Mortal Kombat Cycling Mix – High Intensity Intervals (45 min)

22 10 2013

fall_bike_rideI’ve been thinking about high intensity interval training (HIIT) for a long time, but I wasn’t sure how to incorporate this wildly effective training tool into my classes.  Short, Tabata-style, intervals would have the working part of the ride over in 8 minutes… but my shortest class at the gym is 45 minutes long.  So I explored longer intervals, like 60 seconds on/60 off – which I’ve been doing for years – but mulled over the coaching aspect.  HIIT works best when exercisers push hard on their limits.  Seriously hard.  The working interval has been described as “extremely unpleasant”, “feeling like you’re about to puke”, and “feeling like you’re going to die.”  How could I motivate riders to go to such a brutal place in an indoor cycling class?  How could I accommodate riders of all levels in a HIIT class?

I was reading the newspaper on Monday (Toronto’s Globe and Mail) and came across this interesting article on HIIT.  The article relates a Queen’s University Study that had “two groups doing a cycling workout alternating 60 seconds hard with 60 seconds easy for eight to 10 repetitions. One group did the hard intervals at 100 per cent of peak power, while the other group used a more moderate intensity of 70 per cent of peak power. Both groups made gains in muscular and metabolic health, but in the most important health marker of aerobic fitness, the high-intensity group gained 27.7 per cent in three weeks while the moderate-intensity group gained just 11.0 per cent.”

Bingo.  I knew just what I needed to do, and I had a pretty good idea of how I’d coach it.  But crap, I didn’t have a HIIT profile in my book of rides.  I decided to turn one of my previous rides into a HIIT ride and chose the ride below, which I put together in response to a request by one of my most stalwart regulars for a Mortal Kombat ride.  I’d run it a couple of times but hadn’t even put it on the blog because, well, it was sort of meh.  Just okay.

And if I am being totally honest?  A lot of my classes lately have been just okay.  I’m working very long hours these days (1.5 FT jobs) and realized on the bike last week that I wasn’t enjoying the ride – my class was just another thing on my to too-long to-do list.  I’d lost my mojo.  I am a perfectionist.  I am not okay with just okay. 

It occurred to me: maybe it’s time to hang up the cycling shoes.  And then: Whoa.  Where did THAT come from?  I’ve never thought about quitting before.  I continued mulling it over on the way home when it hit me: it’s not just indoor cycling.  I’m not enjoying ANYTHING at the moment, because I am working too damn much.

Fortunately, this too shall pass.  The contract that’s got me squeezed (great work, just too much of it) ends on November 30 and life will return to… normal, or something like it.  (Assuming I don’t stupidly say “sure!” to the next shiny penny interesting project that comes along.)  For some reason, knowing why I’d lost my mojo was oddly comforting.

So today I pulled out this just okay ride and my teeny-weeny mojo and the ideas I had about how I might coach a HIIT ride.  I took the class sign up sheet and scrawled “High intensity intervals today!” across the top and I’m pretty sure I ended up poaching three or four riders from the extremely popular aerobics class that runs in the same time slot.

And you know what?  It worked.  By God, it worked.  It was a GREAT ride.  The best ride I’ve done in months.  And I could tell from the sucking wind and spontaneous whoops that my riders thought so too.

Now, the little ride that could is blog-worthy.  Here it is.

Sexual Healing (Original Mix) – Alibi vs. Rockefeller (6:53):  Warm up for the first four minutes while explaining the basic principles of HIIT.  I told the class we were going to do 5x 60 second high intensity intervals today but that to get the maximum benefit, they had to prepare themselves to take it beyond, to something that would feel “extremely unpleasant,” might make them drop f-bombs, “I think I’m gonna puke” territory.  “I want you to hate me when you finish this,” I told them.  Then I made a joke about my CPR being up to date.

I explained that if riders didn’t feel quite ready for “I’m gonna puke” there were still very good gains to be had even if the maximal effort was at 70% rather than 100% and as always, to ride their own ride.

When not working at high intensity, I asked riders to stay between 55-75% of maximum effort – enough to feel they were working but not so hard that it would be difficult to speak in complete sentences.

From 4:00 – 6:15 we moved into a fast flat, and from 6:15 – 6:53 slugged some water and prepared ourselves to begin.

Palladio (Symphony Mix) – Silent Nick (9:44):  Let’s start with a big hill.  (I didn’t say we’d do the intervals right away).  Hill first.  From 0 – 2:45 a standing climb; 2:45 – 3:10 break; 3:10 – 5:10 seated, heavy climb; 5:00 – 5:25 break; 5:25 – 6:45 standing climb; 6:45 – 7:20 seated climb; 7:20 – 9:20 standing climb; 9:20 – 9:44 recover.  Ha!  I distracted you with intervals and snuck in a 9 minute hill.

Control – Traci Lords of Juno Reactor (6:27):  Our first tune from the Mortal Kombat soundtrack.  A bit more recovery from 0 – 0:27, then let the high intensity intervals begin: 3x 60 second intervals with 60 seconds for recovery in between.  With the explanation I’d given, I could tell that the riders really were digging deeper, pushing harder, looking for that extremely unpleasant place.

At 6:15 we fell back to ride easy and suck wind until 6:27.  I checked in with them.  Did they get to that place?  I saw nodding heads.  I asked them to take as much time as they needed and join me when they felt ready to work again.

Jump (Malinchak Dub Mix) – Flo Rida (7:01): Jumps on a hill: 8 counts from 0 – 2:53, switching to 4 counts from 2:53 – 6:30 and moving to recovery from 6:30 – 7:01.  Remember, nothing over 75% here.  The hero stuff comes later.

