1) Indoor cycling is one of the more self-gratifying forms of exercise.  In some studios, over the course of 45 minutes, you grow stronger, gain courage and become a better version of yourself. But how do you REALLY know if you’re improving on the bike? 

2) In a cycling sense, improvement is measured quantitatively.  Is my average or resting heart rate decreasing?  Am I able to sustain max efforts for longer periods?  In our heart rate series, we introduced metrics such as recovery heart rate, resting heart rate and heart rate reserve.  Understanding the way your training and nutrition impact these metrics is what separates fitness from performance. 

3) Being fit, or in shape, is a look – based on appearance.  Performance is based on quantifiable results, something you can’t see in a mirror.  Of the 30,000 people who started the 2018 Marine Core Marathon, 98% finished.  Their training is structured to optimize performance.  Called periodization, it’s the strategic use of training waves (or phases) a effectively prepare the body for rigorous sporting endeavors. Periodization typically involves the designed increase or decrease of training duration, intensity and/or frequency in one’s cycling program. 

For more on periodization, check out British mountain biking national champion Tom Bell’s insightful post

4) Much like runners who focus on their average time per mile, cyclists tend to follow heart rate or power statistics to track their progress.  Long climbs and steady descents tend to skew distance averages.  Resting heart rate, recovery rate, and VO2 max — metrics covered in the first half of our series — are fairly immune to elevation.  We will discuss FTP in part two of the series.

5) Progress is a question best answered over weeks and months, not hours and days.  As such, over the last two weeks, we’ve repeated rides one and two of the heart rate series.  Using the Equinox app or your fitness tracker/heart rate monitor, compare your results.  For clarity, the week of September 30th maps to the profile from September 2.  And this week’s profile, October 7, is the profile from September 9.  If you have questions or encounter insightful numbers, please share in the comments below.

6) I pride myself on not repeating playlists.  I found inspiration in one of my favorite artists, Vincent Van Gogh.  Van Gogh painted en plain air (outdoors), a defiant act to the art establishment.  On occasion, he would complete his works indoors.  In some cases, he would redraw the piece entirely.  When seen side by side, there are subtle differences, often aesthetic in nature.  Rarely changing the structure of the piece. 

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Right: Vincent van Gogh, The Postman Joseph Roulin (1889), Collection Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo

Left: Vincent van Gogh, Portrait of Joseph Roulin (1889), The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Digital Image © The Museum of Modern Art / Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY

7) Van Gogh’s repetitions were the focus of an exhibit at the Phillips collection in 2013.  They position the repetitions as an expression of Van Gogh's artistic process. In writings to his brother Theo, Van Gogh viewed the repetitions as an opportunity to improve and clarify his initial composition. The piece below was likely first drawn outdoors (on the left). The repetition, done indoors, highlights some of the details of the scene.

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8) We missed the cycling world championships last week. Annemiek Van Vlueten won in a 60 mile solo breakaway. It sealed a comback from her perilous crash at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Annemiek van Vleuten - Post-race interview - Women's RR - Yorkshire WCh 2019

9) And yes, I did manage to complete my bike trip in California. Good times!

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