Initial Difficulties

In this post I will discuss the difficulties I first encountered with the CompuTrainer and explain how I resolved them. First, I would like to present the TrainingPeaks version of the graph of my FTP test data from my Garmin 500. In my post on the FTP test I presented the graph drawn up by Garmin Training Centre and it auto-smoothed the data giving it a bit of a cyclical appearance. Just for you Thierry, I upgraded to a Premium TrainingPeaks membership so I could zoom in on the data. The effect seems to be completely gone: Garmin 500 Data in Training Peaks

On a related note, TrainingPeaks Premium is so cool! If you like numbers, you will not be disappointed!

A large part of this blog will be devoted to documenting my entire experience on the CompuTrainer- the good, the bad and the ugly. So, from the get go I will be completely honest. I was very overwhelmed by the software. I felt like I had went back about fifteen years into the past. My grandfather was an electronics technician, and I remember quite vividly going over to his house on many occasions and him having those big grey magnifying glasses on while he was soldering things onto a motherboard. That being said, I was exposed to computers at a very young age, so young I can still remember using 5-1/4” floppys- when floppys were actually floppy; and having to navigate via MS-DOS Prompt. But, it has been quite a while since those days now, and my university experience has not required me to take any courses in programming.

I say this because I awoke on Thursday October 17th ready and motivated to do 8x30s at 465 watts with a minute and a half recovery. Being someone who doesn't read user-manuals I immediately turned on the CompuTrainer and expected to be doing this workout within a few minutes. I did a quick Google search and discovered that I would have to use the CompuTrainer Coaching Software, so I installed it. And then the blast from the past happened. I opened it and this was what I saw:

CS Main Menu

There was no button I could click to tell it to do 8x30s at 465w with a minute and a half recovery!!! So I delved a little deeper and discovered that I would have to either pay $75 for software through TrainingPeaks that would allow me to write this workout, or I would have to learn the syntax of the CompuTrainer CS software and write the workout myself by hand in Wordpad. Being cheap, I chose the latter. But, avoiding the manual at all costs, I tried to search for a free way to do this without having to teach myself something new. Here is a link to a little program that does an okay job of doing this:

There are limitations to that program though; for instance, you cannot tell it to start at 0 watts and gradually increase to 200 watts over the span of ten minutes. Eventually, I caved and read the six sentences or so in the manual that explains how to do this yourself. I felt like a bit of a fool afterwards because it really is quite easy. I will briefly explain how to do it, but I would recommend reading the six sentences in the manual that eloquently explain the process.

First off, if you want to do a workout, you have to click on the “source” menu and then make sure “real time” is selected. Once you have done this you then click on the “start” menu and then click “charts.”At this point the CompuTrainer must be on and connected to the computer. A box will then pop up asking you to select a file. This particular aspect of the software runs files of the .erg extension. To create a file with this extension all you have to do is open a new Wordpad document and then write the name of the file followed by the .erg extension. So for example: CompuTrainerFile.erg.

Now that you have a blank .erg file all you have to do is type this template into it:


Next, in between the “course data” and “end course data” sections you must type out every instance of your workout. The format that the software accepts is as follows. Say you want to start with a load of 0 and to increase the load to 200 watts gradually for 10 minutes. The CompuTrainer will do this if you type this:

Warmup Example

From left to right, top to bottom it reads: “at time 0 start at 0 watts and then constantly increase the wattage until the 10th minute at which point I want the wattage to be 200.”

That is basically it. So let's say after your 10 minute warmup you want to do 2x5m at 300 watts with 2 minutes recovery in between at 100 watts. It would look like this:

Workout Example

So far, I can't really think of any workout I would ever want to do where this simple formula wouldn't work. If you've got the money, then I'd probably recommend investing in TrainingPeaks Erg+ software which does this whole process for you, all you have to do is tell it the workout you want to do.

Once I learned how to write up a workout and finally got onto the CompuTrainer to do it, I was completely blown away by how amazing it is. You don't have to think about anything. You can just spin your legs and suddenly the load is 500 watts and all you have to focus on is keeping the legs turning for the next 30 seconds. There is no way to describe it other than amazing. You don't realize how much energy you expend when you have to focus on holding the power at a particular wattage. The CompuTrainer frees up a ton of energy and allows you to just focus on what matters: working hard!! I totally see how and why the people at CompuTrainer offer a Performance Improvement Guarantee. I am already doing workouts that I would never have been able to do on a standard indoor set-up.

What I find really interesting about the CompuTrainer is that you really have no choice whether or not you are going to do the workout you planned on doing. Well, that's not entirely true...either you do it, or you don't do it at all. Unlike the standard indoor trainer where if you're not feeling it that day you have the option of holding a lesser wattage, the CompuTrainer gives you the load and you must push it. If it's too much, then your cadence will slow down so much that it will be impossible to push. I am already tempted to write up some insane workouts and see if I can even do it. A new issue I am battling with now is that workouts are so much fun! I did a workout this morning, and right now at 10:30 p.m. I am looking over at the bike contemplating doing another one. It very much reminds me of playing a video game.

In my next post I will describe the first couple of workouts I did and discuss the changes to my training plan that occurred afterwards.