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're happy to announce that the next #PainCave will take place at 7am (of course!) on Sunday 20th March. Got a high grunt threshold? Want to build strength and stamina on the road? Want to see what you can do?
This session is two hours and will be following stage 3 of the 2015 Tour de France through a lovely chunk of Belgium. Don't be deceived - there are 4 juicy climbs, a sprint opportunity and also for a showboat sprint finish UPHILL. Oh yes! If you like the thought of a thrashingly good workout while the lesser folk are still in bed, this is definitely the event for you.
You never know, there may even be a naked Norwegian.
Click below to book. You know you want to, in a funny kind of way.
Fancy it? Of course you do. What do you need to do next?
Riders come to Fox Cycling to get fit or stay fit - and to have fun. But sometimes they get that little bit extra - Fox is saving lives!
The key to staying motivated is measurable results, and Fox Cycling uses iQniter heartrate tracking technology to do that. But an unexpected side effect has been that the cardio software has picked up anomalies in riders' heartrates leading to further investigation and treatment.
trouble with his heartrate strap. 'If riders have a problem with their strap, we test it. Richard's seemed to be fine when we did this, but he was still getting erroneous results. We then lent him a strap which we knew was working perfectly - and he still was getting odd feedback. I then recommended that he went to the GP just for a check. Something still wasn't right - and at this point I wondered if it was a cardiac concern,' says Steve Fox, managing director of Fox Cycling.
Using the technology means that he can keep an eye on what his heart is doing and make sure that he doesn't over exert himself.'
So far Fox Cycling has picked up four instances of riders having different cardiac events; two of them were cases of previously undiagnosed atrial fibrillation, which is quite common. These members now have the treatment they require to ensure they can confidently carry on with life - and with exercising safely. 'The cardio software is great,' says Angela. 'It's good for ensuring riders are safe, and get a good challenging class without putting themselves at risk - but now we know it's good at identifying and helping prevent heart attacks too!'
We caught up with Matt who runs the new Progressive+ on Monday at 8:30-9:30pm. There are changes afoot, and here's Matt to explain what the changes mean:
FoxBlog: Why add this new class?
Matt: Customers have been asking for more advanced classes and we wanted to make sure we where giving something extra for all levels.
FoxBlog: A lovely tough one then. Who is it suitable for?
Matt: Those wanting to challenge themselves, improve their cycling and rip it up for the hour!
FoxBlog: What's involved?
Matt: Cycling. Lots of foxy goodness! A harder, faster, stronger class for those who want to be harder, faster and stronger!
FoxBlog: How is it different from a regular advanced class?
Matt: More, more, more! If you are riding progressive or advanced classes and want a more challenge then Advanced+ is for you!! Just like all Fox classes there are always options but the riders push
each other on. Also, Monday Advanced+ class will echo the previous Thursday's advanced class, so if you miss one, you can do the other - or both!
FoxBlog: How advanced is ‘advanced’?
Matt: We're not talking rocket science! There's a mix of people that come from the more hardcore cyclists training in winter to those that just love to spin. No attitude, no chest beating just a bit of competition and fun!
FoxBlog: Can riders just attend one of the weekly classes?
Matt: The classes are put on so riders can decide, can't make Thursday come to Monday! We can always work the classes more closely - we'll see what the feedback is from riders.
FoxBlog: Who do you think would benefit?
Matt: Definitely those are trying to maximise their fitness gains in a short time. The classes are really high intensity so you get as much as you can from that hour. If you're planning some miles or hills in the summer, the intervals and training we do at Fox will complement weekend training rides.
FoxBlog: Why start now?
Matt: It's cold outside!! It's really difficult to train with the same intensity outdoors when the weather is cold and the nights are short. That's why winters are perfect for advanced+.
FoxBlog: How does this differ from a class anywhere else?