Juke Joint Jezebel – KMFDM (5:16):  Another Mortal Kombat tune and a combo-drill: two standing climbs, two seated flats.  Climb from 0:15 – 1:15, seated flat from 1:15 – 2:15, back to climbing from 2:15 – 3:15, and a second flat from 3:15 – 4:15.  From 4:15 – 5:15 you could do a third standing climb, but if you’re heading in to the last two high intensity intervals, I’d take it for recovery and preparation.

Theme from Mortal Kombat – Utah Saints (3:00):  Two more high-intensity intervals: 60 seconds on, followed by 60 seconds off, and a final gruelling 60 seconds on.

Going Wrong – Armin van Buuren (5:36):  Cool down.  I told the class that while HIIT feels AWFUL while you’re doing it, many people say that once they’re done, they feel like a million bucks.  (“Like I just had a big poo!” one of the riders at the front volunteered.)  I wasn’t quite sure what to do with that little tidbit of TMI so I just thanked them for riding with me (I always do) and said I hoped they enjoyed the ride.

I got great feedback – more than half the class made a point of stopping to tell me how much they liked it.  And you know what?  I felt like a million bucks for the rest of the day myself.

Are you using high intensity intervals in your classes?  How often?  How many?  How long are the intervals?  How much recovery in between?  What are your favourite songs to use for these intervals?

I’ll leave you with a bit of virtual archaeology.  A Facebook cycling group I belong to recently unearthed this 1995 Youtube gem: a supremely fit Johnny G, sporting a mullet and expounding on his brand new Spinning program.  The excitement from participants at fitness conferences is palpable.  “This is it,” one of them says.  (Look for a cameo by actor Kristin Davis, who was cast as Charlotte in the Sex and the City series in 1998.)


Guest Post: Beautiful Day III Cycling Mix (60 minutes)

30 09 2013

CYCLING-FRA-TDF2013Lisa Goldman has saved my bacon again with this brand-new playlist of kick-your-ass songs.  The profile is oh so simple: three hills and two flats, but then you look a bit closer and discover that hill #1 is more than 15 minutes long, hill #2 is 10 minutes long, and so is hill #3.  Urg.

I am loving this eclectic playlist that veers from rock (Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That) to blues (Black Sheep), from classic (Beautiful Day, The Joker (with a twist)) to brand new on the charts (Safe and Sound, Roar, Applause).  There’s something for everyone here, yet nothing in this ride plays it safe.

I get a lot of questions about how to construct profiles from newer instructors and Lisa has appended the first two versions of this playlist at the end of her post so you can see how it evolved.  As with any artistic endeavour, some of the songs are great for cycling but just didn’t fit with the others on the list (300 Violin Orchestra – check it out); others are good songs, but not as good a fit for cycling as Lisa first hoped.  Notice how the songs move around, how the basic feel of the playlist remains the same even as the songs change.  I also do variations on a theme playlists, but I treat them as one (in other words, I won’t usually pull out the same playlist or any of its variations more than once in a month.)

Massive props to Lisa for sharing this ride.  I’ve got a couple new rides in the can as well – look for those in the next few weeks.

Here’s Lisa:

Over my years teaching cycle I’ve put together many playlists. I used to have a system: each time I came across a song I was sure I wanted to use, I’d purchase it on iTunes and shift it over to a “new playlist in the making” file. It would take me approximately a month of surfing, sifting and listening in order to unearth enough gems to assemble an hour playlist. [Cynthia: this is how I do it, too.]  Although this system wasn’t ideal, it worked well enough and I had a groove, recycling past playlists while building and then integrating a new one every month or so. … And then came Spotify!  [Cynthia: Curse you, Spotify. When are you coming to Canada?]

Spotify has rocked my world. I’ve been using it for about one year now. I really love it. It’s allowed me to discover and experiment with more music, and vary my playlists more often. But, it’s like drinking from a fire hose for me.  The last few months I’ve gotten overwhelmed, drowning in hundreds of new songs I want to try and dozens of playlists “followed.”  I’ve lost my groove. There’s just not time to be so selective and love every single track I play. I feel a little like I have to relearn how to put together a playlist. I’m now taking more risks, playing music I’m not sure about, testing waters, gathering feedback, and then adjusting playlists as I go.

So, today, I’m sharing a playlist that I actually started putting together way back in the Spring. One of my regulars requested I use “Beautiful Day,” so that was the only non-negotiable in the playlist. I started collecting songs to work with it, but struggled to make it gel. I share this with you, just so other instructors know, sometimes it doesn’t come together that easily or quickly! (I suppose I’m a counter-point to the amazingly prolific and awesome Chris Spins, if you will.) Beautiful Day III, as the title implies, is my third and favorite iteration of this playlist, but versions I & II worked too. (I will post those at the bottom, in case you’re curious to see the evolution, or perhaps prefer some of the earlier versions).

[KEY: song time, total run time; BPM &/or RPM, effort level (easy/moderate/hard/very hard/breathless), Terrain (F= Flat, SC= seated climb, StC= Standing Climb, CH= Combo Hill, J= Jumps),  + & – refers to increase or decrease in gear, ^ or v refers to increase or decrease in cadence.]

