Making training easier and more efficient is all about perceived effort compared to power output. I explore this idea with the latest indoor trainers and their super powerful software. It’s amazing what’s out there!
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Ergo workouts are hard, intense and mentally draining. So why do we do it? For some it’s because they have no choice, there’s snow on the ground and a chill in the air. Others, like myself, find the focussed and clinical nature of a fixed training environment conducive to getting it done!
Let me be the first to say, that there is no substitute for the feel of riding on the road, it’s why we do it right? But there are times when a trainer is the best option for training, miserable weather or not. I’ve covered one example of this in Episode 15. Today I’m not talking about workouts, I’m talking the experience. The experience offered by indoor trainers and software, and whether these factors alone can make training easier and more efficient.
What Do You Mean Easy and Efficient?
Easier does not mean less effort. It’s still about doing the work.
There are no shortcuts to victory. We must commit ourselves to the slow, painstaking work of training, day by day and year by year. I’m not trying to bullshit my way through here.
The idea of making your indoor training easier is rooted in your perception of how hard a workout is.
Ergo training has always been a mental drain for me. I’ve mentioned in the past that my motivation to get through my Tuesday hour of power was knowing how much I gain from ergo training. The hour definitely takes just as much out of me as a 4 or 5 hour ride on the road though. So looking at ways to hack this should yield positive results.
The concentration and effort needed to push outside your comfort zone drains your brain juice. If we use the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) on the original 6-20 scale, to measure our mental input against a data driven output, specifically power, I can judge whether a workout is easier or efficient.
In reality if we were to judge two efforts done under different conditions, easy and efficient could look like this:
- EASY: Lowering RPE with a similar data output, the workout if perceived as easier.
- EFFICIENT: Maintain RPE and increase data output, training is more efficient.
I’m not about to run off and do a scientific study to prove these hypotheses. It simply gives us a way of comparing the options for indoor training that I’m going to present. Some things to note here is that your RPE could fluctuate due to many factors, this is more of a subjective test for yourself in helping you quantify your mental state after completing a workout. will and can fluctuate depending on many factors, but we are looking at consistently scoring lower based on using some new tools available to us.
Classic Ways to Reduce the Rate of Perceived Exertion?
Out on the road, this can be done by distracting ourselves by riding with other people, or smashing your mates in spontaneous sprints or hill climbs, which is hard to replicate on the ergo. When I was a junior we would have a weekly winter group ergo sessions at my coaches house. It’s a great way pass the time with people you may never get to ride with, back then it was the girls!
Part of the problem with indoor training solo is boredom. Passing the time alone on the road is easier if you have music or a podcast (wink, wink) in your earbuds, same goes for indoor training. Watching TV is a little too tick the box type of a workout for me. There is no way you’re going to get a solid workout if you’re trying to listen to a movie at the same time.
Making the experience more comfortable will go a long way in making you get more from a session. Having the essentials like a fan, towel and matt will offer welcome relief when needed. As will setting your bike up so it’s level. Riding downhill on the flat is not going to help anyones Rating of Perceived Ball Pain.
New Ways to Reduce the Rate of Perceived Exertion?
The things mentioned so far are all classic ways to reduce RPE. They aren’t heavily reliant on technology, but this is the area that, things-they are a changin. I’ve gotta admit, I bought my first and only ergo back in about 1995. It’s a magnetic Blackburn that’s as tough as they come, I don’t think it will ever be killed. But saying that, it’s time for an upgrade.
Looking around at the options available today absolutely blows my mind. It inspired this episode because I believe the options available today will make training easier and more efficient. While I haven’t actually tried any of these systems out, it’s possible to see their potential.
Let’s go through 3 systems that are out there or soon to be released. Just to be clear here, we’re looking at between $330-$1000 US of initial outlay, not your $100 special.
1. Kinetic Kurt Road Machine – $330 + $200 = $530
- This is the cheapest option that I’m going to present today, but it far from basic. At this price point the options include:
- Integration with third party online training platforms with workouts: trainerroad.com
- The ability to estimate your ‘Virtual Power’.