Matt: Using the iQniter system to track and monitor heart rate, we can ensure the sets and intervals are carefully measured and designed to boost a combination of speed, power and endurance. The system means you can track your progress but also see when you are overtraining and need to keep it in check.
FoxBlog: How will riders be able to measure their improvement?
Matt: The classes are designed to boost both all fitness elements, you'll be able to see improvements in your ability to recover from hard anaerobic efforts, improvements in your strength and power, improvements in your technique and speed. When combined with a structured training programme these can yield real benefits out on the road(especially uphill!)
FoxBlog: Why is it important to have measurable results?
The iQniter system lets us track your progress and record sessions, riders will be able to see their recovery times fall. Remember - as Greg Lemond said, it doesn't get easier you just get faster!
FoxBlog: Do riders need a particular level of fitness, or need to do any preparation before they start?
Matt: If you're comfortable in a Fox progressive class or confident on the bike there's no reason why you can't give it a go!
FoxBlog: Do riders need to sign up for several weeks at a time or can they dip in and out?
Matt: At the moment we are running a 13 week programme for those commited. They'll be a new one starting in 4 weeks so it's perfect timing to try a couple of classes before checking in for the whole 9 yards!
You can book class by class and now we have the Thursday and the Monday class, riders dip in and out as often or little as they like :)
In Fox Cycling's continuous quest to find enjoyable ways of getting fit, we're introducing a boot camp every Saturday morning 10:30-11:30, and here's General Jools herself to talk about it.
FoxBlog: So what's the point of a bootcamp session?
Gen. Jools: BootCamp training is completely different to studio cycling. The exercises and drills we do work different muscle groups and energy systems. You will find your over all fitness improves and your power and endurance on the bike will improve too!
FoxBlog: Sounds quite hard.
Gen. Jools: BootCamp is an intensive way of training which is suitable for all abilities. It's outdoors and perfect for connecting with the elements.
FoxBlog: All abilities?
Gen. Jools: BootCamp is suitable for anyone. People are put off by thoughts of (scary music) RUNNING.. But we have had huge success in banishing those voices. I use a technique called Corps Running. It's safe and nurturing for those who are new or nervous... But it also pushes the more athletic to the max! Come and see!
FoxBlog: What do people need to bring with them?
Gen. Jools: Bootcampers will need to have trainers, a water bottle and clothing suitable for exercising outdoors. We will do some exercises with weights and kettle bells, some with body weight alone and HIIT sets using sprints and drills. Everyone works at their own pace and supports yet pushes one another.
FoxBlog: What does it involve?
Gen. Jools: The workout has a mixed profile and you won't know what's coming next. You can challenge yourself as much or as little as you like. The routines change all the time so you are using all parts of your body.. There's massive focus on safe technique and building good form.
FoxBlog: The FoxBootcamp is now in its third week - have you had any feedback from your recruits?
Gen. Jools: I have had various post-BootCamp messages from clients saying how they felt their muscles 'awakening' (my phrase, not theirs)... You can expect a healthy dose of reaction from your muscles ...you will feel invigorated and relaxed by the end (or done-in)!
FoxBlog: What is the focus? What aims do your recruits have?
Gen. Jools: BootCamp has something for everyone. If it's general fitness gains, muscle growth and fat reduction this style of training has a great pedigree and track record. Adding at least one bootcamp session a week will be a massive bonus to your regular workout sessions at Fox.
FoxBlog: Why start now?
Gen. Jools: Why start now? ... It's never too late to take on a new style of training. It's winter right now, do remember 'Summer bodies are made in the winter'. Plus your inner warrior is only gonna stay quiet for so long! Just come and try!
FoxBlog: How does this differ from a bootcamp class anywhere else?
Gen. Jools: This BootCamp is much better than any BootCamp you will have done before.. What else would you expect of a Fox BootCamp?! To be honest I'm not a huge fan of making people do press-ups in the mud.. But group motivation and team effort will make you dig deeper than you thought you could!
FoxBlog: How will people be able to measure their improvement?
