Yesterday was my first day on the new spinning program. First off, I am not a spinner. The workouts are nice, but it doesn’t compare to riding the bike or even the trainer. Since I have both at my disposal, I haven’t bothered with spinning too much.
That changed when a friend recommended that a group hire a personal trainer for a cycling-specific 8-week program. At first I was reluctant, but thought I would give it a shot to see what it’s like and support the rest of the group, all of whom I ride with regularly.
The first day began with testing. She first put us all on the leg press machine. We took turns doing a set of weights. With each set, she would add more weights. At the most, we did somewhere around 400 lbs. That is a lot for me. Frankly, I couldn’t have lifted that much a few months ago, so it was nice to see a little progress. That will also be a good benchmark to see whether I improve over the next few months.
Next up was testing our V02 and perceived exertion. V02, as I understand it (and I might not), is the dividing line between aerobic and anaerobic athleticism. The latter is when the body is performing at a highly effective metabolic level, pretty much chewing through fat and energy. It is a hard level to achieve and even harder to sustain over a long period of time. This test was not completely scientific where I would get number readings, but I would get a pretty good idea through my heart rate when I crossed over into anaerobic territory.
We began by measuring cadence, finding the suitable resistance and spinning at high intensity for 8 minutes. I was watching my heart rate closely, which at first was hardly moving. Sometimes it takes me a little while to warm up and that’s what happened here. I ended the session around 164, which is good, but nowhere close to what I can get on a bike. I assumed this was just a limitation of the spin machine. My perceived exertion was around a 5 out of 10.
The next phase was recovery. We spun easily at a lower level for around 10 minutes. I recovered fine, getting to around to a comfortable 120.
For the last phase, we pushed it even further. My heart rate shot back up to the 160s and I noticed the sweat begin to pour off me. Now it was working. As I continued, my quads began to burn a little bit just like they would on a tough climb. I kept at it and my heart shot through the 170 level and kept going. I reached a comfortable level of 177-178 and stayed there for awhile. In the last two minutes I pushed a little harder, the sweat continuing to flow, and ended the workout at 180.
According to the standard calculation (220-age), my max target heart rate should be 181. So this shows I’m probably right on target. My heart rate has gotten even higher on some of the tougher climbs, even peaking over 200 for Sassafras Mountain. That’s probably right around my true maximum.
The good news is this means I’ve probably been in the anaerobic category for a lot of the tougher climbs when I hit 175-180. That’s a level I can handle for short periods, but probably not an extended period of time. My cruising heart rate should be around 165-170. That will help me immensely on climbs, as I can keep my cadence and effort level right around that rate. If I decide to push a little harder for a short period, I’ll know how far I can go and when to let up.
Getting some results has quickly changed my mind about spinning. I’m looking forward to continuing. We’ll be simulating climbing, doing intervals, and getting pretty intense workouts from here on out. It may not be apples to apples with the road bike, but it will unquestionably improve my cycling ability.