Sunday, June 29

Prem Joshua

While I was in Goa, I heard an eclectic mix of traditional sitar music and modern trance that I just had to have. During a visit at the infamous Anjuna market, I found a stall with hundreds of CDs - heaven for a music junkie like me - and listened to albums that included the artist Prem Joshua. Nope, I'd never heard of him either! I had though he'd be of Indian descent but I later found out he was German. The following is taken from his website, which I highly recommend visiting, especially as you can hear samples of his music.

He began learning the flute at the age of five then went on to perform in various Rock, Jazz and Fusion bands as a flute and saxophone player, always searching for new ways of expressing and expanding his music. However, a musical “discontent”, combined with his search for the spiritual, pulled him, perhaps inevitably, towards India - her culture and her music. He remembers vividly hearing Indian music for the first time, age 16 - a crackly vinyl record of a sitar performance by Ravi Shankar: “I had never heard anything like this before,” Joshua recalls. “It was beyond my musical grasp and experience but was something of such immense beauty and depth. It felt unfamiliar and mysterious - yet at the same time like a remembrance of something I knew very well.”

This experience changed his way of perceiving music completely. Thus it was, that in the late seventies, at the age of 18, he left school, home, ended all his career plans, and travelled instead overland from Europe to India - following the irresistible pull that the East had now cast over him. On his subsequent overland trips eastward he traveled extensively throughout countries such as Greece, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan. And in each place he became deeply involved with the indigenous folk music he found there, playing live with and learning from, local musicians everywhere. “I loved the roots of this music and felt an immediate connection; something that I had missed so much in Central European music,” he recalls.

When he finally reached India he had a sensation of knowing it; it felt like coming home! Along with the feeling of familiarity there seemed to be an inexplicable vibe of “at-ease-ness” in this country of mysteries, contradictions, colors and smells. And this coming home to India was only the beginning of a much more all-encompassing journey… for on his travels he came across the enlightened mystic, Osho. In the presence of this man with a long white beard, eyes as deep as the ocean and a crazy sense of humor, Joshua came in touch with an altogether different kind of music; the art of the “inner music”… silence. While diving deep into this new world of ‘silence’ Joshua also found the time to learn Indian music from one of India's finest teachers, sitar maestro Ustad Usman Khan.

To date he has released 14 albums under his name and played on countless studio recordings. He has traveled the world numerous times and plays to an ever increasing number of music lovers, inspiring them with a musical message that reaches beyond the borders of tradition, politics, religion and belief.

Go to his site to find out more and listen to samples of his music - some is relaxing, evocative of the countryside of India, and great for warm-ups and cool-downs; other tracks, such as Shiva Moon, have been remixed to make them ideal for a Spinning class.

Sunday, June 22

La Marmotte

Gulp! My main event for the year is less than a fortnight away and I feel like I've done nowhere near enough training for it. All I have is my general fitness levels and hours of various types of training (intervals, high level endurance, etc.) on the Spinning bikes. I got some road miles under my belt in March but the accident soon put paid to my plans of increasing my weekly ride up to 8 hours. Still, how hard can it be? Well, La Marmotte has been called the Doyenne of Cyclosportives, the most difficult one day event for amateur road cyclists in Europe. Not a bad choice for my first ever sportive!

The 174Km route goes through the Alps from Le Bourg d'Oisans, over the Col de la Croix de Fer, down into the Maurienne valley, and then clockwise back to Bourg via the Col de Telegraphe and the 2,600m+ Col du Galibier (by its far harder northern side, which has been closed until recently due to heavy snow), finishing with the ascent to the ski station at l'Alpe d'Huez. To some like me, the distance won't be such a big deal but the 5000m of climbing - not a common feat among amateur cyclists - and the high altitude take their toll to make a sub-9 hour finish a major achievement (it's won in about 6 hours).

For an idea of the masochistic nature of this event, read this excellent article from Cycling Weekly. If that doesn't put you off, nothing will. And here's the profile for the ride:

So why am I doing it? As any mountaineer would say, because it's there!

Saturday, June 14

Spinning class: Indian Hills

Unable to resist the influences of the subtler type of Indian music (as opposed to the hilarious, over-the-top Bollywood dance numbers) I returned from India with a sackful of CDs bought from the infamous Anjuna market. After listening to them all, I picked out a handful of tracks I thought would work and then planned to use them on an alternate hill climb / flat road profile. A rare occurence of me finding a ride around the music, rather than viceversa.

We start off with a long warm-up on the plains, plenty of time to build up to around 75% HRR before gradually loading resistance on a long steady hill to warm up our climbing legs. This is followed by a flat road with some optional running out of the saddle before another climb, this time with a series of jumps (see previous post). Back to the flat road, again with some running out of the saddle, before the road really becomes steep - no more hills now, we're into the Himalayas! After this steep rise, we need a recovery back downhill before finding a fast climb that raises our HR again. A very quick recovery to regain our composure and we're heading up back up towards our final destination above the clouds.

Warm-up - 7 mins
Seated climb - 6 mins
Flat road / Running - 7 mins
Jumps on a hill - 6 mins
Flat road / Running - 6 mins
Heavy standing climb - 5.5 mins
Recovery - 2.5 mins
Fast climb - 6 mins
Recovery - 1.5 mins
Heavy climb - 6.5 mins
Cool down - 6 mins

My HR profile shows how even the flat roads were hard work - each section of the ride can be seen clearly but the level of effort is consistent throughout.



