Thursday, March 21, 2013

"No way in Hill"

Spend any time browsing the indoor cycling and Spinning® forums on the internet and you'll see a lot of hoopla about "keeping it real."  Which is to say, if you wouldn't do it on a real bike don't do it on an indoor cycle class.

Okay, I can agree with that, at least on the surface, but one look at this picture and I tell you, there isn't any way in Hell I would do that (and I'm not afraid of heights.) LoL!

Now back to being serious, keeping it real is why I've integrated terminology such as pace line and pedal mashing into my vernacular.  Not everyone is going to go out an buy a bike, but if you spark an interest in a few, you may have given them a hobby that gets them off the couch, out of the gym, and into the world...and what an amazing place this big blue marble is.

Click on each song to download from iTunes 
~Spin Hard!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Thinning the Wolf Pack

I'm often approached by women wondering if Spinning®, and specifically strength rides, will result in them getting bigger legs; generally something the women want to avoid.  

In the real world of cycling, racers are often categorized as either Sprinters or Climbers.  Now for something that may not be intuitive, of the two categories which do you think have the bigger legs?  Answer:  Sprinters.  I won't get into the mechanics of why this is, but the end result is don't worry, TURN THE KNOB for the hills.

The first hill on today's ride bridges 3 songs starting with a seated climb (C) where we bring it up to a standing climb (SC) during the chorus for the first 2:20 minutes.  We continue the attacks on the hill climb during the next 5:37 minutes out of the saddle where we change the chorus movement to an actual run with resistance (R).  We conclude the first hill with a nearly 3 minutes of a seated climb.  This is where I've labeled the ride, "Thin the Wolf Pack", because the strong will continue to climb, while others will find the need to lessen the resistance.  Regardless of how you end the seated climb, know that you're making progress toward building stronger, lean legs.

To end today's ride, because we can since it's an interval ride, I've incorporated a Tabata.  Since I've had several inquires about Tabata, I wanted to share some of the history and science  (and also because there's a lot of misunderstanding about what the Tabata is).  

At it's root, a Tabata is nothing more than a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).  It gets it's name from Izumi Tabata who happens to be the first name on a paper published in 1996 where they were studying the different exercise protocols and the relation to VO2 max.

The study was done on indoor cycles (very similar to your Spinning® bikes), but they measured the cadence, power output, and each participants oxygen levels over a 6 week period.  They exercised for 5 days a week with 1 of the exercise days being essentially what we would call a Recovery ride (under 70%VO2 max ).  On the other 4 days they incorporated a segment of 170% VO2 max.  

Fast forward to the conclusions: There was a significant increase (28%) in VO2 max, which should correlate with the ability to tap into the ATP energy pathways longer, resulting in better athletic performance.  [They were trying to make a faster cyclist.]  

The final protocol called for 8 back to back intervals of 20 seconds at greater than 85rpm with max resistance with 10 second rest periods.  

To the best of my knowledge no similar tests were completed doing any other type of exercise, although a quick search of Tabata on YouTube will reveal that people are applying the same approach from everything from burpees to hitting tires with a sledge hammer.

Personal conclusions:
  • Not everyone got through the 8 intervals during the study before falling below the 85rpm threshold (at least initially), so they become self limiting.  In plain English, if you're too tired to do them you end up either cheating, quitting, or at the very least not reach the 170% VO2 max, and that's okay.
  • They did the exercise at the HIIT level 4 days a week, which essentially means every other day.  Your body needs time to recover (which is also demonstrated by their integration of the less than 70% ride.)
  • The protocol will help your performance but you should be careful to not over train. All the test cases where on athletes, so be careful when applying to general populations.  They're fun, but rushing an unconditioned participant to the hospital will most likely ruin your evening.

Coaching suggestions
  • Get some really good Tabata tunes  (links below for example).
  • Caution your participants that it's about POWER not speed.  They need to be staying under the max Spinning® cadence of 110rpm.
  • Make sure your participants know how to emergency brake the bike.
  • Coach from the floor so that you can connect with how your participants are riding.
    • Are they going too fast or too slow?
    • Do they have too little or too much resistance?
  • Provide a break just prior to the protocol so that you can explain how to perform it and so the participants can prepare (lower their heart rate, towel off, get a drink, etc...)

Now the ride...

Other Tabata Music
All of these feature a coach to instruct you during the protocol

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Please pass the popcorn

Recently a class participant caught me after class (I'm always slow to leave and quick to start up a conversation) and asked me a question.