- They know the resistance curve and can predict power output.
- Collects your other data such as speed etc. and displays it live on a computer screen.
- Set your targets and just watch a green bar
- You can drop thesufferfest.com videos into the program and ride them in real time.
- Create workouts, use existing or other peoples
- $10 a month
- Actual power reading with the inRide accessory which attaches to the trainer and transmits via Bluetooth SMART.
- $200 with HR Strap
2. Tacx Bushido Trainer – $900-$1000
- Resistance controllable unit
- In house software and doesn’t use any third party apps or transfer protocols (it’s not an open ANT+ frequency).
- Similar functionality to trainerroad in their training software
- They have a library of rides that you can use with the trainer.
- Videos and resistance of actual roads and control the resistance of the trainer depending on the terrain.
3. Wahoo Fitness KICKR – $999
- Adjustable rear wheel off system – No Slippage
- Open source transfer and API – Expandable
- Transmits data, including power in ANT+ or Bluetooth SMART – Future proof
- A good starting point of their sotware potential:
- Trainerroad can be used to control resistance
- A user driven database of real rides, recorded via smartphones or GoPRo Heros and linked with GPS data.
- You select a ride, then as you ride the trainer, watch the footage and the resistance of the trainer is automatically adjusted based on the terrain.
- A development app from Wahoo and Strava, meaning it’s not released or promised to be released.
- Choose any segment on Strava and challenge any rider in the top 50 of the that segment. Of course the challenge is virtual and not in real time, but the app adjusts the resistance so it’s like you are on the actual hill, and your data is displayed next to your chosen appointment to try and beat them. POW!
That is massive! It may not get die hard riders excited but I’m sure everyone that has a bike torcher chamber is listening closely.
In the excitement I have gone a little off topic. Let me say that I will be buying this bad boy when it comes out, and bringing it back to my theory.
Here’s why I think it will make a difference to my indoor training sessions:
- Feel: Simulating climbs as steep as you can handle without the rear wheel slipping.
- Integration: Taking my favourite rides and plugging them into the system. Plus the ability to ride cols you can only dream of, Alpe d’huez for example.
- Modification: Imagine taking your favourite hill and being able to input repeats automatically. Where you create a brand new version that is better than the reality. A longer warm up section where normally you have to ride on dangerous roads to get there for example.
I believe the new experiences offered by the KICKR and third party apps will make sessions seem easier, not by distracting my mind but by engaging my imagination and linking it to physical sensations similar to riding the real thing.
The potential of what companies like Kinomap, RoadTrainer and Wahoo are offering is staggering compared to where I’ve been living. Which seems to be under an indoor training rock. For me it’s not about trying replicate road riding per se, but offering options for maximising what pain cave dwellers already know about indoor training. Also the potential of linking lonely riders together in sophisticated ways has me drooling with excitement. Most definitely-Watch this space!
Your Den Set-up
Much like I did with the power meter episode I’m going to break down 3 suggested indoor training rigs. These are all attainable and don’t include the big boys like Wattbike etc.
- Trainer: Magnetic trainer
- Timing: Clock or Stopwatch
- Entertainment: Radio
- Workouts: http://www.turbotraining.co.uk/
- Extras: Towel, brick and drink
- Trainer: Fluid resistance trainer
- Timing: Bike Computer
- Data: Heart Rate and estimated power
- Entertainment: Phone/Headphones
- Workouts: Trainer Road + The Suffer Fest
- Extras: Towel, wheel lifter thingy, drink and fan
- Trainer: Controlled resistance trainer
- Timing: Software on computer
- Data: ANT+ Speed Sensor, HR Strap (external power optional)
- Entertainment: Computer with ANT+ USB Stick (Suunto Movestick Mini) or BSMART
- Workouts: Trainer Road, Kinomap, Strava
- Extras: Towel, wheel lifter thingy, drink, matt , sweat catcher and fan
Flickr Photo Credit: ewwhite