Will Winter Workouts Payoff? – Training Updates

James Knott's new hair cut.

I gave myself a buzz to try a new sleeker, low-maintenance hair cut. I’m not sure I’m sold on it so far.  What do you think?

It’s March 18th, four days before my first big race of the year.  I am excited, but definitely a little nervous.  On one hand, I have put more preparation into this racing season, than I ever have during the off-season.  On the other hand, because of the early start to the season, all the local trails have been too muddy to ride and I haven’t really ridden any singletrack yet (minus two snowy rides that weren’t really a true test of my readiness for the trail).

The race at Mohican Cabins is probably the most technical trail in the OMBC series and I felt like my trail skills were one of the shakiest aspects of my performance when we raced there last fall.  It would have been nice to have a little more trail time before the race.  However, everyone in Ohio is in the same boat as I am, so I’m sure that most people showing are doing so with the same question marks that I have.

From Trail to Basement to Trail

James Knott riding on the new CycleOps 300 Pro Indoor  Cycle

I’ve been getting up early to work out on my new CycleOps 300 Pro Indoor Cycle with a power meter.
Photo by Chrissy Knott

The majority of my training has been in the basement on my spin bike.  For most of the winter I was training on the Phoenix Revolution Pro II indoor cycle with a heart rate monitor.  This was a good way to help me control my intensity on the bike.  I structured workouts around my heart rate, but because I didn’t take the time to test my heart rate and calculate training zones, I’m not sure my riding was as effective as it could be.

I bought this bike a little reluctantly, because I had heard horror stories about how boring riding indoors could be.  But, the prospect of spending another winter riding outside in freezing temperatures forced me to take a chance on it.  I figured that by the time you added up the cost of winter riding shoes and the wear and tear on my mountain bike, then I was probably breaking even by buying a spin bike instead – with the added bonus of avoiding frostbite and not having rides cancelled due to weather.

I set-up a TV with Roku in the basement and prepared for the worst.  But then a strange thing happened.  I actually liked riding in the basement while I watched shows on Netflix.  I had already been watching about an hour or two of TV a day in the evenings when I was worn out from watching my kids all day.  Now I was just shifting that TV watching to the morning when my kids were still asleep and actually making that time productive.

My new schedule is to go to bed right after I put my kids to bed at 8:30 or 9.  I then wake up between 4am and 5 to workout, riding my bike three days a week and running for two.  Even on the days that I don’t workout I try and stick to this schedule because I believe your body works better when you stick to a regular sleep schedule.  On rest days I usually brew a pot of coffee (decaf) and respond to emails or work on this blog – something that is hard to do when I am in stay-at-home dad mode.

Specialized Stumpjumper Evo Comp 29er

My mountain bike is ready to go. I just had it tuned up at my local shop, roll: Polaris. I put a few extra touches on it to make sure it is ready to go. Looking forward to taking it on the trail this weekend.

I actually really like these quiet mornings alone.  It gives me a chance to be productive and focus my life.  It’s almost like meditation.  I really feel like it gets the day started off right.  The extra energy and enthusiasm I have after a morning workout or some quiet time with my laptop helps me be a better parent the rest of the day – at least that’s what I tell myself.  It only comes back to haunt me when I have to interact with the real world and they make me stay up late to “party my like it’s 1999.”

Overall, I’d still rather be on the trail, but this is definitely a good alternative.  It was good enough that I decided that the next upgrade that should happen in my bike life shouldn’t be to my mountain or ride bike.  I decided the best use of my limited resources was upgrading my indoor experience.

CycleOps Pro 300 Indoor Cycle

Specialized Format 143 Saddle

I recently changed the saddle on my spin bike so that it is the same as the one on my mountain bike – the Specialized Format 143.

A few weeks ago, I purchased a new spin bike the CycleOps 300 Pro Indoor Cycle.  This bike is friggin’ sweet!  I picked it up on sale at the spring clearance event at roll: Polaris.  The reason I was so attracted to this bike is that it has CycleOps power meter technology built into the bike.  I began using a power meter on my mountain bike last year and it truly was one of the best investments that I have made in cycling.  It has really helped me design workouts that make me faster on the trail and I actually enjoy training more with the specific achievable goals that it gives me.

Now that I have a power meter on my bike in the basement, I can directly compare the amount of effort I am doing indoors with what I am doing outdoors.  That will help me maintain my fitness over the winter.  It will also allow me to substitute workouts during the summer when the trails are too muddy to ride on.

