Training Updates: Polar Vortex Edition – January 2013

James Knott shows off his new Garmin Forerunner 110

James Knott shows off his new Garmin Forerunner 110. Thanks Chrissy for the nice Christmas present! It was 11 degrees Fahrenheit when I ran this morning. With the right clothing it was actually not too bad.

The Polar Vortex has attacked the Midwest, but I didn’t let it deter my training.  It just altered it a little.  More inside.  Less outside.  The opposite of what I like.

In the past, winter hasn’t just been a time of recovery and healing for me. It was a period of inactivity and weight-gain.  The colder months were full of excuses and each winter I quickly let go of my summer training progress.

This year I am determined to do it differently

Last winter at this time I was weighing in at over 200 pounds and was feeling very out of shape.  I have turned it around so far.  Earlier this week I weighed in at 158 and I feel perfectly fit.  It’s a pleasant change and I’m looking forward to seeing how my current training affects my spring rides and racing next summer.

I have purposely allowed my cycling volume and intensity to wane a little bit to allow my legs to recover from a successful race season and avoid burnout.  I filled in some of the void with running and hope to add some weight-training in the next couple of weeks.

I’ve been working out 6 days a week – three cycling in the basement on the spin bike and three running outdoors on the bike paths around my house.  When the temperature dropped below zero this week with 20 mile per hour winds, that was finally enough to convince me to skip one of my outdoor runs and head to the basement for an extra ride.

My New Watch

In one of the final races of the season last fall at Mohican State Park there was an intense downpour and afterwards my heart rate monitor strap was no longer functioning.

My spin bike is just a basic model with no computer attached and it’s been very frustrating so far this winter trying to gauge the intensity of my workouts with nothing to go on – no heart rate or wattage readings to go by.  I missed my numbers.  I feel like they turn my random workouts into focused training and they have become an important part of my planning.

My new Garmin Forerunner 110 helps me track heart rate and estimate calories.

My new Garmin Forerunner 110 helps me track distance, heart rate and calories burned.

My frustration disappeared this Christmas when my lovely wife bought me a Garmin Forerunner 110 with a heart rate strap that I could use for my running.  (Check out the price on  The ANT+ signal from the strap also worked with my Garmin 800 cycling gps unit.  Now I can attach my Garmin 800 to my spin bike and use my heart rate to figure out how much tension to apply to the spin wheel.

For my last workout, I decided to try and keep my heart rate between 65 and 70 percent of my maximum heart rate, 120 to 130 beats per minute, for an hour at a comfortable cadence.  If my heart rate got too high I would decrease the tension on the spin wheel and vice versa if it got too low.  I was able to finish the workout, but I was definitely fatigued.  My legs started cramping as I bent over to clean the litter box afterwards.  I definitely earned a day off to recover from my workout.

I plan to do a similar workout about once a week as one of my three cycling sessions with my target heart rate getting a little bit higher each time.  It’s good endurance training that I think will give me a good base to build off of when I get outside in the spring.  For the other two bike workouts I will throw in some intervals of various lengths – shorter intervals for anaerobic efforts (1-2 minutes) and VO2max (2-4 minutes) and longer intervals for functional threshold power and tempo (5-20 minutes).  The plan is to never be on the bike for more than an hour though to avoid burnout.


On non-cycling days I’ve been running.  I was not in good running condition at all when I started.  Most of my efforts so far have been used to build up endurance.  I’d like to be able to run for 60 minutes at a good pace.  So far, I can go 60 minutes, but I still don’t have the strength in my legs to go very fast.  My plan is to do something similar to my bike rides where one day a week I run for a long sustained effort and the other days I do intervals to work on my speed and add intensity to my workouts.

I ran track and cross country in high school and was a pretty decent runner.  I went to the Ohio state championships in the 4×400, so I know I have potential to go fast once I get in shape.  It’s taking a lot of patience to get there though because I am trying to build up slowly to avoid injury.  Who knows – maybe there is a duathlon or triathlon in my future.

Weight & Nutrition

Kirkland Cabernet Sauvignon from Costco is a tasty affordable low-calorie beverage.

Kirkland Cabernet Sauvignon from Costco is a tasty, affordable, low-calorie alcoholic beverage if you need to watch your weight.
A nice glass of wine warms me up on winter nights while I dream about a summer of singletrack.

With regards to weight and nutrition, I did a good job of surviving the holidays without putting on additional weight.  Last year I was racing at around 160-165.  This year I would like to be closer to 155.  Like I said before, I am currently at 158.  Weight is important in mountain biking because it affects your power-to-weight ratio – check out my article about power-to-weight ratio.

I’ve been keeping track of calories with the MyFitnessPal app on my phone.  I’m trying to lose about a half pound a week until I get to my goal.  I wish I didn’t have to be so anal about documenting what I eat, but I have a really big appetite and I start putting on weight quickly if I don’t.  I figure if I get the weight loss over with now, then I can be more relaxed with my diet and focus on muscle building when it gets warmer.

To stay on track, I’ve had to cut back on the fancy craft beers that were a big part of my weight gain last year and look for other beverages for evening relaxation.  At the beginning of the winter I was trying different rums, but lately I’ve been tasting some wines.  If you want an alcoholic beverage, a glass of wine is a great way to enjoy yourself without consuming too many extra calories.  A five ounce glass is about 100-120 calories.  So far, my best find is the 1.5 liter bottle of Kirkland Cabernet Sauvignon that you can buy for $10 at Costco.

On the flip side, the Third Coast Old Ale that I had from Bell’s Brewery was amazing, but it came at a price – over 300 calories!  That’s one-eighth of all the calories that I can have for the day.  It’s like drinking a piece of liquified cake.  Even though I love it, it’s something that I have to cut back on and I now consider it a rare treat.

I’ve found that another good low calorie option is 2 oz of rum mixed with half a can of Diet Coke – 120-140 calories depending not the rum.  Captain Morgan is a good choice, but once you mix it then the brand of rum becomes much less important.

So that’s how I am staying in shape this winter.  Any suggestions?  How are you keeping fit this winter?  Let me know in the comment section.  If you like this article then please share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

I’m hoping to post my 2014 race schedule soon, so come back to Quickdirt and check it out.  What events are you attending this summer?  Let me know in the comments.  Maybe we can race together this summer!

If you have something you need to purchase on Amazon, then click here to buy it and help support this blog.