Indoor Training, This Time It’s Going to be Different!

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Ken “The Badger” Nowell

Indoor training is no longer something to dread!

I need to start with a quote from my dad who has always given me financial advice, especially about the stock market. He’d say “It’s never different this time.” This can be applied to a lot of things in life but with indoor bike training, this time it’s going to be different!

Back in the Day

Back in the day, indoor training sucked. Ask anyone that tried to stay in shape during the off-season, and they’d tell you it was a fate worse than death.

 

The technology did not exist to make it engaging enough for most of us to spend more than a small amount of time on the trainer. For me, I was able to force myself to ride the trainer maybe once or twice a week.

rusty bike on wooden indoor cycling trainer

They used to make these out of wood. WOOD! Credit

From Sad to RAD!

But technology marched along, and indoor training made the progression from “NOPE” to “This sucks” all the way to “maybe” and finally to where we are now, which is “Whoa, this is RAD!”

 

I bought my first Travel Trac II trainer from Performance Bikes (RIP) in probably 2008. It was loud and clunky, and the only metrics I had were from my CatEye wheel speed sensor and my heart rate monitor.

Vintage indoor cycling starter kit

Class D indoor training for Cyclists. D is for Dumb

I Hope You Like Reruns

I’d mount my steed on the Class D trainer in front of the TV and listen to the sweet sound of Coach Troy yelling in full Dolby Surround sound. The first few times, watching one of the Spinervals DVDs was actually kinda fun, but it got old fast!

 

I was ready to yeet my trainer and my Spinervals DVDs into the closest dumpster by the end of winter.

indoor cyclists training together in vintage picture

Coach Troy, the O.G. of indoor training

It’s Called What? Zwift?

The years came and went, and around 2015, I started hearing whisperings about a new training tool called Zwift and seeing strange Strava posts of my friends riding in faraway lands.

 

As a video game enthusiast and cyclist, it piqued my interest! It took me until Fall 2017 to give it a try when I couldn’t ride outside while I was recovering from minor elbow surgery.

Wait? But Why?

I signed up and was hooked immediately—no more of my hot, sweaty sessions in the shed with Coach Troy. Zwift was my new jam.

But that begs the question. Why does Zwift have more appeal? What makes it more engaging? Why do I dread traditional training workouts but savor my next Zwift session?

The K.I.S.S. Principal

I had an epiphany moment while Zwifting and texting other riders.  It was K.I.S.S.: Keep It Social, Stupid!

 

Zwift and adjacent social and communication platforms have made indoor training something that it never was before-social. That isn’t to discount the gamification, which is super fun, but it is the social part that helps me build friendships with people all over the globe.  

 

Whether it is planning tactics and live race-radio through Discord or seeing photos of Zwifters and their set-ups on Facebook, it all adds to the feelings of camaraderie.

Virtual BFFs

What I never expected was that I would make friends all around the world. And not just acquaintances but great friendships that I hope will last a lifetime.

 

It has even spilled over to the real world. I did my first imperial century ride with a couple of guys I met through my team DIRT, and a group of us are planning a spring training camp and getting a VRBO in North Georgia.

 

I see posts all the time of folks that met through Zwift creating IRL meetups.

Author and friends taking a bike from a bike ride

Patrick, Casey, and Me on a century ride from Richmond, VA to Williamsburg, VA and back.

No Bad Weather in the Zwift Universe

How many times have you blown off a ride because your buddy canceled on you? Or because it rained? Or because it was too dark, too hot, too trafficky, or you have to stick around for the kids? Zwift took a hand grenade and blew away all of those excuses.

 

I set up my shed with an HVAC system and a fan, mood lighting, and it’s 25’ away from the house so I can ride while my daughter is safely playing in our home. I jump into Zwift, where my friends are chilling, ready to chat it up and get in a good workout.

Author's indoor cycling gym

My pain cave is equipped with a mini-split HVAC unit and fan!

Zwift IS Real!

Perhaps what I love about Zwift the most is that it isn’t a supplement to cycling. It IS cycling!

 

When I am in a group ride yapping it up with my friends or redlined in a race, I enjoy it as much as riding outside and sometimes more.

 

While it will never replace shredding some sweet single track, it is a far cry better than suiting up in layer after layer and braving the cold, the wet, the wind, and the dark.

Conclusion

Technology has gotten us to the point where something that was once torture is now a fun and engaging social experience. But there is so much room for growth in the future.

Seeing these indoor cycling platforms create a less clunky onboarding experience will be crucial in capturing the many cyclists that have written off indoor training. We all could benefit from having all the tools to communicate and plan rides and races and view results in one app rather than the current state where we’ve creatively cobbled together disparate apps to achieve this.

Virtual cycling is a safe place to exercise and meet up with and make new friends while getting in the best shape of your life!

Your Thoughts?

You have taken the plunge into the virtual cycling world.  How do you feel it needs to improve in the future?  Comment below!  Your fellow cyclists want to know.

 

If you enjoyed this look into the cycling life of Ken “The Badger” check out this article entitled “The Hardest Reset of All”.  Ken shares how virtual cycling was essential in his comeback from major spinal surgery.

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