Gen. Jools: As you progress you will start to find the various sets much easier.. And then it's up to you to take yourself as far as you want to go. Weight loss, improved strength and stamina will make you feel more alive and healthy. As your muscles respond you will feel leaner and fitter.. Possibilities will open up as you push yourself to take on new physical challenges.
FoxBlog: Why is it important to have measurable results?
Gen. Jools: Target setting will mean that you give yourself a goal to aim for and a bench mark for your own success. One of my BootCampers is working towards being able to run 5k.. Each week she is adding on distance and finding more endurance.. Other BootCampers are using our strength training to build upper body fitness. This helps with cycling as it means the upper body can move dynamically.. Others just want to slip into skinny jeans! We've got it covered, whatever your goal.
FoxBlog: Do your recruits need a particular level of fitness, or need to do any preparation before they start?
Gen. Jools: Before you start you just need to make sure that you are fit to train. If you've joined any of our Fox Studio classes you will be fit for BootCamp. We start slow and steady with a foundation of good technique and we always listen to what are body is saying. You work at your pace.
FoxBlog: The Bootcamp happens every week, can recruits dip in and out, or would you recommend several sessions booked at a time?
Gen. Jools: Ideally you should aim to make exercise a regular part of your self-care routine. Regular progressive exercise, good diet and rest will reap rewards. Booking on for several BootCamps will mean that you learn safe technique and give yourself a great chance to explore what your body is capable of doing. Come and see. I promise you won't be disappointed.
And there we have it, it's a Bootcamp that's suitable for all abilities - and challenges everyone. And that's not all; the results are measurable too - and there's nothing more motivating than that! Join General Jools every Saturday morning at 10:30 outside the studio, and don't forget, you may call her 'Sir'!
by Angela Reed-Fox
How about Power to Weight Ratio (PWR)? This is simply your average watts for the session divided by your weight in kg.
While one figure isn't going to tell you everything you need to know about your fitness, you can use FTP and PWR to increase and track your fitness. Heartrate is great, but is affected by so many different factors - and not so much by improving fitness, so you wouldn't use heartrate as a benchmark. But using heartrate and watts in your workouts, and tracking changes with your wattage will help with motivation as you see progress over weeks.
Interesting things you can do with watts
All Fox Cycling classes are set up so that you can use purely heartrate, or if you want the extra challenge, watts as well. Watts are great for giving you an extra push and therefore extra results (but you do need to put the effort in or nothing will happen!)
Find your 'sweet' spot
Get a feel for watts by playing with different gears and different pedal speeds in standing and seated positions. The sweet spot is a fine balance between the fastest you can pedal at the highest gear. Having a lower foot speed due to high gear will decrease your power, as will having a perky foot speed but not enough resistance. Have a play - everyone's different, there are no rules.
Focus on your watts in different positions - seated and standing climbs, sprints, time trials. When you get familiar with watts, you'll notice you will have a manageable power output for each - the fun comes with trying to bust each one, even just the tiniest little bit. That's where your fitness will increase. For example, if you have quite a 'hilly' class, use the first hill to test out your climbing wattage, and then use subsequent ones to improve on it - play with pedal speed and gears and see what happens!
Keep a note. There's nothing quite so satisfying as having hard evidence of how much you've improved! (Hey, what's social media for, other than to post brags on?!)
Click the button below to download a Word chart which you can customise for your own use.
Limitations of using watts
What do you think?
If you decide to use watts, or need some help or advice on boosting your fitness - get in touch; happy to help!
If you're on a bit of a health kick, let us give you a bit of a boost. Our Healthy Thinking course runs on Wednesdays at 6.30pm, and helps you to look at the psychological aspect of making changes and getting what you want - and this is complemented by FoxFit sessions which are nurse-originated and nurse-led and provide you with a good physical base to start from. It's far more thorough than an NHS HealthCheck; we start by taking some biometrics and then we discuss goals, obstacles and a plan for you to achieve what you want without the life upheaval demanded by faddy diets or half-baked regimes.
