What a journey it has been.
I found myself getting depressed this past week knowing our first Psyclewerx session was ending. This week’s homework focused on threshold efforts in Z3 with a strong start and finish in zone 4. It was designed to prep our athletes for the 20-minute functional threshold post-power test. I was told it was the hardest yet, despite my aim to make it a little shorter and easier.
Before class started I could sense a lot of nervous energy around the room, because, after all, it was test day. My daughter Hannah was present making sure everyone’s water was up to par. I kept the warm-up protocol and the test exactly the same as the first test class.
I also used the same music to keep things as consistent as possible. The class settled down after our 15-minute warm-up and I could sense a change. People were less anxious and ready to go. I gave some last-minute pacing strategy advice and they were off. I think a few athletes were almost too excited as I could hear very heavy breathing after only 90 seconds. From there things settled down and they established a rhythm.
At the halfway point, we even heard some team encouragement, and it wasn’t coming from me. By the time we hit 15 minutes, everyone was in tune with their efforts and they crushed the last 5 minutes. New scores were recorded and collected as everyone recovered.
We started the celebration with a few uplifting songs like Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” and “Dog Days are Over” by Florence and the Machine. We finished our final effort and the room just naturally filled with applause and cheering. I can honestly say I have never heard that kind of warm, fulfilling reception after any cycling class.
Everyone was very proud of what they accomplished and experienced together over the last 8 weeks.
I played a “danced up” version of “Listen to the Music” by the Doobie Brothers and handed out the graduation “diplomas.”
I will be putting together a post-grad packet including all of the previous homework assignments, bike set-up guidelines, FTP test protocol, and new power zone cards. I also am starting a power cycling workout service for those who want fresh training assignments and to continue their improvement. I hope to see my athletes out on the floor, continuing to be “power players!”
We still have a few athletes to test as one was sick and two others were out of town. Unfortunately we had 4 athletes “drop out of school.” But, on the very positive side of things, the average improvement for the whole class was 10.7%!!!!!!!!!!!
7 athletes were between 1-10%
6 were between 11-20%
and 3 between 21-40%.
I would like to thank the class for the gift and the thank you cards, and Ms. “Tabata” for the heartfelt speech. This was the debut class, and was very special to me. This program really has legs under it!
I would also like to thank Kristi Gaylord for giving me the opportunity to guest-post on this blog, and for editing my somewhat suspect writing skills!
I eagerly look forward to Psyclewerx 2.0, Session #2, after my wife and I settle in with our second child, who is due in a few weeks. I will immediately start collecting/editing music, and writing the next session. I don’t forsee any big changes to the program, but I have learned a few things that need to be tweaked.
If you’re interested in taking Psyclewerx the next time it’s offered, or in re-living what you’ve just finished, you can read about the past eight weeks of class here.
Psyclewerx 2.0: “Ride the Experience.”
This is what we have been training for.
For week #7, we experienced a “simulated mountain bike race.” This was a profile modeled after the Laurel Classic Challenge held in Wellsboro, PA in early September for the last 16 years.
The hills in PA are much longer, and the forests much deeper than here in NY. The place just has an epic feel to it. This course features 3 long climbs of 16, 8, and 12 minutes, and some long descents. The terrain is moderately technical with some rocky sections. The coolest feature is the “Left Run Trail,” which follows and crosses multiple times a beautiful steam between two very large ridges.
The athletes had completed their homework, which consisted of long climbs and steady state threshold efforts. They were ready.
After warming up, we introduced our dedicated competitors with a “rolling call up.”
With athletes such as Alan “The Situation” Bloom, Laura “Lethal Lolita” Elder, Lisa “Hurtlocker” Moose, and Bill “Spitfire” Spitale wheeling the line, this place was ready to rock.
We had a little pre-race drama as Amy “To the Top” Tomaino’s bike was missing. Apparently, someone stole it from the team’s hotel the night before. Luckily her sponsor provided her with a spare.
The racers were paused and waiting, and then the cowbell rang.
They were off in a mad dash and the fire was started. They hit the first and longest 16-minute climb. We created a mantra for this entire challenge:
“I Can, I Will, I Am.”
After ascending this climb, we flew across the Plantation Trail, and then down the Stinger Trail. Since we cannot coast on our indoor bikes, we used the descents as a recovery. Athletes were always given zones, but were also free to push their own limits. After all, this is a race.
