by Angela Reed-Fox
Results. That's why you're here, right? The good news is that the cardiovascular nature of indoor cycling will help you torch calories and improve your heart health. The resistance nature (the stuff with the gears) means that at the same time you can build and strengthen muscle which, as well as making you look tremendous, also boosts your metabolism which means you'll be burning more calories at rest too. What's not to love?
Here's what to do to boost the impact of every single session so you can be sure you're getting the best out of it.
Don't skimp the warm-up
This is counter-intuitive. But stick with it. You'd be forgiven for thinking that going as fast and hard as possible throughout the session is the best thing. It isn't. Warm-up is important - it lubricates joints, getting them ready for more movement and reduces risk of injury, as does the warming effect on muscle tissue. Your heart and lungs will also be prepared in an effective warm-up for what's to come.
With Fox Studio Cycling, each session is carefully planned - we use a lot of intervals and heartrate training because by having short bursts of high intensity, you end up working harder and with better results than if you tried to smash it right from the beginning. So, warm-up sensibly, and then really go for it once the workout really kicks off. This way you'll be pushing your body as hard as you can during each challenge, without having taken the edge of your energy or power during the warm-up.
If you have too little resistance as you pedal, you won't be achieving any meaningful results. Even in warm-up you need to feel at least a little resistance in the pedals. As you enter the main body of the session, you add more resistance (gears) in line with the challenges the instructor takes you through. Too little resistance leads to frustration - you're putting in the time, but the results are elusive.
At the same time, too much resistance can also sap your results. Why? Because with too much resistance you're not able to keep to an optimum cadence (pedal speed) and therefore you miss out on the cardiovascular benefits. You'll tire quickly which means you won't get full benefit from the session, and you'll also find that you're putting far too much strain on your joints, putting you at risk of injury.
Use heartrate training
At Fox Studio Cycling we use cardiotraining because a) it's an effective way to train and get results, and b) because it's a safer way to train - and our systems have been involved in flagging up cardiac problems with riders which needed surgery and immediate intervention. That's surely worth having!
Heartrate training uses a lot of intervals where we're tracking heartrates as they climb steeply, and also watching for how long recovery takes. These can provide you with an idea of your progress as your recovery will become quicker as you get fitter.
Following the cardio profiles in the class enable you to challenge your body safely. By matching your heartrate percentage to the targets in class you'll be helping to get more out of each session.
Protect your motivation. Some days it's going to be harder than others - so you need to know that you're seeing results. Set benchmarks where you can look back and see improvements - these might be weightloss connected such as fitting into a favourite pair of skinny jeans, or measurement focused such as a reduced body fat percentage - or it might be that you have fitness goals that you're interested in, such as increasing your FTP (functional threshold power). Whatever is suitable for you, clock it and keep an eye on it. Celebrate every improvement.
Mix it up
Keep your body guessing - mix your sessions. Not only does this reduce the risk of overtraining, but also enables you to train more efficiently with the time you have available. Fox Studio Cycling offers three different types of session so that you'll never be stuck for something to do. Blue sessions are great for recovery, calorie burning and endurance - they're aerobic, but you'll still get a great workout. Red sessions are designed for muscular strength and endurance - this is a metabolism boosting type of session. Black sessions are concerned with improving your performance and fitness on the bike. Great for competitive and leisure cyclists - these sessions will be challenging your FTP and improving your efficiency so that you can work harder for longer. Plenty to keep you out of mischief!
Be power hungry
Looking at your power as you ride and using this as a way of clocking your improving fitness is invaluable. As your average and peak power increases, you'll be getting fitter, so this is a great indicator of improvement. Numbers are good! Even on those days when you're really not feeling it, you soon learn that going by how you feel can be discouraging, whereas if you have concrete quantifiable evidence that you're getting fitter - well, you can lunch out on that!
Technique, technique, technique
This is always important. If your technique isn't right, then it doesn't matter what your cadence or your gears are - you're not maximising your potential. A strong upper body, minimising excess movement will strengthen your core, and you'll immediately feel that it's harder work for your legs as you're now relying on building strength rather than bobbing away on the bike using your bodyweight as leverage. Think about your muscles - use them as much as you can in each session, and then, recover!
Often overlooked - this is the Cinderella part of the session. Recovery is valuable in between each challenge or interval. Recover as quickly as you can. But don't forget that recovery needs to take place after your session as well. If you're applying all the above points, your sessions will feel much harder. They're only going to be easy if you're not doing it properly!
Recovery is essential for your body because during each session, you've depleted stores in your muscles, these need to be replenished, and not only that - when you employ proper resistance and technique, you're pushing your muscles hard which means they'l need some time to recover, repair and rebuild stronger. If you consistently ignore your body's need for recovery you'll find you're overtraining, which sounds a lot better than it is. When you overtrain, you're not allowing your body to improve and adapt and therefore enable you to be stronger and fitter. Why put the work in if you're not seeing the benefit? It doesn't make sense. An easy way to see when you're overtraining is to use your heartrate monitor. If you see your cardiovascular performance sinking, overtraining is usually the problem. It doesn't mean you need to adjust your max heartrate - it just means you need to be a bit nicer to your body and rest!
And there we have it. You have the knowledge - you now have no excuse! Come and join us: