Real Advice: 5 Tips For The Workday Cyclist

 

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An unfortunate feature of adult life is that it requires most of us to spend 8+ hours a day at work. While it might be necessary for paying the bills and providing for our families (and maybe buying some new bike gear here and there), it leaves a lot of folks—even us—feeling like there’s too little time in life for riding.

Few people realize however that there are ways to sneak in a workout at work. Before having the good fortune of finding my way to the Promised Land of Performance, I worked in a high-pressure, high-demand advertising job where late nights and working weekends were the norm. To stay sane and keep my fitness, I had to get pretty creative about ways to get a workout in and stay in shape.

Here are a few tips I learned about Working Out At Work*.

*We’re all adults here, so use common sense. Only you know your work environment, and we highly advise you to evaluate how permissive your workplace is about lunch hour use, absenteeism, and office space use before attempting any of these ideas.  

 1. Use Your Lunch Hour Wisely

If you work in an office, nobody says you actually have to eat on your lunch break. I used to bring my bike, a kit, shoes and helmet to work and ride on my lunch hour. Afterwards, I’d feel much more energetic and focused.

After my ride, I’d eat lunch at my desk and catch up on emails.

And as for cleaning up? I used to keep some Nathan Power Shower wipes and some deodorant in my bag, and I’d just clean up and change in the bathroom

If you can, try using your lunch hour to ride, and then eat at your desk afterwards

If you can, try using your lunch hour to ride, and then eat at your desk afterwards

2.Reclaim Your Time

Some days can just fill up with (pointless) meetings. Sometimes I’d feel like my time was booked solid from 9-6. If I felt like I could get away with it, I’d schedule a fake “meeting” at lunch on my Outlook calendar so I could get an hour for myself to ride.

Still expected to be at the office? Sometimes—especially if I had to work on a weekend,  I would get really desperate, which meant I had to get sneaky. I’d leave an empty wallet and a set of old keys on my desk, along with a cup of coffee. That way I would appear to still be in the office, but be on my bike instead.

If you don't have time in a day to go for a ride, you might need to schedule yourself some time

If you don’t have time in a day to go for a ride, you might need to get creative with your Outlook calendar

 3.Make A Friend

If you don’t want to risk leaving the building, or if the weather is really bad (ie: winter), try making friends with the building manager or a maintenance professional. Ask if they can let you set up a stationary trainer in a spare closet or unused office space. During the winters I convinced our building manager to let me use an old store room next to her office for me and a buddy to set up stationary trainers. That way we could disappear for a while, get in a quick ride, and never leave the office.

Check with HR, the building manager, or maintenance staff to see if there's a space where you can set up a trainer

Check with HR, the building manager, or maintenance staff to see if there’s a space where you can set up a trainer

4.Alternatives

Sometimes it’s just impossible to get out of the office, either because of work volume or threat of termination. In that case, you can still do some healthy alternatives.

Standing up from your desk once an hour to do some stretching, dynamic strength moves like lunges, or a yoga pose or two is not only really good for you (studies show it could literally save your life), but can also help you get in better cycling shape.

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Standing up at least once an hour to stretch or do dynamic exercises can do more than just improve your cycling

5. Playing The Hand You’re Dealt

Ok, there are times where working out at work just isn’t going to happen, in which case you need to be realistic and start planning how to get some rides in.

Some ideas are to get in a ride before work before the day gets away from you, commuting to work, or trying to get in two shorter rides during the day. Only you know how truly busy you are—so try to find places where you have even 15 spare minutes…plenty of time for a hammer session on the trainer.

Spending even just 15 minutes on the trainer when you get a chance can help improve your fitness

Spending even just 15 minutes on the trainer when you get a chance can help improve your fitness

Cycling Classes – What Do You Need To Train Inside?

Some Performance stores host indoor cycling classes

Whether you’re a dedicated cyclist or not, indoor cycling classes have plenty to offer for everyone. For the casual cyclist who’s looking to do some cardio work, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more intense—or fun—workout . It’s especially beneficial if you have bad knees or are nursing an injury, since cycling is a no-impact sport. For cyclists, indoor training classes are an excellent way to improve power and stamina, as well as a fun group event that can spice up your training and help pass the winter months.

Some Performance Bicycle stores host free weekly indoor training classes. After business hours, the store staff will set up stationary trainers for everyone who shows up for a fun, indoor group ride. All you need is yourself and your bike, and the store staff will take care of the rest. If you’d like to know more, you can contact your local Performance store for more details. If you’re a member of a gym, they may also offer indoor cycling classes (sometimes called Spin ® classes) in special studios equipped with stationary bikes. Sometimes they may feature coaches that you push you to ride harder, local DJ sets, or movies. But as with any exercise activity, showing up ready with the right equipment will enhance your experience.

