Couch -> Trainer for Just Fitness

Just getting started with my TR + Smart Trainer.

There are lots of pieces of information about getting started, but usually it’s coached in the context of outdoor->indoor, running to cycling, etc. Assuming some level of familiarity or fitness. Going from Zwift → TR, TR ramp FTP of 121 (yay!). M-46, 220lbs.

I’ve got none of those, so I’ve got some clarification/confirmation/rejection on a few parts assumptions that I’ve built up.

  1. Cadence: It seems that the recommended cadence is in the 80-90 range, I’m comfortable with 60-70, should I target 80-90 at this stage?
  2. Gearing: Obviously related to cadence, but it seems mid-carriage, smallest at the crank (forgive the potential poor choice of words).
  3. Frequency of workout. I’m 46, in good health (apart from fitness). I’m currently on a low frequency workout (3x weekly), but I’ve got the urge to do more (4-5/week). I’m assuming that having the correct FTP will prevent over-exercsion.

When I was doing the ramp FTP, I started falling behind in power - (but kept the cadence at 60-65) when it got to around 140W and above. Is that an issue with the gear I was in, or likely something else. I can share the TR power graph if it helps.

I figure that 1 & 2 above would help in ensuring effective training, but haven’t seen a succint “from nothing” article that starts with those.

The biggest mistake most beginners, including myself, make is going too hard too quickly. I paid a price for it. Ease yourself into this training. Even to the extent of hand selecting easy workouts. Do no more than three workouts per week for 6 weeks. Just get yourself used to the routine. The key to all of this is long term consistency.
At this point I would suggest using your preferred cadence for the first several weeks. The fitness will come with time and patience.


There are many on here that are much more knowledgeable than me, but since I’m somewhat of a novice myself I’ll offer my two cents to your questions.

  1. You will find that the recommended cadences mostly fall in the 85-95 rpm range. There are some intervals that are higher (speed intervals) and some that are lower (climbing intervals), but my experience is that I stay in the 90-95 most of the time. You should stay in a cadence range that is comfortable for you with proper form (e.g. butt planted on the seat, steady hips, no rocking, etc.), but work towards the higher cadences.

  2. For most intervals I run on the small chainring (at the crank) and mid-range on the cassette. That has been sufficient for most of the intervals I’ve done. There are higher power intervals that will require a higher gearing.

  3. I would suggest staying with the low volume since you are just starting out. Medium volume might not give you the recovery you will need in the early stages and you can always add in an extra workout if your body is up to it.

If you were falling behind in power, and your cadence remained constant, then it could be your trainer ran out of gear and you would need to shift to a higher gear to achieve the target power. I’m guessing on this one, but since you said your cadence was constant it’s a possibility you should go up a gear.

Again, just my two cents. I’m sure others on here can give much more in-depth answers. TR does work - just stay consistent.

Congrats on getting started! There is a ton that you can learn about fitness, fueling, rest, recovery, etc, but don’t get overwhelmed. Like others have said, start with a low volume (LV) plan, either traditional or sweet spot base, and just keep pedaling.

A couple of specific comments and suggestions:

Pick a cadence you are comfortable with and don’t worry about “normal.” If you’re doing a workout and opt to use the in-ride text (press the “T” key during a workout) and it includes optional form and/or cadence drills, go for it! Otherwise spin your legs at whatever cadence lets you hit the target power. Chances are that your natural cadence will change as you spend more time on the bike.

Most smart trainers can control and maintain target power best with slower flywheel speeds, which means using the small ring up front. Select a rear gear that is comfortable and keeps the chain relatively straight to minimize wear on your gears and chain.

I strongly recommend you finish traditional or sweet spot base low volume before adding more work. However, if you really feel like you could handle more training, start by extending a cool down to add 5-15 minutes of Z2 / endurance riding (65% FTP is a good round number to use) once a week. If you’re time crunched after a workout but have time on other days, then start small with one 30-minute workout to see how you feel (Taku, Volunteer). Give it a few weeks and really pay attention to how you feel and, in particular, if you can still hit your marks on following workouts. Use the Ride Notes section after each workout to document how you felt, slept, ate, fueled, etc - it will pay dividends later.

