Baby, it’s hot inside.
I love indoor training.
Perhaps love is too strong a word. Maybe I just don’t hate it as much as I should. I am also of the opinion that riding a trainer is about 5 times harder than riding on the road. It is physically tougher because you don’t have stop signs, pee breaks, or anybody else to draft. There is no wind to cool you down so you sweat like a 300 pound trucker in Memphis in July. It is mentally harder because you’re not actually going anywhere, and it just kinda sucks. You are often all by yourself, which means no “rabbits” to chase, and nobody to whine to when your legs and crotch start to hurt. In most cases you are riding in your basement, workshop, garage, or if you have a really understanding spouse, your family room in front of a bigass flatscreen TV. I have a pretty understanding spouse, but unfortunately have neither a family room NOR a bigass flatscreen TV. What I do have is this:
It smells like hockey bag and cat pee, but to be honest, that’s kind of how I like it. I don’t like going to a gym that looks like a spa. I like my sports life (as opposed to my other “normal” life) a little rough around the edges. And yes, that’s why I don’t wear pink on my bike.
Thankfully, rather than spinning mindlessly to reruns of The Cosby Show, or America’s Next Top Model, there are some quality workout videos on the market that can make indoor training interesting, effective, and very, very painful. Before I did any of them I was extremely sceptical, and imagined workouts like the ones my mom did in our basement in the 1970s with Ed Allen. From his perch on a beach somewhere in Hawaii, he promised a lovely slim figure to the scores of stay-home Moms who, 5 days a week at 9am, attended the Church of Ed like loyal disciples, followed by grapefruit breakfasts washed down with Tab Cola and menthol cigarettes.
Needless to say, times have changed and many women are more interested in excelling at their chosen sport than achieving a pleasing waistline (although that is a nice side effect). And workout videos have come a long way as well. The holy trinity of any cyclist’s video library are Spinervals with Coach Troy, CTS with Chris Carmichael and my personal favorite, Sufferfest.
Spinervals are one-hour sweat-fests led by Troy Jacobson, a man in shorts pulled up to his armpits who shouts at you and encourages you to hurt yourself. Some of these sessions are ridiculously hard. In spite of his excessive fashion faux pas, it was only after experiencing firsthand the severity of Coach Troy’s workout regime that I recognized his video workouts might actually be of some use. Even if they do use the same music as porn.
In addition to being a retired pro cyclist, Chris Carmichael is responsible for this:
Carmichaels’s CTS Dynasty puts together a progressive set of workouts designed to increase your power and speed. While I admit they are not quite as intense as Spinervals, there is something to be said for his focus on technique and progression. Unfortunately Mr. Carmichael also fails the fashion test when he does one workout in a floppy black cotton t-shirt. Seriously dude, it doesn’t matter that you’re Chris Freaking Carmichael. No amount of proper pedal mechanics and mud scraping is going to ease the pain of armpit chafing.
Sufferfest is the new kid on the block and uses great music and UCI footage of pro races to lead you through workouts of varying levels of, well, suffering. It’s name is well deserved and the videos are (if you don’t sissy out and actually do what they tell you) very intense. To make matters worse, they sprinkle screens of motivational smack-talk throughout the videos, promising that throngs of pros will chew you up, spit you up and then taunt your remains in a foreign language. Even still, there are worse things than watching well muscled, spandex clad pro cyclist asses for an hour. I do however find the onesie skin suits make them look like a colourful fraternity of prepubescent female gymnasts. Not my thing so much.
So if you are like me and don’t ski, commute or even really do snowball fights, there are winter alternatives that will help make you sweat, suffer, and maybe even get a little faster while you’re at it.