Getting Used to Indoor Spins

Indoor spin sessions are a godsend in many ways. You get a higher quality workout, it saves time, there is no weather and traffic to contend with, you are seconds away from the fridge or the toilet, the list goes on. I have gone ahead to dedicate half a room to a fixed indoor trainer setup complete with a desk, laptop (for Zwift), tablet (for watching videos to past time), and well angled fans that cool the underside of my body while the air conditioner takes care of the rest. I am looking to make some improvements but this is almost as good as it gets.

Yet, indoor spins are still a drag. Here are the reasons:

  1. It is harder. There is no coasting to take a break unlike the outdoors. In my outdoor rides, I apply power on the pedals for only around 78% of the ride. This means I spend almost 1/4 of the ride just coasting along. (Of course, this includes coasting to a stop at traffic lights, which can be pretty often leading to such percentages.) No such thing on indoor spins. Every session is 100% pedal action. Lesser rest makes each indoor session feel way harder.
  2. It pushes you further. Outdoors, I spend less time looking at my bike computer and am less aware of the power and speed I am putting out. Indoors, all I stare at are my stats. Got to keep the numbers up. Legs are cooked pretty quickly.
  3. It is less interesting. There is nothing much to look at to distract from the work your body is being put through. Looking out of the window helps and so does Zwift and YouTube/Netflix (sometimes all at one go). But even so, the experience sorely lacks the dynamism of open roads and if I dare say, having traffic to keep you on the edge of your saddle. Outdoors, you feel you are going places, indoors you feel you are trying to just clock certain metrics. It gets draining pretty quickly.

The issues I highlighted above are mostly in the mind. And so, I tried something different recently. Instead of worrying about the numbers and trying to get workouts as done as quickly as possible, I decided to just take it easy and enjoy the session. My usual go-to Zwift route is Tempus Fugit for one simple reason – it is dead flat and hence easier. But it is also a very boring route. So, I tried Bigger Loop this time. It had a lot more climbs including Zwift’s epic KOM and it was more than twice as long. I also decided to take things easy. Do not worry about the numbers, just try to enjoy the ride.

Bigger Loop Route (via ZwiftHacks)

The mindset shift helped. Having to deal with varying slope profiles made the session interesting. It also harnessed the potential of my Kickr Climb. Not trying to push 100% all the time also helped. I did not coast but I dropped power and speed when I felt fatigued. I was also willing to pause like I would on normal rides to go for a bite (though I did not do so in the end). The result – my longest ever session on a trainer and it went by without me knowing it.  Sure, the numbers were mediocre but I enjoyed it. There still is a downside – it eats up more time. But in the end, enjoyment is everything because it is the sole element that determines whether I return willingly.

I foresee myself having to continue Zwifting for a bit more until Singapore enters Phase 2 of its COVID-19 exit strategy. The government currently hopes to do so by end June but the situation is so dynamic you cannot really pin a date to it. Till then, my indoor trainer will continue to witness plenty of action.

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