Cycling Trainers

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  • #3865

    Does anyone have experience incorporating cycling trainers into the TFTNA programs? When I look to cyclocross training resources there are many trainers adamant about not using trainers for zone 1 work because of how mindnumbing it can be, recommending they be used for HIIT instead. I find it’s far easier for me to be consistent and show up every day when it’s already set up in the garage than it is to go for a run/hike before or after work in the dark/snow so the trainer seems like the best option going despite its shortcomings.

    Currently my mindset is to get back into the habit of training and make it part of my daily routine before starting a more structured transition cycle on Feb 5. My target is ~12 hours training load per week with 5+ of those coming from time on the trainer in the form of hour to hour and a half sessions in zone 1 after work, 5+ from something fun (skiing, climbing, hiking) on the weekend, and the balance from calisthenics, yoga, and kettlebell work spread throughout the week.

    My concern is that I’m wasting my time spinning away (junk miles?) on the trainer and that those hours would be better spent doing intervals, but I’m trying to set myself up for long term success and could see how doing intervals now might undermine future efforts.

    Does anyone have any insights on how to make time on the trainer the most productive at this stage in the game? The medium term goal is to come off a full training cycle and be able to reasonably do something like Zoroaster Temple in the Grand Canyon or some technical peak bagging in the Sierra car to car in a day this spring/summer.

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    Anonymous on #3890


    Cycling at any intensity will be much less effective for building aerobic capacity for long days in the mountains than foot borne activities. Cycling is very efficient and it also is done sitting down so you do not have to support your full body weight. Thus the transfer of training to your stated goal will be much less than it could be. Doing high intensity training on the bike will not help you in your long term goals either. For what you say you want to do cycling should make up on a tiny fraction of your overall training volume. I do agree that accumulating the needed volume at low intensity riding indoors will be mind numbing.


    surly on #3924

    I’ve used a Wahoo Kickr and Zwift which is fairly entertaining, at least compared to staring at drywall. It worked to burn fat, drop weight and give me some increase aerobic capacity but, as Scott mentions, was not the ideal use of my training time.
    Since starting “The Plan” I’ve switched to a treadmill and wood pellets in my rucksack.

    Mariner_9 on #3950

    I cycled a lot last year as part of my training. In short, it helped with my aerobic endurance but was not sport specific, as Scott noted. This lack of specificity was very apparent when in the hills.

    Unfortunately the mind-numbing aspect of training is just something you have to endure if you live in a city without access to the mountains. My Zone 1/2/3 currently comprises doing laps on the stairs of a high rise building.

    jackmarr on #4066

    I have been sticking to the Training for the New Alpinism philosophy on and off now since May of last year, and I would like to thank you for the great resource. I have been doing mountain stuff for over 20 years, and this is the most complete expression of training I have ever seen.

    On this topic of cycling, of course I was disheartened to see your views on cycling (in addition to the “take the seat off” idea in the book.) I completely understand and agree with what you are saying, but for me mountain biking is not only a source of great pleasure and convenient but also is much softer on my knees. Last season, while I made some big gains in overall fitness especially on approaches (and I was still mountain biking for a lot of Zone 1 still but adding in a lot more hill climbing and leg strength), I felt all of the box steps and focus on mountain hike specific work more in my knees on the descents to the point of it negating the speed gains ascending (and hurting a lot!). I have since switched to using 2 trekking poles and have been doing more AT and climbing gym stuff for the past few months as we are buried in snow, but spring is coming and the avalanche danger is cooling off and I plan to be climbing hills again. So my question is: given the limitations of cycling to direct transfer to sport specific training, is there a way to maximize the use of it for (1) minimal knee impact and (2) just plain fun?

    Thanks again for the great work! Jack

    Anonymous on #4073


    If cycling is more fun and if you have lots of knee pain then by all means ride your bike. As you get fitter and fitter though, the transfer of cycling to climbing will be less and less. As long as you saw (and continue to see) gains from it, then you should include it. I’m not saying it is worthless or a bad idea. I was making the point that those who are time constrained and interested in maximizing their fitness gains will need to do training that is more specific to their sport. Look at conventional sports: Swimmers swim, runners run, cyclist ride, rowers row. They do this for a reason.

    You’d be surprised at the effectiveness of riding standing up. Now, that will transfer over to making you a better mountain climber. Removing the seat is just an incentive to not cheat and sit down.


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