Climb #2 up Spoar Hollow Rd. was no problem. It was 8 minutes of finding “ the perfect balance of space, energy, and time.” We rode on some flat, grassy double track before another long descent. We got word from a course official that we were sitting in 5th place.
We headed into the underbelly of the beast following the stream. We mimicked stream crossings by doing a drill called a slide. We also learned how to call out and execute a pass using some surges as we passed the 3rd and 4th place riders.
We hit climb #3, which is the final big test. 11 minutes of some steep sections in no man’s land. It is wide-open logging trail with nothing to latch onto. Competitors had to dig deep to hold onto their podium position.
“Remember you are not here because of the path that lies before you, but because of the path that lies behind you.”
We crested the climb and punched through the log trail. We did some log “hopping” to stay with the mountain bike experience. Hopping or jumping off of a fixed-gear bike has some risk involved, but with appropriate cadence and just a few reps we kept everything in control and, passed the 2nd place rider: “On your left!”
As usual, my equipment had problems. My shoe cleat began to loosen and eventually disconnected from my shoe. I had to pedal “old school” with one foot clipped on and one out. Very typical for an epic mountain bike race.
On the technical Scotch Hollow Pine Trail, we executed “pushes” and traversed small rock gardens and took over first place. We found a gap and headed down our final descent of 6 minutes. Towards the bottom we were caught. As we exited the woods, it was a 1-minute drag race down a dirt road to the finish. We stayed strong to hold onto first place.
The music, the scene, and the motivation just flow for this ride. It is one of my favorites, and our team more than met the challenge. One more round of homework and we re-test for the last class.
We will have a celebration workout after the test, and then I have something special for our graduates.
Psyclewerks group: What did you think of The Laurel Classic Challenge?
I am not a cyclist.
I’ve taken one spinning class in my entire life.
I do not even own a bike, and the last one I did own had tassles on the handlebars.
So when Doug Rusho, the brains behind Midtown’s sold-out Psyclewerks program, asked me to take this past Sunday’s class so I could see what it’s like, I was hesitant.
“Hesitant” is code for Scared. Intimidated. And Looking for a Reason to Bail at the Last Minute.
Here’s what I envisioned:
Oh, and some awesome music, because freaked out as I was over taking this class, Doug’s reputation for picking some truly fantastic, timed-to-the-second tunes is widely known.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Psyclewerks was, in a word, incredible. The class is comprised of mainly an over-40 crowd, with a few younger members in the mix. They span the spectrum of athleticism. The atmosphere was warm, welcoming, and filled with laughter and camaraderie, before, during, and after class. And the Keiser bike? A cinch to figure out with a few pointers from Doug before class began.
One more thing: If Doug Rusho had his own fan club, there would be a serious war among class members over who gets to be the President.
It was evident after just a few minutes with this group that the Doug love runneth over.
Since I haven’t been a part of Psyclewerks from the beginning and did not take the Power Test on the first day to determine my own personal power zones, which the rest of the class had recorded on cards and placed on the stands in front of their bikes, I basically pedaled along while they cycled through their zones, which ranged from 1 to 6, with Zone 6 being the most difficult.
I did, however, try to match my intensity to theirs, so if Doug asked the class to begin a short, high-intensity effort, that’s what I did.
This class followed a pattern: short, challenging work followed by longer periods of recovery pedaling. During the challenging portions, Doug would encourage the riders:
“Power is not a number; it’s a sensation.”
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go,” a T.S. Eliot quote, and one of my all-time favorites.
He had obviously spent a considerable amount of time working on the music for the class. The songs were so precisely timed, that when the bursts of high-intensity cycling began, so too would the uptempo portions of the selected song. This allowed me (and most likely the other class members as well) to really give those short, difficult efforts my all.
After class, I asked some Psyclewerks riders what they liked about the program.
Remember when I mentioned the Doug love?
Here’s what they said:
“Doug brings out the athlete inside of me.”
“He elicits effort rather than enforces it.”
“Doug is encouraging and motivational without being aggressive.”
“I am working smarter, and not simply practicing for practicing’s sake.”
“Doug is, in a word, the man.”
So, am I tossing my Mizunos and buying a road bike? Probably not.
But I’ve learned that cycling, rather than being intimidating and only for the hardcore hardbodies, is actually something I can do as an excellent form of cross-training.
The Psyclewerks program is fascinating. The idea that every ride is catered to each class member’s fitness level and that every person is getting a near perfect workout for his/her body makes the program even more intriguing.
I heard a rumor as class was ending that Doug is running this program again early next year.