While technically you could jump into any indoor cycling class with standard running apparel and shoes, a few small upgrades will help you get the most out of your experience. Two things in particular will really boost your experience – cycling shoes, and cycling shorts.

Indoor cycling classes are great way to get in shape, have fun, and meet fellow cyclists

95% of indoor cycling bikes have pedals that use 2-bolt style cleats. This means you can pick up a simple pair of cycling shoes and cleats to attach your feet to the pedals (temporarily). Using clip-in (called clipless) shoes and cleats will give your legs a more complete work out and make staying on the pedals during hard intervals a piece of cake. Check out the Pearl Izumi X-Alp or X-Road shoes . These look like casual shoes but perform like a good pair of mountain bike shoes. The best of both worlds!

Shoes like the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Road shoe look like casual tennis shoes, but have a mount for cycling cleats in the sole

Once you find the pair of shoes that’s right for you, you’ll also need cleats. Cleats are typically sold with pedals as each pedal design uses a different type – but you can easily pick up some cleats on their own to match the pedals you will be using. If you’ll be using a stationary bike at a gym or fitness studio, it would be best to double check with your indoor cycling instructor as to which type of cleats your indoor cycling bike will accept. As mentioned, the vast majority of indoor cycling bikes use 2-bolt, SPD style cleats such as these. Don’t forget to buy the cleats or the shoes will just be for the looks. To learn how to mount the cleats, click here.

Most stationary bikes will have a mechanism for SPD-style cleats on the pedals. Clipping in will drastically increase your pedaling efficiency.

The second thing you’ll need to purchase is a simple pair of cycling shorts (click here for baggy shorts, or here for lycra shorts). Simple cycling shorts have a slim pad called a chamois that will help sitting on the bicycle seat be more comfortable. A cycling chamois will also wick away sweat (don’t wear underwear under your cycling shorts). A great place to start would be the Performance Nevado shorts, available in both men’s and women’s. These shorts provide the benefits of cycling shorts with a baggy outer layer so they don’t look like cycling shorts. The added comfort will help you stay on the bike seat longer and the more you ride, the more fit you will become.

Shorts like the Performance Nevado have a “baggy” outer layer, with a removable lycra liner with a chamois pad for increased comfort

Another great benefit of cycling shorts like these is that once you’re ready to take your newly formed cycling legs out onto the open road, you’re already partly outfitted. These shorts and shoes will work as well outside as they do in the indoor cycling studio, giving you the same increased comfort and efficiency on the road as they do in the classroom.

If you’d like to do your own version of an indoor cycling class at home, then a stationary trainer is a great option. A stationary trainer is like a treadmill for your bike. There are a few different models to choose from (you can learn more here), but they all provide a pretty good workout. If you want to do your class in your own basement or TV room, a stationary trainer is a great option. For more advice on training at home, check out our article on the Performance Bicycle Learning Center.

A stationary trainer, like the Elite Qubo, can turn any room into your house into a personal home gym.

4 Ways to Make Your Indoor Training Better With Your Smartphone

A few weeks ago we wrote about our strategies for indoor training, including ways to cope with the fact that you’re riding your bike indoors. But if you really want to get the most out of your indoor training (and spice up your solo sufferfests), check out some of the new technology available to track, plan and interact with your trainer rides, all from the comfort of your smartphone or tablet.

1. Wahoo Fitness KICKR Power Trainer

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Wahoo Fitness KICKR Power Trainer

First up is the Wahoo Fitness KICKR Power Trainer, recognizable for its use of a “wheel-off” design (since you remove your rear wheel and mount your bike directly on a trainer-mounted cassette). Its super flywheel design with electronic resistance is engineered to replicate the inertia of an actual rider on the road, give the smoothest indoor riding on the market, and run extremely quiet. But we’re here to talk tech, and the KICKR Power Trainer has that in spades. Bluetooth Smart and ANT+ technologies wirelessly connect to your iPhone, iPad, iPod or Garmin Edge and let you control resistance levels, structure interval workouts, and simulate real-world courses using your favorite App (including the free Wahoo Fitness App and many other popular cycling Apps and 3rd party software). You even get truly accurate power measurement, since the wheel-off design allows for direct, lab accurate power measurement at the hub which is consistent and calibrated throughout every grueling mile.

