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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01-26-2016

Indoor Cycling Tips For Beginners

Guys…I seriously am obsessed with my cycling classes. Before I start, apparently they aren’t actually called “spin” classes because that is trademarked. So from here on out, I’ll refer to it as cycling (or try to remember to refer to it as cycling).

But anyway, I have been loving taking cycling classes at Ride + Reflect in Bernardsville, NJ. I remember taking cycling classes before and counting down the minutes until it was over (mainly because it was so hard for me), but these classes fly by. The instructors are great and push you hard, the playlists pump you up, and before you know it, the workout is over.

I’ll admit, that first class I took (and it was only a 30 min. class) was hard. I was like, “how will I survive 45 minutes of this??” But, as with any exercise such as running or lifting weights for the first time, the first day will always be hard. Once you get over that hump, you’ll feel great and get stronger each class.

While I’m obviously no expert (this is only me second month of classes at Ride + Reflect), I wanted to write a few tips for those who might want to start cycling or tried it but didn’t love it at first. If you’re a runner, check out my previous post about how cycling can make you faster.

Here are 5 indoor cycling tips for beginners. Don't be afraid to take a class - it's a killer workout! | http://reach-yourpeak.com

Dress Appropriately

You will be sweating a lot. I need 2 towels on the handlebars to wipe my sweat (but I also sweat more than the average person…or at least I think so). You definitely want to be wearing a sweat wicking shirt as opposed to cotton. Go for capris or longer shorts too. I wore shorter spandex shorts once and they were riding up the whole time and distracting. I love UnderArmour and Nike tops for any workout. My favorite is actually Coach Marc’s TrainWithMarc team shirts (by Nike). I swear I sweat buckets and that shirt stays dry(ish). He sells tanks too.

Ask For Help

Don’t be afraid to tell the instructor it’s your first class. In fact, do it! The instructor will help you set up your bike specifically to your height and other factors. The great thing about Ride + Reflect is that they write down your specifications, so whenever you walk into the class, your bike is already set up for you. I know many places don’t do that, so write down your numbers or keep it in a note on your phone so that you remember. Having the right seat height is really important, especially to prevent knee strain. Same with handlebar placement and seat placement (forward or back). Also, by telling the instructor, they will give you tips on the class, fill you in on the link (position 2, position 3, etc.), and make you feel more comfortable.

Cycling Terminology

Let’s talk more about the terminology I used above…though if you don’t remember this, no worries, your instructor will fill you in. Here are a few different things you might hear:

  • Position 2: This means you’re out of the saddle (aka standing up) with your hands on the handlebars closest to you.
  • Position 3: Out of the saddle with your hands farthest away from you on the handlebars. Back is flat, hips are back.
  • RPMS: Rotations per minute. If your bike has a screen, it will flash RPMs. Usually instructors give you a range, like, “Ok you want to be around 90-100 RPMs.” Don’t worry if you can’t hit their numbers, I sometimes can’t either, but it gives you a goal to work towards.
  • Resistance: Cycling bikes come with a knob or lever to increase resistance, or how hard your legs have to work to turn the wheel. Instructors will tell you to increase resistance to go “up a hill” or increase resistance and keep the same RPMs. The higher the resistance, the harder your will be working, and the more your quads will be burning! If you can’t keep a resistance at a certain level, don’t be afraid to take a break, pedal easy for a minute or so, and then get back into it.

Here’s a handy little image I found showing hand positioning on the handlebars:

Photo source

Sit In The Front

Remember in college when professors or advisors would tell you to sit in the front of the class to get better grades? Cycling is similar. Don’t be afraid to sit in the front even if you’re a beginner! By sitting in the front you will see and hear the instructor better, which is very important if it’s your first class. If you’re not comfortable with that, sit in the second row and keep your eye on other spinners to check your form or get cues from them. I usually like to sit in the front row of one of the side seats, so I don’t make awkward eye contact with the instructor lol (I hate awkward eye contact).

