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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 performance in the Spinning studio. 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. So whether you’re a Spinning-only kind of rider, or an indoor/outdoor cyclist, absorb all the cycling skills you can and strive to ride like a racer.

Below is a sampling cycling and racing techniques that apply beautifully to the Spinning program.

The Five-Step Sprint—Jeff Krabiel, a Spinning program master instructor who is also an expert educator uses the Five-Step Sprint method to bring clarity to one of the most misunderstood components in the Spinning program. If you’re someone who likes to “sprint” by pedaling as fast as you can, or if you can’t find a way to create a realistic sprinting experience on the Spinner bike, this Five-Step Sprint technique is for you. 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? When you understand the Five-Step Sprint technique, you’ll understand that Spinning program Sprints are just like sprinting in a race. Step 1: Establish a strong cadence either on a flat or on a hill. Step 2: “Shift” into a high gear by loading up the resistance. Step 3: Burst out of the saddle to help you increase your cadence even more to the point where you’re putting out maximum effort. Step 4: Return to the saddle and sustain 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.) Step 5: Recover.  These five steps create the preparation, power, execution and recovery for safe, authentic racing sprints.

Get Loaded— Renee Spriggs, a master instructor known for her versatility and creativity as a fitness professional  spices up her classes with challenging techniques and profiles that represent what a cyclist would experience during  a race or while training for a race. “Get Loaded” refers to 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, master instructor Maryjo Ruckel brings LT training into the Spinning studio and teaches participants 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. It’s even possible 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. Once you know your number, you can train with 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 enthusiast who also races, continue to bring all your cycling technique and training principles to your indoor rides. And if you’re not a racer, train and ride as if you were. Everyone can benefit from the thrill, motivation and challenge of authentic cycling training.

  Robin Degtjarewsky.
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