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Wahoo Fitness KICKR Power Trainer in use

But that’s not all for the KICKR Power Trainer, as their newest trick is Strava app integration through the new Wahoo Segments app. The Segments app lets you ride any Strava segment indoors – you can compete in head-to-head matchups against any rider, on any Strava segment, anywhere in the world! The Segments app controls resistance to match the elevation profile of each course, meaning the KICKR Power Trainer realistically simulates the grade of each Strava segment’s climb in real-time. Resistance adjustments are instant, making it easy to replicate everything from a flat or rolling hill course, to the coast down a hill after a hard climb. When you’re finished you can then upload your workout to your Strava profile as an indoor workout.

2. Elite My E-Training App

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Elite Qubo Fluid + Trainer integrates with the My E-Training App

The folks at Elite trainers have taken a different approach with their e-training technology, but the good news is that all you need to get going is your Elite trainer, the My E-Training App (there is a small annual fee for this service), an ANT+ Wahoo Dongle (for your iPhone), any ANT+ speed/cadence sensor, and any ANT+ heart rate strap (if you want to track heart rate data). Since many of you already have some, if not all, of these pieces, you can be up and running with Elite’s sophisticated e-training tech in short order.

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My E-Training App from Elite

It’s like having a virtual coach that travels with you whatever your destination – you’ll be able to track power, pedal cadence, heart rate, speed, time and distance directly from your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch with the My E-Training App. You can establish your anaerobic threshold, create personalized monthly indoor training programs, or even create races from all over the world with Google Maps. And of course all of your training data can be saved, shared and exported to chart the course of your training and improvement.

3. Kinetic inRide Watt Meter

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Kinetic inRide Watt Meter pod attached to a Kinetic fluid trainer

If you are interested in the benefits of a wattage-based training program and you’ve got a Kinetic fluid trainer, then the new Kinetic inRide Watt Meter is a perfect add-on to your training. This watt meter pairs a heart rate monitor and power sensor pod (included in the kit) with the new Kinetic inRide iPhone App to measure wattage with any Kinetic fluid trainer using the Bluetooth Smart communication protocol from your iPhone or iPad.

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Heart rate monitor & power sensor pod pair with the Kinetic inRide iPhone App

A highly accurate power curve allows precise wattage readings at exact speeds – firmware in the inRide Sensor Pod measures speed and cadence at the tire, translating it to wattage, and finally, that data and the heart rate data are collected and displayed on your paired iPhone or iPad. When you’re done, you can upload your postworkout file to a favorite website or email files to a remote coach – the Kinetic inRide Watt Meter is a great tool for the aspiring cyclist in training.

Kinetic inRide Watt Meter
Ride data is displayed on your paired iPhone or iPad (mount not included)

4. CycleOps VirtualTraining App

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CycleOps VirtualTraining App

The folks over at CycleOps have come up their own VirtualTraining App, for desktop or tablet, that lets you control your training on CycleOps trainers, Wahoo trainers, power meters or with any ANT+ speed/cadence sensor (for a monthly subscription fee). If you’re connected to a trainer that lets you control the resistance (like the Wahoo KICKR Power Trainer), you can manage the resistance level to match a virtual route or pre-set training ride. The Virtual training software even integrates GPS and Google Earth technology to synchronize route mapping and videos with actual outdoor terrain, while adjusting the load generation of the resistance unit to reflect actual changes in terrain along the route. It even supports consumer-generated real life video content, so you’ll be able to share courses with other cyclists from around the world!

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CycleOps Fluid2 Trainer

If you have a trainer where you can’t adjust the resistance level remotely, like the CycleOps Fluid2 Trainer, you can still use the VirtualTraining App (in conjunction with an ANT+ speed/cadence sensor and ANT+ heart rate strap) to record all of your training data from connected ANT+ or BlueTooth Smart sensors and then upload to the VirtualTraining portal for detail analysis.

Real Advice: Training Indoors


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Winter is coming. And this year, just like every year, we’re all going to swear up and down that no matter how bad the weather gets, we’re going to ride outside. And this year, just like every year, that resolution will last just about through mid-December, at which point we will all switch to full-on holiday bacchanalia mode and just kind of stop riding, reasoning that spring isn’t that far away.

For most of my cycling career, this was exactly the pattern I fell into year after year. I would ride my way into excellent form going into the fall, only to feel like I was starting again from scratch every spring. Finally, one year, I decided to buy a trainer. I didn’t work for Performance at the time, but I visited my local store, and the associate helped me pick out a trainer that was right for my needs. I ended up going home with an Elite progressive resistance trainer, and a special tire designed to be used with stationary trainers (more on that in a bit). The results were incredible. While I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t exactly love riding the trainer, I was able to keep relatively in shape through the winter, and entered into the spring in much better shape than previous years.

When it comes to trainers and rollers, there are a lot of options to choose from. Trainers can vary a lot in price and features, so it’s important to consider what your training goals are before buying.

