5 Ways to Keep You Active Over the Cold Months

The dark times are upon us. I am no Stark but the winter is coming ūüôā We all could do with a cunning plan top keep us going to the gym even¬†with the uninviting weather.

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PAIR UP – FIND A GYM BUDDY

This seems to be the best solution for so many people. When the alarm goes off and you are so tempted to snooze or just switch it off the one thing that will make you get up is the though of your friend waiting or you at the gym. And whether it is about not allowing them to get fitter than you ūüôā or simply not letting them down – it works. Be wise choosing one though. It’s great to train with someone who is on similar fitness level or even better – fitter than you. It will be a great motivation. if you are easily persuaded NOT to exercise, ensure your buddy is the opposite…

HAVE A LONG TERM GOAL FOR AFTER THE WINTER

Signing up for a race, be it running or cycling, is a great way to keep you on track. Especially if you had to pay an entry fee!

LET’S GO OUTSIDE!

WHAT??!! I hear you say. Yes, you have heard me right. In my running days cold and crispy mornings were the best for running. But if you are not into running or cycling outdoors, try one of the boot camp outdoors classes. BMF (British Military Fitness) run classes all over London’s parks. The first one is free. Try it. If being trained by a soldier is a bit too much to handle, there are many other outdoors classes to choose from. There is a great option for women: classes run by women instructors for women participants. Check out Fit For a Princess here. You can pay membership or drop in and pay in cash.

The benefits of exercising outdoors are immense: fresh air, boost to the immune system, no gym smells and a great sense of achievement at the end of each class.

To find something that suits you go out to your local park one morning and see what’s on offer.

TAKE ON A GYM CHALLENGE

Like the one I am running: Izabela’s 50 Class Cycle SMART Challenge where you have to complete 50 classes in 120 days starting from 1 November. You can get more details here. Even more is coming up in the next week. Both here and on my FB page.

THERE IS AN APP FOR THAT

There are so many apps out there that I can see people use. My personal favourite is 100+ push ups. Browse the web, ask people at the gym when you see them use one. Have you already found one worth sharing? I would love to hear about it in the comments.

When it comes to indoor cycling try Ride Buddy from Cycling Fusion link here.

If you train on MatrixIC7 bikes they have their own Coach by Colour app. Some rides are free some you have to pay for but if you like training with colour zones but you feel a bit lost without instructor’s guidelines, this is a great alternative (here).

Another one worth checking out is Peloton app for iPads here.

Some of these are free others are not. The other option would be using YouTube videos or training videos that you can stream. But there are hundreds out there. Not all of them are great. Sufferfest are really, really good: great quality, easy to follow instructions but boy are they hard! This is the real deal guys. The clue is in the name…here.

Have you tried any of these? Has it worked for you? Any recommendations?

Indoor Cycling? Find the right fit and do it with class.

I recently wrote a guest feature on GymBox’s website about indoor cycling. You can read it here:

http://gymbox.com/blog/feature-indoor-cycling.

It’s about the 3 types of cycling classes GymBox offers. And that got me thinking about all the gyms across London where I have been teaching for the past 3 years.

WHAT IS OUT THERE? (LONDON)

Well, you have boutique studios with the Soulcycle-type of classes advertised as a whole body workout (weights, resistance bands etc), then you have studios which go much more into the real cycling style like Cyclebeat (https://www.cyclebeat.co.uk/) which is a cycling only facility with Keiser bikes and integrated digital display which sends you your results by e-mail after each class.

H2 (https://www.h2bikerun.co.uk/) in SoHo offers indoor and outdoor classes where you ride your own bike in the park with the instructor leading the session.

The top end of this spectrum in the city is Athlete Lab (http://athlete-lab.co.uk/) – a state of the art cycling studio using actual road bikes and a mind blowing digital display (at a mind blowing prices). It’s a training facility. Not a place to take classes.

Venturing out of central London you have Cadence in Crystal Palace which is a great facility with a bike shop & workshop and training rooms where you can test your FTP, VO2 etc but also take a WattBike class (http://www.cadenceperformance.com)

That’s all great but what about all the gyms where an average Joe goes?

WHAT ABOUT GYMS?

How do you know what’s behind that name on the timetable?¬†“Spin”, “indoor cycling”, “V-Cycle”, “Tour de…”. How do you choose what is right for you? How do you know what to expect? Honestly? If the description is generic you can expect anything… It will all depend on the instructor. the only definitely consistent class would be Les Mills RPM.

