As introverted extroverts, both Kurt and I have navigated pandemic life quite successfully ~ until December 2020 when some of our winter coping skills were not accessible (dining out, having good discussions over drinks at a cozy bar, fika-ing to our hearts content, going to art museums, theater and the orchestra for distraction and inspiration, and if we are lucky ~ warm weather travel escapes.). For us the next few months will be the hardest part; if you are feeling the same, we hope to be here to offer up some tools and inspiration.
For years we have both been indoor cyclists during the winter, but it wasn't until this pandemic winter that it feels like we really got it dialed in. (This is the second in our series this winter about mind body health).
Kurt and I are the tale of two distinctly different cyclists.
Kurt is competitive, likes events to have a goal to work towards, used to race bicycles, and likes to follow his ride statistics on Strava.
I am mildly competitive, but instead of events to work towards, my goals are to come out of winter fitting into my pants and feeling good physically and mentally. Contrary to what impressions may be when you see me on a bike in my full-on lycra, or hear me talking about biking, I have never raced bicycles, I am not a fast cyclist by any stretch of the imagination, and my ftp (functional threshold power) is 'embarassingly' low compared to Kurt and my virtual classmates. But I love to ride bikes just the same.
That said, we have found multiple ways to reach a middle ground where we can enjoy our time cycling together. During the Summer riding season that means a dedicated Saturday ride we go on together on our road bikes, and our treasured gravel travel camping trips exploring new gravel cycling routes together.
But when it came to winter cycling, we never thought about making the effort to recreate these rides together inside.
When it comes to the Winter season, for years we both rode separately (different times, days, and rooms) indoors on trainers. Eventually I gravitated to joining a gym and regularly going to Spin class (and becoming a certified Spinning Instructor), while Kurt rode his bikes outside in the cold and snow. It wasn’t until this month (January 2021) that we feel we really mastered something that replicated our Summer rides together, indoors. Maybe it’s thanks to the pandemic, but I also think it is thanks to us being where we are at together in our cycling journey’s, at this particular moment in time.
Starting last October, we have been riding apart, together.
First there was Zwift.
Early this fall we did a group ride (we were the 'group') on Zwift together.
Individual Winter Cycling Practices and TrainerRoad
Although we had fun doing it, we drifted away from Zwift for awhile, going back to our individual pursuits...
In October, I joined The Fix Studio in Minneapolis and began to do virtual group rides with them through an application called TrainerRoad. My motives were quite simple really ~ be less alone (ride with people), lose weight/fit better in my pants, have something to look forward to during the week for my mental health.
Meanwhile, Kurt had been doing a combination of riding Zwift inside and riding outside on his fat bike. Although this was working well, he was hoping to step up his game. His motives were to hopefully be able to go to the gravel events in 2021 that were cancelled in 2020, and to not just finish, but to do well.
Kurt and I had been discussing my workouts and TrainerRoad, and after reviewing it, Kurt decided to get a TrainerRoad membership as well. This way he still has a focused workout, and goals targeted for his workouts, but is able to let his mind decompress, while at the same time riding his way through Zwift for visual escape.
One of the big differences in our use of TrainerRoad is that I am not in virtual meetings all day, in fact I never have virtual meetings because I am in our design studio, alone, making. I crave companionship during the pandemic that was hard to come by before, and is impossible now. For me the biggest advantage of joining The Fix was the virtual workout aspect with other people. I can’t tell you how MUCH this has improved my mental health. Just seeing and talking to other people, even if virtually, for me has been everything this winter. It was one of the biggest reasons I started going to Spin Class back in 2012.
For Kurt, who is in Microsoft Teams meetings ALL DAY, everyday, he looks forward to unplugging (at least from meetings) during his rides - so the group ride component of my classes was less appealing to him, but he liked the structured workouts he could get after plugging in his goals in TrainerRoad, and the challenge of the workouts when doing them.
The A-HA Moment
(We just needed to workout at the same time one Saturday morning, but it became more...)
All the above to say... We found a great formula for riding apart ~ together.
We have been having a lot of fun the last few weeks riding our own rides, together at the same time on the weekends (mostly Saturday mornings during my virtual class time)!
I love riding with my Fix Classmates, but on the weekends it is nice to have a few extra things to look forward to ~ like in-person company, a layer of music in the background, and Kurt's Zwift screen to imagine I am far, far away.
How do we ride? [The Technology...]
On the technology and equipment front, we have A LOT going on in this room when we ride together, but it is all worth it.
- Wahoo Smart Trainers. These are not cheap, but like our bags ~ if you cost average the usage over time it is a WISE investment. Kurt has had one for a number of years (Kickr) and I invested in one this Summer (Kickrcore). These trainers connect to both Zwift and TrainerRoad and simulate your riding course programmed into either system. We wouldn’t ride inside without one (trust us we’ve been there and won’t go back).
- Computers/Tablets/Mobile Phone's/Screens: I am using my laptop. Kurt is using his mobile phone for TrainerRoad and his tablet for Zwift (which he connects to the big tv on the wall).
- Laptop Table. There are a few indoor cycling specific laptop tables on the market, but they are expensive. I found this table (available at the big box stores) that is working just fine. I need my computer in front of me to mute/unmute, but to also be on camera during class. This table could be a bit low for some people, but has been working just fine for me and was a minimal investment.
- Earbuds. I am currently using Jabra earbuds which are rechargeable. The only bummer is they do not have a mute feature, so it is important that I am able to reach my computer to hit the ‘mute’ button on TrainerRoad during class. [Dogs + Mail Delivery Person are not conducive to being unmuted in class].
- TrainerRoad. Group Workouts in TrainerRoad currently have to be run off a laptop (no phones or tablets). So I use my MacBook Air. The downside currently is that TrainerRoad does run off your computer, not in the Cloud (like Zoom), so when class is close to or at capacity (10 people), it tends to really bog down my system. In those moments I turn my camera off to try to reduce the video lag time in my workouts (which on a bad day has been as long as 40 seconds with my operating system). TrainerRoad is working on allowing Group Workouts on tablets and phones ~ so we will see if that improves my running speed on other devices. Also, because of my computer’s capability, I can not Screen Mirror to our TV in the studio, which is a detriment for me visually as I wear glasses. I’m not yet working out with glasses on (holding off for as long as I can!), so my computer screen (and the people on it) are a little fuzzy; would love to be able to cast to the bigger screen! Kurt runs TrainerRoad off the app for his individual workout and then runs Zwift from his tablet to our TV for the visual distraction.
- Fan. You will always want a fan riding inside. When Kurt had his health issues at the end of 2018, we invested in a HEPA filtered fan for the bedroom and now use it in our studio during the winter.
- Megaboom. I used this for the last few years in the Design Studio before we had google nest's in every room. Now it has found a home in our cycling room. We are both enjoying the added level of distraction of loud music during our weekend workouts! That is one thing I really miss from Spin class that I feel I have gotten back a bit.
Indoor cycling is not inexpensive, but it has been a lifesaver for both our physical, and more importantly ~ mental, well-being. In our opinion the investment in the equipment and memberships is worth it to us. And of course, the convenience of rolling into our cycling room a few minutes before class, or right after work is a true luxury. We hope to have the best of in-person and virtual worlds in the future, combining in-person events (Kurt) and in-person classes (DeAnn) with our home workouts.
We can't wait to be at events with the cycling community again, to meet DeAnn's Fix classmates in person, and to ride outside again, but until those days come ~ we will be right here. Apart Together.
~DeAnn and Kurt
For more on Indoor Cycling, and also Zwift, you can visit our previous posts from early 2020: