Saturday, February 7, 2009

Coach's Corner: Indoor Cycling

From the Newsletter Archives, February 2008:

With Laura Ball, Pure Austin Gym

Crawl out of hibernation and slip on those new shoes for indoor cycling at Pure Austin Gym. It's a great way to get back into Tri Season! Here's why:

Even the most die-hard of us has to train inside sometimes. Some love it, some loathe it, and most of us just consider it a periodically-necessary training evil. You may have wondered from time to time exactly how "spinning" translates into actual racing and riding strength. "Would the guy next to me holding 140 RPM for 60 minutes, who has never mounted a "real" bike on the asphalt, just crush me at a race?"

First, the obvious: indoor training allows you to engage in pre-set intervals without the interruption of weather, traffic, varied topography, bike handling skills, or mechanical concerns. But is it going to make you faster on the road?

The stroke: Most indoor cycling bikes are equipped with a flywheel, which is why the wheel keeps spinning even after you stop pedaling. This means that instead of requiring extra quadriceps action and hip flexor recruitment at the top of the pedal stroke, you actually need less - it wants to go around. Wouldn't it be nice if your road bike wanted to do that too! On the indoor bike, your hamstrings will be more involved in this part of the movement, actually decelerating in a muscular firing pattern, not especially a race-winner, but it still has some merit in assisting cadence and long-term pedal stroke improvement (and we can all use some of that). So, Joe the mad-spinner sweating next to you to the beat of the music at 140 RPM, has adapted to using the added 30-40 lbs of flywheel assistance to keep his cadence fierce! Translation: indoor "spin" bikes can help pedal stroke, leg speed. But don't get too dependent on that flywheel! It's not pulling you up the false flat at your next race.

Race-specific training, especially for the triathletes and time-trialist. Aaah, the joy of lactate threshold intervals in a controlled environment. Good times, and great training for your maximum sustained efforts. Just getting into this "lactate threshold" thing? Then maybe better to focus on the high end of the cadence you want to maintain on the road - while maintaining your maximum desired power, of course. Studies also show that elite time-trialists benefit by adding high power drills into this training mix for performance optimization. You or your coach will know where you are at with this, and can advise you whether or not you want to "turn that knob to the right" or not.

Heavy resistance, low cadence, sprints, and your fast twitch muscles. Good to have them when you need them - especially in the sprint finish. Triathletes probably won't want to be mashing heavy right before they get off to run, to be honest. But having a range of muscular strengths to take you up those hills (and false-flats!) without having to open your mouth to breathe is yet another training opportunity your indoor cycling environment offers.

What about the standing up, sitting down, standing up again (repeat ad nauseam)? It's a good leg workout, some applicability in power development, cross- training, etc. But, to focus on triathlon-specific skills, work more seated. You can even inform your friendly instructor you plan to do so. They'll get it. Standing on an indoor bike is not quite like standing on your road bike. Bummer, cause then we could bounce around with no hands uphill, no problem. However, there is some great core benefit to standing drills on an indoor bike, especially if you minimize the amount you lean on the handlebars. A good instructor will help you focus on the points that are the most like outside and are going to translate to your superior performance.

Other tricks: cadence drills - how fast can you hold that fast spin - now try it no-handed, without bobbling around in your seat (no falling off!), and one-legged drills - we all have one leg that just doesn't want to pull quite like the other one does! Or practice your most uncomfortable (I mean, aero) position for as long as you can take it, then a little longer, and voila! You can jump off the bike and you are done! No turning around to suffer into the wind.

At Pure Austin (the indoor gym for outdoor people!) we have indoor trainers at the ready in the spin area for you to pop that road bike into if you want to keep it even real-er. And some rollers available too, for the brave of heart. A high proportion of our cycling instructors are in fact road-racers or triathletes, so they like to keep the classes real, and minimize the drills where you are left wondering, "what course is this guy on?"

See you on the bike!

Learn more about Pure Austin Gym...

What's your favorite Spin workout?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Spinning students should always have at least one hand on the bike. There's no hands-free Spinning.