Myth Buster

24 Dec

Even in this modern age of power meters, gps, iPhones, and all other manner of data trackers, some old school cycling myths still persist. One of which is the old adage that more miles is better. Another persistent myth is that trainer miles don’t count toward weekly or annual mileage totals. Why not?

We all love riding our bikes and there certainly is nothing wrong with enjoying the health benefits, camaraderie, etc. that cycling provides. But when it comes to training for improved performance, whether that be for a charity ride, a big century ride, triathlons, or bike races, more miles does not equal better. My favorite coach, Carl Cantrell of New Mexico, says, “Quality is better than Quantity.” See more from Coach Carl here:

Many of us spend hours riding in the group at 20-25 mph and most of us remain at the same fitness level year in and year out. For those who enjoy the healthy life style and associated benefits, that is well and good. For those who seek fitness improvement, quality miles will trump quantity every time. And there is no better way to get quality than by suffering on your trainer.

Some riders bundle up and still ride outside when the temperature is below 30 degrees. We somehow believe that riding on ice slickened roads will make us tougher in the crunch. Yet it is easy to forget about all the coasting time when outside; all the stop signs, all the stop lights, all the traffic crossings, that ultimately take away pedal revolutions that could be turned into fitness gains. Lest we not forget the potential for injury via slipping and falling on slick roads; broken wrists and broken ribs are common winter injuries suffered by those who chance the cold weather.  

Suffering on the trainer forces you to turn the pedals every second of your workout. There is no coasting. Furthermore, although it may toughen your skin to ride outdoors in inclement weather, it takes mental toughness to stick to a fitness-improving workout on your trainer.  There won’t be a stop sign that allows you to coast at 3 minutes into your 4 minute V02 interval; there won’t be a stop sign that causes you to slow at 12 minutes into your 15 minute LT interval.

Because there is no coasting on the trainer, those trainer miles probably should count as MORE mileage than road miles. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. Last weekend I enjoyed riding in a group that included some of my B.I.T. riders, all of whom spun low gears at high cadence while others slogged along in big chain rings at 80 rpm.

Dr. David Wilkes caught my eye as the group ascened a mild, rolling hill. A handful of riders at the front pounded their big chain rings as if it were the finish climb up Tour of Lombardy. Dr. Wilkes spun his light gear on the heels of the lead group. Over the top, those gear pounders all sat up, slumping over their handlebars in huff and puff exhaustion. Dr. Wilkes mildly shifted down one gear and kept spinning away, opening a significant gap on everyone else. Dr. Wilkes has been riding his trainer throughout the first 7 weeks of the B.I.T. indoor training program.

Fifteen disciplined souls who seek improved performance in 2013 suffered the two hours of structured training yesterday in the friendly confines of Indy PitFit. We laughed, we joked; Andrea brought a bag of sinfully delicious Trader Joe’s chocolates and Lyn Conrad brought the most incredible home-baked brownies this side of the moon; we indulged.   

And we suffered. Dr. Adam Perler’s Pandora Alternative Endurance track blasted the pain from our legs, turning the Salvador Dali-warped clock on the wall into time machine that made 2 hours feel like 20 minutes. Make the most of your winter training by riding a trainer. Join a group if necessary, but don’t let the old adage the trainer miles don’t count, deter your fitness goals for 2013.

B.I.T. classes resume on Tuesday, January 15. We’ll begin with 15 minutes of core work, and new for this semester, we’ll spend 75 minutes on the bike. I still have plenty of room for those interested. I look forward to training with you this winter.



One Response to “Myth Buster”

  1. Tom Saccone December 24, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    Bob, thanks for the sage advice. I agree that a pedal stroke is a pedal stroke. I do, however, still enjoy the epic (with a small ‘e’) opportunities to get out often in the winter. This is partly due to growing up on the East Coast where winter was September through April! I have always counted trainer miles as miles on the bike. And those miles were often the highest intensity in a controlled setting. An incredibly efficient use of time. When I am not in the mood to be efficient, a benefit of aging gracefully on the bike, we do appreciate our safe 446 rides during the winter down here in Bloomington- and there are no stop signs! I’ve seen you ride away from the group many times out there!Congratulations on a nice program. I know that your students will excel.

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