Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Techy Tuesday: Dissecting a Indoor Bike Workout

I am finally posting the second instalment of Techy Tuesday. If anyone recalls the first post from long ago, it mentioned that I would compare gps data of three runners from the 2009 Canadian Masters Cross Country Champs. Well that race occurred an eternity ago! The entire day of racing was very exciting, and warrants some discussion on Techy Tuesday….but since the event was so long ago (6 weeks ago), I have decided to keep the data in the archives, and will do a pre-race post before the 2010 Canadian Cross Country Champs, which take place on the same course on at the end of November.

Today’s post takes a closer look at a typical Loaring Group Training Day bike workout. Depending on the season, we typically ride for 1h30’ to 2h. Sunday’s Training Day called for a 1h45’ ride for most who took part. The Training Day always has a wonderful mix of levels and abilities, with athletes in different phases of their macro training cycle….so the ride is “easier” and shorter for some…and longer and “harder” for others.

How easy is “easy” and how hard is “hard”?

The LPC effort scale in it’s simplest form is:

Ez = easy (1to 2)

Mod = moderate (2 to 3)

Steady = (3 to 3.5)

Tempo = (3.5 to 4)

Hard = ~FTP = (4 to 5)

Very Hard = VO2max (5 to 6)

Fast = (6 to 6.5)

Blast = (6.5 to 7)

The numbers correspond to the “level” of pace and/or power, or the “zone” of heart rate. FTP is short for Functional Threshold Power (or Pace), which can be loosely defined as one’s average power for a 1h bike time trial, average pace for a 45’ to 1h run time trial, and average pace for a 30’ swim time trial. Ideally this time trial takes place on a flat and fast course for the bike and run, and pool swim in your own lane.

I will have to expand on this scale in a future post, and attempt to define my meaning of “threshold” which is intentionally omitted from the “simple scale” above…because “threshold” seems to have ~ a dozen varying definitions. So this is the scale in it’s simplest form….and I find it is best to almost always keep things simple and say “go ez, or go mod, or go steady to tempo….”.

Now that we have established the effort scale…

The Jan 10th Loaring Group Training Day Bike Wokout was:

Loaring Group Training Day

January 10th, 2010

Bike=1h45' on trainer as:

WU: 15' ez build to mod.

DS1=12': 3x(30" single leg, 30” both at
NC+5, 30" single leg, 30" both at NC+5, 30” standing climb, 30" at NC+5), 3'ez.

MS1=13': 5x(1' seated climb dec1-5 from mod to hard, 1' very ez at NC), 3’ez.

PS=10': 5x(20" pick-up, 40" ez), 5’ ez.

MS2=40': 4x10' as (3’ steady on flats, 2’ steady seated climb, 2’ tempo on flats, 1’ tempo standing climb, 2' very ez).

DS2=10': 4' ez, 3' mod at NC+10, 2' mod at NC+15, 1' mod at NC+20.

CD: 5' ez.

If it is your first time seeing a LPC structured bike session, then the above might look like something from your days of high school algebra. So let’s take a closer look by breaking each segment of the workout down, in order to explain what the heck this short-form code means, and explain the method of my madness of why I have several triathletes/cyclists do this on a Sunday morning.

The workout incorporates a little bit of everything. We take advantage of a group atmosphere in an environment where nobody gets dropped…so the workout is an alphabet soup of drills and structure….but with purpose. It might look complicated on paper (or in graph form), but really, it is delivered in a simple fashion, and the constant variety helps to alleviate any boredom. The end result is a good workout and lots of fun…for all.

As an example, I have included Training Peaks data from LPC athlete Thierry Guertin. Clicking the image below will open up this interactive graph.


Thierry used his Computrainer to collect data for:

rpm (his cadence, or revolutions per minute. The orange line)
bpm (his heart rate. The red line)
watts (his absolute power. The pink line)
kph (his speed, or velocity in kilometers per hour. The blue line).

Let’s (finally) break down each segment of the workout into it’s individual sets:

Bike=1h45' on trainer as:

In looking at the graph, you can see that Thierry rode for 1h40’. Some actually rode as long as 2h, while others maxed at 1h30’.


WU: 15' ez build to mod.

WU is short for “warm-up”. And in looking at the graph, Thierry did a good job in keeping the effort nice and easy.

Note: It always takes at least 10’ for the Computrainer to properly calibrate, so I usually only look at heart rate data (red line), and rpm data (orange line) when looking at one’s WU. You can see that Thierry kept his heart rate low during the entire WU—so that is good to see.

First Drill Set:

DS1=12': 3x(30" single leg, 30” both at
NC+5, 30" single leg, 30" both at NC+5, 30” standing climb, 30" at NC+5), 3'ez.

The first drill set (12’ in length), focused on Isolateral Leg Training (ILT). We just call it “single leg drills” because that is what they are, and saying ILT in it’s long form is just plain techy. Athletes that have any knee pain remain spinning with both legs. Those that are given two thumbs up, are instructed to ride at an easy to moderate gear, at moderate effort, and at an rpm that is ~ 10rpm lower than their NC.

NC is short for “average natural cadence”. NC is one’s self-selected cadence given the terrain. I find that most triathletes have a NC on flat land of between 85rpm and 100rpm. Those that have a slower cadence are sometimes referred to as “mashers”. Those with a higher cadence are sometimes referred to as “spinners”. There is no magic number for cadence. Each athlete has their own NC that they feel comfortable with, and this number might change slightly (but only very slightly) over time as conditioning improves.

Therefore, “NC+5” means a cadence that is 5rpm faster than your natural cadence.

