My training (winter ’21-’22)

2021 was a struggle for me. I had severe autoimmune reactions to the Covid vaccine which made my joints swell. That problem hasn’t gone away as of October ’21, but it’s at least under control. I rode far fewer miles in 2021 than I normally do and found continued use of NSADs lowered my red blood cell count. Iron supplements and steady training saved the second half of my season…

I start my training year by losing fitness because I know better than to try to hold fitness all winter. October to me is the month of Bacon. I avoid fast group rides and I eat a lot of bacon – life is good. I will admit that friends dragged me out to a mountain in NH to climb, but I made up for it with more bacon the next morning…

11/1/21. I have a muscle spasm in my lower back on one side. I got on my trainer just to see how bad my pedal stroke has become, but I can’t even reach the bars and turn the pedals. Not a good start for the season…

11/6/21. Back on the trainer, just starting pedal stroke work. It’s just hip flexor work for now, my lower back still won’t allow me to isolate my glutes. My spin is better than expected.

11/8/21. First bit of glute isolation, only 5 minutes but it’s an improvement from last week. My quads have gotten significantly weaker, I’m not ready for quad isolation drills yet.

I spend the first month on the trainer relearning how to isolate muscle groups, and working on timing – efficiency in pedaling is mostly about only using the muscles where they have mechanical advantage. It’s as important to not fire muscles beyond their efficient range as it is to fire them when they are. My natural defenses are working against me here, when you try to push harder your muscles translate that to pushing longer. That may work in walking or running where the stride length increases but the cadence stays about the same, it doesn’t work in the pedal stroke. Step 1 in my program is learning how to use glutes from 1:00 to 4:00 and quads from 11:00 to 2:00 at low intensity. Step 2 is increasing that intensity without changing the timing. There’s a lot of isolation of zone work (going back and forth with the pedal to learn the motor skill)

11/10/21. 15 minutes of glute isolation, my back is less of a problem than I expected. Technique is already working well, but my fitness is nowhere – I expected that.

11/11/21. My first fixed gear ride of the new season. I like to start with a pretty low gear and go even lower as my spin improves. Last year I got down to a 44×19 and due mostly to being too lazy to change it, that’s where I started this year. I may have overdone the losing fitness thing, 2 hours nearly killed me.

Fixed gear riding is the key to my base mileage. The fixed gear does a few things for me. First, it forces me to change muscle groups as I ride, going up hill is a shift to the glutes, riding on the flats is all quads, downhill is an emphasis on hip flexors to get the pedals over the top fast enough. Second, it’s a better workout in a shorter time – there’s no coasting. Going to lower gears also means there’s more cardiovascular draw from the sheer number of times the pedals go ’round. Lastly, my fixed gear runs studded tires (which are fastproof). The combination of my direct connection to the rear wheel and studded tires keeps me upright in the worst of conditions.

11/12/21. Rain. The forecast said the rain would start around noon, so I got dressed and headed out on the fixed gear for some more steady base miles. I got to the end of my street when the rain really started to come down. It’s one thing to put up with bad weather at the end of the winter, I’m not there yet.. 90 minutes on the trainer split between hip flexor work (one leg pedal stroke drills), quad isolation work and my first 4×8 of the season – all sustain.

The 4×8 is the best climbing workout I know. It’s all glutes, broken down into two speeds. Sustain is the pace at which the heart rate comes down, up-tempo is the pace at which the heart rate comes up. It’s four 8 minute segments, each segment is in a harder gear than the last. The point of that is in the first segment it’s easy to lower your heart rate and hard to raise it, in the last segment it’s easy to raise your heart rate and almost impossible to lower it. There is no set timing for sustain vs. up-tempo, the goal is to finish the workout with the most time spent in up-tempo. Each 4×8 is an experiment in how much you can front load the first segments while still finishing the workout.

11/18/21. 3+ hours on the fixed gear with Ian. This is the reason most of my rides are solo, I bonked around the 3 hour mark. By myself I would have kept the increase in time down to 30 minutes.

11/19/21. Testing begins for HR drift at steady output on the trainer. I have no great expectations of fitness at this point…

11/21/21. Second test for HR drift shows that I need a lot more base mileage. The plan is to do 2+ hours on the fixed gear at the low end of zone 3 at least 5 times a week. Teaching pedal stroke classes will get in the way, I may have to start commuting to work on the fixed gear and take the long way home.

11/23/21. 3 hours on the fixed, felt my breathing and heart rate on the rise in the third hour. I need lots of steady state work to bring up my base fitness… The few climbs I did out of the saddle felt relaxed and sustainable. I rode out to Deer Island but I didn’t bring a camera – next time maybe there will be pictures…

11/24/21. 1 hour heart rate drift test. My back is less of a problem than it was just three weeks ago. I find myself shifting to glutes at the end of this workout which is clearly why my heart rate didn’t climb as high, but it’s costing me in cadence and power. Need to set clear goals on muscle usage for my workouts.

11/26/21. More time on the fixed gear. It’s just base fitness work, it’s most of what I need over the next two months. Also working on climbing out of the saddle at a stable heart rate. I’m always amazed by how much fitness I lose and how slow I feel in the winter. Being fast is months away, I’m OK with that…

11/28/21. Got lost on my fixed gear – I do that a lot. Getting better at climbing in zone 3 .

Base mileage is time on the bike at a somewhat low intensity. It’s about draining the battery over and over so the adaptation is better endurance with less heart rate drift. I’m still at the point where I’m not getting much past my glycogen window, by next month I’ll be fueling on the bike and pushing the rides closer to the 4 hour mark.