If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. Izabela’s 50 Class Cycle SMART Challenge is back!

The weather in London has been gorgeous this week but I cannot deny the fact that when I get up and walk to the gym for my two morning 6:45am classes it is pitch dark. And we know things will only get worse. The temperature will drop, the heating in the house will come on and it will get harder to make yourself go to the gym especially if you are not training for anything in particular.

That’s why last year, inspired by a post from a fellow instructor on one of the online forums, I organised Izabela’s 50 Class Cycle SMART Challenge. It was such a success that we are doing it again this year! I only started mentioning it this week in my classes and I already saw the word spread on Twitter.

10392308_359940747518545_2614791531161610433_n[1]

Izabela’s 50 Class Cycle Smart Challenge – what is it about?

The challenge will run from 1 November till 28 February which makes it 120 days. In that time challengers need to complete 50 classes. There are two options here: you can do 50 indoor cycling classes or 25 indoor cycling and 25 any other classes on the gym timetable WITH ANY INSTRUCTOR. It makes 3 classes a week over these 4 months.

Who can take part and how to enter?

Anyone who takes part in my classes, of course but also if you are my FB or this blog’s follower you are welcome. I will need you to: like the FB page Smart Fitness Izabela Ruprik here,  send me a message with your e-mail address so I can send you the progress chart and then follow me on here, FB and/or Twitter. PLEASE NOTE I WILL ONLY USE YOUR E-MAIL TO SEND YOU WEEKLY UPDATES ABOUT THE CHALLENGE. NOTHING ELSE. Once the challenge is over you will not receive anything else via e-mail from me without your permission.

What else do I need?

You will need a SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic & Timely. I provide you with the last one: 120 days. You need to find the rest. It can be related to cycling or not.

Last year’s examples: most press-ups done in 60sec, body fat % loss, run a mile without stopping etc. or simply actually do 3 classes a week! It can but doesn’t have to be weight loss related. You will write that goal down and prove to me you have achieved it at the end.

Now all challengers who train on bikes with power (FF MatrixIC7 users) or those who have access to a Wattbike – I will need you to take FTW/FTP or any of the shorter tests before the challenge starts, around 60 days into the challenge and at the end.

You will get a progress chart that you will have to fill in ticking off all the classes as you go along. You will submit it to me at the end of the challenge.

How is it going to be monitored?

You will get support from me and other challengers at the gyms, on social media, via e-mail and even txt messages if you wish. Now, we are all grown up and this challenge is about you achieving a goal that YOU choose so I believe that if you say you have done a class, you have done it. I will not be asking you to have your chart signed off by your instructor 🙂

What if I already do over 3 classes a week?

Good for you! You can still take part, of course. Last year Tony has completed around 150 classes in that time if I remember correctly. Think about your goal: maybe there is a class you were thinking of trying out but there was always an excuse? Do it now. Make yourself do yoga or Pilates once a week. Talk to me and we will come up with something 🙂

Why is it that long? There is Christmas in the middle too!

I know, 4 months. Long time. But with constant support from me and other challengers it goes fast. It gives you time to modify your goals if needed. It will keep you going throughout winter. And if you succeed, by the end of it taking 3 classes a week will be a norm for you and you will have changed your lifestyle for better. Christmas? You know it’s coming. You know when. Plan for it!

What if I run outside every week? What if I swim at my local leisure centre?

Full terms and conditions will be posted on FB closer to the date. There is a way of “converting” a run into a tick on your chart. I will also be sending T&Cs out by e-mail.

What is in it for me?

What, apart from getting fitter, stronger, achieving your goals and getting motivation throughout the dark months? Last year there were mugs, T-shirts, calendars and hoodies for the winners!

10300864_420975674748385_3086416241757499264_n[1]

What do I do next?

Think about your goals – make sure they are SMART!

If you want to lose body fat% or inches off your thighs or waist or weight ask your gym team to help you get these measurements. Boots have the scales that give you body fat % too so you may want to check it out and keep your report. Think about fitting a power test on a bike in the next 3 weeks. Contact me for help 🙂

Follow me on FBhere and send me a message with your e-mail address. I will absolutely need your e-mail. Follow me on twitter @spinbella

If you have any burning questions, please comment below.

Fellow instructors: if you like the idea and want to join me and do it where you teach – please comment or e-mail me iza_lat@hotmail.com. We could make it big!

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:

11694099_477481189097833_7766179013818827299_n[1]

11822814_477481169097835_2786048814718784313_n[1]

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 🙂 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.