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Training On the Bike 

There is a difference between a workout and a training session. If you want to get the most out of your Spinning® classes and reach your fitness goals, you must focus on training rather than working out.

When we ride with a purpose—a goal of acquiring skill or to improve an element of our technique or fitness—we are training. When we work out, we might exercise to burn calories, to sweat or to log time. While a workout might be mindless, a training ride should be mindful. The Spinning program is effective for training because of the resolute attention to form, the careful planning of each ride, the emphasis on the mind-body connection and the marriage between physical and mental training.

Working toward a goal gives structure, meaning and motivation to training. First, it is important to define the goal. Specific goals—such as completion of a 50-mile benefit ride or attending three Spinning classes each week—can be approached with measurable, attainable benchmarks.

Next, it is important to strategize and map out the training course to reach your goal. Pedaling aimlessly while reading a book will not get you there, nor will throwing yourself into a “sufferfest” that leaves you sweaty and drained but no closer to fulfilling your aspirations. Carefully planned training sessions using the Spinning Energy Zones™ have a purpose and, when properly executed, have a beneficial result that will bring you closer to achieving your goal.

A training ride in the Endurance Energy Zone™ is performed at a steady state of energy expenditure (65–75 percent of maximum heart rate). As much as 80 percent of total training time should be in this zone, which trains mental as well as physical perseverance. It’s what gets us through our days and helps us perform intervals with better recovery, strength rides with the ability to dig deep and sprints with confidence. In the Endurance Energy Zone, much of the fuel comes from stored body fat—this builds a strong and lasting aerobic base on which to build all other work. Training in the Endurance Energy Zone is an exercise in self-discovery.

A training ride in the Strength Energy Zone™ incorporates increased resistance and therefore higher heart rates (75–85 percent MHR, which straddles the aerobic/anaerobic energy production systems), lower cadence and a long, constant challenge on the bike. A strength training ride, often envisioned as a deliberate and sometimes tortuous climb, involves mental discipline, courage and focus. Training in the Strength Energy Zone ultimately results in more confidence with each ride completed. Two strength rides a week are plenty. Don’t forget to have an easy workout day following a strength ride to allow your body to incorporate the strength gains you have made. 

Interval Energy Zone™ training sessions include spikes of effort that may take the heart rate as high as 92 percent of your maximum heart rate. These are followed by recovery periods during which you may recover to 50–65 percent MHR. Though an interval training ride can offer the most variation, there should only be approximately one per week in your training schedule. Teaching the body to effectively train in the highest effort level and then mandating recovery teaches the body to deal with lactic acid and fatigue. To over-train in this Energy Zone precludes the ability to consistently ride to maximum effort and to recover adequately, assuring negative training results.

Experienced riders may train in the Race Day Energy Zone™ during which the exercise intensity ranges from 80–92 percent MHR. It is important to plan well for this training ride, to rest appropriately prior to the ride and to test oneself with this maximum challenge. A race day training ride demonstrates the effectiveness of training, strategy, execution and results.

Perhaps the most underappreciated Energy Zone is Recovery, during which the heart rate maintains a steady rate of only 50–65 percent MHR. The importance of recovery cannot be stated strongly enough. It is during recovery that the benefits of training are realized. 

Define your goals and choose a variety of training rides. Incorporate a large percentage of time spent in the Endurance Energy Zone for foundation, one or two rides in the Strength Energy Zone, one ride in the Interval Energy Zone, an occasional testing day in the Race Day Energy Zone, and some well-deserved and necessary time in the Recovery Energy Zone.

If you are recovering from an injury or returning from a break, addressing weight loss or training for endurance events, you will want to spend much of your time training aerobically, keeping your heart rate within 65–80 percent MHR. If you need to include high-intensity training for competition or other specific needs, be sure to include an appropriate amount of work in the anaerobic energy zone above 80 percent MHR to allow adequate recovery time. Be sure to plan intelligently to meet your individual performance needs.

Useful tools to help you train on the Spinner® bike include a heart rate monitor and the Spinning Computer, which allow you to train in specific Energy Zones while considering individual changing fitness levels. You should also use a journal to record your work and other useful information. Establishing benchmarks or mini goals along the way can be uplifting—be sure to identify and celebrate your successes.

You must convert your workout into purposeful training. If you want to build muscular strength, increase cardiovascular capacity, and produce positive results in performance, health and well-being, you must have a goal, a training plan and measurable successes along the way. You must embrace the process.   The Spinning program is a journey. Each of us must begin it, but for most it will never end. 

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Linda Freeman


Heart Rate Monitors

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