It's easy to slide down the slippery slope of negativity as the days get shorter, and the wind gusts sliding up your jacket sleeve get colder. Wait, did you just say "Jacket?" Yeah, that's right, many of us are already wearing jackets and we are coming to the realization that summer is over and the magic wizard didn't cast a spell on where we live this year so there will be yet another winter. You guessed it, this means indoor trainer sessions.
Don't worry though, there are actually some REAL performance benefits to riding on the indoor trainer, outside of all the ones you've already read like, "there are no cars and you can't crash."
Let's start by first understanding what a bike race, or a competitive scenario that you might be preparing for next year, actually looks like from a performance requirement standpoint. If you've ever competed then you already know that the dream plan that you muster up before the race typically goes out the window, almost as soon as you get going, and you kind of end up out there clawing your way like the wolverine through the chaos and carnage of competition. These situations are pretty tough, and only a select few learn how to master the disruption that is competitive sports; you've probably heard these types of people commonly referred to as champions.
But what if we could all learn how to be champions? That would be pretty cool eh? Well, the truth is anyone can learn how to be a champion, but not many people get the opportunity to grow up in the sport of bike racing, naturally building both the physiological and mental attributes required to thrive in these competitive scenarios. We often hear pro riders talk about the "rhythm" of the race. You might have even thought to yourself, where the heck is the "rhythm" of riders launching superhero attacks, and sprinting out of corners at 800 watts? The word rhythm might very much seem like a complete oxymoron for many people that have jumped in a local crit or hard group ride. The reality is that most people using the word rhythm to describe the ability to race well, might not even fully understand that what they are actually referring to is "building a variety of performance zones that your body is trained to consistently transition between."
Let's face it, there's no showing up race day and pulling out some magical performance that just drops every other rider off your wheel and leaves you posted up double hands in the air with thousands of fans cheering. That's called a fantasy, and the reality is that you can only give to a race or competitive event "what you have." You simply can't ask any more of yourself, then to give the best of your ability. So the obvious solution here if you want to get better results in these types of events is BUILD THE ABILITY to do so. This starts by developing the competitive performance zone's that you'll need to overcome the chaos of your events.
At CINCH, our athletes train in what we call the FORM Performance Method, and within this system, we have 11 Powertrain Zones. By developing each performance zone used in competitive scenarios independently and increasing one's ability to efficiently ride in each zone our athletes build the ability to perform well in competitive events through workouts, and one of the best places to do this is on the indoor trainer. One of the main reasons we love to build our zones on the trainer is because athletes can focus on the muscular and cardiovascular feelings of each zone, without having to worry about bike handling, potholes, or traffic. Intervals can be perfect on the trainer every single time, allowing athletes to get super consistent intervals in which increases the rate of developmental progression.
Mentioning consistency brings us to our next major benefit that athletes who commit to indoor training can gain massive performance gains from. At CINCH, we think of our workouts as a fitness multiplier, kind of like an investment banker thinks of that $5 Starbucks as a $35 loss, since that $5 won't be going into the next investment. Each one of our intervals and workouts is like an investment in the development of our athlete, every interval and workout have a purpose. When these purposeful sessions are consistently completed our athletes end up getting way stronger, in way less time essentially building that fitness like compound interest. For some reason, the reality is that when an athlete has their bike set up on their indoor trainer at home or in a local gym it's easy for them to get into a routine where they can dedicate 1 - 1.5 hours 4-5 days a week, and consistently crush awesome training sessions. These shorter, purpose-driven workouts done consistently are far more effective than sporadic weeks in warm places where an athlete might ride 30 hours and expect to gain huge fitness.
As we wrap this article up one thing that we'll mention is that the mental component of cycling is often overlooked, and focusing on and developing mental tools can be a game-changing component to any athlete's performance in competition. The indoor trainer can be an incredible place to build what we call Mindset Strategies at CINCH. Essentially athletes are hooked up to this trainer where they're going to put themselves in uncomfortable scenarios of growth and development multiple times a week. This environment is almost ideal for building an intuitive understanding of the feelings of the different Powertrain zones, and the mindsets that correlate with these zones. For example, take water; Water gently flows through a river and water can also crash into a wall destroying the point of impact. We titrate our medium Powertrain zones with the water mindset for this reason. When an athlete is cruising the peloton they are like water flowing through the stream, but a lot of the time in races, being able to revert back to the water mindset and zone in critical moments after a bunch of lighting bolts (hard v02 attacks) have been dropped, will lead to a winning performance, this would be the higher potential of the endurance zones or for the sake of fulfilling the example, the crash of the water destroying its point of impact.
In summary, a slight change of perspective from "this trainer is boring" to "this trainer is the developmental tool that will make me a better athlete next year" will have you absolutely STOKED to do your workouts on the trainer this weekend. But in the end, it all starts and ends with purpose, and having clarity on the purpose of each workout will be a game-changer at the end of your "winter block".
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