Monday, January 12

Spinning class(es): Endurance climbing

The simplest profiles usually make for the best rides, especially when the music is chosen and mixed well, but it takes a lot of work from the instructor to make sure riders don't lose focus and let their effort levels drop. The two rides below are based on a very simple profile: warm-up, lots of climbing, cool-down. No jumps, no sprints, no surges, no distractions - just climbing at a steady tempo, seated or standing.

Sounds hard but bear with me - if you set out on a 5-min climb, how much intensity could you handle? If I ask you to go for 50 mins, would you go at the same intensity? I hope not or you're the guy who sprints ahead of the field at the start of a climb race, only to be overtaken after the first switchback... never to be seen again!

So why a constant climb at the same tempo? By controlling our effort, there are two benefits:

(1) in the green zone (65-75% MHR) you'll be training your muscles, joints and connecting tissue, getting them used to that constant effort under a specific load (resistance). It's much like finding a comfortable weight and lifting it 100 times - it improves muscle endurance. This is the base upon which we can work further, as it will help prevent injuries due to excessive loads.

(2) in the yellow zone (75-85% MHR) you'll also be pushing your muscles to a higher limit of endurance, so much so that you're challenging your body to respond. It will do so by becoming stronger and better able to handle such efforts. One of two effects will then take place - either you can handle a greater load at the same HR or you'll have a lower HR while pushing the same load.

In either zone, this is the type of training that cyclists will spend most of their time doing - building a winter base as a launching pad, then improving their strength and ability to ride along at 40kph with minimal effort (I wish!).

As an instructor, you'll have to find your own motivational speaking notes - it's not easy to let 50mins pass without any instruction as to movement, changes in tempo, etc. but it is very beneficial and your riders will thank you for it. I'm sure some will say could do without me talking too! To help break up the time, I've put together the following profiles and used the Sunlounger Continuous Dance Mixes:

Profile 1 - Sunny Tales

Warm-up: 4 mins

Then alternating seated/standing climb, timing as follows:
45-min class: change every 5, 4, 3, 3, 2, and 1 min
60-min class: change every 6, 5, 4, 4, 3, 2, 1 min

Cool-down: 6 mins

Profile 2 - Another Day on the Terrace

Warm-up: 3.5 mins

Seated - 1 min
Standing - 1 min
Seated - 2 min
Standing - 2 min
Seated - 3 min
Standing - 3 min
Optional adding of resistance
Three loops for a 45-min class, four for an hour's

Cool-down - 6 mins


No mix from me this week - you can find the Sunlounger albums on iTunes, where they also include a bonus mix of the Chill and Dance CDs of both albums.

I hope it all makes sense - it's easier to ride than to write! Feel free to ask any questions, if you want clarification.

Saturday, January 10

Extra classes!

And at a brand new Spinning-only studio in Putney. The idea is probably one more familiar to those on the continent or in the US, this is a studio with nothing but Spinning... by which I mean that all instructors are "proper" Spinning instructors and include four of the UK's Master Instructors. There is no annual contract and classes are booked on a pay-as-you-go basis (a block of "tickets" may be bought to lower the cost).

It'll represent a new challenge for me, working with MIs that I know and from whom I can learn, and it's good to feel part of a close-knit team that is working together to the same end. That's not always possible in a gym that's part of a larger chain of health clubs, although I've been lucky with clubs at which I teach.

So, if you're in the UK or are visiting on holiday, book yourself a class online at the Pedal Studio website. Doesn't have to mine - all the instructors are excellent.

A new era begins!

Wednesday, January 7

Colour zones - what's that all about?

I've been asked a few times about this in my classes and alluded to it in my previous post - why am I using colours to indicate heart rate zones and levels of effort?

I've always referred to the "red line", your lactate threshold (LT), and the red zone beyond it, where all effort is doomed to be short-term due to its intensity. This is where oxygen is in short supply, breathing is uncontrolled, lactate is accumulating rapidly, legs start burning and we're all waiting for the instructor to tell us we only have 5 seconds left, because that's all we feel we can do. Definitely "red"... as in red alert!

While I was in Miami attending the Kranking seminars and workshops, Johnny G & Co. explained that they used colours to represent HR zones, as this was more easily interpreted by the members than numbers and percentages. Initially, I didn't see a problem, as I like numbers - I've always been more logical than arty. But, having taken part in a Power Kranking session, I could see how the concept really worked in practice. The colours become an indication of your state of being - not working, relaxed, comfortable work, uncomfortable, panic stations - and were more easily communicated by the instructor and, for my part, more easily assimilated when focusing on the task at hand.
This concept was so simple and yet practical, that I resolved to introduce it into my Spinning rides. So, here are the colour zones, highest to lowest:

RED - approx 85% to 95+% of MHR - above LT
YELLOW - 75% to 85% MHR - the uncomfortable Strength zone in Spinning
GREEN - 65% to 75% MHR - the more comfortable Endurance zone
BLUE - 55% - 65% MHR - the relaxed Recovery zone
GREY - below 55% MHR - warm-up and cool-down only!

These zones worked even better when combined with a Suunto or Activio HRM system. This is where everyone is given a heart rate monitor strap and their data is transmitted to a central system that projects their HR on a large screen. Everyone is given a nickname, so there's no "naming and shaming" - only the individual knows whether they're really working hard enough, not recovering, etc. The Suunto system was used by the Kranking team and this also gave a clear block of colour along with the percentage of MHR. Not tried the Activio system yet but will use it this weekend, as the Pedal Studio has it.

