As I’ve previously discussed, a group of us recently hired a personal trainer to jump-start our cycling fitness. There were eight of us with varying goals, with about half of us training for Mount Mitchell. The unofficial leader of this group named us ‘The Great Eight’ and programmed the class to tear us up and make us stronger.
I have participated in a number of gym classes, ranging from full body, spin, core, etc. Nothing has even remotely compared to this. The class is, simply put, a beast. The workout I get in 1.5 hours makes me feel nearly as chewed up as I would after climbing Mount Mitchell. When I get finished I am literally drenched in sweat and find it difficult to climb stairs. It definitely has succeeded in tearing me up. We’ll see how much stronger it makes me.
We start the class with foam rollers. These things are flat out amazing and have helped me so much. I have already bought one for the home and use it regularly after workouts. Our trainer, Michele, will focus on a specific muscle. One week we worked on calves. We have worked on glutes and IT band at other times. Some of these spots are tender, but it still feels amazing, like a good, deep massage.
We then move on to lower body circuit training. This can be a number of exercises and she splits the class up into small groups to alternate on machines. I tend to get the leg press, walking lunges, split squats and occasionally step ups. These are all tougher than your garden variety exercises as we add weights or different postures. The idea is to warm up and exert the muscles at the same time. This period lasts about 5-10 minutes.
The real beast of an exercise comes next. This gym is on the bottom floor of a 5-floor building. She has us run up the stairs a few times. Sometimes we take one step at a time, sometimes two. Sometimes we bring weights or a medicine ball. The last time we went up once with weights. I chose two dumbbells of 17.5 lbs each. After a couple of climbs we had to raise one above our head. Ugh. When we reach the bottom floor after the climbing is done, we do wall squats in the hallway. These hurt. The last time she had us alternate by sticking one foot out while maintaining the squat. We did this a couple times for each leg, holding it out for 10-20 seconds. Ouch. Tough to do.
Up next comes the spin bikes, where we spend the majority of the class. In the first week we determined our v02 max and perceived exertion, which we have used as a benchmark in future classes. We’ll quickly start putting on the pressure by increasing the max and pedaling faster. We all wear heart rate monitors so there is no hiding or laying low. She begins by having us simulate climbing. Once we reach a smooth climb and our heart rates rise, we will perform intervals. She will have an over and under period. The idea is that during the over the climb pitches upward or we have to work harder to conquer it. During the under period we are still climbing, but not nearly as hard. After about eight minutes of this we recover and then do another set or two of these.
At the end of the workout we’ll do our last intervals. She’ll have us crank up the resistance and try and go faster and faster for two minutes at first. Then we’ll recover and do the same for 1:45, then 1:30, and so on until the workout is complete.
A couple weeks ago I was feeling stronger than usual and had trouble getting to my heart rate zone. Some days are like that for me, not sure why. In order to get there, I had to crank the resistance way, way up! I ended up maxing out the resistance and continuing there for the first and longest. I could barely push the pedals, managing just a miniscule cadence. With every revolution, my quads would scream at me. My heart rate shot to my target and beyond. That may have been the hardest I worked out on any bike, spin or real.
Afterward we stretch. That is one area that I’ve almost completely neglected as a cyclist. I had no idea how helpful it would be. I also found out that I’m a pretty flexible guy. She leads us through a number of stretches for about 10-15 minutes. This helps with recovery, but I am still spent after the routine.
The problem with some of these workouts is that they are so intense that they leave me sore for a few days. They happen on a Thursday and the after-effects will often bleed into the weekend. I definitely felt it when climbing Caesar’s Head last weekend. In hindsight, this class might have worked better earlier in the season where it would not intersect with outdoor workouts. This would be the ideal training program for the cold winter months (not that we’ve many this year).
We have four weeks left, including a recovery class next week. The last three are going to take place after daylight saving’s time and when I’ll be making trips to the mountain. I may back out of these, or at least only attend if the weather outside doesn’t cooperate. Either way, this has definitely been worthwhile and will give me ideas for the future.