It’s full-on winter. This time of year the weather does seem to offer plenty of convenient excuses to not ride outside. If you’re one of the hard ones that ventures out no matter the weather, hats off, but I know there are a lot of folks that hit the trainers or rollers to keep their fitness going throughout the winter. Hopefully, there are even a few of you riding some new Kurt Kinetic Rock and Roll trainers after reading Brian’s review. With that in mind, let me tell you about the greatest thing to happen to my roller workouts since buying my first Sufferfest video: TrainerRoad.com
TrainerRoad is an online training site geared towards helping you get the most out of your indoor ride time. The list of features is incredible, especially when considering that a subscription costs only $10 per month. TrainerRoad offers a 30 day unquestioned refund of your 10 bucks should you not like the service for any reason. The $10 is a recurring monthly charge that can be cancelled anytime.
TrainerRoad is interactive software which provides real-time data to you while you ride via your PC or Mac. It basically turns your computer into a big cycle computer using ANT+ signals from devices on you or your bike such as heart-rate monitors, speed/cadence sensors, and/or power meters. In order for your computer to receive these signals, it is necessary to buy an USB stick that receives ANT+ signal. Garmin’s is simply called the USB ANT Stick. It is worth noting that Suunto makes a much smaller version called the Movestick. I chose it with the anticipation that I could just leave it plugged into my laptop all the time due to its unobtrusive size. It works flawlessly with my Garmin heart-rate monitor and speed/cadence sensor.
One of the first things you want to do after subscribing to TrainerRoad is to tell the program a little about yourself. Standard things such as height and weight are asked for, but the software also wants to know more specific performance related aspects of your current fitness level. The software needs to know your threshold power or your lactic threshold heart rate in order to properly set the targets for your workouts. If you know these, it’s as simple as putting in numbers in a GUI box. If you don’t or just want to make sure the software has your current thresholds, you can perform one of the power tests found in the workouts section and let the software calculate your thresholds for you. I chose the 1 hour long power test with a 20 minute maximum effort. At the end of the test, the software recommended power and heart rate threshold levels and automatically updated my profile once I accepted the numbers.
Now the workouts are specifically tailored to me using either my power numbers or my heart rate. You don’t have a power meter? Neither do I. So how does TrainerRoad know my power outputs? That’s where it’s really cool. TrainerRoad has a huge list of trainers and rollers for which they have either gotten power curves from the manufacturer or have determined it themselves. Then, based upon which trainer/rollers you have told the software you have and using the real-time speed output from your speed sensor, the software can calculate how much power you are theoretically having to put out to achieve that speed. It is not as accurate as an actual power meter on your bike, but it does give a consistent and instantaneous indicator of how hard you are working.
TrainerRoad.com has hundreds of pre-programmed workouts and even has structured training plans. For these workouts, the screen provides streaming indicators of your heart rate and power. It also shows how much time has elapsed and how long is left in the current interval. There is a bar next to either your power output or heart rate depending on which metric you have chosen as the basis of your effort level. You simply try to keep the bar in the green during the intervals. That means you are working within the prescribed workout effort. It’s really quite simple yet keeps your mind occupied during the workout.
But what really sold me on TrainerRoad is that they have already begun programming some of the popular training videos into their software. You simply open a workout, tell it where the video is stored, and the video is synced to the program so that all the effort levels are perfectly matched. But let me warn you, after my power test and syncing with The Sufferfest videos, I’m actually being told to work harder than when I was just guessing at my perceived effort before. However, I do now know I am working at the levels that are going to give me the most benefit from the workouts, and I also have a consistent benchmark to use to see future improvements.
After each workout, you can see a detailed screen showing you how well you hit the targets during the workout. You can save the workout online and share it with friends or your social community. By saving your workouts online, you can also see how well you are progressing throughout the year. Check out one of my workouts here to see an example.
So, whether you ended your last trainer or roller session thinking “Well, that wasn’t horrible” or “Put this expletive of choice on eBay!” give TrainerRoad.com a try. I think it will definitely make the next time better.
– Alex (Steak Sauce)