Record your power:weight ratio - it will change as you get fitter, and provide reassurance that your strategy is working and motivation to maintain and achieve even greater results!
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!
If you found this article useful, there are plenty more here.
We will be looking at a different goal each week, and we will be kicking the series off tomorrow with a benchmark session so you can record for your PERSONAL reference where you’re at, fitness-wise, and we’ll do the same at the end of the 8weeks so you can see how far you’ve come. There will be lots of information about getting more out of any session – and of course, you don’t need to attend ALL classes, although for great all-round fitness it’s going to be a bobby-dazzler if you do.
Another cracking session in the bank :). Thank you - the music was spot on and helps me to work harder, which is what I need.
Foxette: I suppose I'm led by the riders, really. They're a jolly bunch, totally impervious to mornings. I think they might have a screw loose. They tend to be 'builders' rather than 'maintainers' so my class profiles reflect that.
FoxBlog: Anything special coming up?
Foxette: Funny you should mention that. Recognising that each rider has different goals and different needs, I'm putting together a series focusing on one particular rider. We will start and end the series with a special session so we can measure results, but sandwiched in between, we will be running featured sessions. For example we have a rider who is keen to train for her first triathlon, we have other riders who want to improve hills, or stamina, or want to increase their power output, or just want to grow in confidence on the bike. These all require slightly different features in a profile, so we will have a different session specific to each - but yet put all together it will make a great all-round training series. Not only that, but throughout we'll be discussing extra tips for understanding how our bodies work and how to get better results faster. I already have riders who would like a special tailored session - but I'm keen to have a few more.
FoxBlog: Is it progressive, really?
Foxette: Yes, despite the emphasis on building, it is progressive. And there are plenty of options too - for a good workout, you can just stick with the heartrate profile, but there are always extra challenges you can add in, perhaps working with watts (power output), or employing little tricks like always adding resistance for the second half of a hill or a sprint, or only recovering to a certain point and no lower. So if you want a more advanced class, you have the option.
FoxBlog: Is it true there's a gunge tank?
Foxette: Totally not true. It's an urban myth. There is always a special prize for the quickest recoveries during the session though.
FoxBlog: It's not a very good prize, though, is it?
Foxette: No, not really. But you've got to be in it to win it.
FoxBlog: Who do you think would benefit?
Foxette: Riders who want to get stronger or build stamina faster. Or lazy people.
FoxBlog: Wouldn't lazy people be still in bed?
Foxette: Maybe, but I consider myself to be a lazy person when it comes to workouts - I like maximum results with minimum input. I'd rather have 45 minutes of serious lung-busting euphoria that gets results than spend twice the time at half the intensity. The joy of studio cycling is you can go at your own pace, no one judges, and you only compete against your previous best. It's brilliant. The #8amClub aims to get one hour's workout in 45 minutes. Naturally, it depends on how hard you want to push though.
FoxBlog: How does this differ from a class anywhere else?
Foxette: We use the iQniter system to track cardio, and we also invest far more in top-notch bikes; we can use the wattage feature for those who want/need the extra challenge. Also, I offer riders a personal review of their stats, so we can see where they are, and aim at where they want to be more successfully. The iQniter stats are great for giving you pointers of where to go next. That's really valuable for moving to the next level. And recent events have shown the cardio tracking software is good for enabling riders to get fit safely - and has helped flag up heart issues that have led to medical investigations, diagnoses, and avoiding massive heart attacks - as a registered nurse with an interest in preventing problems before they start, this is the safest, best, and most effective way to exercise that I can think of (short of training with a cardiologist and endocrinologist in your pocket!)
FoxBlog: How will riders be able to measure their improvement?
Foxette: I'm encouraging those riders who are keen, to measure their power:weight ratio. If they are working on building, keep a record of their ratio over several weeks, they should see a good improvement. Heartrates can't be increased indefinitely - especially as we're all getting older! By using watts and heartrate, you not only know when you've had a good class, but also you can see over time how your fitness is improving.
FoxBlog: Why is it important to have measurable results?
Foxette: Because we're rational beings, and we like to know what we're doing works! Not being able to measure results, and having to rely on blind hope that what you're doing is of some kind of benefit is depressing - hamsters and wheels spring to mind! It's good to get rid of the guesswork, and get some rigour. That's where encouragement is, and that's how to stay motivated. Time spent exercising shouldn't be a black hole. It's definitely time to get results.
