by Angela Reed-Fox
Humans are rational beings. We like results. In fact, we need results as it's this that keeps us motivated. However, once we've bedded in a healthy habit, often the results can slip. Studio cycling is no different - but it doesn't have to be that way. Protect your motivation, and make the most of your time on the bike with these handy hacks:
Workout Killer No 1: Too much recovery. Interval training is great for fitness and stamina - but pay attention to those little recovery parts. The temptation is to slack off completely between the challenges. By taking off the resistance and significantly slowing your pedalling, you decrease your effect. (We see this all the time!)
What to do about it: After an interval, reduce the intensity by taking off only a little resistance, but keep your leg speed brisk and recover as you continue to work. Save your real recovery for the end. By continuing to work when you'd really rather recover, well that's how heroes are made.
Workout Killer No 2: Coming out of the saddle at the wrong time. Yes! There is a wrong time to come out of the saddle if you've got your eye on getting some results. When you're in the saddle with a decent level of resistance you will be working some big muscle groups. But often when riders get tired, they'll come out of the saddle, let their technique slip and not add enough resistance - they'll be using body weight to turn the pedals.
What to do about it: A standing climb is a workout - it isn't for resting. If you come out of the saddle, make it a real, effective climb. The resistance should be harder and you should be working your technique, keeping your upper body still and powering through your legs. When you have a tight technique, it will feel good. If you just flop around up there, you'll just be, well, floppy. If you need a rest, push through for a further 10 seconds, then take a rest, but only allow yourself a short 10-15 second rest and then put the pressure back on. Don't turn a working climb into a rest.
Workout Killer No 3: Smashing points. But surely that's a good thing? Not necessarily. The points are great for motivation, but if you're already motivated to exercise, you need to be looking towards results instead. Winning points with your heartrate will maintain your fitness, not necessarily make you any fitter - and it won't help you tone muscles significantly as you focus purely on your heart rather than on what the rest of your body is doing. It won't give you an idea of how effective your workout is, nor will it give you an idea of how fit you're getting. In fact the heartrate points can distract you from what requires your focus for an effective workout.
What to do about it: If you're wanting to build rather than maintain fitness, shun heartrate points in favour of more reliable metrics. If you're not comfortable with using watts, clock the gears you use and the RPM in each riding position (flat road, standing and seated climbs, sprints etc). For a much more informative insight, use watts. Look at the power you are able to maintain at each of these positions. Work on boosting that power. You can also easily calculate your power:weight ratio which will improve as you get fitter. As an example, following points in a class rather than focusing on power led to a decrease in my power:weight ratio by around 40%! Why power? Because if you're focusing on your strength, you're working your muscles harder, and the extra tone will not only look and feel good, but also will mean your basal metabolic rate increases (leading you to burn more calories when you're not exercising).
You can easily calculate your power:weight ratio by taking your average watts in class (stop pedalling as you enter cool-down; your bike will equalise and calculate your average watts for the session). Divide this number by the number of kg you weigh. This is your power:weight ratio. Jot this down each time you do a workout and as long as you're keeping the pressure on, you'll see an increase. Heartrate won't make a significant change as you get fitter, but power:weight ratio will let you know you're getting results.
Workout Killer No 4: Pedalling too fast. Really? Yes, you can pedal faster than is safe or effective, but it's pointless. We see this frequently when riders are sprinting. If you're bobbing around, or going more than 130rpm, it's too fast for the resistance you have applied. Turn the resistance up, and feel a better burn in your legs. Ineffective pedalling doesn't burn calories and it certainly doesn't tone.
What to do about it: Get some decent resistance; if you're sprinting, you'll be pushing more power through your legs so you'll need a higher resistance than you would use on a flat road, and definitely more than the gear you use to warm up. Keep an eye on streamlining your technique by keeping nice and still in the saddle and enjoy that powerful feeling as your technique improves.
And there we have it. Four lovely tips to get your results racking up. Enjoy!
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