Long Time Listener...
Updated: Dec 15, 2021
I've been using a cycling training platform called TrainerRoad for years. Back when I first subscribed, TrainerRoad was a relatively barebones training application that allowed me to do power-based, structured training on my indoor trainer without an expensive power meter. The plans provided research based, efficient training for a time-crunched cyclist even back in 2014 when I first started using it to train for cyclocross events and my local group rides. I've stuck with the program for years (I actually completed my 1,000th TrainerRoad workout this past year). The company has grown and evolved significantly since I first became a subscriber and some of its most exciting features, such as plan builder and adaptive training, have come online in the past year or so.
The trainer-based workout market has exploded in the past few years with options such as Zwift, The Sufferfest, and even Peleton offering their own takes on an indoor cycling experience. These platforms gamify indoor training in creative ways; I've been known enjoy some Zwift racing in the depths of winter. But TrainerRoad sticks to the basics, quietly building one of the most data and research-driven programs out there (although you'll need to supply your own entertainment).
For me, a key to TrainerRoad's appeal is the company's weekly "Ask a Cycling Coach Podcast," in which the company's CEO, coaches, and a variety of high-level cyclists answer user questions and delve into the minutia of athletic performance. These wonky, free-ranging sessions frequently stretch past the 90 minute mark and usually include a "deep dive" by head coach Chad Timmerman into the esoteric science of how our bodies adapt to training. Like many popular podcasts, the show cultivates a strange intimacy. This effect is amplified by the communal experience of completing gut-wrenching workouts in isolation with minimal opportunity to commiserate or celebrate with anyone (although I'm lucky to be married to a person who is willing to listen to an occasional account of a sweat-drenched match against Coach Chad's blue bar graph).
After listening to the podcast for years, I finally decided to submit a question this summer. I was amazed to hear it addressed only a few weeks later as part of one of Chad's "deep dives." My question was related to DOMS: delayed onset muscle soreness. I was curious about my tendency to experience DOMS after long winter hikes even when in the midst of high volume cycling training (my question is read around the 17:50 mark).
Coach Chad used my question as an opportunity to discuss the benefits of cross-training for cyclists and all athletes generally- a topic he has touched on before. Besides being genuinely tickled to have my question read by these people who I have never met (but strangely consider to be almost close friends and training partners) the topic of this deep dive truly resonated with me. At one point Chad says:
First, be a capable human. Then you layer specific aptitudes on top of that. Don't be a cyclist who cross trains; be an athlete who focuses on cycling.
For a company so devoted to making its customers faster cyclists, I love this honest nod to the joys of being strong enough physically to enjoy an adventurous life. While I used to take cycling competition extremely seriously, I now mostly bike for the fun of it. Bikepacking and moderate local rides have replaced the cyclocross races and town line sprints that I used to train furiously for. The need to rehabilitate my troublesome shoulders and prepare to take part in my other passions (especially hiking) have changed the way I use TrainerRoad. I still enjoy structured training and I trust the TrainerRoad team to continue to improve their product. Following even a low-volume TrainerRoad plan in the winter contributes to some of the structure I need to mentally survive those dark months. And the cutting edge science of how our fragile bodies adapt and morph from one form to the next will always fascinate me, even if I'm not as singularly focused on my sport as I once was.