Go At Your Own Pace

You might be competitive by nature, like I am, but you always want to make sure you’re going at your own pace. And the great thing about cycling classes is that no one has to know what that is! No one knows what resistance you’re at or your RPMs (unless they are peeking at your monitor I suppose). Everyone is focused on themselves and their own ride. I take classes regularly with this instructor who is an avid cyclist and obviously WAY more in shape than I am. He’s like, “ok let’s crank out 120 RPMs!” and I’m pedaling all out at 100. Go at your own pace, and work your way up. Each class I’m able to add RPMs and total mileage. Just like with running, start slow and you will improve. One day you can barely run 1 mile, then you’re able to run 6 miles no problem. Cycling is the same thing.

So hopefully these tips are helpful! If you haven’t yet tried a cycling class I highly recommend it. It’s a great way to exercise indoors when the weather isn’t the best, and also a good cross-training choice for athletes. The first few classes will be challenging, but once you get into the groove of things, you will feel fit and strong.

PS – I found this link today and it is TOO accurate: 19 Things That Happen In Every Spin Class

Do you take cycling classes? 

Has there been a class (any type of fitness class) that you’ve been intimidated to try out at first but then ended up loving it?

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05-05-2015

5 Ways Spinning Can Help Your Running

I recently bought a Groupon for a spin studio in my area and really enjoyed it. It is super challenging for me, and each workout I never think I will make it the full hour. Before I signed up, I had been doing research on ways spinning can help your running. I wanted to learn more about the benefits and how it would translate to stronger running. Turns out there are many ways it does! 

5 Ways Spinning Can Make You A Better Runner

Builds both your aerobic and anaerobic endurance.

A spin class is a mix of easy portions and challenging portions. You might have a series of hill climbs, flat sprints and recovery sections. Because of this, spinning works both your fast-twitch muscles and slow-twitch muscles. Fast-twitch muscles are used during speed or hill intervals, and slow-twitch muscles are more endurance based (which will obviously help if you’re training for a marathon). No matter what distance you’re training for, spinning can help you get stronger and faster.

Non-impact.

We all know spinning is a great form of cross training for runners. It’s a similar movement as running, and obviously works your lower body. If you’re injured or just want something more low impact on a certain day, spinning is the day to go. When I couldn’t run for 3 weeks before the NYC Marathon in 2013, I did all of my “workouts” on the spin bike, and even completed “track” workouts on there too. I would suggest mixing up your cycling workout with seated and standing intervals in order to work different muscles.

Helps with cadence.

You’ve heard how you’re supposed to run at 180 steps per minute, right? Well, apparently, spinning can help imrove your cadence and increase turnover. A higher cadence on the bike translates to a higher running cadence. I believe it, because in my spin classes recently we’d be biking at 80-90 RPMs and it was killer! Apparently that translates to around a 7-8 minute mile. So the premise here then is that if you go to spin classes and are consistently in that higher range, it might help your speed and turnover (feet moving faster) which is obviously key in a big race!

You have control.

Since you’re indoors, you don’t have to worry about cars or other road safety hazards. You can fully immerse yourself in your workout. Also, you can give it 100% for the same reason. You can go all out in a sprinting portion without worrying about flying off the handlebars or crashing. On the flip side, you can control your resistance, and make the workout as challenging as you want it to be. I love being able to control resistance, especially on hill climbs, because if I were riding outside I would definitely be the person walking their bike up a hill :)

Increase your weekly miles.

If you’re like me and trying to increase your weekly miles, spinning might be the way to go. If you’re already running most days of the week, doing a morning or evenining spin class is a great way to add in more “miles” without the pounding of a second run of the day. It obviously counts as cross-training, and you’re getting the cardiovascular benefit which will help in your running. This is also a great option for those who are more injury prone as they add more weekly miles. I know plenty of runners who do count cross-training as miles (i.e. – a 60 minute spin class is equivalent to about 6 miles). 

I really do enjoy spin class, but like I said in my post yesterday, I need to work on balance as I get into my marathon training. I want to be able to at least do a spin class or yoga class once a week, which might require two workouts in one day…we’ll see.

Do you take spin classes? If you run most days of the week, how do you balance it with your training?

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