Dirty Wknd is a proud partner of SPOK'D the online coaching platform. Club members can get 15% off the monthly subscription fee. DW Founder David has just completed his first SPOK'D training plan. You can read the first blog update here.
They say cyclists have a reputation for making excuses, and I'm afraid this blog isn't going to do much to dispel this. Firstly, it was supposed to be delivered at the end of February, one month into my training plan and be the second update in a three update series. Secondly, I was supposed to be able to show an increase in FTP at the end of it. I haven't checked yet, but I'm pretty sure my tyre pressure was a bit off.
Having now finished my first SPOK'D training program, it's safe to say that I've learned a lot. But what I had hoped would be a 'look how much my FTP has increased by' update is more of a 'how not to complete a training plan' report. I want to be honest with you, and not sugar coat anything. SPOK'D are one of our partners, and members do get discount on the monthly fee, but it would be an insult to you and them if I claimed that it all went perfectly and that you should start using the program right away.
That isn't to say that I wasn't happy with the SPOK'D platform. I found the system very easy to use, with plenty of usable and relevant feedback. Considering SPOK'D is an online coaching platform, you really do get loads of data for your efforts. The system works a lot like a real coach and learns about you as you progress, updating accordingly along the way. It's very clever, and very easy to use, and I would recommend it highly to anyone. Just don't make the same mistakes as I did.
Before I go on let me fill you in about my plan. It was a 13 week long road racing plan, which I followed from January to the end of March. I rode 3 to 4 times a week, mostly following the sessions set for me by SPOK'D, with a few extra rides thrown in for good measure. Scores on the doors after the 13 weeks were over 2000km ridden and 18000 metres climbed in roughly 3.5 days. How then, after all that, was I not able to increase my functional threshold power?
Mistake #1 - Be honest where you're starting from:
My first mistake (excuse) is that I massively overestimated my fitness at the start of the program. Call it pride, call it wilful ignorance; the truth is that I never imagined that my fitness would have fallen so far by early January. I had definitely had a very 'relaxed' end of the year, but it couldn't have been that bad, could it?
My FTP in the summer was around 300, so after a fairly inactive period, I guessed that it would now be around 285, and duly set it as that when creating my SPOK'D plan. The system told me it would update if I was a little out, so it wouldn't be a problem.
The truth is that my FTP was way lower than that. I don't really want to think about how low, but because I was too arrogant (or more likely scared), I didn't do an accurate test before the start of the program. Now, SPOK'D is a smart platform, and would normally adjust to this when I started, however due to my second mistake, it wasn't able to do this for at least the first month. I 'think' that my overall result suffered because of this.
Mistake #2 - Decide how to measure your efforts
SPOK'D prides itself on being one of the few online coaching platforms that is for everyone. It's one of the reasons it works so well for Dirty Wknd members ad why we were so keen to work with them. You don't need a turbo trainer or a power metre (or even a heart rate monitor) to use it. You can ride on feel, and the system will track your effort and give you feedback based on this.
Mistake number 2 follows on from mistake number 1, in that I wasn't consistent with how I measured my efforts. For various reasons I didn't have access to my turbo trainer or my heart rate monitor for the first month of my plan. I was riding on feel, which normally would have been fine, but of course I'd overestimated myself and was of course claiming that a 5 out of 10 effort felt like a 5 out of 10 effort, when really it was more like 7 (remember the honesty point above!)
Had I carried on like this the system would've been none the wiser of my hubris and would've carried on giving me too hard sessions and I would have carried on pretending that they were totally fine. All would have been well. However in early February I finally got my Wahoo KICKR and my heart rate strap, and began immediately training to power.
Of course, the system's virtual eyebrows shot straight up as it realised there was a glitch in the matrix. Like a comedy policeman, PC SPOK'D came along and quite rightly asked "what's going on here then?", before lowering my zones to reflect my actual fitness. Try as hard as I could, I couldn't persuade the data to lie, so I was rightly knocked down a peg or two.
Mistake #3 - Nope that's it, I'm plum out of excuses!
By this point I knew what I'd done and could do nothing but get my head down and try to make as much progress in the remaining weeks as I could. Getting the 'we're lowering your zones' notification was a bit of a slap in the face, but I knew I deserved it. Also I was having so much fun using the platform there was no way I was giving up.
I do have some good stats to report, despite all of the above. At the end of the plan I had got my FTP back to around 280. So I had increased it from whatever it was at the start (let's hope we never know) but not above what it used to be. Had I been honest with myself at the start then I would now be able to celebrate an FTP increase. Hindsight can be cruel, can't it?
I have also lost about 6kg since starting the plan, which is not to be sniffed at. Admittedly, a lot of that was accumulated during the 'fun' festive period, but it's no mean feat to not only get rid of it, but to drop a few kegs on top of that. I also managed to finish the training plan, which is the first ever, despite many Zwift, Training Peaks and other various attempts.
What is different about SPOK'D?
The fact that I've finished the plan speaks volumes as I really used to hate structured training beyond 'hill reps'. But like Zwift, I'm growing to really like following a set plan. I can't speak for all training plans of course, but I like SPOK'D mostly due to the flexibility and the ease of use.
Not only do you set your sessions week to week based on your availability, but it's pretty easy to move or cancel sessions when life inevitably gets in the way. The system just adjusts for the next weeks, so you don't end up missing out on any training. It's easy to use because everything tracks in Strava, you just have to upload a small amount of info after your ride and hey presto! The feedback is consistent and usable and, most refreshingly, jargon free.
I've enjoyed it so much that I've just embarked on another SPOK'D training plan. This time I have an accurate FTP, I have my set up dialled in and I've even worked out how to upload my training plans to Zwift. I will post another blog at the end of April with an update on my progress, as well as some tips now that I sort of know what I'm doing.
For posterity, my stats at the beginning of this new crit racing program are below:
FTP - 280 // Weight - 71kg // FHR - 152 // Resting HR - 52bpm
I'm excited to see if I can change those numbers in the next few months. In the meantime, if you want to give SPOK'D a go this lockdown then I'd highly recommend it. Try the 14 day trial and see what you think! Just be honest about your starting point first!
Dirty Wknd club members get 15% off the SPOK'D online coaching service, making it just £8.50 a month. Find out more details and sign up for membership here.