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Ride Like a Racer

Even though the Spinning® program has given me a deep appreciation for the sport of cycling, all my rides are indoors on a Spinner® bike. My reluctance to get out on the asphalt has much to do with a fear of sharing the road with Los Angeles traffic.  I know there are others like me, both instructors and enthusiasts. There are also many who pedal in both worlds. Either way, whether you ride exclusively on a Spinner® bike, or you’re a “true” cyclist, one thing is for sure: continuing to develop your cycling skills and technique will enhance your enjoyment, skill and success as a Spinning® instructor. The Spinning® program was born from the sport of cycling, developed over the years by cyclists, and has always stayed true to its roots in cycling. The same techniques, principles and drills used by competitive cyclists are used in the Spinning® program to train instructors.  So whether you’re a Spinning®-only kind of rider, or an indoor/outdoor cyclist, absorb all the training you can and strive to ride like a racer.

Several members of the Spinning® Master Instructor team have recently developed new workshops that focus on cycling and racing techniques that apply beautifully to the Spinning® program. Each workshop narrows in on one topic, explains its benefits, and demonstrates how you as a Spinning® instructor can put it into action. Be among the first to experience them at the Boston Balance, ECA Thrive and TSI Summit fitness conferences in November. Or, if you can’t make it to an event, bring a Master Instructor to you by hosting a workshop. Here’s a preview of what you can learn:

The Five-Step Sprint—Sprinting is probably one of the most misunderstood components in the Spinning® program. If you’re an instructor who coaches a class to “sprint” by pedaling as fast as they can, or if you can’t find a way to create a realistic sprinting experience on the Spinner® bike, this workshop is for you. Jeff Krabiel developed it in his signature style that allows instructors to understand a concept, experience it, and repeat that method of teaching in their own classes. The Five-Step Sprint will show you how Sprints on the Spinner® bike mimic sprinting on a road bike. A racer sprints to get to the finish line as fast as he or she can. That requires the highest possible output of power. The cadence might not be all that fast, relatively speaking. Why? Because there’s a whole lot of gear on that bike. Pedaling fast in a low gear would be like running with a very quick pace but short little strides. That would hardly be considered sprinting, right? In the Five-Step Sprint you’ll learn that Spinning® program Sprints are just like sprinting in a race. Whether on a flat road or on a hill, you “shift” into a high gear by loading up the resistance, and you put out your maximum effort for up to 30 seconds. If you can hold it for longer than 30 seconds, you’re not putting out your maximum effort. The workshop breaks this down into five steps that when combined, create the preparation, power, motivation, execution and recovery for safe, authentic racing sprints.

Get Loaded— Renee Spriggs, a Spinning® Master instructor known for her versatility and creativity as a fitness professional developed this workshop with the goal of teaching instructors how to spice up their classes with challenging techniques and profiles that represent what a cyclist would experience during  a race or while training for a race. Get Loaded includes resistance loading and cadence building techniques, both on hills and flat roads. For example, breakaways and switchbacks. Breakaways in road cycling are when a rider or group of rider accelerates and breaks away from the pack. Spinning® profiles can include breakaways as well—accelerations in cadence that create that same feeling of excitement and surge of challenge. Switchbacks are those zig zag hairpin turns on steep hills or mountains, as in Alpe d’Huez, the iconic cycling climb. On a Spinner® bike you can simulate switchbacks by starting off in a Seated Climb, increasing the resistance to create a steeper grade, stand and push through it for 15-30 seconds, and then return back to the Seated Climb. Repeat this several times and you’ve created the thrill and physical challenge of a mountainous cycling race.

The LT Factor—To demystify the topic of lactate threshold, Maryjo Ruckel developed The LT Factor. It’s a workshop that helps Spinning® instructors understand just what LT is and why cyclists and Spinning® enthusiasts could benefit from LT training. Lactate threshold is the point at which exercise becomes so   intense that the lactate accumulates in the blood, because it’s being produced faster than the body can remove it. Elite cyclists will undergo testing in a lab, where their blood will actually be drawn during exercise to identify the heart rate that corresponds with their lactate threshold. Once they can identify their heart rate at LT, they will perform training rides where their heart rate ranges from just under to just above LT. The benefits of such LT training include increased muscular endurance and ability to train at higher intensities for long periods of time, two all-important components of racing. In the LT Factor workshop, instructors can learn to perform simple LT tests on the Spinner® bike, so class participants who are healthy and fit can identify their own reasonably accurate LT heart rates. Instructors can then lead LT training ride profiles, such as Maryjo’s Lactate Threshold Intervals. The goal of the ride is to hold LT heart rate for 5-minute intervals, with the heart rate as steady as possible. Each intense 5 minute effort is followed by 3 minutes of recovery to flush out the legs and prepare for the next interval.

So if you’re a Spinning® instructor who also races, continue to bring all your cycling technique and training principles to your classes. And if you’re not a racer, train and ride as if you were. Everyone on those bikes in your classes will benefit from the thrill, motivation and challenge of authentic cycling training.

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  Robin Degtjarewsky
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