Warm Up

1) Janelle Monáe – Dance Apocalyptic 3:26, 3:26; BPM 103/RPM 75-103, Easy-Moderate Flat, gradually increasing intensity until it’s more comfortable to breathe out of your mouth. Cue: strive for smooth, symmetrical pedal stroke. Side note: I first heard this song while listening to NPR. This artist is apparently a favorite of Michelle Obama’s and she’s played at the White House several times, including into the wee hours at the last inaugural ball.
2) Robert Randolph & The Family Band – Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That 3:31, 6:57; RPM 80-90, Fast Flat, moderate – hard, “drafting” and then pulling forward adding a bit of gear (+) and increasing cadence (^) ~10 RPM at :41-10, 1:20-42, 2:05-40. [Cynthia: I think this is my favourite song of the playlist.]

Hill 1

3) U2 – Beautiful Day 4:08, 11:05; 67 RPM -> ^~20RPMs into the 80s. SC hard with v. hard surges, + & ^ at: :56-1:13, 1:40-2:07, 2:50-3:45.
4) Ne-Yo – Let Me Love You (Until You Learn To Love Yourself) 4:14, 15:19; RPM 64, steady hard CH, + :40, :55, St 1:10, +1:25, -S 1:40, +2:05, + 2:20, + 2:30, + 2:50, St to end.
5) Capital Cities – Safe and Sound 3:13, 18:32, ~60RPM, CH mod-hard
6) Gavin DeGraw – Best I Ever Had 3:46, 22:18, RPM 65, CH very hard-breathless, + & St at 0-:36, 1:05-2:09, 2:44-3:26 (30/60/45 with 30sec S in between)

7) Train – Bruises 3:52, 26:10, BPM 103/RPM 80-103, easy-moderate Flat, recover, then surge with a little + or ^ (or a little of both) at :52-1:20, 2-2:30, 3:05-3:40
8) The Goo Goo Dolls – Rebel Beat 3:35, 29:45; RPM 89, mod-very hard Flat. 3 ~25sec “passes” increasing in intensity. +1 & ^10 at :47-1:09, +2 & ^ 1:49-2:16, +3 2:53-3:21. Cue: Remember: your RPMs only show me how fast your legs are moving, not how hard you are working – use your gear, not just your speed to increase intensity (see how that increases as you ratchet up the gear over these 3 intervals.)

Hill 2

9) Gin Wigmore – Black Sheep 3:04, 32:49; RPM 60 mod-hard. + every 30-60, should need to St by end.  [Cynthia: Folks who’ve been wanting more Amy Winehouse or Duffy should check out this New Zealander’s work.]
10) Stromae – Papaoutai 3:52, 36:41; RPM 58+, CH, hard-v. hard, St :48-1:23, 1:55-2:27, 3-3:35. Get to your steepest so far today. Cue: As this gets steeper, the pedal stroke should still look smooth, but it will feel stronger as it comes over the top. Side note: My French speaking students tell me that the lyrics are kind of depressing, but if you don’t know that, it has a great climbing beat!
11) OneRepublic – What You Wanted 4:01, 40:42; RPM 60, v. hard CH. Dig deep and keep adding. I like to give a goal here, visualize a sunset you’re trying to get to the top to see, or something else motivating. Last minute, were you really at your steepest? Add a little more – try!


12) Katy Perry – Roar 3:43, 44:25, RPM 92, easy-hard F. Get “fire” & + at :48-1:20, 1:55-2:38, 2:56-3:39.
Hill 3

13) Duck Sauce – It’s You 3:00, 47:25, RPM 65, Hard, Jumps on Hill  [Cynthia: I had a request for this song last week.]
14) Walk Off the Earth – REVO 3:51, 51:16, RPM 65 with accelerations, CH hard-v. hard. St, then S and “Go!”  :46-1:15, 1:50-2:20, 3:04-3:34
15) Lady Gaga – Applause 3:33, 54:49, RPM 70, Hard-v. hard-breathless, three 40sec “dial in” intervals, where you hold cadence for the first ~15sec, but + enough to get to very hard, then ^ to breathless for the remaining ~25.  :42-:56-1:15, 1:50-2:04-2:31, and 2:45-2:58-3:26.  Cue: This is the last push of the day, give me 3 really good ones. It’s tough, but it’ll be over very soon, so make the most of it and then enjoy the cool down you earned!

Cool Down

Fatboy Slim – The Joker – Edit 3:31, 58:20 [Cynthia: I had no idea that FBS had covered this Steve Miller tune.]
Michael Franti & Spearhead – Life Is Better With You 3:17, 1:01:37
Face – Looking For a Place to Land 4:47
Chiddy Bang – Ray Charles
Fun. – Carry On

Previous Iterations:

Beautiful Day II

Train – Bruises
Robert Randolph & The Family Band – Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That
U2 – Beautiful Day
Ne-Yo – Let Me Love You (Until You Learn To Love Yourself)
The Police – King Of Pain – 2003 Stereo Remastered Version
Jorge Quintero – 300 Violin Orchestra
Lorde – Royals
The Goo Goo Dolls – Rebel Beat
Gin Wigmore – Black Sheep
Stromae – papaoutai
OneRepublic – What You Wanted
Artists Against feat. Hedley, Simple Plan, Kardinal Offishall, Lights, Alyssa Reid, Fefe Dobson & Walk Off the Earth – True Colors (Note: I love this one, but as the teacher, you really have to up to coach them through this. It’s what Julz Arney would call a “Feeler.” When I used it, I allowed the class to recover, then talked a bit about the meaning of the song. It was a fundraiser for an anti-bullying campaign and it encourages us to honor our “true colors.” I asked people to give themselves 30 seconds to think about what their own “true colors” are, what excites them, and to take that energy into the last segment of class, and beyond, into the rest of their day. I had them add gear, as they found that energy.)
Duck Sauce – It’s You
Walk Off the Earth – REVO
Lady Gaga – Applause
Fatboy Slim – The Joker – Edit
Michael Franti & Spearhead – Life Is Better With You
Chiddy Bang – Ray Charles
Fun. – Carry On

