Day – 25: Why I need a coach / how I train

To complete this ride I have to sustain 82 miles (132 kilometers) a day on average for 9-10 days in a row.   With that in mind, I  started training more seriously in November.   I set the following goals:

  • November:  60-90 minute bike every other day; lift weights or yoga every other day (60-90 minutes)
  • December:   120 minutes every day:   bike 60/weights or yoga 60;  following day 120 minutes bicycling
  • January:   200 kilometers a week plus yoga/weights 2-3x / week
  • February:  250 kilometers a week plus yoga/weights 2-3x / week
  • March:  300 kilometers a week plus yoga/weights 2-3x / week
  • April:   400 kilometers a week plus stretching
  • May:   400 kilometers a week plus stretching

I was on track until February and then the combination of trying to ride and work started to collide.   For reasons I can’t explain, my work, which I thought would be winding down, exploded.  In addition, I finally got my wattage meters installed on my cranks.   Bad news, my power was pretty weak.   Tony May also noted my cadence was pretty slow, and my left/right balance was 55/45, reflecting the lack of muscle strength in my bad right leg.

If you want to see the kind of data a cyclist looks at, I captured a screenshot of my phone screen which I stare out while I’m riding.   This particular reading is a bit wonky — I have power but no speed.   Suspect I must have hit a GPS dead zone.   “power” is watts being generated.   It’s a bit daunting to know all of my effort would only power 3 normal light bulbs.   I have a “Functional Threshold Performance” of 202; a pro cyclist would average at least double that.   A better way to look at this is “power to weight” expressed as FTP/Kilograms.   I am about 2.8; 3.0 would put me at a “D-level”.   Pros can do 6, which is twice the power to weight.   If you are interested in this, please look at:    If you are really trying to improve your cycling power, you need to have wattage meters.

Tony May put me in touch with Alpine Cols, a group of coaches based out of Switzerland.   Once we had established my goals, they put me on a very different kind of rhythm.    Hard was only every other day, with the other being a “recovery ride.”   Hard also initially didn’t mean long distances, it meant spinning the pedals at a far higher cadence — 95-100 rotations per minute versus the 60-65 I was clocking.

I really didn’t get the high cadence at first.   It meant the distances were shorter.   It meant my hip flexors hurt.   It meant bicyclists passed me on hills as I spinned madly versus powering up the hill.   But it didn’t take long to figure out why they were doing it — and later I confirmed it when I read some of their blogs.   With the higher rate of spinning I had to get rid of any motion in the top part of the body.   I also had to give up trying to transfer arm power to my legs — you just can’t do it fast enough.   So you have to rely more on your legs being pistons and the upper body being relaxed.   Over time my pedaling seemed to involve less wasted effort; the tension problems I had in my neck subsided almost completely.

A month later and I feel more comfortable with an 85-90 cadence (95-100 is still hard).   I finish rides with sore legs but the rest of my body is loose.

A second concept they introduced is “no freewheeling”.   This meant pedaling consistently whether on flats, going uphill or downhill.   No breaks.   None.   Nada.   Again, when I first did it I felt unbelievably uncomfortable after an hour.   My quadriceps hurt, my lower back hurt.   The body just wanted a 30 second break.   For the first time in my life, I loved traffic lights (callout to SAE).   Good news though:  a month later I can go 2 hours with very little problem (the bigger challenge is that you have to get up pretty early to find places in Singapore where there is no stopping for two hours).

My schedule for last week was the following:

  • Monday:  60 minute recovery ride on indoor bike
  • Tuesday:   4.5 hour 126 kilometer ride
  • Wednesday:   Had to visit the cardiologist to get the green light.   Dreaded treadmill test (I can’t run)
  • Thursday:  4.1 hour ride, 106 kilometers;   60 minutes deep stretching
  • Friday:  60 minutes recover ride on indoor bike; 60 minutes circuit training with weights and core (with trainer)
  • Saturday:   3.8 hour ride, 106 kilometers.   A lot faster than Thursday, partly because much less traffic.
  • Sunday:   Rest day; 40 minutes deep stretching

So roughly 400 kilometers plus strength training and stretching.

So why did I need a coach?   I just don’t think I was getting the most out of my training — I didn’t have clear goals for each day; I was trying to go hard every day versus alternating between challenge and recovery.   At my age the body probably recovers more slowly than it did when I was a high school athlete; I find with the different pace I’m getting stronger and developing more endurance.   I think there are similarities here with many of our major tasks — if we keep grinding day in day out our productivity flags.   We need to have cycles between full effort and recovery, change up our routines to keep things interesting, exaggerate good habits to break bad habits.

If you are a Strava account holder, here is my training log:

I only started to sync with Strava a couple of weeks ago.   The only challenge is that the Wahoo Fitness App I use to capture the cadence / wattage / speed / heartbeat data doesn’t adjust well for stops.   So a lot of the differences are masked by just how early I went out / how many traffic lights I caught.

Tuesday 8 May 2018 Training:   Seletar / Upper Bukit Timah.   A 2 hour ride at 28.3 kmh (not adjusted for traffic lights, etc.).   This was a strong ride.   Didn’t stretch after, which was a mistake.

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