiest thing in the world. Now whilst it may seem like a bit of a "jump" to relate a sci-fi film to what you do out on the road or on the turbo trainer listening / watching Coach Troy yelling at you...I recommend you give that imagery or visualization exercise a go and see what you think. Key points are to stay calm and controlled and to keep everything from the hips upwards perfectly still as you are pushing the big gears. Some of my former coaches (Robin Brew and Richard Hobson) used to suggest that you could ride a hill with your hands resting on the top of your handlebars without pulling on them at all...this would force us to isolate the quads, hammies, calfs and glutes to work on driving us up the hills...a very effective exercise, but be careful (try it on the turbo first for the sake of falling off!). If you look at any really good cyclist (particularly from behind) you'll see that they do this all the time...no matter how hard they're going, everything other than their legs is calm and relaxed like they're out for a leisurely ride.
Anyway, enough waffle...what sessions could you do to work effectively during your SE phase? When I was at Bath University I was very fortunate to have been mentored by a guy named John Gregory (a senior physiologist and former World Cup MTBer from Tasmania) who knew a thing or three about good session prescription based upon lab analysis. At 63kgs (at the time!) I wasn't known as a powerful athlete on the bike...strong on the hills, but crap on the flats. As most of the drafting races that we were doing required a good turn of power and also the ability to sustain good wattage during a breakaway or chase-pack "chain gang", this was an area John worked on with me. The single best session I remember doing with John was finding a hill of approximately 4 to 6 % gradient (pretty gentle) but that was long enough for me to ride up for between 8 and 10 minutes. This was all done in the saddle, at a large gear (53 x ~ 16) and cadence of about 60-72rpm (but no higher). The gearing is an arbitrary factor for this session to be fair, what is important is that you have selected a gear ratio that would permit you to ride at about 80% HR and the suggested cadence without becoming scrappy with your form. We would do maybe 3 to 6 hill repeats with a gentle ride back down the hill. I always came away from these sessions feeling like superman. What you'll notice is that (just like IShaggy's OP) is that the strength of the legs will be your limiting factor, not your CV system, and as such you shouldn't actually be able to push your HR above 80% anyway as its all happening in the legs.
Another good session is one that Bill Black (Spencer Smith's old coach) used to have us doing (and still my favourite turbo trainer session). Essentially after your warm-up you do a pyramid going up to 6 minutes in 1 minute increments (e.g. 1,2,3,4,5,6,5,4,3,2,1) - these are performed continuously (no break per se), but each block (e.g. the 3 or 4 minute section) is divided itself into 4 equal parts (e.g. 3 minutes would be 4 x 45 seconds and 4 minutes would be 4 x 60 seconds). Everyone of these block's subdivisions would follow the same format, i.e. easy - moderate - hard - recovery (where recovery was easier than 'easy'). The easy block would be done at ~70-75% and 95rpm; the moderate block (or SE block) would be done at ~80% and 65-75rpm; the hard block would be done at ~85-90% and 95-110rpm; the recovery block would just be an easy spin and chance to rehydrate (so effectively this is your recovery section). It is such a great session and time really flies! Going back to what I posted above about always having a small amount of endurance / strength / power / speed throughout the season no matter what stage you're at in your periodisation, encapsulates the fundamentals behind this session perfectly and I strongly recommend you give it a go!