Dirty Wknd have just partnered with the online training platform SPOK'D, so Dirty Wknd founder David Bavin is going to start using a SPOK'D training plan, documenting the results on social media and in regular blog posts. Dirty Wknd members get 15% off SPOK'D training plans. Click Here for more information.
Despite having ridden bikes for many years, I've never used a training plan before. It never seemed necessary, as I was just riding for fun, and being lucky enough to cycle for work meant that I wasn't short of KMs each week. Regular Dirty Wknd rides sort of worked like a plan anyway; laps Tuesday and Thursday, hill reps Wednesday and Friday, longer rides most weekends. However, I always wondered if working to a specific plan, with a proper workout session, would make a difference to my fitness and riding ability.
What Is SPOK'D?
According to founder Rich Lang, "SPOK’D is more than just a cycling software tool. It's your cycling coach." I've never had a coach either, so this sounds very interesting. Lang goes on to explain that every week the plan adapts to the rider, taking in to account your work week and social commitments. Then, based on the results of your training, the plan updates further to ensure this balance of work vs rest is maintained. "To get faster on the bike, it’s not about going harder. It’s about being smarter" finishes Lang. All sounds pretty good to me, let's give it a bash!
Getting Set Up
The website is pretty easy to use, with a simple explanation of what you get, how much it costs (£9.99 pm) and how to get started. You get a 14 day free trial, so you can try out the plan for 2 weeks before you have to pay anything. The system asks you for some basic information before giving you a personalised plan - the whole thing takes less than 5 minutes!
- Setting a goal
What are you training for? Road racing? Time Trial? Sportives/club riding? Mountain bike or Cyclocross? Select your aim and then when you want to start and end the plan.
I've selected road racing as I want to improve my racing fitness, and I've set the plan to start tomorrow (8th Jan 2020) and finish at the end of March 2020 (13 weeks total). When this plan is finished I can extend it or create a new plan for whatever my goals are then.
- Your availability
This is maybe the best bit about SPOK'D - you tell it when you can train and for how long. If you've got a really heavy week of work and socialising then you can set up a light training week. If you've got a relatively free week you can do a bit more. Rest days can be set when you like (you have to have 2 in a week), making the plan fit into your life.
I've set up rest days for Monday and Wednesday, with 2 hours set aside for training the other weekdays, and 4 hours for Saturday and Sunday. This is not set in stone for the whole plan, I'm just setting up the first weeks. Training days can be adjusted as your weeks change.
- How you train
The system then asks if you have a bike computer (Wahoo, Garmin etc) and to connect your Strava account. You don't have to link any accounts if you just want to train on feel (perceived effort) then just do that. However I would advise setting up a Strava account before starting if you don't have one.
- Your starting values
Now comes the most complicated part of the set up. You need to input some data, specifically your 20 minute power and heart rate thresholds. If you don't know this information then don't worry, it can be estimated. The system is also smart so it will update your data as you train, making your data more accurate.
I haven't done any fitness tests for a while, and haven't been riding much over Christmas, so I've gone with a conservative 280 for my power and 160bpm for heart rate. This isn't completely accurate, but I'm hoping the system will update as I train. I've pressed the start button and about 7 seconds later I have a brand new training plan.
My Training Plan
Starting mid-week means I'm straight into a rest day (boo) but I was too eager to get started to wait until Monday. I've got two 1 hour sessions on Thursday and Friday, and a 4 hour session on Saturday, with another rest day on Sunday. The SPOK'D dashboard is very easy to easy to use, with a clear indication of what's in store for you each day (see above). You can then click 'view session' to see the details of your ride.
- View session
Click on the view session button to get a look at what's coming up for the week so you can plan where and when you're going to do that session. Is it a pre work session in Regent's Park or can it be done on the weekend club ride?
As an example my first session is a 1 hour 'V02 build' session that involves 10 minutes of warm up, then repetitions of 2 minutes at zone 4 (hard effort) followed by 3 minutes of zone 1 (easy effort). You don't have to know or care what 'V02 building' is to use the plan, but you will have to learn what your zones are. Luckily SPOK'D keeps track of your zones, which you can access at any time (see below).
- My zones
My power and heart rate zones are set by the starting values I added when setting up my plan, and these will update as I move through the plan. Getting to know your zones is quite useful in all types of cycling, so I'm using my SPOK'D training plan to help here.
Using zones to train helps to keep my training accurate and allows me to see improvements. However it can be difficult to memorise your session before starting, and looking at your phone during the ride is a real pain. Garmin users can input the session into their device before starting off. As this is not yet available for Wahoo, I will be using masking tape on my stem, with notes on the session, so I just have to glance down to see what I'm doing. Other than that you just need a device, watch or timer to be able to time your efforts and recovery. If all else fails, you can use your phone as a timer.
- My equipment
I am in the lucky position of having a power metre and heart rate monitor which will make my results more accurate, but it is possible to train with just a heart rate monitor, or even on 'Rate of Perceived Effort (RPE).
I would recommend getting a heart rate monitor before starting if you have a device or smart watch to pair it to, but SPOK'D is set up to work with those maverick athletes who train with no gizmos at all (and I salute you, I really do). Click Here to understand RPE before you get started. But don't let a lack of equipment stop you from using SPOK'D, it really is for everyone.
Starting the plan
Once you're plan has been created you'll receive a few emails from SPOK'D with helpful hints on things like how to download the app and how to access the training support blogs. They also make it very clear that the team are always just an email away if I have any questions, which is good to know.
I will begin my training plan on Thursday (8th Jan 2020) and I'm very excited about it. I will be documenting my progress on social media (keep an eye out on the @dirtywknd insta). I'll also do several blog updates over the course of three months to let you know my progress. If you're thinking about starting a SPOK'D plan, or if you have any questions at all then please let me know.
Dirty Wknd club members can get 15% off the SPOK'D platform. Click Here for more information. Comment below with questions and we'll try our best to get back to you. You can also reach us on social media as well - @dirtywknd.