Beautiful Day I

Bonde do Rolê feat. Rizzle Kicks – Danзa Especial
Robert Randolph & The Family Band – Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That
Say Hi – Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh
Ne-Yo – Let Me Love You (Until You Learn To Love Yourself)
The Police – King Of Pain – 2003 Stereo Remastered Version
Jorge Quintero – 300 Violin Orchestra
Vampire Weekend – Taxi Cab
The Goo Goo Dolls – Rebel Beat
Gin Wigmore – Black Sheep
Django Django – Default
OneRepublic – What You Wanted
Artists Against feat. Hedley, Simple Plan, Kardinal Offishall, Lights, Alyssa Reid, Fefe Dobson & Walk Off the Earth – True Colors
Pentatonix – Starships
Fun. – Out on the Town – Bonus Track
U2 – Beautiful Day
Fatboy Slim – The Joker – Edit
Chiddy Bang – Ray Charles
Fun. – Carry On

The 70s are That-a-way Cycling Mix (58 minutes)

19 07 2013

70s bikesMy Wednesday night riders have been asking for lots of different genres… most recently a 70s ride.  “Disco?” I asked.  “Half disco,” was the response I got.  So I started working on a 70s ride.  The rule: every song had to come out in the 1970s.  I checked each one on Wikipedia (and in fact, gnashed my teeth over losing a bunch of great tunes that inexplicably came out in 1968 or 1969 and in 1980.)

This ride is half disco, half rock ‘n roll.  Each half features 11 minutes of rolling hills, separated by 9 minutes of (mostly) flat road in between.

Video Killed the Radio Star – The Buggles (4:14): We’ll start by warming up in 1979.  This song will forever remind me of going to the roller arena and skating in circles, hoping the crush du moment would ask you to skate while a disco ball threw sparkles all over the rink.  It cost $2 (most of my allowance) to get in each week but I went anyway.  Pick up the pace by 10% during each chorus.

Mamma Mia – ABBA (3:31):  I’d lose all credibility if I did a disco ride without ABBA.  This one’s from 1975 and it starts us off on 11 minutes of rolling hills.  Come on up out of the saddle and we’ll tweak the tension up/up/up/down/down/down (basically, I coach a resistance change every 15-60 seconds, with the challenge being to ride at a steady cadence over varying resistance.)  Offer the option of a seated climb at any point.

Disco Inferno – The Trampps (3:39):  More rolling hills.  I used this song only grudgingly, as it reminds me of one of my first indoor cycling instructors.  I went to her classes for more than a year.  As far as I could tell, she had three CDs and simply rotated them.  There was not one new song, or new profile, the entire year. (You’d never do that, right?)  This song figured prominently on one of the CDs and I heard it enough for a lifetime back then.

YMCA – The Village People (3:45):  See my comments above about having my street cred revoked if I didn’t work it into a 70s ride somewhere.  This 70s anthem has survived as a wedding reception perennial.

Stayin’ Alive – The Bee Gees (4:46):  Rolling Stone tapped this 1977 hit as #191 for the Top 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  (#1?  Like A Rolling Stone by Bob Dylan.  Really?!?)  It’s perfect for 8-count jumps on a hill (resistance at 8/10).. if you’re badass, take it double-time at the choruses.

Does Your Mother Know – ABBA (3:17):  I’m breaking all the rules including two songs by the same group and the funny thing is, I wasn’t even a fan of ABBA back in the 70s.  (I was more into Billy Joel, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin.)  This one’s a fast, seated flat.  It will feel really good after all that climbing.

We Will Rock You – Queen (2:02):  We transition from disco to rock with another anthem.  This is the seated climb in the middle, to Freddie Mercury’s soaring vocals.

Crocodile Rock – Elton John (3:55):  Back to 1973 for this cheerful ditty that featured in a wedding dance scene in one of my all-time favourite movies, Four Weddings and A Funeral.  This is the other half of the seated flat that we started with ABBA.

Back in the USSR – The Beatles (2:42): This 1976 UK single starts off the second 11 minute segment of rolling hills.  Once again, remind riders that they can choose a seated climb at any point.

You Really Got Me – Van Halen (2:39): Yes, yes, I know the Kinks did it first (1964) but that’s no good to me in a 70s ride, so I used the Van Halen version from 1978.

It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll) – AC/DC (5:02):  Okay, the metal head in me loves that I worked some AC/DC into this ride.  Bonus points for the title.  This tune came out in 1975, only a couple of years after AC/DC formed.  If you’re climbing and minding your own business and you think, “are those BAGPIPES?” yes, yes they are.  According to Wikipedia, the band’s producer encouraged lead singer Bon Scott to take up the pipes for this song even though he’d never played a note on them.  Scott used the pipes during live shows until the following year when he set them down too close to the edge of the stage and they were destroyed by fans.  The band went with a tape recording after that.

Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2 – Pink Floyd (3:59):  We leave the 11 minutes of hills behind and move into some more jumps on a hill, back up to 8/10 and 8 counts again for this anthem for disaffected youth.

Gallows Pole – Led Zeppelin (4:56):  This one was for Ray, one of my regular riders.  It offers 60 seconds of recovery, followed by an out of the saddle climb from 0:60 – 4:40 (or you could do a combo climb/surge, switching up every 45 or 60 seconds.  He was beaming when we finished and I think he won some folks over as Led Zep fans.

