If you're very lucky, you may be able to catch sight of the Stages Indoor Cycling International Man of Mystery or - as he is known by his UK fans - Coach Trouts. A guy that spends more than half the year travelling the globe coaching Stages Indoor Cycling audiences, he packs more than a flash title and air miles.
Known the world-over for his up-front approach to coaching, real talk, and solid programming know-how, it was time for a one-on-one of his own.
Working at his new fancy digs: The Rooftop bar at The Ned Hotel, Bank, London, She just sat down next to him. [Ok. It was a Pret in Victoria. Go with the illusion.]
IMoM: I hear you wanted to talk to me. I saw your message in the personal ads in the Evening Standard.
Agent TPN: Yes! We want to do a follow-up piece from our interview with Pat Warner. Are you ready for that?
IMoM: Naturally. A very easy act to follow.
Agent TPN could detect a slight nervousness from IMoM. Was it the pressure of following Pat? The fact he was out in the open and in sunlight rather than in an indoor cycling studio? Or just the affect Agent TPN was having have on him. Very Lois Lane v. Superman. Either which way, they got to it:
THE BENEFITS OF A STRUCTURED SESSION.
Agent TPN: Last month, Pat Warner, Vice President at Stages Cycling told us: ”The biggest benefit of riding indoors is the opportunity to get the most out of a structured session.” We thought every indoor cycling class has a structure?
IMoM: Yes. You would hope most indoor cycling classes have some sort of basic structure, like warm-up, main ride and cool down, but it’s the main section of the ride which sometimes lacks structure. I’ll elaborate.
We can break indoor cycling classes down into two categories:
1. A workout: a period of physical exercise or training, e.g. 45-minute aerobic workout
2. A structured ride where the class has and manifests a clearly defined structure or purpose
A workout has you working in numerous training zones for varying periods of time. It is ultimately a 'jack of all trades, master of none’ session. The sole goal is “just ride”.
A structured workout wants you to master one discipline, e.g. one training zone and contains longer intervals or repeat blocks of work.
Agent TPN: Oh a structured workout sounds quite boring - I want my music to dictate the ride. I want to have fun.
IMoM: Of course, and having riders come along and just exercising is crucial, and a ride CAN just be a workout. In today’s current climate, we need more people to move than ever. But if you just work out, whilst you'll get some rewards initially, eventually you won't really be able to see what progression you are making. We struggle in a workout to specifically target any one training system effectively during that ride, which can impact your riders reaching their ongoing fitness goals. That’s when we start to lose people.
A lot of instructors also share your sentiment that structured workouts are boring, but they aren't. If a workout is ever boring the fault lands in the lap of the instructor.
Agent TPN: So can you give me an example of a structured workout?
IMOM: Sure. We can use the example from my recent webinar about progression - we'll come back to progressions later.
We'll take this Threshold ride. 3 x 10 minute intervals with 2.5 minutes recovery between intervals. How does that sound?
Agent TPN: Boring, difficult and technical.
IMoM: Yes I've hardly marketed it well. Ok. So the duration of the intervals sound long. Imagine listening to the same song for 10 minutes and riding at the same cadence.
Agent TPN: But outdoor….
IMoM: Yes, outdoor cyclists will love that all day long. But we’re thinking about different groups all the time, right.
Remember for a moment, power is about the relationship between resistance and leg speed.
What if I now choose three popular songs, each 3 to 3:30 long to make it nearly 10 minutes. I can still even ask you to stand in the chorus and sit in the verse, but the aim is to standardise your power and stay in the same training zone. Then I do the same two more times.
Side bar: don’t go thinking you’re going to listen to three epic trance tracks, I can have you bopping along to the Bieb or Swift - I know they are your favourite.
Does that sound better?
Agent TPN: Yes much better. But what do structures really help me achieve?
IMoM: Results, simply.
We know now how important benchmarks are and that people who are riding with power are looking at improving their functional threshold power [FTP] all the time.
Agent TPN: Hang fire. Did you just swear at me then? FTP? Is this what an instructor shouts instead of “Feel the Pain!?”
IMoM: Actually that’s quite good. Because generally, when you are riding at Threshold, you do just begin to feel some discomfort. But no. FTP stands for Functional Threshold Power. Simply put, this is the highest amount of Power [watts] you can sustain for one hour of riding.
Agent TPN: Okay, so FTP: important benchmark. Got it. Continue.
IMoM: To improve this we need to train at Threshold regularly. So, we need to be riding in these zones for an extended period of time. 10 - 20 minutes with small amounts of recovery. Take another example we highlighted previously in an article: 2 x 20 mins at Threshold with 5 minutes recovery. With the warm-up and cool down not much else is happening in the class. So it is a Threshold ride. With…. wait for it… No sprints!
Agent TPN: But everyone loves a sprint!
IMoM: We can do a structured class focusing on sprints. As long as the riders are able to maintain their power during the ride. We know that if the power drops by 10% by the third interval, that they should stop and recover before joining back in. Quality over quantity remember.
Agent TPN: Just in case you thought I had zoned out - pardon the pun - earlier you mentioned “progression”?
IMoM: Yes I did. There’s a couple more great things about doing a structured workout:
1. Because there is a structure, there is something to measure yourself against. So you can repeat the ride over a number of weeks and your riders will be able to gauge improvements; even more so if the studio has Stages Flight or any other data feedback tool, which sends emails to your riders. They can look back and see it themselves.
2. As an instructor you can add progression in to the ride weekly. Our London Stages Master Coach Richard Collier does this with awesome effect. He runs an 8-week block of rides. He tweaks it each week to make it marginally more difficult. Same music, same format, but the members don't mind as they can see the progression occurring. Then he re-tests their FTP.
3. This also saves the instructor huge amounts of time looking for music and creating more profiles. [Of course you can change up the music should you wish, but it is okay that the structure remains the same].
Agent TPN: 8 weeks of the same music. Do riders buy into that?
IMoM: What fitness brand does that so well globally? It doesn’t have to be 8 weeks. Three to four will do. Just allow your riders the opportunity to see if they improve from this structured progression, rather than change their workouts all the time.
Agent TPN: Ok so structured workouts aren't to be feared by instructors or riders. But are we now condemning workout rides to the waste bin?
IMoM: Not at all. They are still an important part of any instructor’s toolbox. Know your audience, right? Know what your class enjoys, but always be in a position to educate your riders, no matter how long that road takes. If they aren't used to hearing the same playlist from you, play one in subsequent weeks. That can simply be the start.
But if you have never tried a structured workout then in the same way, your instructor toolbox is greatly missing an important skill set.
Agent TPN: So what are you working on now?
IMoM: Funny enough, I have been asked to revisit an older structured workout. [Yes riders requesting structured rides.]
3 is the magic number. It revolves around 3 minute intervals. The great thing is I can teach it two ways: 8 x 3 minute in the upper tier of Threshold with 1 minute recovery or 4 x 3 minute intervals anaerobically with 5 minutes to recover. I can do 3-4 weeks each way. Simple.
And with that IMoM casually left Agent TPN with a swag and humming De la Soul '3 Is the Magic Number’. From what he says, a structured workout could well be worth exploring.
We'll hear from IMoM again. Who knows when he'll next pick up an Evening Standard.