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The new year is a perfect opportunity to make some changes on the indoor bike. Be honest, when was the last time you consciously changed the way you ride? Outdoors, the elements create unique conditions to which your body must respond. Indoors, there is the option to simply turn down the resistance, pedal fast and claim victory.
Try one or more of these new Year’s cycling resolutions:
Improve Cadence Efficiency--Don’t Simply Pedal Fast
The Lance Armstrong ‘era’ of cycling introduced high cadence to American audiences. Armstrong’s 90+ cadence, even on climbs, was a dramatic contrast to his closest competitor Jan Ulrich. Ulrich was more of a grinder--utilizing big gear andslower cadence.
When choosing a preferred cadence, research shows cyclists pedal too fast. The gratification of breathless efforts should be rewarded. More important is the work one does beforehand. The ability to start a three or four minute surge with adequate resistance while pedaling effectively at a lower cadence, is important to sustaining long efforts. Everyone is tired the last 30 seconds. You earn your keep by working prior. Find a happy place as you pedal 65 - 80 RPMs.
If pedaling slow is an issue, you will need to train your legs to move faster. One approach is to check your average cadence halfway through class and commit to ending class with a higher cadence. After a month, move the transition time to 15 minutes into class. If your bike doesn’t have a computer, pedal ahead of the beat. This will get your legs moving faster.
Learn More About Your Heart Rate -- Get a Fitness Tracker
Sweat is not a metric. Some studios even withhold the fans to ensure everyone is sweating. A fitness tracker, especially one with a cycling mode, provides insight into your workout. TomTom Spark 3, Apple Watch, Wahoo Tickr X and the Moov Now are all solid options.
A personal favorite, the Whoop band, worn by many top athletes including LeBron James, was endorsed by Bicycling Magazine as the go-to fitness tracker. The Whoop band also tracks heart rate variability (HRV), an insightful stat when it comes to recovery.
Photo Credit: Reviews.com
Take a Back to Back Class
Indoor cycling is not a sitcom. In 30 minutes (22 without commercials) television can neatly wrap up a sitcom episode. It takes 15-20 minutes for your body to just warm-up on a bike. Several studios in the DC area offer 60 or 90-minute classes including Soul Cycle, Equinox, and Wired Cycling. Hydrate wisely and see what you’re made of by taking longer classes to really push harder in the new year.
Mix in Some Steady State Efforts
High-intensity intervals are all the rage. That breathless feeling is the ultimate reward for some. The extended recovery needed as well as the tendency to under pedal to survive the duration (often dubbed zone 3 syndrome) are negative tradeoffs for that breathless sensation. Steady state intervals take the peaks out of your workout and ask for extended effort. Indoor Cycling Group Master trainer James Lamb shared his HR data to illustrate this phenomenon:
Photo credit: James Lamb
Try Different Instructors and Studios
Of course, your favorite instructor gets you going and plays the best music. But can you deliver similar results with someone else in front of the room? The ability to self-motivate is an important step for any athlete. Positive self-talk, effective use of imagery or even willful neglect are all tools for success on the bike. Get out of your comfort zone and try a new instructor, new class format or even a new studio.