The Devil Went Down to Georgia – The Charlie Daniels Band (3:44):  Shamelessly cribbed this sprint-to-the-finish from a former colleague, Fabia, for whom it was a signature tune.  Four seated sprints of 20/35/30/30 seconds at 0:56 – 1:17, 1:32 – 2:06, 2:18 – 2:46 and 3:07 – 3:40.  Year? 1979.  (Whew, that was close.)

Dust in the Wind – Kansas (3:26): This cool down song evokes powerful memories of my early years as a DJ for my high school radio station.  The station didn’t have a lot of money (okay, any money) so we had to spin the same 20 albums over… and over… and over.  I played Dust in the Wind dozens, maybe hundreds of times but it’s just as haunting a reminder of our mortality as it ever was.

I’m a Believer – Neil Diamond (2:43): Taking it back to 1971 for the stretching and goodbye music.  I didn’t appreciate Diamond’s genius as a songwriter until I heard other people covering his songs, which are enormously popular even now in the bars of my home town.  This one has a special place in my heart because I was a giant Monkees fan in the 70s and while Diamond did well with this song, The Monkees knocked it out of the park.  It was the #1 hit of 1966 and the biggest-selling record of 1967, one of fewer than 40 singles to have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.

70s bikes III had fun with this ride and it was great to hear the biggest hits of the decade in one place.  Honestly, has any decade since produced songs with this kind of longevity? 

I didn’t quite manage a song from each year – you’ll notice 1972 and 1974 are missing.  Why’d I put disco first?  My first draft had the rock first but I really wanted to finish up with The Devil Went Down to Georgia and I didn’t want to mix up disco and rock (though a disco v. rock ride would be fun, too).  My next mission?  Another regular rider asked me for 90s boy bands. (I don’t know if my male regulars would tolerate an entire class of 90s boy bands.  I have no idea what I’d have to do to make amends for that.)  I trolled through iTunes for an hour last week and while there are tons of hits from these bands, few of them work for cycling.  Just gonna have to keep looking.  Got any ideas?

A Tour de France Primer

17 07 2013

If you’ve been wondering about the Tour, here is a great overview in one ten-minute Youtube video:

Thanks to guest-poster Lisa Goldman for this one!

Guest Post: A ShLOC (Sh*t Load of Climbing) Cycling Mix

16 07 2013

cyclinguphill1Long-time reader Lisa Goldman from sunny California e-mailed me after my last post (in which I bemoaned my lack of time for blogging) and offered to contribute a guest post.  Lisa first guest-posted for me when I was on maternity leave back in 2010 (check out her original guest post here).  I love her stuff, plus she’s a really good egg, so I jumped at the chance to feature another guest post from her.

The profile involves, well, a sh*tload of climbing.  The playlist is heavy on American indie and alt-rockers but veers into Spanish dance, British house and African beats.  There are also some lesser-known songs from major artists, such as Coldplay, Beyonce and Calvin Harris.  Some of the songs offer numerous options via remixes, including Plage and Acapella.  And for the classic rockers in the group, there’s even a nod to 1978 with Stuck in the Middle with You.

So without further ado, heeerrrreeee’s Lisa!

Lisa:  This March I attended my first Schwinn Education classes at a local SCW Mania fitness conference. I was thrilled to finally get to sample classes from some instructors I’d heard so much about. Most lived up to the hype. Julz Arney & Jay Blahnik were awesome. Mindy Myrlea was hilarious. Gregg Cook’s musckles are very impressive. Keli Roberts – the woman from all those DVDs!, live and in the flesh! I wandered the halls star struck. I took copious notes, and returned home with all sorts of inspiration.

And then I experimented on my classes. I used similar playlists and cues to those I heard at the conference. And, some went over better than others. Turns out, I’m no Jay Blahnik. Elaborate race day visualizations work great coming from him, but I had a hard time pulling it off with the same urgency & sincerity. And, as much as I adore Julz, I was a poor imitation of her too. Julz did this thing in her classes that made it feel almost like church (or what this Jewish girl imagines church to be like). Without getting explicitly religious, she used cues that prodded riders to be their best both in the class, and beyond. It was utterly awesome when Julz did it, but my classes looked at me quizzically when I tried to emulate it. Mindy’s bawdy humor is totally my speed, but I could get fired for that sh$%^! And, well, my muscles will never match Gregg’s. But Keli Roberts class – that I think I pulled off pretty decently!

KeliRobertsKeli taught a class called ShLOC (Sh*t Load of Climbing). She used some great visualization, and taught a high energy, fun, tough class. But her visualizations didn’t go into quite as much detail and drama as Jay Blahnik’s. This allowed me to replicate it and stay authentic to my (enthusiastic, but less dramatic) voice/personality. I found my classes enjoyed my version of Keli’s ShLOC class the best of all the SCW Mania classes I’ve tried to replicate so far. I contacted Keli ( and she generously gave me permission to share with you my slightly modified version of her ShLOC ride here. Thanks Keli!!! Hope you all enjoy!


Warm up:

  1. Plage – Crystal Fighters (3:51)
  2. Lonely Boy – The Black Keys (3:13)

Seated flat, 75-90 RPM, gradually adding gear, moving from easy to moderate work. You’re going to do a lot of climbing today; it’s going to be a challenging ride. Check out who your competition is. Think of someone you’re incredibly competitive with (on the bike, or just in life). Today I am that person.

By the end of the warm up you should be at a challenging but comfortable intensity. It should feel more natural to breathe though mouth. You’re in the comfort zone, but it shouldn’t feel easy (it’s tempting to confuse comfortable with easy, so pay attention, there’s a difference!).

