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