02-11-2016

Watt Based Cycling Training

I’ve been taking a new class at Ride + Reflect called POWER Ride. It’s been awesome. I take it Thursday mornings and it is probably the best workout of my week.

What is watt-based cycling training and how can it help you get stronger and fitter (especially if you're a runner too)? | http://reach-yourpeak.com

This watt based cycling class is based around your wattage output. So if you go to spin classes, if the bikes have meters (I love Ride + Reflect’s Keiser bikes), you’re able to see your mileage and watt output. What is a watt exactly? According to Competitor:

Strictly speaking, a watt is a measure of power per unit time (1 joule per second, to be exact). This can contribute to your cycling training because the objective nature of watt-based training gives you much more precision than either heart rate or perceived exertion since it is a measurement of the workload you’ve done independent from speed, winds, hills and all the other variables that can change how difficult you perceived a ride to be.

And according to Equinox:

Used correctly, watts can help you better understand how your energy is being transferred to the bike. Perceived exertion changes based on several factors such as your stress levels, how well you ate or slept before your ride, and the temperature outside. Watts are unbiased. “That’s what’s great about wattage. It takes out of all the variables,” Pennino says. “If you’re training off your heart rate,” he explains, “when you’re stressed, tired, dehydrated or sick, your numbers are always different. Watts, however, are always watts.” 

We start the class with a warm-up and then move into a 5-6 minute “test” to find your maximum wattage. We do a standing climb, and the goal is to get to a point where you’re at an 8-9 level of exertion. You watch that watt number climb up and try to maintain at the highest level you can. Everyone varies depending on their gear and RPMs. For example, I am around 150-160 max, while the “real” cyclists in my class hit over 200, almost 300 watts (dayummm).

So you find your max watts, then take a 2 minute rest, and then we get into the ride. So the rest of the class is based around that number. When we do sprints, endurance, hills, standing climbs, etc., the instructor tell us “ok get that number to 10 below your max watts” or “now we are going to stay at 100 RPMs but get your watts to 20-30 below your max.” It makes the ride more challenging because you can spin at 100 RPMs at a gear 8, but your watts will be low…so now you have to crank up the gears, keep 100 RPMs and try to hit that watt number.

No clue if that all made sense but basically what I’m trying to say is it’s a bit more challenging than a normal ride because you are trying to hit certain numbers. In a normal class, you of course are challenging yourself, but you’re not trying to hit certain numbers. It’s like going for a basic run vs. doing a track workout. When you have set numbers you need/want to hit, you will push your body even further.

I think this type of class also helps with mental strength, which will translate well for me with running. I’ve noticed on hard hill climbs during my runs, I’m thinking about the cues instructors give during classes. To shut out the pain. To ignore the burn and keep pushing. Push. Push. Push.

If you’re in NJ, I highly recommend taking the POWER Ride class (and any cycling or yoga class) at Ride + Reflect. If you want to build your own ride, I suggest doing a 5 minute test and seeing what your  max numbers get to. You want that watt number to be consistent for those 5 minutes – it’s not like you’re riding easy for 4 minutes then hit it for the last minute and use that number. Really challenge yourself for 5 straight minutes. Then afterwards build your ride based on that number. Throw in longer efforts, hill climbs, sprints, easier portions where you’re 50 watts below your max, etc. This article has some workout ideas as well.

I’ll admit, my running recently has kind of been lacking, but I’ve been consistent with cycling and love doing something different. But next week I do want to start running again and get back to 5 days of running.

Have you ever tried a cycling class based on watt output?

When the going gets tough in a fitness class or on a run, what do you tell yourself to keep going? My mantra in workouts and races is “Grind it out.”

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