Stage 1: Short hill followed by a False Flat

3.  Lonely Lonely – The Belle Brigade (2:40):  Combo Hill, Hard, 70-80 RPM

On this first short hill the pack always surges. People fight for position. Build wattage by adding gear, enough so that you need to stand about halfway up, finishing this hill with your highest wattage (or hardest effort if you don’t have a computer tracking wattage).

4.  Hurts Like Heaven – Coldplay (4:03): Seated Flat, Moderate-Hard, 80-95 RPM

Fast section. I am your nemesis and I’m going to surge. Should feel a little uncomfortable by now (if not -> add gear). Ask yourself: Do I feel uncomfortable? Close to breathless? Picture us as a pack, heading up a false flat. We’re about to turn onto steepest part. At the end of the song the pack slows, grab water.

Stage 2: Long hill followed by a Flat with a Paceline

5.  Ring the Alarm (Freemasons Club Mix) – Beyonce (8:34): Combo Hill, Hard, 60-70 RPM

This is a winding climb, with a hard steady pace. Come out of the saddle periodically for “switch backs” when it gets a little steeper. The upper section (~last 2 minutes) is the steepest part. The front of the pack has pulled away a little bit. You and I are in the middle. Is that good enough? No! My goal is to get to the top first. Your goal is not to let me.

Add and Stand to attack. Look at wattage. Each time Attack -> Add & Stand. Each time you see me do it, you have to stay with me.

There’s gonna be a regroup. Recovery in a minute – hang on! [Insert a mini recovery at the end of this song and/or beginning of the next]

6.  The Brazilian – Dirty Vegas (3:54) Combo Hill continues, Hard-Anaerobic, 60-70 RPM

I think you came close to beating me on that last hill section, but I don’t think you did. Not quite. So go ahead and surprise me. Attack right now. 3.5 minutes super steep. Your chance for pay back. I got you on the last one. Zone 3, not breathless, but ALMOST.

I’m hanging on your wheel pretty nicely. You’re going to have to do more, something exceptional to drop me. Stand up!

In the last 30-45 seconds of the hill, take it back in the saddle and accelerate! Drop me off your wheel! Come on go! Done, you’re at the top.

7.  Into Action – Tim Armstrong (3:42): Seated Flat, Mod-Hard, 70-85 RPM

Take a break, and then shift “into action” with a paceline down the hill. Do some drafting & pulling. When drafting, watts drop ~30.  Do about 3 rounds of 30 seconds on/off, don’t drop wattage too much and lose me. [recover at end of song]

Stage 3: Long set of Rolling Hills & Climbing

8.  Thinking About You – Calvin Harris, Ayah Marmar (4:08): Rolling Hills, Hard, 60-75 RPM

Steep climbing and rolling descents. Pack attacks on the descents. I’m right in front of you, you’re pacing off me.

On 1st roller I beat you. See if you can beat me on the 2nd.

9.  Stuck In the Middle With You – Stealers Wheel (3:24): Rolling Hills cont., Hard, 60-75 RPM

Two more summits on this section.  You’re “stuck in the middle.” Try to break away! First summit, you got me.  Second, I got you. Even again.

10. Rumor Has It – Adele (3:42): Last set of Rolling Hills, Hard 60-75 RPM

Roll/accelerate on the chorus when the music picks up. A little less aggressive here. Save a little extra for the last song (& summit) on this climb, coming next.

11. Acapella – Kelis (4:08): Combo Hill, Hard-Anaerobic, 60-75

One more summit. Get back on hill. 1 minute away from top, add and St & GO. Get me to the top of this hill. You did it. We’re even, Steven.

Stage 4: Flat with some Passing, Finishing with one last quick Hill

12. Gang of Rhythm – Walk Off the Earth (3:35): Seated Flat, Hard-Very Hard

Paceline. Add enough gear and accelerate enough to take you into very hard work.  Accelerations “c’mon everbody” at :48-16, 1:44-2:11, 2:33 & 2:46-3:22. On recoveries, take care not to drop too much and lose my wheel. Also careful not to get breathless when you pull. Are your watts close to last paceline? That’s what we want, nice strong push. Strong wattage, not breathless.  Recover at end of song and into next song.

13. Shosholoza – Overtone & Yollandi Nortjie (3:30): (but ends at 3:00) Seated Flat with one 30 second acceleration/sprint/pass.

You know you have one more short hill up ahead. It’s very narrow, and you must get yourself in position in front of me on this flat before you get on that hill. You have one chance to pass me, and it’s a 30 second interval at: 1:23-55. Get enough gear on that when you accelerate for those 30 seconds, you get breathless.  *Note: the version I have for this song is from the live version, and it erupts into applause at 3:00, so be prepared just to advance to the next song.

14. Cups – Anna Kendrick (2:07): Combo Hill, very hard, 60-70 RPM

Add gear. Stand :30-1:00, add one more time and Stand ‘til the finish 1:35-53.

Side note: I really like this Cups song (Anna’s version in the Pitch Perfect movie is so cool:, but it might lack the punch you want to end your class with. Two other short climbing songs I’ve used here, that might work better for you are: Bang it Out – Baby Bee (2:37) & Before the Light Takes Us (Original Mix) – Darkness Falls (2:34).

Cool Down:

15. Ruin – Cat Power (4:33)

16. Love Love Love – Tristan Prettyman (3:26)

Thank the riders for their hard work!

