A couple of months ago I was asked by my local gym about trialling a new kind of spin class specifically for improving cycling performance. The idea sounded interesting, I had a look at some drills that the magazines advocate to see what we might be in for and fed back in a positive way. The outcome was that 8 of us turned up on a wet Tuesday evening to try a sample session.
Spin is great if you want to get really sweaty and improve lung fitness; it’s a class I enjoy because it is bike related so I feel I am getting benefit from the exercise. The new class focused more on extended intervals and pedalling drills. Up to this point, I had always been a pedal masher and so had not appreciated the finer points of pushing a pedal around in a circle. My left leg is definitely weaker so I tend to load this pedal a little more in an effort to drag it up to the right side standard.
We started to look at the individual elements of a pedal stroke and practised them until my quads were complaining vociferously. The two biggest points for me were around ‘scraping’ the foot backwards at the bottom of the pedal stroke and imagining that I was throwing my knees over the handlebars. When you combine these elements you can see the wattage improve for the same given effort. We also practised pulling up from the bottom of the pedal stroke to deload the opposite pedal, this avoids working against yourself and sapping vital energy.
Thoroughly warm now, we embarked on a simulated group ride where individuals would ‘take the front’ by increasing their power output (in watts) to a certain % of their approximate average power output over a 20 minute time trial. This was a little artificial because we hadn’t done the 20 minute test at this point, it was more proof of principle.
The class split into 2 teams of 4, the leader for a 1 minute period would be working at 120% of his/her 20 minute average power with the 2nd person at 100%, 3rd person at 90% and fourth at 80% (the rest bit haha). Roles would then swap so the 2nd person would become the lead and the former leader would drop to the number 4 spot to ‘rest’. When all riders had worked in each slot (4 minutes), the set would be repeated a further 2 times with no breaks in between.
All in all a very enjoyable session and tough to boot. The main idea seems to be to get people working above their thresh hold pace for longer than they normally would; working in a team environment is definitely a good motivator and serves to help manage the inevitable pain. Leg strength is also developed with a lower cadence and higher gears, a little different to spin.
Next blog post, the sufferfest that is the 20 minute time trial – establishing an average power output to use in training.
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