Some gyms do the right thing and have different difficulty levels marked on the timetable: 2-3-4 stars but in real life do the instructors always know about what kind of level the class is supposed to be? Do they pay attention to it?

An average “spin” class can be very intimidating to someone who has never participated in one. And if your first one is really bad or¬†well above your fitness level and you do not get guidance from the instructor, you may never be back.

I truly believe gyms should put on a couple of tailored classes to entice people in who would otherwise never be brave enough to try. Clearly described on the timetable and adhered to by the instructors.

INTRODUCTION TO INDOOR CYCLING CLASS

Every gym would benefit from a beginners’ class.¬†I have had the proof of that when I decided to put on a 30min cycling clinic at one of the studios I have worked for until recently. Targeting people who have never done cycling classes it involved bike set up, riding technique, resistance & cadence introduction and a little practice in and out of the saddle. I was doing it right before an actual class so¬†people had an option to stay for the class or not and come when they were ready. It was great! Neither I nor the participants felt the pressure that we were¬†rushed, they had time to ask questions and as we would have 2-4 people at a time it was a non-pressure environment.

There could be a beginners’ programme that would be delivered over 4 classes. Otherwise just a normal 45min novice class would be beneficial.

SPECIAL POPULATIONS

Certain gyms have quite a few kids attending. A Virgin gym where I have a couple of regular classes, has a Kidz programme with a couple of classes for 10-15 year olds. It does not include cycling.

Through instructor forums¬†I have come across family indoor cycling classes or classes purely run for kids. I love the idea but I haven’t seen that in any of the gyms I teach at. I know they do have youth classes on offer on an actual track at Lee Valley (http://www.visitleevalley.org.uk/en/content/cms/london2012/velo-park/youth-activities/).

Talking about special populations, classes for silver foxes are a great way to attract older generation. I think London gyms and leisure centres are missing a trick here.

Finally, as the outdoor season ends we have the outdoor cyclists who are not interested in exercise classes. They want to train over winter to keep their form up but they want clear goals, tests, a whole programme. Some gyms are halfway there since they have brought in great bikes like the MatrixIC7 with a console providing the all important data to track your progress. In my opinion in a few gyms I teach at, a specialist cycling class would work a treat.

Don’t get me wrong:¬†I am not about excluding people as in “only¬†outdoor cyclists wearing lycra allowed”. ¬†All that would be needed is a clear indication –¬†BEWARE: you need to know why you are here, you may have 30min in the saddle non-stop, it will be goal¬†focused and as much as it still can be fun it is geared toward achieving specific results at the end of the programme.

So far one gym chain I have spoken to is excited about incorporating a few weeks’ specialised programme that would go along a challenge that they run.

HAVE YOU DONE IT AT YOUR GYM? HAS IT WORKED?

I would love to hear from you if your gym runs any specialised indoor cycling classes. Whether you are a member or an instructor. If you created a programme and managed to get it approved, please share your story.

“Spinning won’t make you fit”. Or will it?

This week I came across an article on one of the forums for indoor cycling instructors: http://www.stack.com/2015/09/16/spinning-probably-wont-make-you-fit-heres-why.

It has caused quite a stir so I decided to respond to it. I will just take out the main points it makes to allegedly prove why indoor cycling will not make you fit as opposed to having a personal trainer and lifting weights.¬†It is based on an interview with a personal trainer Brian Nguyen.¬†He’s¬†not¬†just a¬†PT. He’s¬†“trainer to Mark Wahlberg” which¬†clearly makes him much more of a fitness authority. Let’s dive right into it.

“Spinning is tough. After an hour of pedaling at high speed, you’ve probably left a puddle of sweat on the floor under your bike. (…)The classes are fun, and the routines can easily lead to the assumption that participants get a great workout”.

Anyone who has taken a properly well structured indoor cycling class with a qualified instructor will ask: are we talking about the boutique style “dance-on-the-bike-doing-crazy-stuff” type of class or are¬†we talking about a proper indoor cycling class? Because the latter involves much more and the speed used in these classes¬†is way more controlled.

If however you refer to the classes advertised as a full body workout involving using¬†tiny weights, resistance bands and full of what we call “fluff” then I wholeheartedly agree. But please do not put us all in the same bag.