Thank you Lisa, for contributing this ride!  I am going to use it on Thursday with my lunch class.  (I teach most of the same folks on Tuesday at lunch so I told them about your ride today and they’re primed to climb.)  If you’d like to read Keli’s original notes for this class, just Google ‘Sh*tload of Climbing’ and they’ll pop up in PDF form as the second link.

I was fascinated by Lisa’s observations on adopting successful strategies of master instructors.  The bottom line? No matter how awesome the strategy or presenter is, you’ve got to be you.  It only works if you’re being 100% yourself.

A Road to Ride On Cycling Mix (60 minutes)

14 06 2013

roadtorideonOkay, I’ll cop to it: I work full-time, I teach three cycling classes a week, I have a husband and a preschooler at home. I have zero free time. Oh blog, I have thought about you so often. Many times I’ve had the computer open and fingers poised over the keyboard only to be drawn away. So here it is, going on midnight, but I’m awake and I have a new ride  that I really want to share.

From time to time I’ll put together a ride with a focus on one particular movement: climbing, jumping, sprinting.  This one is all about the seated flat.  I love standing climbs and I find that sometimes plain old seated flats don’t get enough attention in my classes but I have been absolutely loving this ride.

The profile is simple: six seated flats alternated with something else.  Each seated flat has a purpose. The music is almost all brand-new stuff that’s come out in the month or two. Geeky indoor cycling instructor bonus points for using songs with titles about roads or riding, right?

A Road to Ride On – Joshua Radin (3:03): Warm up perfection, this. Zach Braff called Radin, “the new Paul Simon” and he’s not far off.  Peppy, energetic, all good things here.  “We’ve been waiting, anticipating, your arrival…. Turn the lights on, give us road to ride on…” Thanks to Chris over at Chrispins for this one.  If you haven’t been over to her blog, you must check it out. She is incredibly prolific and uses awesome music.

Crazy Kids (feat. – Ke$ha (3:49): A smooth transition into a standing climb with 1 minute each at the intensity of 7/10, 8/10, 9/10.

Hey Boy Hey Girl – The Chemical Brothers (4:50): This one is from reader Ian, and it is magnificent.  The first of six seated flats, this one has two purposes. First: practicing a round pedal stroke. I ask riders to focus first (20-30 seconds) on the downstroke, on trying to make it round. Then we focus on the scrape across the bottom of the pedal stroke, like scraping mud from a shoe, and finally on the upstroke. Then we put it all together into a round pedal stroke. I ask them to think of a pencil attached to their ankle making circles as they ride and we ride for a minute or two, then do a cadence check.  I ask riders to hold a hand over one knee so that the knee touches their hand as they ride, then I will call time and we’ll count (silently) how many times our knee touches our hand.  I used 30 seconds but you could also use 10 (x6 for RPM), 15 (x4), 20 (x3) or 30 (x2).  Everyone should be between 80-110 RPM for seated flats.

I have heard that the RPM program goes higher than 110 RPMs.  One instructor told me she goes to 140 RPMs and I don’t know if the program permits this or if she’s doing it on her own.  I’m not overly worried if an experienced rider goes somewhat over 110, provided they’re always in control of the bike and not the other way around, but I have trouble believing many riders can be in control at 140 RPM on an indoor bike.  You can use this song to demonstrate the need for adequate resistance to maintain control: get riders to take all the tension off and they’ll see immediately how the bike starts driving them along so they can know to avoid this.

A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got) – Fergie, Q-Tip & Goonrock (4:01): Love this new track from the Great Gatsby soundtrack. Time for some 4 count jumps on a bit of a hill – resistance at 6/10.  Throw in a resistance increase half-way through for those who didn’t quite put enough on the first time.

This is What it Feels Like (feat. Trevor Guthrie) – Armin van Buuren (3:23):  Second seated flat, a chance to close your eyes, zone out, and let it be just you and the bike. I tell riders I am not going to chatter, I will only talk to call out the minutes (1, 2, 3) and offer them the chance to make alterations at that time if they wish.

Down the Road – C2C (3:27): 30 blessed seconds for recovery and a swig from the water bottle, then it is on to 8 count jumps on a hill – 7/10 or 8/10.  Get riders to push the tension up until they can really feel the hill before starting with the jumps. C2C is a veteran group of French DJs who won the Disco Mix Club World DJ Championship in 2006.  This song hit #1 in France in 2012 and charted in Canada but not the USA.  I love the innovative mix of electronica and R&B.

Snake Food – Safri Duo (6:04): Every time I use this Danish electronic percussion duo, someone asks for the name of the group.  This one’s an irresistible tribal beat to take us through the third seated flat.  It’s broken into two intervals: 2 minutes on, 1:30 for recovery, then 2 minutes on.  The two minute portions are meant to test endurance.  I ask riders to choose a tension and cadence that they aren’t sure they can maintain for two minutes, to try to find that edge where their personal limit is.  I would rather see them overestimate and have to back off than finish the two minutes feeling like they had more to give.  After the first interval I ask: “how’d you do?  Did you find that spot?”  We mop our brows, drink water and ride easy for a bit, then I ask them to decide on how they’re going to tackle the second interval. More resistance? Less? Faster pace? Then we go for another two minutes.  This one and Down the Road both come thanks to the Former Cycling Pingers group.

We Own It (Fast & Furious) – 2 Chainz & Wiz Khalifa (3:48): This one’s on the Fast & Furious 6 soundtrack (which, by all accounts, is actually a decent flick). I am going to parlay my willingness to see it to get my hubby to go with me to Before Midnight when it opens later this month.  Time for a seated climb and another cadence check.  This time, everyone should be between 60-80 RPM.  That should be no problem if they are riding with the music – they’ll hit 60.  I always make a point of telling riders I will never ask them to ride slower than the music (and I never choose a song that will take them below 60 RPM) and if they can’t keep up with the music, they need to take some resistance off the bike.