Here are some tricks and tips to get the most out of your winter training:

1. Know Your Trainers: The primary purpose of trainers is to help you build strength and endurance. Basically, a trainer is a treadmill for your rear wheel—you just clamp your rear wheel in and start spinning.  How much resistance your trainer delivers will depend on what type it is. Our Learning Center has an article that dives more in-depth into the different types of trainers, but here’s a quick summary:

Wind Trainers: Use a fan to generate resistance.

Advantages

  • Fewer moving parts
  • Produce progressive resistance, which increases as wheel speed increases
  • Smooth resistance with minimal vibration

Disadvantages

  • Noisy
  • Fan susceptible to damage
  • Increasing wheel speed only way to increase resistance

Magnetic Trainers: Use combination of magnets and metal plates to generate resistance.

Advantages

  • Offer multiple levels of resistance
  • Quieter than wind trainers
  • Produce linear resistance, which stays the same regardless of wheel speed
  • Typically less expensive than other options

Disadvantages

  • Changing resistance level requires dismounting bike unless trainer is equipped with handlebar-mounted remote shift lever

Fluid Trainers: Uses a hydraulic fluid and an impeller to create resistance.

Advantages

  • Produce progressive resistance, which increases as wheel speed increases
  • Very quiet
  • Most moving parts protected by enclosed resistance unit
  • Available in adjustable resistance models

Disadvantages

  • More Expensive

A quick word on tires: trainers tend to be tough on your tires. As mentioned above, some companies like Vittoria now make specially designed tires that are made to withstand the rigors that the trainer will put them through.

The Elite Qubo Fluid+ resistance trainer is a great way to gain strength and work on endurance through the winter

2. Rollers: are different from trainers in that the focus is on developing form instead of strength. While riding the rollers can deliver a hard, pulse-pounding workout, rollers are better used to work on cadence, pedaling efficiency and concentration. Unlike trainers, rollers are a free-form exercise where the bike is not locked down, so they require a smooth pedaling motion, steady cadence and concentration to use. They take some practice to get the hang of, but the rewards are significant. The first few times you use rollers, we highly recommend wearing a helmet, setting them up next to a wall (to make it easier to get on and off), and putting some couch cushions around you on the floor. It’s also recommended that you have someone video your first attempt at using the rollers, since hilarity is almost certainly sure to ensue (don’t worry, we’ve all been there).

Rollers are an excellent way to work on form and cadence through the long winter months

3. Boredom: I’m going to be really honest here: there are few things more boring than riding a trainer/rollers. When you’re sitting on a bike that’s going nowhere, it’s really hard to stay motivated and push yourself. A good way to overcome this is with videos or music. Many companies offer workout DVD’s for use with the trainer that can help you target specific areas you’d like to work on (strength training, endurance, climbing, etc…). Something important to remember, though, is that your time on the trainer is an hour you have to yourself to do whatever you want. With that in mind, here are some other ideas I use to stay focused:

-Catch up on the DVR queue

-Watch cycling movies like Breaking Away, American Flyers, and The Flying Scotsman

-Scour Netflix for movies that your better half doesn’t want to watch (I’ve probably seen Commando on the trainer at least 7 times)

-When I have to use the trainer at work or before a race, I have a special playlist on my phone of songs that help get me motivated

Catching up on TV you may have missed is a great way to keep the trainer from getting stale

4. Ride With A Buddy: Everything is more fun if you have a friend, and riding with someone else helps you stay more accountable. If you have some buddies who are into cycling try setting up some indoor training sessions. If you have a video game system, then you have a recipe for success since you can host “trainer tournaments”. Last year at the office we had some fairly epic Halo multiplayer battles while riding the trainers (one guy even added aerobar extensions to his bike since he could ride hard while still using the controller).

You'd be amazed how much faster the time goes when you can crush your friends in Halo or Madden

You’d be amazed how much faster the time goes when you can crush your friends in Halo or Madden

5. Sweat It Out: When you’re on the trainer, it’s going to get sweaty. You’re not moving, so there’s no air to cool you down. Here are some tips to keep cool and clean:

-Put down a trainer mat under the bike

-Use a sweat net to protect your frame (many trainers come with one of these)

-Use a small fan to keep cool

-Always have a bottle with ice water in it

-Wear a cycling cap to keep sweat out of your eyes

A sweat net will help protect your frame and components from the corrosive effects of sweat

6. Have A Plan: Riding the trainer is an activity that rewards having a focused approach. Making vague promises to ride the trainer every day for an hour may be hard to follow through on as the winter grinds on. Create a training realistic training plan that you can adhere to, and that drives toward very specific goals. This is where using a training DVD can be very helpful.

Using a training DVD can help you create a plan and work toward specific goals during the off-season

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