Tuesday, March 4, 2008

There Will Be Pain

If there is one thing that I am absolutely certain of it is this: This week there will be pain. Some things we can talk ourselves into by sugar coating the truth, or perhaps by flat out lying. Unfortunately for me this isn't one of those times. I am going to suffer. There will be pain. And there is no way around it.

You'd think by now, I'd be used to pain in workouts. But I'll let you in on a little secret. The reason I advocate a consistent training program no matter what is so that any pain experienced in preparation for racing can be minimized. The only exception to this rule is when my training reaches the point where I start using the Tacx.

Don't get me wrong, the Tacx I-Magic and Fortius trainers are wonderful tools. And I love mine. Sort of. The problem is riding on it is way, way, way harder than riding on the road could ever be. Personally, I'd rather ride the Dam Loop here in Austin twice, than to spend an hour on the Tacx. Let me be clear, the Tacx is never boring. I know some people don't like indoor cycling because they get bored. This isn't my issue. I can choose from about 25 different courses and 8 different virtual opponents to race against. I can also design personal sessions based on wattage, heart rate, duration and several other factors. The Tacx also makes assessment testing a snap giving me the ability to use the same courses and conditions each time I test. These are all good things really. But like I said, once I start using it, there will be pain. The Tacx, mine at least, is just plain harder to pedal. When I get off of it after about 30 minutes my legs are so full of blood that if you stuck me with a pin I'd pop. There isn't anything in my experience that could qualify as an "easy" ride on the thing. Well let me restate that. I suppose you could have an easy ride on it if it was unplugged. But I don't ever do that so, I can't speak to it. A while back I bought the Velodrome addon thinking I could do some short intense track workouts on the bike. But the wattage needed to keep the bike moving through the curves was unreal! (I wonder if Du'Shun could manage it? Probably.) But actually this is all why I plan on using it more this year than I did last year. I figure my strength and yoga focus will allow me to reap more benefit from using the Tacx than last year.

This year I plan on using the Tacx 3 times per week starting March 1 as a way to do more specific cycling work with each session focusing on power and cadence and endurance. I will also use my time on the Tacx to refine my pedal stroke. I want to use my outdoor cycling simply for recovery and handling skills and perhaps an occasional real world climbing session. I don't expect to ride outside more than once or twice per week for the next 3 months. My reasoning for this is in my training I've noticed that at certain times some workouts create measurable results immediately, while others create latent improvement. Other workouts are just a waste of time offering absolutely no measurable benefit whatsoever. I want to eliminate as many of these useless workouts as possible. And going over years of accumulated training data in my logs, I find that the biggest culprit for these workouts which offer no benefit is cycling.

I think the reason for this has something to do with the nature of riding itself. With running and swimming I find it is much easier to maintain a training focus. And because of this ability to maintain your training focus and thus your objective, it can be easier to see results in these two sports. Cycling can be more social. People can tag along and start talking. Road conditions can be unpredictable. And traffic can have a huge impact on your focus. When choosing between safeguarding your life and your training, obviously your life wins out.

Enter your indoor trainer, or if you have one, a Computrainer or Tacx. These devices allow you to focus on whatever cycling objective you choose. This is a huge advantage. You can design and complete workouts that can target and improve your limiters and get immediate feedback as to the effectiveness of the training protocols you are implementing. So in this way the new phase of my training I'm entering is exciting. Even though the Tacx is hard. When I start using it I can't push gears much bigger than my 39-14t. But after I've been at it for a while I can begin to move on to bigger gears using the big ring. And once I get into the big ring and I start racing, look out because there will definitely be pain. But by then, I won't be feeling any.

You can find out more about the Tacx Virtual Reality trainers here.


Jason said...

No Pain No Gain

Sounds like fun.

ace said...

Yeah. Fun indeed. I'm finding it isn't as bad as last year though. I think between the plyometrics I did this winter and all the yoga I'm doing now, my legs are a lot stronger. The trick is turning that strength into efficient wattage on the bike. I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

Who knew holding warrior pose in yoga class would give me legs of steel? I certainly didn't.