So, next time you hear me asking you to bring your effort down into the blue zone, it doesn't mean I want you to enter a walk-in freezer!

Monday, January 5

Spinning class: Take to the hills!

A new year means a new training programme, starting with rides aimed at building a base level of fitness. I've written before about the importance of building an aerobic fitness base before attempting to take it one step further. This will take 2-3 months of training. So my plan for Jan-Feb is to work on smooth pedalling, cadence, 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. Not everybody's training cycle is the same!

In these cold, wintry conditions (it's -10c as I write this) the human body cries out for warmth-inducing, steady-state exercise, rather than the extreme anaerobic intervals that push you into your "red zone" (85-95% MHR). At this time of year, going into that zone 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. The following is an endurance "green zone" ride but can also be ridden as a "blue" or "yellow" zone ride. More about the colour scheme in my next post!


The road is one out of town, on a smooth flat road heading towards the hills and the nearest mountain. So our cadence will be fairly quick at the start but the increasing gradient (i.e., resistance) as we get into the foothills and nearer to the mountain will naturally slow down our cadence so that we can maintain our effort level. Endless possibilites with imagery but it is a case of gradual incline, heading higher and higher, looking back at some point to see how far we've come just by applying a constant and moderate effort. No need to punish yourself to achieve something and conquer your own mountain.

For the first third of the ride, it's best to stay in the saddle so that our HR doesn't rise too quickly. Once resistance is gradually added and cadence slows to approx 95rpm, we can take saddle breaks and do some short periods of running out of the saddle. Then we see the sign telling us we've started the climb up to the top of our mountain, which will take us around 20 minutes to complete, always gradual though, never with a sudden change of gradient.

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.

New feature! You can download the whole hour-long ride here!


Release the pressure - Leftfield
Eurydice - Sleepthief
Medina - Urban Trad
If you had my love - Jennifer Lopez
Boomerang - Cirrus
Rain - Mantra & Robina
The sun rising - The Beloved
Breaking away - Chieli Minucci
Sky fits heaven - Madonna
Sunstroke - Chicane
Douceur - Jerome Hameau

Saturday, January 3

It's only just begun...

...and I've already mapped out my activities for 2009! I thought, when I left my desk job, that I'd have to do a "proper job" at some point but it looks like I'll be so busy that I'll be getting complaints from my riders that I'm always going "on holiday" instead of Spinning with them! If you're interested or would like to join me on any of the following, here's my list for the year (so far - there may be more!):

ECA convention in New York in the last week, mostly Spinning with Josh Taylor, Jennifer Sage and Iona Passik. Will also do some Kranking at one of the gyms with Krankcycles.

I'll still be in New York for the first week, doing a bit of tourism with my mother, some more Kranking if I can fit it in. I've been to New York eight times for work, this will be the first time as a camera-happy tourist. This time, I won't go anywhere near the UN, I may get asked to do some work!

Spending the last week at FIBO, a fitness trade show in Essen, Germany. I'll be joining the Kranking family to demo the Krankcycles and, hopefully, become a fully-fledged trainer. Apparently, they'll be taking orders for the Krankcycles but Rick and I are planning on bringing back home two of the demo cycles.

On the first weekend, I'll be cycling in the Alps with Rob (who, usefully, owns a chalet in Valmenier). A season opener, first taste of the Alps.

The second weekend sees me in Hemsby, as I did last year, for Schwinn Revolution - 14 rides over the weekend and good endurance training.

Then I'll be in France and Italy with Jennifer Sage and a group of lucky riders, as we ride in the French Alps, catching the Giro d'Italia as it goes over the Izoard on its way to Sestriere, before moving to Tuscany and catching two of the stages in and out of Florence.

As soon as I come back from that, it's time to start packing and head out to Miami for the annual WSSC spinning convention. Aside from the heaps of ideas I hope to pick up, I'm looking forward to meeting my online friends on the lobby couch (apparently, it's the designated meeting area for us!).

Not definite yet but I've been asked to be a guest instructor in Jamaica, so it would be ideal to do this on the back of Miami, maybe spending 3-4 days of rest on the beach before a weekend of special rides.

Another busy month starts with the Marmotte on the first weekend.

Then, hopefully, it will be joining Jennifer for another week-long cycle tour in the Pyrenees, again catching a stage of the Tour de France.

Should a second cycle tour in the Alps go ahead, we'll have some days in between the two, so Jennifer and I can research some rides and ride the Ventoux (depending on how I feel after the Marmotte, I may attempt the Cingles de Ventoux)

The second tour would see us riding with another group in the Alps and Provence, catching what hopefully will be Lance Armstrong racing to victory and the maillot jaune on the Ventoux.

After a couple of weeks of normality, it's time to head out to France again, this time for a "proper" holiday. A couple of weeks at my mum's holiday home in Languedoc will end with me riding the Laurent Jalabert sportive - shorter and with not as much climbing as the Marmotte but that might make it tougher (no holding back if it's only 130km!).

I've got nothing penned in for the month, so I may look to ride one of the remaining races... just to make sure I don't get lazy!

There may be another Schwinn event, so that would keep me happy for the month.

Another possibility is to ride one of the autumn Classics in France or Belgium.

ECA Miami anyone? If anything, it'll be an excuse for some warmth on a cold month in the UK.

Rest! I think I'll need it...