“Spinning produces similar effects in the body as jogging. (…) Once you finish a spin class, your body no longer burns calories”

Here is where I got really kind of pissed off (my blog, I can say that ūüôā ). He didn’t even say “running”. He said “jogging”. I used to jog. I lost a bit of weight, gained some muscle but I agree, the results were not WOW. Question to FF CJS members who have ever taken Jitka’s, Cheryl’s, Serena’s or my class: would you compare it to 45min of “jogging”?! What classes has this dude taken in his life to make such a statement? The answer is: really bad ones…

If I were to give an “expert opinion” the way he has I would say even a workout with a personal trainer using weights and what not has the same effects. How? If you have a bad trainer who tells you to use weights that aren’t enough to cause an overload. One that makes you follow a programme that’s not tailored to¬†your needs. What kind of PT would do that?! A bad one. Have I ever seen these? Yes, I have.

Now as far as the second part of the statement goes – that the effects of the class finish as soon as you get off that bike? I really question fitness qualifications of that guy. Whatever exercise you choose: rowing, cycling, running etc you can do them at different intensities, with different goals in mind: speed or strength endurance, HIIT, threshold work etc. If every spin class involved pedalling at the same tempo for 60min who on earth would keep doing it?

And I have news for you Brian. You better sit down though and brace yourself: YOU CAN DO TABATA ON A BIKE!

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I am convinced this guy either took ONE class and it wasn’t a good one or is basing his opinions on hearsay. He doesn’t seem to think you can do intervals in a spin class.

Here comes the big one folks:

“Spinning doesn’t build muscle.(…) Cycling never makes your body gain lean body mass, and that‚Äôs the thing that burns fat. At the end of the day, metabolism isn‚Äôt improved on a bike.”

First reference to spinning is already¬†incorrect but Mr Nguyen goes far beyond that and refers to “cycling” in general. I would¬†ask him to check out a few names and relevant pictures of their legs: Marcel Kittel, Chris Hoy, oh hell: Tom Scotto! And I would invite him to watch this (extreme)¬†little clip:

“Spinning doesn’t give individual progression”

It definitely used to be true however you could always test yourself periodically and compare the results. But these days we have bikes with computer consoles and data. We have coaching by colour brought by MatrixIC7 bikes. Please Mr Nguyen, do your research first.

Finally we get to the last one:

“Spinning reinforces common injuries”

Yes, cycling involves sitting, we agree on that. But it is also the best low impact activity next to swimming that actually helps with many health problems and is used in physiotherapy. There is such a thing as bike fitting Brian, and any good instructor will ensure your set up prevents any back or other discomfort. As per the core not being engaged: you need a strong core to be a strong and efficient cyclists even indoors. You¬†may not feel it as much indoors as outdoors but no, cycling is not a “complete full body workout” nor is it claiming to be. If you refer to those “fluff” classes that make that claim – please make the distinction between those and SPINNING or proper INDOOR CYCLING.

To sum up, Brian seems to know his stuff when it comes to what type of exercise gives what effects but clearly knows nothing about spinning/indoor cycling when he says:

“When combined with strength training, spinning may give you that extra calorie burn you need to accelerate fat loss. When done on its own, your results from spinning will likely fall short of your expectations.”

Spinning is all exercise I do. In 2.5 years dropped 3 dress sizes and kept it off. My recent fitness tests show that my cycling performance levels are that of a trained athlete.

So Mr Nguyen, I respectfully disagree.

Testing. Testing 123? I’ve got the POWER! You’ve got WATT? I’ve got the COLOUR POWER!

This is a post relating to the last one from earlier this week: http://spinbella.com/2015/07/28/empower-your-spin-class-training-may-the-force-be-with-you/.

I wrote the last one as I had just tweaked my two existing class profiles to turn the focus in them onto power. I simply adapted them to Coach by Colour on MatrixIC7. Did it mean changing the music or what I was going to do with each of the songs? Not at all. It was about deciding what to say and what NOT to say so as to get the participants concentrate on how HARD they were actually working.

It can be a bit tricky if you are used to teaching using RPMs and RPE scale or even gears estimation, to suddenly have this EXTRA thing to talk about. It can throw you off as an instructor. Why? Because you have your way of saying things, directing people so the workout is still a group exercise class rather than each to their own. And now the bikes have consoles with all those numbers, percentages, zones, symbols like >, <, % and your head starts spinning (no pun intended).

First time I tried to integrate teaching with colours in my usual class I felt it was a mess. The feedback wasn't bad at all but I felt like the class was not up to my usual standards. I felt I didn't have enough time to explain about power enough for it to make sense, and adding just extra information on top of all I normally say was just information overload.