No, you can still over train even with a correctly set FTP. It’s more about your ability to recover and adapt. That’s why we’re all recommending starting with a low volume plan, giving it time, and really paying attention to how you feel.

What smart trainer do you have? Were you in erg mode? If so then the trainer should have maintained the power and all you had to do was pedal. The article below explains different trainer modes in TrainerRoad. Remember to calibrate / spin down your trainer at the recommended periodicity.

Again, congrats on getting started. The forum is a great place to learn and receive encouragement - just be careful not to spend every minute off of the bike in here. Other things in your life need your attention, too!


Currently a different language, but I’ll try parsing it. I think I get the idea…

Point taken, I honestly feel that I can train more, but I’ll listen carefully. I can’t really judge when I need to recover right now.

Yes, I believe it was in ERG mode. I think it may have been gearing, but it did confuse me slightly. I’ve attached the chart - if there is anything that you can suggest, I’d be all ears.

Thanks. Really using riding as a path to fitness and a reason to get up earlier in the morning.

Welcome to the Forum, bike and a possible obsession!

Looking at that chart, it does look like what mine would look like on a cheaper wheel-on smart trainer when it is starting to get uncomfortable keeping the power pegged unless I intervene with cadence and gear changes.

Question: entering the third step in the ramp, how did you feel? It looks like you had plenty of power left to give.

I would advice you to start going down the cassette in gears during the ramp test (OR increase cadence) a few seconds before the next step in the ramp, from about the third ramp. Before you hit the smallest cog on the cassette it is time to go back 2 gears on the cassette and switch to the big ring in front.

This is not a perfect solution, however especially if you stick to lower cadences on a cheaper trainer this might be necessary to keep the power at target.

:metal: This is the way. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

At lower power targets, most trainers will require a higher flywheel speed to function properly.
There’s a sweet spot in there somewhere. Work with what works.

PS. @mtp Welcome. Don’t stress too much about power figures. Stick with it and I’m confident you’ll make gains in that department.
Anybody worth their salt on this forum will help you get through the work.

The trainer is a TACX Flow. I assume it was mid level-ish. Around the third step I was feeling warm but not difficult, I collapsed only in the last few minutes. In Zwift I’d faced different issues with the cadence sensor.

Still getting use to the terminology. Does ‘down’ mean to smaller or larger cogs? Easier pedaling or more difficult? I’m assuming it means more difficult, I’m assuming that I may have been at too high a cadence for my life experience level and could keep the legs moving fast enough (although I would have assumed it would have compensated with higher resistance.

I’ve done the first ramp, I’ll continue with the workouts and see if it was me…

In this case, down = smaller cog = harder. The Tacx Flux, like many other trainers, has both a “ceiling” and “floor” in how much/little resistance it can give at a given “wheel” speed. If the trainer won’t reach up to the required power, you’ve probably hit the “ceiling” and need to increase the speed by selecting a harder gear. In many workouts, you may see the opposite: a recovery period with a low power demand that you can’t seem to reach (you remain above it): that’s the “floor”, and you can lower it by selecting an easier gear. Slow cadence riders (you) will hit the ceiling more often, fast cadence riders (me) will hit the floor more often.

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So I think it was a mixture of low tire pressure, uncalibrated trainer, and gearing.

Pumped the tire up to ~80psi - crappy hand pump, recalibrated (was too tight due to the low tire). Worked much better.

My personal critique of the run comes down to… Poor gearing initially (overpowering), then the power ramp went quite well, and then again over-geared for the lower power.

Thanks for the info. It helped me get on track.


Nailed it.

