My Journey To and With JOIN

User Stories

Exactly one year ago, in February 2023, I started using JOIN cycling. Before that, my primary sport was trail running, with a bit of cycling on rest days (frequency first!). I had learned from the Beter Worden podcast that consistency is important. So even though my goal was a running event, I kept cycling throughout my preparation to keep some base fitness on the bike. Once my goal running event was over, I signed up for JOIN cycling to begin structured training on the bike.

Written by: Hannes Van De Vreken

Some call me Mr. Consistency, others call me Hannes. I’ve posted at least one running or cycling¬†activity on Strava for the last 430 days. In sickness and in health, in pouring rain and in scorching heat. Did I miss out on potential gains? Absolutely!

My first time in the app

After you sign up, the app takes you through the setup quite quickly. It only asks you a few easy questions. Not more than strictly necessary, no long questionnaires, no difficult to answer fields. The only question I didn’t have a clear answer for, was my current FTP, and so I guesstimated it. After setting my goal event and available time for next week, JOIN gave me the workouts for the next few days.

The first few weeks

To be honest, it took me some weeks to get into the routine of structured training. But that’s the beauty of “adaptive training”: it doesn’t matter! If you prefer to do a group ride, ride with a friend who’s on a different level, or go for a run, you can without stressing about your schedule. You can submit your activity anyway and JOIN will recalculate your best path forward. During these weeks I continuously adjusted my “available time” in the app according to my changing routine. Until I found a routine that worked for me and my rythm in life at the time.

Routine

After a few weeks on the app, JOIN proposed to do a 20 minutes FTP test. I knew my estimated FTP could be a bit low. I had this gut feeling because at the end of most trainings I felt I could do more repeats of the same efforts. The test went super well and I could increase my FTP in the app by 15 Watts.

After that I really dug into training and stuck to my routine. I limited the number of unstructured rides to one per week. All other days of the week were either structured trainings or 30 minute jogs off the bike. It was very rewarding to see my estimated FTP go up, and up, and up.

Cycling holiday

In the JOIN forums and feature request pages, a lot of people are talking about increasing the volume of training during cycling holidays. I’ve been in this situation as well. Going to Spain with your friends, with unlimited time to ride, it’s normal to think you should make the most of it and increase your volume to the maximum. After 2 long hard days on the bike in Spain, JOIN recommended a rest day. While my friends did another long day in the saddle, I decided not to. The third day was slightly shorter one for me, and the next day was a complete rest day. This allowed me to recover for more quality (polarized) training in the second half of the week.

After to get back from a week in Spain, I didn’t feel overtrained, or tired, and I continued training as usual. While doing some good quality sessions, in the JOIN app my estimated FTP kept rising week over week.

Goal events

During the year, my goal events were some Gran Fondo races. Even though I didn’t qualify for the UCI World Championships, the feeling and my performance on the bike was better than ever before. I went into these races confident, but finished disappointed only not to qualify by just a few minutes. I learned that with the same numbers I would have qualified the year before, so the disappointment quickly gave way for motivation to keep working.

End of the season

Towards October, my motivation and routine started to slip. I did more group rides, less structured training, more running. In the JOIN app, I didn’t have a goal event, anymore, so I switched to the LSRF schedule. Some different events such as a cross-duathlon and a six kilometer TTT with friends kept me motivated as days started to become shorter.

Winter

During winter I kept doing base training on the bike, but focussed more on running. All of those workouts, even running, were still added to JOIN to keep track of my estimated FTP. After 2 month of non-structured training I did a few weeks of JOIN workouts again. I wondered how accurate my estimated FTP would be 9 months since my last 20 minute test. So I rested a bit to do a fresh test and, oh my, I could not believe my eyes. Talking about accuracy, the result was a mere 1 Watt higher than my previously estimated FTP in the app!

Looking forward

My current goals are the same as last year, except my JOIN level now is already a lot higher than it was exactly one year ago. I guess the consistency during winter kept my base level a lot higher than usual. It is so rewarding to compare your fitness with your friends in spring time. Especially when they haven’t been able to keep their level up during winter. And so when my JOIN subscription was set to expire, it was a no-brainer for me to renew it!

Onwards and upwards!

Hannes van de Vreken
Hannes van de Vreken
JOIN Ambassador
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