She went on to tell me she was having problems with her IT band.  She hadn't had issues with this for awhile, since she had given up running in favor of Spinning®.  But a recent trip out of town lead her to substituting her usual indoor cycling class for running, for convenience sake.

Fortunately she didn't experience any problems while doing this, but fast forward 4 days and one Spinning® class later and she was having IT band pain.  Then she offered the additional information that the Spinning class she had taken just the day prior to the pain included a segment of 2-count jumps, a.k.a. popcorn jumps.
So was the pain the running or popcorn jumps?  

Now as a matter of habit I never cue popcorn jumps, and in theory there is nothing wrong with them; in theory.  I'm not going to get into the moralistic issue that some groups have that if you don't do it on a real bike you shouldn't do it in a Spinning® class.

The reality is jumps in general need to be approached as a movement with potential safety concerns.  Here's the concern, you're on a fixed gear bike and by definition nothing on the bike is going to give.  If you were to do jumps on a real bike and your rhythm was a bit off then the bike will "coast", if even for a bit.  However on a fixed gear bike that energy is simply transferred to the rider potentially causing the leg to be pushed forward, and working the hip flexor.  This is a concern with ALL jumps not just the dreaded popcorn jumps.

Now we come to my hypothetical class.  It's been a tough Interval Energy Zone ride, rocking out to the Black Eyed Peas and Flo Rida.  You and your class participants are tired, but for that last push you've cued up a segment of 2-count jumps to Pitbull's Krazy.  Everyone is going to leave your studio absolutely drenched and exhausted; be careful not to slip in the puddle of your neighbors sweat as you head to the bathroom to puke.  Yeah, you are the toughest Spinning® instructor around!  Cue the 2-count jumps.

"Yeah, you are the toughest Spinning® instructor around!"
In that sweat flinging fury which is the 2-count jump, with everyone trying to keep up with you, someone misses a beat, their foot slips, their hand slips, you don't know what.  Maybe it was something subtle and went unnoticed; the thing is it happened. Someones form was compromised; Someone was injured as the result of your instructions.  It was your job to make sure that everyone in your class was setup properly, got a good workout and did it safely so that they could come back again tomorrow; but it was your instruction that did them in.

Coach the form of the jump and allow your participants to pick their own pace.
If the pace your participant selects is a 2-count great, but warn them of the dangers of the bike, that it's okay to jump at a pace different than yours, that they may not feel as good as you today so don't sacrifice form for speed.

I would also recommend you make yourself aware of the mechanics of the pedal stroke and remember that you're supposed to be the expert.  Just because you spent $300, spent a day in a class and passed some online test, you aren't the expert and you sure haven't learned everything yet.

Parting thought:
Don't think just because your participants say that you're tough, or "...that was a tough class." that everything is fine.  The difference between working out and training is knowing what you're doing.  Are you imparting that knowledge to your participants or are you simply a cheerleader in a Suzy Psycho-spin class.

Suggested Articles

Friday, March 1, 2013

Making your mark

Yes, I have a Spinning® tattoo, but No this is not mine.  This was lifted from a Sidi cycling shoe ad.  It seems to go in cycles (pun intended) where all the discussion on the various indoor cycling sites where we discuss other programs and what's wrong with them.

This week I saw a medical news segment where they were discussing the potential for carpal tunnel syndrome resulting from Spinning®.  (Notice the use of the ®).

The only problem was the facility that they featured in this segment wasn't a Spinning® facility because it didn't have the licensed bikes.  What this tells me is that Spinning® despite the efforts of Mad Dogg Athletics is used more as a generic verb than as a Branded product.

To be fair, the segment could have been a Spinning® facility and had the same problems described where contraindicated movements or poor form could have existed.  Just because someone paid the $300+ to go to thru the certification class and then passed a test online doesn't mean they know what the heck they are doing.

So here's my assumption, IF you're still reading this then you are probably one of the good instructors, or dare I say coaches out there.  Not because you're reading my blog, but because you're reading content from a variety of sources and not just living in your own indoor cycling bubble.

So I challenge you to continue to read a variety of sources, discern what's good and bad, and then coach your classes to do things safely.  If you can't explain why you're doing something then it's either a dumb idea to do it, or you just haven't researched it enough.

By coaching your participants you're making a mark in their lives.  Make it a good one!

~ Spinning Freak

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