Tangerine Thumri (Orange Turban remix) - Prem Joshua
Solitude - Karunesh
Punjab - Karunesh
Bolo Hari (Bombay Lounge remix) - Prem Joshua
New Kafi - Prem Joshua
Flute fantasy - DJ Nasha
Ibizan Dawn - Sergio
Awakening: Main Sutti Rahiyaan - Shubha Mudgal
Shiva Moon (Intro) - Prem Joshua
Shiva Moon (Moon Nectar remix) - Prem Joshua
Shepherd Solitude - Prem Joshua
Tilang Tantra (Temple mix) - Prem Joshua

Who's this Prem Joshua, then? My next post will be a profile of the man and his music.


As a cyclist, as well as a Spinning instructor, I've been asked about jumps, their purpose and how they relate to "real" cycling.

Put simply, jumps are the transition from a seated to standing position (and back again). The upper body remains relaxed while body weight is lifted up from the saddle into a standing position, then returned to the saddle. It is essential that the leg muscles are used to stand, i.e., no pulling up on the handlebars, and also to control the descent back into the saddle to ensure a soft landing. It's not about bouncing up and down, as the aim is to engage the leg muscles - for this reason, it is pointless to do jumps so quickly that proper technique and posture are impaired. These are known as "popcorn jumps" and, unfortunately, are used by many instructors looking for something to keep the riders busy - all they do is put a strain on the back, knees, shins... not to mention the potential for a hard landing in the saddle (ouch!) without actually doing any work. The purpose of jumps is to increase effort level (as you're using more muscles to move), co-ordination, explosive strength and postural awareness.

Many instructors who don't (or can't) cycle outdoors may find it difficult to see the point of jumps; many will say they're pointless and are a gimmick, created to prevent boredom in indoor rides. However, outdoor cyclists regularly lift out of the saddle for brief periods of time, especially on longer rides. This may be to negotiating steep hairpin turns (switchbacks) on mountain roads, to accelerate to close a small gap in the paceline, to quickly increase cadence on a climb to create a gap before sitting back in the saddle and continuing that higher cadence, to stretch their hamstrings after a long period in the saddle, or simply to... err... ease the pressure from the saddle!

The most advanced riders will remain in the saddle for as long as possible, gears permitting. This is to avoid using the extra energy needed when standing and to keep their heart rates under control. So they are actually more likely to make use of jumps than they are to stand up for extended periods.

They're not easy for a novice rider but, with practice, the benefits are worth the effort. Keep on jumping!

Sunday, June 8

Spinning class: Strength Builder

This is probably my simplest ride and yet one that caters to all abilities and levels of effort. Whether you're looking to begin adding some strength to your legs at the beginning of the seasons or are pushing yourself to the limit at a high level of endurance, this really is a ride that anyone can do themselves. Apart from the simplicity, I use a mix CD to keep an even tempo while making for an interesting ride (well, more interesting than a metronome!). Something like the Euphoria or Breakdown series is excellent, if you're into trance music.

The ride is split into three loops (four for an hour-long class), where I suggest riders tackle each loop at an increasingly higher effort. So, if starting the season, it's better to start at 65% for the first loop and build to 75-80% by the third/fourth loop. If going for high-level endurance, I'd suggest starting at 75% and ending at 85-90% (lactate threshold) by the final loop. You can see from my HR profile how my effort level increased during the ride.

After a brief warm-up, we begin climbing. Each loop is 1 minute in the saddle, 1 minute standing, then 2 minutes of each, then 3 minutes. While out of the saddle at the end of the loop, add resistance for the following loop to allow the legs to get used to the increase in effort before beginning the next loop in the saddle. After 36 minutes (or 48 for an hour-long ride) of climbing, we cool down.

Why the changes in/out of the saddle? At the start of the season, it allows one set of leg muscles to get used to riding at a set tempo for a fixed time before changing position to use different muscles in the legs. Gradually the time in each position increases before a loop is finished and another begins at a higher intensity. If going for a high-level endurance ride, the change keeps fatigue at bay and makes it easier to keep going before one or another of the muscles start tightening up.

Warm-up - 4 min
Loop (repeat 3 or 4 times)
Seated climb - 1 min
Standing climb - 1 min
Seated climb - 2 min
Standing climb - 2 min
Seated climb - 3 min
Standing climb - 3 min

Turn resistance higher and begin another loop
Cool down - 6 mins


(From the "green" Breakdown CD, disc 2)

Epona - Enya
Right here, right now - Fatboy Slim
Wide open space - Mansun
Symmetry C - Brainchild
More than this '99 - Emmie
Seven days & one week - B.B.E.
Not over yet '99 - Planet Perfecto feat. Grace
9pm (till I come) - ATB
I can't help myself - Lucid
Carte blanche - Veracocha
Alive - Heliotropic feat. Verna V.
Mysterious times - Sash! feat. Tina Cousins
Another way - Paul van Dyk
Bass fly - Tillman & Ries
Celtic dream - Michael Flatley