If you’re interested in taking your cycling to the next level, this is the program for you.
And if you’re lucky, Doug might even give you his autograph after class if you ask nicely.
I’m not going to sugar-coat it for you, since if you were there, you already know.
This class was a 90-minute bruiser.
This was one of the toughest profiles I ever designed. Our power focus was on VO2 max and anaerobic capacity.
The profile consisted of three strength climbs, a VO2 max reference test, and a “Tabata” protocol. Everything was repeated twice.
VO2 max is the maximum rate of oxygen consumption. In simple terms, it means running your aerobic system at full capacity. On full steam, VO2 max lasts from 3-to-8 minutes. I used a different approach called the “Tabata” protocol.
I asked my athletes if anyone who read last week’s blog could tell me the definition of the “Tabata” protocol. One very eager athlete waved both hands and proceeded to give me a two-minute dissertation on it.
She was spot-on, and when she finally came up for air, the room was filled with applause, cheers, and disbelief. Apparently, I looked of shocked and awed that she new much more about this than I did, because one athlete blurted out, “You just got served!”
True, but payback was imminent. (Cue the evil laugh.)
The Tabata protocol consists of short efforts (20-45s) at VO2 max power with very short recoveries (20-45s), repeated many times. This creates a cumulative fatigue effect, continually pounding the aerobic system, while allowing just enough rest to go at it again and again.
Very challenging stuff, which should only be attempted when the body has gradually adapted to handle this kind of repetitive intensity. Our Psyclewerks program has been building our athletes since Week 1, and they were ready for the challenge.
We also worked on our anaerobic capacity in a similar fashion. We trained on three back-to-back climbs with 1-minute recoveries between each. We “peaked” each climb with some very steep efforts in zone 5.
Music leaned to the aggressive side. These efforts hurt, and really “bully” the body. When you are getting beat down, naturally a little anger will ensue, so we listened to some anger-management songs, like “Guerrilla Radio” by Rage Against the Machine, and “More Human than Human” by Rob Zombie to really lay down the power under very fatiguing conditions.
The class fought back hard, and just killed the profile.
In 15 years of teaching group cycle, I have never seen any group work that hard for 90 minutes.
We finished out the training session with a celebration of sorts.
I also debuted my new microphone in class this week. After some research and referals, I purchased the Countryman Associates E6 Omni earset microphone. In the music industry, this is known as the “Madonna mic.” I did some pre-testing earlier in the week and it was like a religious experience! What a difference.
In the upcoming week, we will build the “supercharger.” More anaerobic capacity, and maximum power over durations of two minutes down to 0-60 seconds.
Three more weeks until graduation! Remember, you can catch up on past Psyclewerks posts here.
What did you think of this week’s class?
Pre-dusk, Sunday, October 31st was “Fright Night,” my ode to Halloween.
I took a lot of Halloween-inspired songs and we embarked on descending threshold (zone 3) intervals. This was the first class to have rest intervals, in order to reach and maintain appropriate intensity.
We worked four threshold intervals at 11, 9, 8.5, and7.5 minutes with 3-4 minutes of recovery before each one. The team rode beautifully, maintaining appropriate cadence with resistance.
Here’s something that has become readily apparent. In the regular cycle classes I teach, regardless of my feedback and instruction, there are almost always some “outliers.” There are people who pedal too fast with too little resistance or people who pedal too slowly with too much resistance. This either affects their safety or effectiveness. But when we receive power feedback from our pedaling, these ineffective techniques almost vanish.
“Fright Night” was a blast, with one athlete claiming he saw a “bright, white light.” I suggested he would be better off heading toward it rather than the “other direction.”
Now, for some education. Over the next two weeks our intensity is going to increase as the time we apply this intensity decreases. For the general exercise enthusiasts, these higher power zones are rarely visited and therefore “untrained.”
This makes my job a little more complicated. Although our FTP test result is used to calculate our power zones, it can’t predict how often we can repeat intervals in each zone. This is dependant on each individual.
Some individuals may at first struggle to even reach the upper zones like 5 and 6. This is why we “train” and is how we will make your body that much stronger. Typically most people try to maximize their exercise time by going as hard as they can for the entire duration. In power-speak, this means they physiologically can only maintain high zone 2 and zone 3 threshold power.
The body will then become very good at zone 2 and zone 3 power production. This is known as the rule of specificity, or “you get what you train for.” This is a great way to go if you have limited time but within a few weeks your body will plateau, because it has “been there, and done that.”
