The other day in Progressive Cycling™, we did one of my favorite cycling workouts. It’s very simple at the outset, but if you think about it, you’ll see where it gets complicated.
The workout was short – only 90 minutes – and the class was instructed to set the cycling computer up so that “watts” was highlighted, thus showing “current watts” and “average watts” at the same time. The task was to always keep the current watts higher than the average watts. I’ve done this workout many times, and I know what you are thinking: “No big deal. Just start with your watts low and the rest is easy”. And you are right …. Kind of…..
You definitely want to start with your watts on the low side. But you also have to pay very close attention, or after about 15 minutes your mind wanders and you find yourself cranking along at a pretty good rate. If you’re not careful, your average watts start creeping up and since you can’t slow down to moderate the workout (remember, your current watts are always higher than your average), you might find yourself committed to a ride you hadn’t intended.
The need for constant vigilance is another reason I like this workout. There are many times in triathlon when the mind can drift and if you are not careful you find yourself riding too hard, or too easy, or too close to the athlete in front of you. Staying mentally focused is something that indoor riders can get lazy about, so adding mind games to the training is a good thing.
After class we sat around talking about the workout. A couple of people admitted to having to re-set the computer to start over because they hadn’t controlled the pace early on. I remarked that even if you start out very easy, you are still going uphill the entire time, so that’s one thing that contributes to the difficulty of this workout.
Mike’s observation of the workout was that it was like making a snowman. Tucker nodded his head, but everyone else had confused looks on their faces. Mike explained, “When you start making the snowman you are fresh and excited, but you soon realize that the snow is wet and heavy and after a while you get pretty tired”.
We all caught on, visualizing snowmen where the first part was way too ambitious, leaving not enough snow (or not enough enthusiasm!) to finish with a proper sized head. The moral of the story, of course, is that when you build your snowman – or your bike ride – you should visualize the snowman’s head so that the finish is as glorious as the start.
As Tucker put it, “Do you know how many headless snowmen I’ve seen?”