Today is Thursday, February 23, 2017 and in Toronto, Canada currently, it is +17 degrees Celsius.
February is Ontario's coldest month of the year (average high is 0 degrees Celsius) so the thermometre hitting that is fucking global-warming-is-ready-to-drop-the-motherfucking-axe-on-us BANANAS.
But I know my cycling comrades are all ignoring planet Earth's dire smoke signals and getting out there to frolick in the unseasonable warmth. Like, right now, this instant, my Strava feed is acting like a film's rolling end credits put on fast-forward.
No one expected for the season to "start" this early.
For anyone who actually takes the 'off' in 'off-season' seriously (comme moi), this can potentially be such the head fuck: "Wait, what!? But I'm not ready, my legs are mushy! Ugh, I so wanna get out there, but I'll gas out and bonk after 5k! How has anyone found the energy to winter train!? Where is everyone else getting their Vitamin D from, mama needs to re-up! I can't go out now-- but if I don't go, then the FOMO!!! And then I'll kick myself for missing that small window of Spring(ish)!" so on and so forth. These were certainly my plaguing thoughts.
Keeping in shape/body maintenance during this off season for me has been, hands down, the hardest and least the enjoyable. I joyfully kicked off the year by being brink-of-death-ass SICK (I was barely conscious and 80% deaf while sitting through Matt's masters defence, just under water for the whole thing) so I was off the training saddle for two weeks which followed closely after being on "vacay, motherfuckers!" high gear and holiday-binging to my stomach's content.
I felt like heaping garbage.
I gave myself a "freebie" when I jumped back on the trainer after feeling like my merciless flu started tapering off. Just a slow, easy ride to catch that feeling of chugging familiarity of my legs going around in circles again (heavily relying on "muscle memory" to take over). But closely after that, I found myself back to frantically juggling working out and balancing night school, which started up again (just a reminder: I'm trying to get my professional chocolatier certificate right now). And the fatigue was unreal, just this unwanted house guest that didn't want to climb out of the couch crevasse. And life in general was really trying to make itself apparent, with Matt moving back into the city and finding our footing with our new dynamic (for the record, it's been awesome and I didn't think I could fall in love with him even more than I already had), still doing full time work, family stuff, social life stuff, therapy--
Take my word for it, it's just been really fucking busy, as self-absorbed and tired as that may sound. I have felt spread thin.
With what little time I've been given to work out, I've tried to make it count. I started doing high-intensity, short efforts, just going beyond threshold and holding it for as long as I can until I find myself pausing for a sec to see if I need to barf (and then I'd end the workout there). I've had it in my head that endurance is the be-all so I've previously structured my time on the trainer as such, just rocking side to side in that saddle for an hour and fifteen to an hour and a half, but mostly just cruising along with a few climbs and the odd sprint thrown in there. But I don't have the time anymore to go back to endurance... nor do I really want to give the time to endurance. Quite frankly, sitting on the trainer saddle for a long time was just as barf-inducing as a 30 second sprint at 400w. But these short sessions were proving to be a bigger change for me than I realized, and even less enjoyable than trainer time itself already is, albeit I'm spending less time on the trainer (this was of little comfort, but at this point, my only comfort).
After putting away a few of these FTP-centric sessions, I'd reflect and honestly feel it wasn't right or effective. My attitude towards these sessions were reflected in my Strava log titles, which I'd punctuate with a newly bitter, snarky hashtag I made up called '#EFFTP'. All of this maintenance work felt literally like spinning on a hamster wheel: working really hard and going absolutely nowhere. This felt as demoralizing as training could get and I was really starting to loathe it. Any discussion of bikes in general with friends started to come with a slight flavour of bitterness and resentment.
Since a half hour to forty minutes on the trainer felt meagre and I started to doubt if it was even making any sort of impact (again, accustomed to being on the saddle for an hour to an hour and a half), I decided to throw some light free weights for squats and arm curls in there and just upping the number of reps each session. And end it all with planking. Again, still didn't know if any of this was doing me any good.
Came the weekend where it was global-warmly warm, the roll call was put out to go riding and I ended up hanging on for most of this:
Clearing a century ride smack dab in the middle of winter, I couldn't fucking believe myself. To be fair, I bonked HARD in the last 3k of the ride, but overall-- I was pushed up into the "YOU'RE CRAZY" ranks after this. I survived my first winter fondo. The pain didn't really hit until 70k in either, which is when we started eating a lot of headwind and hitting the climbs ("climbs"). Still, I was expecting myself to gas out after 20k in.
So now I have no choice but to vouch for the high-intensity short workout; I believe it saved me. What could I otherwise attribute this feat to? To be honest, I find it kind of astounding and fucked-up, but-- it worked!? It's made me a reluctant believer now *shrug!*.
For more reading on the effectiveness of a high-intensity short workout: "Leah McLaren: Paleo, CrossFit and the art of joyless living"