Power Zones and Functional Threshold Power

James Knott's Functional Threshold Power and Power Zones

I have a white board next to my TV where I have my Functional Threshold Power and power zones mapped out. This helps remind me what intensity that I want to ride at. Also, I can use it to change my training plan on the fly depending on how I feel. I like all the numbers. Let’s face it, I’m a nerd.

The new bike has already assisted in honing my training.  I recently conducted a test of my Functional Threshold Power (FTP), which is defined by Hunter Allen, a pioneer in the world of power meter training, as:

The maximum power you can maintain through an hour’s effort without fatiguing

It is associated with your lactate threshold, which is the riding intensity where lactate builds up in your muscle faster than your body can get rid of it.  Once you have determined your FTP, you can use it to tell you how much effort you need to exert to train different energy systems in your body.

My FTP was 276 watts.  This made me pretty happy because I am ahead of where I was during the middle of last summer, 265 watts, and getting close to where I was at the end of the season, 289 watts.  Not too bad, when you consider at this point last year I had only ridden my bike 4 or 5 times.

So far this year most of my workouts have centered on three zones – endurance, tempo and lactate threshold.  It’s a long season.  The OMBC calendar has 11 races stretching from March 22 to October 4th.  That’s 7 months.  A cyclist can not be expected to maintain peak fitness for that long, doing so could lead to burnout or injury.  So, even though race season is starting, I still consider this to be my base-building phase.  I am focusing on working in “sub-threshold” zones to increase my aerobic endurance, muscular endurance and lactate threshold.  When I get closer to big events like the OMBC championship race I will shift my focus to more intense workouts that train my VO2Max and anaerobic capacity to try and peak.

James Knott's Workouts

Here is a sample of some of the workouts that I have been performing lately. I like having it written down because it keeps me focused on the task at hand. Sometimes you feel really good on the first interval and would be tempted to go harder, but usually by the last interval you are struggling to finish. I try to keep all of my intervals at a similar wattage level. When you focus on power over heart rate, you first interval doesn’t always kick the heart rate into gear like you think it should. By the last interval, however, my heart rate is usually way higher than I would normally let it get with heart rate training. Power level and heart rate level coincide, but heart rate lags power when measuring intensity.

It’s going to be a fun season and I’m very excited to see how it goes and whether my preparation this winter will pay off.  I’m sure I’ll be a little giddy and my car will be one of the first in the parking lot at the OMBC race on Saturday.  I’m looking forward to competing and hoping that I will see some of you at Mohican Cabins.  If so, make sure to say “hi”.

I have a lot more I’d love to say, but I have to leave it there.  It’s time for me to get back to my day job – being a father to two small boys.  I have to go cook supper.

Before I go, I’d like to take a minute to thank everyone who has read Quickdirt so far.  Mountain biking is a passion of mine and it’s fun to be able to share my experiences here on the site.  It’s amazing how much the audience has grown already and I’ve only been writing during the off-season so far.  I can’t wait to post content this summer about riding on actual trails, attending cycling events and competing in races.

Hopefully, in the midst of all my ramblings, you can gain some insight from my successes and failures.  I’m also looking forward to highlighting some of the other riders that I meet along the way.  But, I can also learn by listening to you, so I hope you will enlighten me with your wisdom in the comment section.  You can also send me emails with the contact form here on the site and subscribe to get emails when new content is posted in the right-hand column.

Today’s question:  How was your off-season training?  Good or bad?  Are you ready to hit the trails or are you still working off that Thanksgiving turkey?  I’d love to hear from you.

It’s going to be a fun summer.


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

James Knott's Training Board

Welcome to the power zone! …or the nerd zone. Here is a wide shot of the white board that I have set up next to the TV by my spin bike.  Power zones are on the top, workouts are in the middle and elliptical and running workouts are on the bottom.


4 thoughts on “Will Winter Workouts Payoff? – Training Updates

    • Thanks. I appreciate that. I’ve worked pretty hard this winter, but you are never sure how that will translate to the trail. I’m excited to find out though.

  1. James these posts are really helpful. Because of a previous article you wrote on power I now train by heart rate a little smarter. I can’t justify (to my wife : >) the need for a power meter just yet. However, measuring what each gear on my cassette equates to in max heart rate helps me design my workouts smarter. I now know which gear to do each type of interval while in on the trainer which will allow me to workout more safely. Outside it all goes out the window with variables like wind and terrain thrown in and I have to go back to feel which is just a guess but inside it is dead on.

    Do you worry with meso-cycles too?

Comments are closed.