So I decided to take a break. I allowed people to get used to the consoles and setting the colours up if they wished but I wasn't coaching by colour. I would still use only RPMs and resistance. Then I did all the reading and training I mentioned in my last post. And a couple months later – last Tuesday to be exact – I felt ready.

And boy did it work!!! I lead from the colours and kept people focused on the WATTS and how that number was changing and why. I asked them to try and beat their highest number in each consecutive interval (before you bash me there were only 3 in each sequence). The feedback was overwhelming! I loved teaching it and people really worked their butts off. Numbers were reached which I would have never expected to see:

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The main Takeway Golden Tip for instructors: in power focused training RPMs are/can be of less importance. Someone can be riding fast at 90 RPMs while someone else is on 68RPMs and they will both be in the same power zone depending on the resistance. It may look less “synchronised” but if you use Coach by Colour as long as the bikes light up in the colour you asked for, you know people are working as hard as you want them to (yes, you can train certain RPM brackets too but that’s another class).

Don’t get me wrong: I have loads to learn and knowledge is POWER ūüôā but a couple of months ago I simply didn’t know enough about this concept, didn’t understand it well enough to teach with it. But I am on my way. Onwards and upwards.

Now the ball is in your court as training with power only makes sense if you have a benchmark. What am I getting at? YOU NEED TO DO A POWER TEST. You need to know where you are currently at, to set yourself a target you want to head towards so you will know at any point in time where you are on that journey.

If you train on MatrixIC7 ask at your gym when the next ramp test is coming. If you work on any other bikes ask whether any kind of power tests are organised: FTP, PST, ramp tests, anything. If your gym doesn’t run any testing – suggest it. If enough people do, they may put something on.

You need a test to have the starting point and then retest every 3 months.

What if testing is not available? The next “best thing” on MatrixIC7 bikes would be experimenting over the next few classes with your colour zones. If you hit red in the warm up when your breathing doesn’t even change, your FTW number is way too low. If you hit red every time as soon as you stand up, your number is still too low – adjust it. But if you are giving it your 100%, feel like your heart is going to explode and you are panting like a steam train and you are still in yellow – your FTW number estimation was too high.

If you work on other bikes you can still have a go at doing an FTP20 test on a Wattbike.

Work with your instructor. Or even contact me here or via my FB page: Smart Fitness Izabela Ruprik if you want advice.

I am looking forward to my own testing at Cadence which has been put off due to me being ill for the past week. But I will share my experiences when I have done it. The 60s was Flower Power. It’s 2015 and we’re into Colour Power!

Empower your spin class training. May the force be with you!

I first heard the word POWER used in relation to indoor cycling when I had my basic instructor training on Wattbikes. Well, I have heard about power being used on Keiser bikes but I was not taught about how to use it, let alone teach with it.

So I learnt a bit about the concept of using power in your training on a Wattbike but there was an issue here – these bikes are fantastic for training but not so much for exercising. It’s like using an Aston Martin to nip up for milk to the corner shop. I ended up teaching the “old school” way on them: using the RPMs and resistance.

But then a gym where I have regular classes brought in those new shiny bikes that light up in different colours and have the most futuristic name to go with it: Matrix IC7. And the concept of POWER in cycling came up again. Like it or no Izabela – Welcome to Coaching with Colour.

I was a bit sceptical to begin with. There is loads of data that the bike feeds back to you but why would an average Joe be bothered with it? However since the bikes came in a couple of months ago I have done loads of reading, online research, online training and actual 2 day course on training with power in indoor cycling or cycling in general. There is still loads for me to learn but I feel ready to write this little guide directed as much at an average spin class attendee and someone who wants to take their fitness to another level. Or even an outdoor cyclist who may be a bit doubtful how sitting indoors can make them any stronger or better outside.

WHAT IS POWER? In simplest terms related to cycling: it’s your speed/cadence x your resistance/gear. It is measured in WATTS. The number of watts you produce is a MEASURE of how hard you are working. With no consoles you can only guess your speed and resistance. Do you want to see it?

I DON’T EVEN OWN A REAL BIKE SO WHAT DO I CARE ABOUT POWER?
I spoke to Ruth, one of my regulars and now more like a friend, last week in the changing rooms: “Hey Ruth, I haven’t seen you in the class today?”. “No, I had to change my gym routine. You see I started putting on weight again. I can see the change in my body. Cycling doesn’t seem to do it for me anymore. I am doing weight training now”. So Ruth used to do about 5 indoor cycling classes a week. On Tuesdays she would do both mine back to back. What happened then? Has she reached the level of too-fit-for-cycling? No but it is quite simple: we do not appreciate how clever our bodies are.