The Black Pearl (Caribbean Trance Mission) – Scotty (6:39):  More awesomeness from reader Ian.  Start with 30 seconds of recovery, then we’re going into more speed work for this fourth seated flat.  15 seconds on/off, then 30, then 45, then 60 on/off/on.  Unlike the long, two minute endurance flats we did previously, these are short, sharp efforts with incomplete recovery.  Each interval is going to push our heart rates higher than the last.  We’re looking to end up around 95%.  (And if you’re thinking, “hmm, that sounds like the song from the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack,” you’d be right.)

Come On – Andy Hunter (6:40): Why not chase a six minute seated flat with six minutes of rolling hills?  I can’t recall who put me on to Christian DJ Andy Hunter (if it was you, for goodness sake, drop me a comment so I can give you a proper shout out).  If there are mutterings about how you’re mean, a monster, and all that, you can offer a 40 second rest from 3:30 – 4:10, but then it’s back to the hills. Hup!

Girlfriend – Icona Pop (2:51): They’re Swedish, and they’re everywhere this year.  This is a seated flat where we’re going to pull back a bit and take it at about 70% of max effort, just a tad higher than our warmup pace.  Why, you ask?  Mwah ha ha!

Feel This Moment (feat. Christina Aguilera) – Pitbull (3:50):  Start this one 35 seconds in (click on the song in iTunes, then on File/Get Info/Options and put in 0:35 to start).  Jumps: 8 counts for the chorus, 4 counts for the verses.  (The song starts with the chorus.)  If you’re running out of time or have a slightly shorter class (50 or 55 minutes) Girlfriend and Feel This Moment can be skipped.

Take My Hand – Simple Plan (3:51): The last seated flat, and it’s a road race.  This one’s an everything-you’ve-got, head-for-the-finish-line romp.  (Now you know what the maniacal laugh was all about back on Girlfriend.)  Simple Plan is an alt-rock group from Montreal, Canada and this whole song is one great big juicy sprint.

#Beautiful (feat. Miguel) – Mariah Carey (3:23):  Some are touting this as THE song of summer 2013 (and those that aren’t have put their money on Get Lucky). I will confess, I have never been a Mariah fan, but I’ve found myself humming this one more than once.  Sweet, sweet cool down energy.

Get Lucky – Daft Punk (6:10): Now THESE guys really are everywhere this summer.  Could this be the song of summer 2013?  I like the easy disco vibe but I’m not convinced.  Some extra cool down, stretching, and goodbye music.

BikesinyellowroomI’ve had a few small classes lately, classes that are well-attended during the university term but sparse in the summer.  I’ve been using them to learn more names, chat with my stalwart regulars (you know who you are!) and experiment a bit.  One of my experiments involved using a long song The Veldt (8 minute edit) by Deadmau5.  It’s super-versatile, a good fit for almost anything (and how many songs can you say THAT about?)  I had a class with four riders one day and said, “Okay, I’m putting you in the instructor seat.  This song is 8 minutes long and we’re going to switch it up every minute.  Each of you is going to call the shots for two intervals – you choose a drill: seated flat, seated climb, standing climb, or 4 count jumps, and I’ll take it from there.  About 10 seconds before the switch, I’d say, “Okay Pam, what are we doing next?”  We did a bit of everything and man, did they push us!  The only difficult part came when one rider suggested a contraindicated move – figure 8s.  I just said, “hmm, that one’s a bit controversial as there’s a risk of back injury.  Can you pick something else?”  She did, and we did, and the moment passed.

The May Challenge: 25 Habits of Amazing Fitness Instructors

26 04 2013

challengesCame across this post on the uber-cool  How many of these habits do you employ?  (Me? 20/25.)

I have room for improvement on #1 Arrive early (I’d be late for my own wedding), #6 Meeting Your Neighbour,  #8 The Signature Catch-Phrase, #15 Encourage Noise, #21 More Eye Contact, #22 Learning Everyone’s Names. (I keep a note on my iPhone with names and descriptions and facts about regulars in each of my classes, but I still struggle with names for all but the most frequent riders. I’ve seen instructors who ask everyone’s names at the outset of a class and remember THE ENTIRE CLASS after one go.  This week I had a former regular rider who hadn’t been to my class since last summer.  I greeted her when she arrived (Catherine!  Great to see you!  and she beamed when I came over to talk with her after class to find out how she’d been.  Names are so important, I wish I was better with them.)

I don’t do #4 Touch People (partly because I don’t teach off the bike – no room to circulate between bikes at my gym but also because not everyone appreciates touch), #7 Curse (though I have told riders that if they’re thinking “When is this bleeping bleeping drill bleeping over?” that they’re exactly where they should be), or #19 High Fives.  I had a small, all-female class this week and mentioned that I’d been thinking about high fives and they unanimously rejected the idea of sweaty palm contact as gross, which is kind of why I haven’t tried it yet.  Those of you who do high fives – how do they go over in your classes?

Here is the May Challenge: choose one habit you need to work on and really go at it this month.  For me, it is going to be learning more names.  (Help!  Anyone have any good strategies?)  Drop me a comment to let me know which of these habits you employ, which you need to work on, and which you disagree with.  If you’re in for the May Challenge, tell us which habit you’re going to work on and report back at the end of May to let us know how it went.

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