Thursday, January 31

Spinning class: Increasing Cadence

OK, so we had a class at the beginning of the year that started with a fast cadence and gradually slowed down to become more of a hill by increasing resistance. A good ride to find one's ideal cadence, especially if power output remain constant, i.e., at which stage did pushing those 100, 200 or even 300 watts feel most comfortable?

Now, it's time to do the reverse: start with a comfortably slow cadence and, while keeping resistance relatively fixed (allowing for some adjustments along the way), increasing cadence progressively. This time, effort levels and power output will gradually rise while maintaining the same resistance but, as it is gradual, the legs should not find that small increase unbearable. By allowing them to adapt and get used to a particular cadence, we then push them a bit extra each time until they refuse to co-operate, i.e., we've reached our limit. It's a good ride for training at high cadence with some resistance, i.e., more efficient pedalling.

With cadence in the 80s, it's a chance to warm up the legs and let them find their... feet, HR around 60%. Once in the 90s, it should feel like the middle ground, the zone where we're working but comfortably so (approx 70%); if not, adjustments are needed to the resistance. Then, by the time we get to 100s, cadence is only just uncomfortable, with HR around 75-80%.

Staying in the saddle for a long time can be a pain in the... neck (!), so I give the option of continuing a particular cadence out of the saddle, while keeping a close eye (or should that be feel?) on HR to make sure it doesn't go beyond our "red line". My profile for the ride below shows clearly the peaks where my HR was higher when I was out of the saddle.

Warm up - 2 mins
Flat road @82 rpm - 6.5 mins
85 rpm - 4.5 mins
87 rpm (hour class) - 4 mins
90 rpm - 8 mins
93 rpm - 5 mins
95 rpm (hour class) - 5 mins
98 rpm (hour class) - 6 mins
101 rpm - 6.5 mins
104 rpm - 7 mins
Cool down - 5.5 mins


Deireadh an Tuath - Enya
Magaya - Chris Spheeris
A tonga da mironga do kabulete - Daniela Mercury
Amor amor - Nino
Deep space - John Stanford
Heaven - Emer Kenny
Ponto de taxi - .... I have no idea!
Racing away - 1 Giant Leap
Souko Naayo - Baaba Maal
Vai viver a vida - Rae & Christian feat. Tania Maria
Seven cities (Ambient Dub) - Solar Stone

Tuesday, January 29

Spinning class: Last Train to Lhasa

Three posts in two days - trying to catch up with my class profiles before I head off on holiday. My motivation behind this was relatively simple: a varied but comfortable ride, choosing particular tracks that I wanted to use for a while now (hence my name for the ride, my particular favourite of the moment).

As you'll see from my HR profile below, the start is an easy warm-up, followed by a comfortable flat road that takes us into our aerobic zone (see marker 1 on the graph). Then the road gets bumpy and we take a few jumps out of the saddle at a fairly stable HR (marker 1 to 2). This takes us to a long climb, the start of which should feel comfortable - the idea is to start at a steady resistance with the idea of keeping it while the pace picks up, along with HR (mark 2 to 3); as we won't want HR to get out of control, it's necessary to resist the temptation to attack the climb or we'd have to lower resistance halfway through the climb. A very short breather before another bumpy road, with 4mins of jumps (mark 3 to 4), which will really work on our glutes and hamstrings - the choice is to do as many or as few as you wish. This is followed by a much needed recovery before the final flat road to the cool down (mark 4 to end); the recovery helps to re-group and plan the final 8-min stretch of road. The option I give is to keep a steady cadence but to increase resistance gradually as we get closer to the end.

Warm up - 3 mins
Seated flat road - 4.5 mins
Jumps - 4 mins
Slow to fast climb - 10.5 mins
Jumps - 5mins
Recovery - 2.5 mins
Seated flat road - 8.5 mins
Cool down - 6 mins


Shanti - Banco de Gaia
Soweto Daal - Wasis Diop
Fill me in / 7 Days / Walking away - Craig David
Heaven - Emer Kenny
Last train to Lhasa - Banco de Gaia
Easter song - A man called Adam

Monday, January 28


No, not Jane Fonda! But, as it is the beginning of the year and most will be feeling the Christmas hangover, an important note on why it's better to work less at this time of year (based on a Spinning handout, which I always carry with me to classes):

The first step to improving your fitness level is to establish a base of aerobic fitness, from which one can later advance. To build an aerobic base, you must exercise in the aerobic range, gradually adding more duration to absorb the training effectively. A strong aerobic base will enable your body to better adapt and benefit from anaerobic training when that type of exercise is introduced.

You should commit to an aerobic base building period for 6-12 weeks when you are just beginning an exercise program, returning after a break from training or recovering from an injury or overtraining. The longer the lapse in exercise, the longer the base building period should be. During this time your workouts should be completely aerobic, without any anaerobic exercise. Athletes will spend around 75% of their training programme in this aerobic zone.