This is the sort of information you should be entering in the workout comments box. It will help you in future when you look back on your completed workouts. Get into the habit of making notes after every workout you do. I have a word document that I’ve set up as a template for my workout notes. I simply copy and paste the template text into the comments box and fill in the relevant details after each workout. It includes whether the workout was done on a workday or a day off, what shift I was on, what shift I was on the previous day, morning or afternoon workout, what nutrition I took before and during the workout, any drills I did during the workout, and various other details I deem worthy of note. I find the notes a useful reference point when looking back - especially when I’ve got the same workout coming up.

Using the comments section will pay dividends for you - especially at this early stage of your progression, when you’ll hone your technique, develop your approach to fuelling, probably get one or two things wrong and learn from experience. Get into the habit, and good luck.

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If tire pressure is part of the equation, then you’re talking about a wheel-on trainer, which would perhaps be the Tacx Flow rather than Flux - the latter is a wheel-off trainer. Same floor/ceiling issue there, but as you figured out, maintaining a constant tire pressure, trainer/wheel setting and frequent calibration are also part of the solution.

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Yes. I think I did say Tacx Flow.

But yeah… Means I need a bit more weekly discipline in setup/config.

I stand corrected. You did say Flow. I misread.

Welcome. Don’t get discouraged by trainer or gadget issues. You have plenty of improvement to make, presuming you don’t hurt yourself going too fast too soon. Cheers to you for choosing TR as your platform. Its the platform most intent on “making you faster” rather than other, still valid, indoor riding platforms. My following comments are just my opinions:

I echo all of the comments about moderating your enthusiasm above. I’d say the routine and the consistency far, far, far outweigh any gains you might see from stretching yourself too thin. Other sports are more likely to impose their will on you, ie, if you start running with some workouts, your joints tell you to take a day off and it will be pretty clear. Same with lifting weights, the muscle soreness in a specific muscle group will tell you to pick some other lifts the next day, but without pounding joints or hitting neuromuscular limits, cycling is a little easier to overcook the first few weeks of a training plan.

As far as the routine, if you want to “do more” pencil in some non-bike, non-workout activities at the same time of day you’d normally ride. Think long-but-not-taxing walk with the dog, not Rocky training montage (at least for now).

Six or eight weeks in, if the LV workouts aren’t leaving you spent, tack on some time of Z2 spinning to the end of your already scheduled workouts. Just hit the “extend cool down” button for 5 or 10 minutes, but you might have to play with the intensity, since the cool downs are usually lower than Z2. (Z2 is a training geeky term, but just think of the type of effort you could maintain all day). I like to think of Z2 as “honest-but-easy.” I’m not soft-pedaling to ride with my little kids, but I could have an in-depth, complex conversation for an hour or more, if anyone would listen to me that long.

As far as cadence, ride where you’re comfortable for now, but when a workout calls for elevated cadence, you can target just a faster spin than you’re currently using. If the workout text asks for 95 and you’re in the 70s, just try to get up to the 80 rpms while staying smooth. Cadence geeks aren’t wrong, but the “ideals” aren’t a be all end all. Everything takes time.

Good luck

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Thought I’d give an update on my progress after another 4 weeks.

I’m definitely a lot more comfortable with my performance, progress and comfortable with TR in general.

I definitely realize that my smart trainer (TACX Flow) is on the cheaper side and definitely have a power floor/power ceiling so I need to adjust gearing for low power, and high power (not as much though). If I can keep consistent on for 6-9 months, I’ll likely upgrade to a mid level model with a bit more power consistency. Some of the TR workouts are simply not good (like Olancha) with high/low power splits every 15-30 seconds.

Due to time/family balance, I’ve settled into 30 min sessions 4-5 times per week which seems to work well for me. I’m not training for any race, so being able to work up a sweat and be just at my breaking point at the end works well for me.

I’m looking forward to “TrainNow” where I’m not adjusting workouts and hopefully TR TrainNow can help with a balanced workout based on my previous performance and make the training a bit more deliberate.