For All Spinning® Enthusiasts

Enduring the Endurance Zone Class

I know what you're thinking.  It is one of two things. When I say "Endurance Class" you either think..."oh my GAWD! so boring...so useless...so easy...so what? If I want endurance I'll walk on the treadmill - I come to Spinning® to get my butt kicked!"  or - OR! - you think "Hmmmm.  Endurance?  My instructor never does Endurance only classes. How would I know what Endurance Zone training is?"

 

So - What is it, why do we do it and more importantly why DON'T so many instructors do it?  

 

Spinning® identifies 5 training types which should be taught with different focus. There is:

Recovery

Endurance

Strength

Interval

Race Day

 

Frankly...whenever I go into a Spinning® class (or any other kind of cycling class for that matter) it always seems, as luck would have it, that it is Race Day!  We'll talk about why this is soon, but first to the other zones.  I am intentionally keeping the HR numbers out of this, but will be happy to supply them if you request it - most people in class don't train with HRMs, so we'll keep this more general.

 

The Recovery ride is intentionally low-dose.  Following races or other athletic endeavors, or even for people who are brand new to exercise or recovering from injury and illness, this style of class is not about performance.  Physically it keeps your heart rate low, your breath easy and your body comfortably supplied with oxygen.  Mentally it allows you time to just be connected to your body without striving.

 

The Endurance ride - which we'll speak more about soon - is a working zone ride.  It doesn't mean that it is necessarily easy, but it is constant and because we're asking for an extended period of consistent work, we don't want to blast your heart rate off the charts...we want you working and being able to sustain it.  The Endurance Zone allows you to not so much focus on an instructor's continuous babble, barking orders and shouting out interval times, but rather gets you to a steady state of rhythm release, energy revving work with a focus on keeping your head in the game.  The minute you start planning dinner or your shopping list or going over the argument you had with a co-worker, your head is not in endurance zone.  The easy remedy for this is to "up the gear" a tad...Your breath is steady and rhythmic, your heart beat may be detectable within your chest, you probably break a sweat and you steady on...

 

The Strength Zone demands a little more participation from your breath and your heart as your muscles demand a bit more oxygen. To be clear, however, we're not talking about strength as you consider strength out in the weight room.  To build strength you're failing before you do 10 repetitions, right?  In a Strength Zone Spinning® class, you are still possibly pedaling between 60 and 80 revolutions per minute for, say 40 minutes...which is roughly 2400 to 3200 repetitions of pedaling.  That's a lot of repetitions to be considered traditional "strength training."  - this is also a major source of concern for so many women, but we're not packing on muscle, like if we were only requiring 3 to 10 repetitions of a super heavy weight - we're still doing lots of repetions - your muscles will get toned and for women who lack the testosterone - you're safe! No massive growth of thighs - promise! So, in the Strength Zone we're looking to build your tolerance for that discomfort you feel while your muscles get stronger under higher gear.  This is probably reflected in a higher rate of breathing and a faster pulse.  Building that tolerance for discomfort is a lot of head work too.  

 

With Interval Training Zone, we encourage the heart to fluxuate within the class time.  Riding "on" then "off" - putting out all the effort you can muster, then backing off is a great way to train.  Unfortunatly it seems it is the ONLY way to train for so many instructors - we'll address this soon.  I am a huge fan of Tabata training (google it if you don't know what it is): it has put my fitness through the roof...but I only do it - maybe - two times per week.  Interval training is great - don't get me wrong...but it is not everything.

 

Race Day is pretty much what it sounds like - and really it encompasses all of the other zones at once.  If your training sessions are in place to help you work on your weaknesses, Race Day is to help you shine your strengths.  The mind body connection of Recovery and Endurance, the continuous-ness of Endurance, the gear of Strength Zone and the willingness to surge with more power, Interval Zone style all come in handy on Race Day.

 

So - why is Recovery class never done (or show me where it is, please - and this can be another blog) and why is Endurance class so dreaded by both instructor and participant?  It has to be, I think linked into the "Sesame Street" factor. (I just made that up - don't google it.)  What I mean is that people who go to fitness classes of all sorts really sort of like to just be beat up....entertained and lead with words and examples.  And teachers who rise through the ranks and take on Spinning® classes usually have a leadership personality that commands them to yell and push and encourage.

 

Athletes who are trying to build the volume of their working capacity need to have about 80% of their training in their Endurance Zone...not pushing up over 85% of their Maximum Heart Rate.  80% of their workouts?  So, if in a month you go to 10 Spinning® classes, 8 of them should be Endurance Classes.  Think about it - when is the last time you left a Spinning® class without having lost your breath, your ability to speak and maybe your lunch?  When was the last time you didn't have lactic acid etching out your instructor's name in your thighs?

 

That's right - even I would say that most classes you take are almost always Interval classes, sometimes masked with some strength demands.

 

So, how can you get over your distaste for the Endurance Zone - especially if your instructor never leads it?  Come to my classes.  Oh, not realistic?  Then maybe speak with your Spinning® instructor about offering an Endurance only class.  Any other type of indoor cycling instructor might not know what you're talking about - so pick your intructor carefully.  Even still your instructor might say, "I can't - people would stop coming to me if I didn't pitch in an interval or a massive aggressive hill."  

 

And she or he is probably right.  It is a valid arguement that people who look at their training across the week will do their Endurance Training on the treadmill or in the pool and come to Spinning® class to be whipped.  I understand it - I get it and I kind of live it.  So, what I do, sometimes is get through an extended warm up and push everyone up a satisfying hill.  Then we just plunk down for 25 minutes of Endurance Zone...then I crush them with some sort of race back down the hill.  This is called a mixed terrain class and their valuable.  Sometimes I extend that Endurance Zone...sometimes it is not there at all.

 

To be clear - Endurance Zone is not EASY Zone.  It is work.  It is solid, steady work, so this is where some people (instructors and participants alike!) get it wrong.  Within that continuous work we are working to relax the body, focus the mind (which is almost always found in the gear knob) and get lost in that magical place where the rhythms of the heart, the breath, the pedals and the music collide.

 

If you are an instructor, the onus is on YOU to bring Endurance to your clients - you know it...be strong and educate your participants and the gym managers about the value of it and work on your coaching (and work on your SILENCE, please!)  If you are an enthusiast, be open to steadiness - the stillness in your head with the continuous workload will do you wonders, ESPECIALLY if you're trying to boost the volume of your training capacity.  Aerobic base training is found in the Endurance Zone.

 

Don't hesitate to reach out to me if you want more of the technical side of these zones, or if you're looking for coaching techniques that support the Endurance Zone.  I love it - and yes! I feel pressure to slaughter my clients with brutal coaching...but it isn't necessary.  Remember we're eliciting work, not squeezing you dry... you are responsible for your own ride and we are just there to guide you.

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