If from nothing you go to 2 classes a week with the intent of losing weight, you will lose it. To a point. Until your body gets used to your gym timetable. When I kept teaching more and more classes a week: 3-4-5-6 I was constantly hungry but I seemed to be able to eat loads and still lose weight. Now I am on 10 a week and I don’t anymore. Why? Because this is now a regular number. The body knows what is coming and it found a coping strategy. I hit the dreaded plateau. I can see you screaming: WHAT?! 10?! AND NOT LOSING WEIGHT!? I CAN’T DO MORE THEN 10?! And that’s not the way forward. You change the WHAT or HOW and you don’t have to change the HOW MUCH.

Yes, you can change your routine completely and move into weight training but what if you really, really like indoor cycling? You re-focus your training. Do you actually know how hard you are working? Do you know if you are any stronger on the bike than you were 3 months ago? Do you know what your strong and week points are?

NO STRESS – NO ADAPTATION.
Until the bikes with power meters came around we had really no way of measuring any of this. Now we can. Now you can test yourself and retest 3 or 6 months later and see if you got fitter. And by watching the numbers on the consoles and working towards your goals you can still keep the same number of classes a week and if your goal was to do with losing weight – you will keep losing it. I kid you not!

Don’t worry though: this does not only apply to HIIT classes. It doesn’t have to be all out effort each time.

WHAT DOES POWER TRAINING DO FOR ME?
It will increase your muscular strength. It will improve the toning of your legs (hello!). It will improve your cardiovascular fitness overall. It will add variety and motivation to your training: you will know what you are working towards and you will know when you get there. Hell, it will make you a better runner too! I can put you in touch with Russ who takes my classes twice a week and over the last 12 months his half marathon times improved significantly since he added indoor cycling to his fitness routine.

MAKE IT PERSONAL – SPECIFIC
Do you want to get stronger? On the Matrix bikes you keep to your colour zones and pay attention where you are in the zone: lower end or higher end. Maybe you want to get faster? When given an RPM bracket stick to the higher end – you can see your speed in a number format so you can monitor it.

IT ALL SOUNDS LOVELY. IT SOUNDS LIKE LOADS OF FUN. YAY!
DISCLAIMER: NO. IT CAN REALLY, REALLY SUCK. You know me. I tell it as it is. But it will get unpleasant. It will get uncomfortable. You will be panting and sweating more than what you are used to. Exercise can be fun. Training is great fun when you put it into use on a race day or when you achieve your goal in the class by hitting that RPM or that WATT number you were aiming for. A wide grin and a fist pump will come. Later. But not during. It is hard. Your brain will tell you: “Stop now, I don’t like it. Why? WHY? You could have been in a pub right now!” You will leave a puddle of sweat underneath your bike. When given a 2 min recovery song in an exercise class you go: “Oh God, 2min!? Boring! Let me check the view outside…” When you train you go: “Oh, God! 2min?! I need 4. Please, please can I have 2.5?!”.

Now in a group class environment you will always have yourself as the worst enemy. You will have that little devil on your left shoulder saying: “She can’t see you now… She doesn’t know what your goal is anyway… Take a bit of the resistance down… You know you can push 200 WATTS, you KNOW it. You don’t actually have to DO it now… Just scrunch your face so it looks like you are pushing it…” But at the end of the class when you press your SUMMARY button and see those numbers and actually see whether you have achieved your targets you will KNOW you won’t have to GUESS. I don’t need to see it. But YOU will.

WHY THEN? WHY?!
The key is knowing why you are training. You hear me ask this question at the start of many of my classes: “Why are you here? Why are you in an (often) hot studio, willing to sweat next to other 20 people instead of being somewhere nice, relaxing?”. “Why are you training?” is a bit of a broader question that will focus not on that one class but a few weeks or months. In simple terms in any sport you train to be faster or stronger while suffering less in the process. This will not apply if your goal is workout pain: unless you are sliding off the bike after every single class and have to be reminded where the changing rooms are you don’t consider the class good.

But if you want to know where you are at with your fitness, where you can or should take it to become better and you want to see in black and white (or colour) the journey and the results – welcome to the world of training with power.

Are you willing to take on the challenge? I am actually getting a coach myself and will be embarking on this fitness road with you so watch this space. Starting in a couple of weeks!

Meanwhile keep an eye on the next post coming: the importance of fitness testing when training with power.