How does FoxFit work? It works with your body rather than against it. Once you understand how your body works, you can then tackle things from the right direction - and get better results without the hassle. Sound sensible? Of course it does!
You'll see FoxFit sessions popping up on the schedule - pay for the session at www.foxshop.eu and we'll arrange a time with you. And don't forget - there are special rates for members!
And to get you started, how about checking out the FoxFit book available in print and Kindle format here:
Let's get cracking!
You may have noticed the introduction of a 'Healthy Thinking' session on our new 2016 timetable. We caught up with our lead instructor, Bella, to explain a bit more about it:
FoxBlog (FB): What is the Healthy Thinking course?
Bella: It's a 12 week course using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques to help people change their eating and activity habits.
FB: Why are you keen to stress the difference between Healthy Thinking and say, Weightwatchers or Slimming World?
Bella: If you've been on a diet, you will be familiar with the process of losing weight - then beating yourself up when you put the weight on again, thinking 'if only I could control myself'. Eat less + exercise more is not a sustainable solution. You can change your diet, lose the weight but as soon as you start eating 'normally' again the weight goes back on. This is because thought processes and behaviours will slip back into old habits and often lead to feelings of guilt and failure. The Healthy Thinking course addresses these feelings associated with dieting and arms you with a toolbox of techniques to permanently change your lifestyle in a gentle and more compassionate way.
FB: How is it different from Slimming World and Weight Watchers?
Bella: First of all it's not a diet - no calorie counting, no nasty weighing in. The Healthy Thinking course focuses on changing habits for gradual permanent results. We work with thoughts and emotions that drive eating behaviour and learn to make sense of 'automatic' habits that lead to weight gain.
FB: Who do you think would benefit?
Bella: Anyone who would like to manage their weight effectively and improve their relationship with food.
FB: What will the course involve?
Bella: 12 weeks of bite sized information and sharing sessions with a new skill to try at home every week. In between the sessions the group will stay in touch via an online forum where I will post articles (for the keen beans) and provide motivation.
FB: Why now? Why do you think such a course is useful to our members and customers now?
Most research shows that 95% of diets ultimately fail. And as Albert Einstein once said 'The definition of insanity is doing things over and over again and expecting different results'.
We need to do something different. Something based on real evidence. Something that works.
FB: Why is it important to have measurable results?
Bella: The changes in your mindset during the course will be gradual and quite subtle but will continue to change long after the course has ended. It is important to mark milestones and record even the smallest changes so you can look back and remind yourself how far you have come.
FB: Tell me why you have decided to run the course.
Bella: I am a Mental Health Nurse and volunteer for Positive Step, an organisation delivering group cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) courses to people with low mood, anxiety, stress and low self esteem. Having also worked in the health and fitness industry for many years I have been aware of the close link between mental and physical health. I want to teach people to recognise the relationship between thoughts, feelings, physical reactions and behaviour, and give them tools to make sustainable positive lifestyle changes.
FB: What can people expect?
Bella: An inclusive, confidential group course with like minded people and plenty of support along the way.
FB: Do they need to do any preparation before or during the course?
Bella: During the course there will be lots of skills to learn so be prepared to put the work in in between the sessions. Because you are working to change deeply embedded habits it will be a challenging process but there will be plenty of support and guidance during the course to ensure you get the best results.
FB: What topics will be covered?
Bella: Our core topics include - Identifying, challenging and replacing unhelpful thinking patterns, recognising the difference between hunger, craving, and desire, separating emotions from food, self compassion, assertiveness and self motivation.
Interested? The Healthy Thinking course is a 12 week interactive course with one module per week, each session lasting 45 minutes with a maximum of 10 people. It takes place at 6:30pm on Wednesdays at Pure Offices in Kestrel Court. The sessions are included in Fox membership, or for non-members cost 1 credit.