FoxBlog: Do riders need a particular level of fitness, or need to do any preparation before they start?
Foxette: It's a progressive session, but it can be as hard as you make it. There have been riders who have progressed to the #8amClub straight from Newcomers' and they're still alive, (and still nutty!) There are others who are advanced/progressive stalwarts, and I make sure I give them something extra to chew on. The key is, it's a good class for progressing to the next stage - whatever that stage is.
FoxBlog: So what about the music?
Foxette: Music is powerful. Some people are more susceptible, and therefore they find that a really rocking groove means a better workout at higher intensity. There are particular beats that are good for getting that extra 10% you didn't know you had - and I am happy to make the most of them in our 8am sessions!
FoxBlog: So what do you do?
Foxette: I play a huge variety - Rock, dubstep, euphoria, metal, high-school pop, and we regularly have other features - we've had Tchaikowsky, Mozart, Schostakovich and Lloyd-Webber recently, as well as Hans Zimmer, and my new discovery Stromae, and also the odd tune from Vexare and FriskyNippa, Disney in Hungarian made a brief appearance too (for a cool-down!)
So there we have it - #8amClub is high energy, great for building, and great for if you want a bit of personal help with how to get to the next level with your fitness. Bring it!
Riders can also make use of the #8amClub page which features the latest Fox articles on improving performance.
by Angela Reed-Fox
You're working hard, you're seeing improvement, and CRUMBS what's that?! Your training effect tanks from a very respectable 4.5 when you're really pushing hard, to 3.7. And you can't seem to reach the heady heights of where you were when you were less fit. Sound familiar?
What is happening in the session above is that because my fitness has improved, my recovery rate is much faster, so by the time the instructor has just finished a short sentence such as 'And ease off', I'm already heading for the blue. What that means is that by the end of the session, on average you've spent less time at the higher intensities because you aren't taking so long to recover.
So what do you do about it?
First of all, before you try anything - make sure your max heartrate is recorded accurately. Find out how here.
Next, there are a few things you can play with, depending on how hard you want to push yourself.
I followed the class activity, but tried to maintain the same output whether standing or seated. It was certainly a challenge, but it was do-able. Heartrate will naturally increase the more you challenge your legs. You'll see I wasn't challenging myself so hard I was too tired to reach the black zone, but by maintaining the pressure, I got a good solid, challenging workout.
By looking at watts (this is shown on the console of your bike, and alternates with calorie burn), you're bringing your training into line with how professionals train for races. Using watts will not only help you to maintain a great training effect, but you'll boost stamina and strength (and calorie burn!) Watts are an absolutely vital bit of kit for getting those elusive gains.
As with anything, you need to use common sense. If you have atrial fibrillation or have been recommended to stay away from the higher heartrate zones for other medical reasons, you can still use watts, but you will need to keep a close eye on your heartrate. If you're unsure of anything, ask an instructor.
Watt the Fox?
If you fancy a good burn, join us in the #8amClub on Saturdays - and if you like you can get a tailored review of your results and tips on how to get what you want more quicker whilst staying safe.
by Angela Reed-Fox
Why is accuracy important?
Heartrate training is great for seeing how your condition affects your workout. If your maximum heartrate (MHR) is not recorded accurately, you won't get accurate results, and your readout at the end of your session is no good for planning your training, clocking your progress, or giving you the encouragement you need.
How to spot if it's not accurate
You could do a MHR test (eminently unenjoyable!) or you could be aware of a few basic principles as you do your training. Your heartrate may need changing if:
What to do about it
If you think your MHR is inaccurate, change by 1-2 beats per minute only. If it's still inaccurate at a subsequent session, you can change it again. By making small changes you won't notice too much of a difference during the session, and therefore won't have to pass that discouraging psychological 'hump' of finding a session much harder than usual.
When not to change it
It's tempting to think 'Oh, I've been under the weather for the last couple of weeks, I'll reduce my max heartrate.' Don't bother.
If you're frequently changing your MHR (say, more than twice a year) the chances are the changes are too frequent for the data you collect to stay accurate. You MHR isn't going to change a huge amount. There are many factors affecting MHR including:
Once your MHR is accurate, you can then start to really focus on the aspects that need improvement - because now you'll be able to see a clearer picture.