In order to keep improving, we need to continuously challenge the body by training different areas in different ways. This is what Psyclewerks 2.0 is designed to do.
But be aware you will “fail” at some point, by not being able to maintain the prescribed power for intervals.
This is a good thing; it means you have thoroughly challenged you body in a new way. It will adapt with rest, and you will be stronger the next time!
High-Intensity Interval Rules (5 minutes or less)
If you can’t maintain Interval Power:
1.) When you can’t maintain prescribed interval power, shut it down, recover, and tack on the remaining time to the prescribed recovery time.
2.) Try again the next interval.
3.) If you fall short again, start the next interval, one zone lower for the first 1/3, and then attempt target power.
4.) If you fail again, call it a day and finish out in recovery or zone 1 NO HIGHER!
If you can’t reach Interval Power at all:
1.) Go as hard as you can for the duration of the first interval.
2.) Try to maintain that zone for the rest of the intervals
3.) When you can’t maintain that zone, go to above steps.
Do not hesitate to back off, and ride easy for the remainder of the training time if you know the “wheels have come off.” You will do more damage than good trying to gut it out. I can tell you that I “fail” to complete 70% of the power workouts I attempt.
Remember, failure in interval training is ultimately success!
This Sunday, we will undertake the “Tabata Protocol.” Extra credit to anyone who can tell me what that involves.
Okay, Psyclewerks team, what do you think about the program so far? Does anyone else have any questions?
At noon on Sunday, I was lining up for a cyclo-cross race. Since I don’t own a cyclo-cross bike, I built a “franken-bike.” Mountain bikes are allowed, so with my addiction to riding with power, I rigged up my rear powertap road wheel with a cyclo-cross tire.
Cross is very similar to mountain bike racing, so I could get some really good power data to study and design my winter training around it. However this setup does not allow the use of rear brakes.
Shouldn’t be a problem, right?
1.5 laps and 9 minutes into an hour-long race, my front wheel washed out on a steep, loose, sharp corner and the right side of my ribcage and chest was pile-driven into the ground from about five feet up. There was a large audience to observe and groan a collective “oough.” I was rolling around trying to find some semblance of air, which had been knocked clear out of me, as people then attempted to get me off course so that I wouldn’t be run over.
A few minutes later I was on my feet only to find my protective eyewear in pieces and my seat was broken off one rail.
This illustrates yet another advantage of Psyclewerks 2.0: You Cannot Crash!
As class time approached, the pain in my ribs intensified, but as long as I didn’t breathe or move it was fine. I brought lots of spare parts, but of course all bikes were a-go. From a distance I could hear some of my athletes “discussing” their homework.
It sounded something like, “This homework is a product of a sick and twisted mind.”
Hmm… now why would they think that?
This Primary Endurance class was tough. We had three long climbs, lots of repetitive drill work, some longer Z3 threshold and Z4 VO2max efforts, and an introduction to Z5. All of this wrapped into a 90-minute continuous, no rest breaks, training ride.
After some surges, cadence jumps, and pedal stroke drills on the flat roads, we hit the first 11m climb. After more drill work, we hit the final four minutes, and I got into their heads. “If you were watching yourself from the hill across the way, would you like what you see?” If you want to be different, you have to do something different.”
At about the 60-minute mark, we were embarking on the hardest section. We started with Z3 threshold intensity for five straight minutes with some “wave” accelerations. We brought down the intensity with a fun mountain bike drill to The Heavy’s “How Do You Like me Now.”
We embarked on the second, 11-minute climb, which was steep and challenging. We used some “release breathing” to psychologically lighten the legs in the middle steep sections, and then focused on the word “Time” and became empowered by the song of the same name from the movie Inception. This song builds with incredible intensity, and I implemented more motivational phrasing to get into their heads.
“What choices will you make?”
“Reveal what you are made of.”
“Every end is its own reward.”
In the final 30 seconds, with the most powerful, intoxicating musical arrangement, we introduced Z5: very, very steep.
Lots of groaning ensued at the top, as we dumped resistance and regrouped into Z1.
Some easy riding took us to the last 13-minute ascent. We started easy to the excellent cover of “Me and Bobby McGee” by Crystal Bowersox, and I then re-invigorated the class on the steep slopes with “Bad Romance” by Lady Gaga.
We lowered the lights and unplugged from our computers for the final five minutes of this climb. It was time to celebrate, and reflect on our dedication and effort. We rode to an absolutely beautiful version of “Free Fallin” by John Mayer.
