Train (or not) when the AQI is terrible

With the Northern California wildfires creating massive AQI issues all over the west, I’m curious how people are approaching training. I’ve snuck out in a “green window” to get in a ride a couple times this week, but with the air looking like Mordor today I did a zwift indoors (getting in a ride of any sort helps keep me sane). Realize there is no perfect answer, but wondering at what point this community finds it is better to just shelter than try to squeeze in a ride?

Two years ago the Camp Fire was bad enough in Sac that I stopped riding for a few days. So far this one hasn’t been too awful. Ok to ride inside for now, I did see some brave souls post outside rides on Strava this morning and most regretted it.

Indoors for me, but lowered. I have terrible headaches, and am having breathing problems, even staying indoors. Granted I’m right next to a fire zone, but it’s the worst I’ve ever had it. It’s funny, in a way, because a friend of mine said he didn’t even know there were fires in the area. He lives in downtown SJ. Granted he’s not the brightest bulb, but…Anyhow, he went for a ride, climbed to the top of a mountain, looked around and he can see fires nearby. I guess all that smoke didn’t bother him at all, and he didn’t smell or see the smoke.

This morning it went from pleasant to terrible :nauseated_face:

For sure.

That’s all smoke.

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We had to go over the hill to Reno and it was pleasant even though AQI was 140ish and unhealthy. Coming into Sac right now and I can smell the smoke :nauseated_face:

It’s pretty bad here in Colorado too. We’ve had at least four large fires for about two weeks now, and have recently started getting some of the CA smoke too. I’m supposed to be doing the Climbing Intervals plan right now, but I can’t give it full gas with this AQI. I’m planning to downshift back to Sweet Spot and hope for better air quality next month.

I’ve also tried intervals with some paper masks, and they’re sort of tolerable, but quite a bit more difficult! I’m noticing that my heart rate is higher than what would be expected for a given wattage.

The two sites I’ve been checking are:

Hope that helps!


thanks, the website is so much better than the app… And it gives sensor history like the purple air yesterday around noon and again mid-day right now:

My wife’s 6:30am outdoor strength class at the gym was cancelled this morning because of air quality. :nauseated_face:

Last week I loaded the AirNow app on iOS and the app itself is pretty lame but does give accurate info.

Looking at the AirNow website I can see the plume from the SCU fire complex - the hills around Mt Hamilton in Bay Area - is extending all the way up to Sacramento.

This is a great thread. I’m in Oakland and in week 12 of Sweet Spot base. I hate indoor training.

I think I’m going to do 3x1hour sweet spot intervals and 2 1 hour sessions of 30/30s.

What do you think?

I’ve been doing sweet spot on Zwift…when AQI heads over 150 on my route, I’m going to stay in the garage.

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Just remember to spindown/calibrate if you’ve got a Kickr and haven’t trained indoors for a while! I rode some Zwift yesterday and was barely able to hold my Zone 2 before I realized what was going on :wink:

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I was forced to ride indoors (SF Bay Area) on the trainer for a number of workouts last week, including a Saturday ride. I could only complete 2:15 vs 3:00hr scheduled ride.
I also had to do a 3x10min threshold workout (300W) on the trainer last week. It was awful. By the end of 2nd interval my HR was almost maxing out more like an FTP test level effort. For the 3rd interval I cut it short after only 5 min.
Fast forward to this week (air is clearing) and I was able to ride outside for a 3x12min threshold workout. What a difference riding outdoors with fresh air on an actual bike! The first two sets felt easy as I held 300W and 301W without reaching my threshold HR. Third set I pushed even harder and held 309W average for the 12 min.
For both workouts I am using crank based Stages power meter to measure power, so fairly confident I am getting consistent readings in that regard.

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I bought a portable air quality monitor and looked at the AQI calculation.

First, AQI. It’s based on PM2.5. Those are fine particles only a microscope can see. The smoke isn’t PM2.5. Anything over 2.5 is called coarse. I haven’t see what the average size of smoke is. AQI is a 24hr worst-case average. If you have 5 sensors in the county it takes the worst measurement. Bottom line - it’s not a real-time measurement, it’s a rolling average. I have friends watching AQI maps to try to ride in the small pockets of cleaner air based on AQI. You’d need a real-time measurement and a lot more monitoring stations for anything like that.

Second, air quality. We’ve all figured out that wind direction relative to fires is what it’s all about. Weather Underground’s “Wundermap” will plot fire location, smoke, and wind direction. Wind direction is like seeing fish swimming in a pond - all kinds of little arrows on the screen showing you local direction.

Smoke particles settle at night and into valleys. So, if nothing else changes (e.g. more smoke overnight), air quality is generally worse in the morning, even worse in valleys in the morning, and gets better in the afternoon. Contrary to what you’d think, air quality gets worse when your area’s winds push the air up into the mountains and all that bad air compresses against the hills. In Northern California, Auburn (2000 feet) often has worse air than Sacramento (which has the Delta breezes pushing the air to Auburn). I read once that air quality doesn’t improve until 5000 feet at Blue Canyon. But, you get to Lake Tahoe and the basin formed by the lake and surrounding hills traps bad air. That’s why they had to control wood stoves.

Lastly, just playing with this portable air monitor, I’ve found that you can make a HUGE difference with the air in your house. Close up and run the fan on your heater/AC unit all day. You should have intake filters already and they do a lot. CLEAN THEM or replace them with HEPA filters or electrostatic filters. Yesterday, my PM2.5 count was 30 in the house and 110 outside. On the PM2.5 scale 30 is ok (not super healthy), 110 is way up in the unhealthy zone.

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