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Trainer Time Factor - TCF Core Principle

Living in the Northeast there is just no way around it. You are going to spend the better part of your offseason (and "in" season) on the trainer sweating away watching replays of last years Flanders for the 15th time (Spoiler: Sagan was unlucky this year). Luckily now with the advent of ZWIFT, smart trainers and other fun new age toys, training inside is a LOT more bearable. Even those lucky folks who live in the warmer parts of the country likely spend a good deal of their time on the trainer for the simple fact that it is extremely convienient and extremely efficient. You get a very large bang for your buck. While the wife and kids are sleeping, you can hammer out 2 hours on the trainer before 7:30am and be ready to take on the well as being ready to kick butt at that weekends race. So with that said, lets look at how you can properly account for the time spent on the trainer.

What we have come up with is based on our collective knowledge and experience around the sport of cycling. Countless hours having been spent on the trainer and on the open roads have fostered this core principle. We believe that in terms of pure speed potential improvement (a.k.a. the ability to increase 20 min power/weight ratio), when you are on the trainer you should reduce the prescribed time by 20%. This being a factor of 1.2 (see Factor Example below). The reason for the factor is that if one sets out to ride 1 hour at Zone 1** (Aerobic) on the trainer, they can set their HR (Heart Rate) at the middle of the zone for the duration and just crank along…no interruptions. When riding outside, due to stops, down hills, etc, your Zone 1 ride will result in a HR at the bottom of the zone (if ridden properly without going into Zone 2). These 4 or so BPM extra on the trainer represent addition oxygen passed through the system and further aerobic development. 

Now, it's not that simple otherwise we wouldn’t be writing a whole post about it. The Cycling Formula believes in a two part equation for success on race day. One, is increasing speed potential (through fitness, body comp, efficiency, etc), the other is durability through volume for your race schedule. This could be for a 45 minute Crit or an 8 hour Mountain Bike Race. The durability allows you to meet your speed potential curve at each successive distance. What we have found is that in terms of overall durability, there are times when you just need to sit your butt in the saddle for at least the time suggested irregardless of any factor. Therefore in this situation a 1.0 factor should be used.

So, what does this all mean in practice? What we suggest is to use a 1.0 factor during the final 6-8 weeks leading into a major race or major race block (multiple races in subsequent weeks) when durability is important for those partiular races. Prior to that, we use a 1.2 factor so that when the athlete switch's to the 1.0 during the final lead up to the races it doesn’t become too much of an overload.

Factor Example:

Outside Riding (1.0 Factor): 1 Hour = 1 hour (This is the standard, all training plans are build around this 1:1 ratio)

Indoor Riding Utilizing (1.2 Factor): 1 Hour = 50 minutes (60 min x 1.2 = 10min --> 60min - 10min = 50minutes total trainer time)

**The Cycling Formula uses a 4 zone structure for HR zones. (ZR=Recovery, Z1=Aerobic, Z2=Tempo and Z3=Sub Threshold) More detail around our HR Zone methodology to come in future posts.

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