I used to write workouts with a prescribed cadence, but then quickly realized how silly that was in group situations where the natural cadence of the group greatly differed. And I have never been in a group ride where it did not differ. So now we all identify what our natural “self-selected” cadence is, and deviate from that point. Their has been much recent talk about the value of high cadence spinning, or low cadence “big gear” work. I find that their is merit in high cadence spinning, especially during the off-season on the trainer…so we always incorporate some in our Training Day bike sessions.

This first drill set asked for 3 sets of: 30” of single leg, 30” of both legs at 5rpm higher than NC, 30” of the other leg, 30” of both legs at 5rpm higher than NC, 30” of moderate standing climbing, and finally 30” of both legs at 5rpm higher than NC.

First Main Set:

=13': 5x(1' seated climb dec1-5 from mod to hard, 1' very ez at NC), 3’ez.

MS1 (first main set) is a short one (total of 13’) that called for 5 sets of a 1’ seated climb, followed by 1’ very easy spinning at one’s natural cadence. The seated climb reps descended effort (or power) so the first rep was “mod”, the middle “tempo”, and the last rep “hard”.

Looking at the 0:25 to 0:34 segment of the graph, you can see that Thierry did and excellent job in descending each seated climb rep. His watts (pink line) had a good progression from reps 1 to 5. I am most concerned with his power output for each rep. The reps were short, and heart rate lags effort, so I usually don’t look too closely at heat rate data for these reps. But you can also see that the bpm (red line) had a very similar progression to the watts (pink line). And you can also see that the HR lagged a bit, which is expected

Activation Set:

PS=10': 5x(20" pick-up, 40" ez), 5’ ez.

“PS” is short for a mini pre main set that calls for some neuromuscular activation.

This 10’ set asked for 5 sets of a 20” pick-up, followed by 40” of ez spinning. A future post will be devoted to the what exactly a pick-up is, and why it is beneficial for endurance athletes, but for now, a pick-up is simply a strong and controlled spike in effort for a short period of time. it is not sprinting, and their should be no straining. Each set called for a slightly faster and faster pick-up (dec 1-5).

Looking at the 0:38 to 0:42 segment of the graph, you can see once again that Thierry nailed his pacing. His power increased each rep, and you can see a big spike in power in the final two reps. It was a strong effort, but by no means a 30” sprint. He could have produced a much higher power on the 5th rep, but that would have deviated from the purpose of this activation set.

By now, everyone was warmed up, “activated”, and ready to rock and roll into the main set.

The Main Set:

MS2=40': 4x10' as (3’ steady on flats, 2’ steady seated climb, 2’ tempo on flats, 1’ tempo standing climb, 2' very ez).

The 40’ main set called for 4 sets of 8’ of “steady to tempo”, with 2’ of ez spinning recovery. In an effort to simulate undulating terrain, the 8’ of ‘meat’ was broken as 3’ of steady riding on the flats in the aero position, then a 2’ gradual climb remaining seated, then back on the flats for 2’ but at a slightly higher “tempo” effort, then finally a 1’ steep climb remaining standing at an effort slightly harder than the seated climb.

In looking at the graph (time period from 0:46 to 1:25), Thierry paced well within each set, and kept consistent from set to set. His power spiked a bit during the climbs (but not too much). He also kept his power consistent within each segment of each set. Good stuff!

Cool-down Drill Set:

DS2=10': 4' ez, 3' mod at NC+10, 2' mod at NC+15, 1' mod at NC+20.

By now, everyone had worked up a good sweat. It was by no means a killer workout, since very little time was spent above FTP…but it was a solid session for January…and the “hard yards” are on the horizon.

But before we cooled down with ez spinning at NC, we first did one final drill set. It asked for 4’ of ez spinning at NC, then 3’ of moderate spinning at a cadence 10rpm higher than NC, then 2’ mod at NC+15, then finally 1’ at NC+20. In order to spin at NC+20, and remain at a moderate effort, a very easy gear (or low wattage) is used. If the athlete is uncomfortable spinning at NC+20, or their pedalling form falls apart, or their hips start jumping out of the saddle….then they drop the rpm a tad so they can maintain good form.


CD: 5' ez.

Finally, 5’ of easy spinning, and magically, the time has flown by!

So there you go. 1h45’ on the trainer…done and done. If you actually read this entire post, and spent some time tinkering with the Training Peaks interactive graph….then I salute you!

After this bike, we allowed 10’ to completely dry off, and bundle up to face the chilly temps outside. A couple ran on the tready, a couple on the elliptical, and the rest of us headed outside. We ran 2.5k to Blue Heron Hill, which will be the subject of yet another future post, did a couple of “tempo” hill reps, and then ran back.

After arriving back at Loaring Physio, Charlotte ran us through 30’ of injury prevention motor control exercises and stretches.

Finally, and the part of the Training Day that we all look most forward to, is smashing back a smorgasbord of healthy, and optional not-so-healthy, good eats.

Good times were had by all!

See you at the next Training Day on January 24th!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Training Day this Sunday

The third Loaring Group Training Day of the season takes place this Sunday.

Upcoming Loaring Group Training Days at Loaring Physio:

Sunday, Jan 10, 2010
Sunday, Jan 24, 2010
Sunday, Feb 21, 2010

Sunday Jan 10 Timeline:

8:00am: Doors open (register and set-up begins)

8:20am: Bike (indoors on trainer for up to 1h45')

10:15am: Run with drills (outside for up to 50' minutes)

11:15am: Core Exercises & Stretches

11:45am: Potluck Brunch (onsite at Loaring Physio)

Training Days are open to everyone, and you are welcome to join for the entire morning…or come out to a particular session.

We look forward to helping you put to work your 2010 health and fitness goals!

More details HERE