What the hell – Darren Lee

A band showing brand colours of CicloZone, an indoor cycling app

Now, as an ex cyclist and indoor cycle trainer, the social media content on both Facebook and Instagram can be quite a nauseous place to be sometimes. FB/ Insta or ‘Meta’ (as they call themselves now) seem to think that because I search constantly for all things good in cycling and indoor cycling that they can fire all sorts of indoor cycling dross my way. Now, I know there are different styles of cycling indoors and as much as it drives me crazy to see an instructor dancing on a bike and waving their arms around, whilst flicking their hair side to side, I have to admit that there are people out there that love that s*** and who am I to stop somebody doing something that they love? Although, I am entitled to my opinion, but my opinion, for now, I will keep to myself.

I have however also noticed an increasing influx of so-called ‘Power Zone’ instructors demonstrating their cycling prowess on my Facebook and Insta feeds. Now, that is a totally different kettle of fish. As soon as you start dealing with power, you find yourselves in shark infested waters and the ability to swim in those waters is granted ONLY if the instructor is teaching with at least a modicum of knowledge about the subject. Creating session profiles based on training zones and asking a cyclist to deliver power at certain intensities firstly means that your intention is to physically train and improve the performance of your riders and this means you must surely know all about FTP, Metabolic Physical Cost, Energy System Development and Recovery and finally you need to know the limits…!! Right??

Now, if I really wanted to destroy someone on a bike, I could do that with around 8 mins from first pedal stroke, to a point you wouldn’t want to cycle any more. And if I wanted you to be ‘finished’ at the end of a 45 min class or a 90 min session, then I could do that too in the last 4 mins of each session, but what about the rest of the time? And what about the training?  A cycle instructor is not here to finish, or destroy anyone on a bike, as this is a surefire way to empty your class super quick as well as possibly hurting someone in the process. An instructor is there to train, support, guide and motivate a rider to achieve the training levels preset in the session being taught designed to deliver certain specified improvements if ridden at the correct intensity and RPM. Those training levels could be totally Aerobic and Strength based, they could be Aerobic and Speed based or a mixture. The session may be Threshold Level Training of mixed RPM, or Supra-Threshold Anaerobic or Aerobic and maybe it’s a class simply designed to promote recovery. In amongst all this variety of performance intervals, I have to understand the complex subject of Active Recovery. Will I include deep recovery, free recover or, shallow recovery between performance intervals and how long do these recovery intervals need to be to optimise fitness recovery?

All of these session variation decisions made when designing and profiling a class are made with physiological knowledge of the human body on a bike and its ‘Limits’!!! and this where the problem lies. Too many times I’ve seen profiles created by ‘Power Instructors’ using Intelligent Cycling or Stages Studio asking the class to spend 50% of a class session in the red zone. I mean WTF, if you have ever spent 60 second in your true red zone you will be aware how much this takes out of your body, or even yellow zone recovery after red zone intervals, it’s nuts, this isn’t painting by bloody numbers here, those coloured zones actually mean something. We aren’t making pretty patterns on a screen. Why on earth would you want to ask a class of spinners to stay more than 60 seconds in a Red Zone interval, let alone 5 mins, which I have seen! 

The problems are multiple when you start teaching in this fire and brimstone kind of way. Firstly, if you are a tentative newbie to indoor cycling, most likely, after being physically broken by the bike and the session you won’t return for a second helping. Secondly, to even finish a class, riders will reduce their FTP in their training apps to show the correct colours on their ride analytics even though they are not even close to riding their true power zones meaning they might as well be making this s*** up as they go along, or worse, you might as well be doing a Peloton class. Thirdly, if you do happen to have anyone in your session who knows the first thing about Power Zone cycle training then your credibility has just been blown out of the water, especially if they are the vocal type wanting to discredit the ‘Fitness Professional’ at the front of the class. 

I love the fact that the COVID lockdown grew the indoor cycle market exponentially and I love that so many people are tuning in to online sessions, virtual classes and transitioning from non connected riding to Power or HR zone sessions to further the effectiveness of the hours they dedicate every week to themselves. But for Chris’s sake if you are going to take the helm and create your own sessions for yourself or maybe deliver them online or in a studio or club for your adoring public, then please either take a reputable power training course, or at the very least read ‘Training and racing with a power meter’ by Andrew Coggan, Phd and Hunter Allen to learn the ‘Limits’ of your riders. Better still, simply ride with CicloZone where every session is created profile first to optimise the training and the music is added second and instructor egos are firmly left at the door.  

Only when you know the ‘limits’ will you be able to take your class beyond them…

Training and Racing with a Power Meter https://amzn.eu/d/hx6l774

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