Aerobic base building workouts should be at a heart rate range of approximately 65% - 80% of maximum heart rate so that the intensity does not cross over into the anaerobic range. You would then not be able to take in enough oxygen for the energy you're producing (cue the heavy breathing) and you will start producing lactic acid as a by-product (that burning sensation in your legs). Using a heart rate monitor is critical because it provides immediate, continuous, accurate feedback, making sure you don't cross that "red line".

The benefits of Aerobic Exercise are:

• Increased resistance to fatigue
• Toned muscles and increased lean body mass
• Decreased tension and aid in sleeping
• Increased general stamina
• Improves mood and reduces depression and anxiety
• Increases the number and size of blood capillaries
• Increased cardiac output

Spinning class: Increasing Gradient

It's about time I started posting the classes I've been doing, especially as they seem to be the most popular posts - time flies when you're not working!

My plan for the year, similar to last year, was to start working on smooth pedalling, cadence (leg speed), a natural ease of movement, comfortable and steady aerobic rides, while at the same time allowing the hard core cyclists to work to their potential if they chose to do so. I particularly felt the importance of this, as I started the new year with 3Kgs of excess baggage and the remains of a nasty flu virus. In these conditions and, particularly in the winter months, the human body cries out for warmth-inducing, steady-state exercise, rather than the extreme anaerobic intervals that push you beyond your "red line". At this time of year, going above that line can damage fitness levels rather than improve them - only after a solid aerobic fitness base is established, can that foundation be built upon to increase strength and ability to take punishment.

Enough talking - this ride is meant to be taken as a long, flat road but, to retain the interest of those who really do want to push themselves, has an increasing gradient. You will see that the rhythm of the music will naturally slow down your cadence so that, in order to keep the same effort level, we need to increase resistance - progressively building up until we're climbing a fairly comfortbale mountain (is there such a thing, I've heard many members ask!). There are two possibilities with this ride - either you'll keep an even effort level throughout or you'll find yourself getting carried away and be gradually increasing your effort level as you approach the end of the ride. I've included two of my HR profiles as examples of both.

You could use any music for this, the timings are only relative to the tracks I selected - but you'd be looking to spend around 5 minutes at each cadence level, enough for your legs to adjust to the resistance, not too long so you'd get bored.

Warm up - 2.5 mins
Flat road @108 rpm - 8.5 mins
103 rpm - 4 mins
99 rpm - 4.5 mins
93 rpm - 6 mins
89 rpm - 5 mins
85 rpm (hour class) - 4.5 mins
82 rpm - 5.5 mins
77 rpm (hour class) - 5.5 mins
72 rpm (hour class) - 5 mins
67 rpm - 3 mins
Cool down - 5 mins

Profile for a steady-state effort (note the spikes where we rode out of the saddle):

Profile for a gradually rising effort:

Last train to Lhasa - Banco de Gaia
Heart still/beating - Ottmar Liebert
Africa bamba - Santana
Time will tell - Mariam Funke
Mysterious maiden - Chico Hamilton
A tonga da mironga do kabulete - Daniela Mercury
Desire - Deepak Chopra feat. Demi Moore
Teardrop - Massive Attack
Breakout - Michael Flatley (Lord of the Dance)
Greece 2000 - Three Drives
Nyah and Ethan - Hans Zimmer

Saturday, January 19

Man of leisure?

I wish - ever since taking redundancy from my nine-to-five desk job, I've been busier than ever. So much so that I've started to wonder how I ever managed to fit a job into my hectic schedule! I have a to-do-list that seems never-ending but, for once, I now have the time in which to do tackle it head-on.

That's partly my excuse for being quiet these past three weeks - that and the fact that my loft water tank won't stop overflowing, despite doing everything possible to stop the water coming into the tank. I know my limitations, so I've called the plumber to see whether he knows what could be doing it - I've narrowed it down to either the boiler (unlikely, as it happens even when it's off) or the water pressure from the mains. If the latter, I'm clueless as to what can be done... fingers crossed I can get rid of probably the only stress in my life at the moment!

I've also been planning my holidays for the year. My classes always moan that I forever seem to be going on holiday but I was way below my quota last year... I used to like going away at least once a month, even if only for a weekender. This year, though, it's mainly focused around cycling as I've entered an event called La Marmotte in July (more details in my next post) and will need a few stints in France and Italy to train for it. Then my usual fortnight of fun in France in August, enjoying the baking heat and molten tarmac... while I'm cycling! I know, I'm obsessed (and probably quite mad) but it's how I get my kicks and (a) it's cheap, (b) it's good for you and (c) I love the feeling of achievement after a particular hard day's ride. A bit like a more pleasurable exercise I could mention... hehehehehe

My real holiday will be in February, when I'll be travelling to and around SW India - no running or cycling for three weeks... promise! Well, maybe a mountain bike ride or a jungle trek just to make sure I don't get too lazy...

Time for bed - more soon to follow, including the past three classes. Ciao for now!