Job well done.
The classes will get shorter now as we ramp up intensity and start allowing breaks between efforts. We have built a solid foundation, but now we start bringing on the horsepower!
By the way, about 20 minutes before I smashed into mother earth, apparently my daughter was “too aggressive” on a descent as well, falling down five stairs in our house.
She’s fine. There’s just a little road rash on the tip of her nose.
Check out other Psyclewerks posts here.
Although this is really our second class in the Psyclewerks 2.0 program, it is really the first “regular” class. With a new program you can always expect a few bumps in the road. After the energy and excitement from the test session a week ago, I was eagerly looking forward to administering the Psyclewerks experience.
I walked into the room 20 minutes early only to find that two bikes were down with blown pedal bearings. This was not good. Mechanicals are part of cycling and they tend to happen at the most inopportune moments.
In true Tour de France fashion, I became our team’s “domestique” and gave up my bike. I scrambled to the fitness floor and grabbed another, which luckily, no one was riding. The team was intact.
Today’s class was focusing on basic endurance. It was 80 minutes of continuous low-intensity cycling. Seasoned runners know this as “LSD,” long, slow distance. Endurance classes are challenging to teach because you need to dial back the motivation factor and power zone transitions. We rode mostly in power zones 1 and 2 with some moderate- length (8m) climbs. I felt a little awkward as I was standing on stage in my skin-tight bike shorts, coaching with no bike, while everyone else sweated away.
I will be the first to tell you, I hate this type of training. It can get a little slow and tedious. But, it is a necessary evil. Basic endurance training is the foundation of your whole engine. Without it, your fitness structure will crumble later on with harder efforts.
This type of training also primarily uses fat stores as a primary source of fuel. This is a go-to tip for any coach trying to convince his athletes to keep the intensity down. We used some subtle cadence transitions and did some “team” riding. I split our group into 3 teams and we shared the workload across flat roads and climbs.
We (I should say “they”) finished 80 minutes later. A few athletes had trouble staying in their zones, while others were somewhat challenged with the length. This is to be expected with a group of diverse fitness levels. Someone mentioned, “You hardly broke a sweat!” Granted I did not get a workout, but I did avert near disaster.
Before next week’s class I will be competing in a Halloween Cyclocross Race. No costume this year.
But between the race and the 90-minute primary endurance class, I will have made up the missed ride. I plan on bringing my own bike, spare pedals, tools, extra iPods, and maybe a kitchen sink.
Always Be Prepared.
For the next eight weeks, Doug Rusho, Personal Trainer and recently named winner of the “America’s Top Male Indoor Cycle Instructor” award, will be writing a weekly blog post about his Psyclewerks program, which is now in its second week. Want to read the ride report from his classes or learn more about this popular program so you can take it next time it’s offered? Read on!
Take it away, Doug.
Over the next two months, I will be guest posting on this exciting new program created for indoor group cycling. Traditional indoor cycling classes often referred to as Spinning rely on how exercise feels by using a variety of perceived exertion, resistance, and cadence scales. They also tend to lean towards high-energy music and entertainment.
Psyclewerks 2.0 utilizes the latest technology of power measurement to greatly enhance fitness gains. Quite simply, power is exactly how hard one is working for every single second. On the bike, power is derived from how hard you push the pedals (resistance) and how fast (cadence). Although knowing how your body feels still plays an important role, knowing exactly what your body is doing is instrumental to the maximum execution of each workout.
With an initial power profile test, we can also cater every ride to each individual’s fitness level. This means that every person in a Psyclewerks class is getting a near perfect workout for his/her body. Adding to this, we can still keep the “effort matched” music play lists, the entertainment, and the camaraderie of being a team of athletes, all training to improve.
The goals of this series of blog posts are three-fold.
Finally, on occasion, there will be a fun story from the wacky world of cycling and or/ from your Psyclewerks Coach.
Enjoy the ride!
I wasn’t quite sure to what to expect. This class is the first of a brand new program. Our first class was all about gathering personal information and “playing with power.” This would not be like the rest of the classes and I had a small fear of it being boring. I did pose a challenge to myself and to our “team” of athletes. I am looking for a 100% success rate. Everyone improves by the end of this program.
After a thorough explanation and a warm-up, it was time to test. I cued up 40 seconds of “Pirates Pete Remix” and when the bass kicked in it was go time. 20 straight minutes riding as hard as possible. Athletes were told to maintain as high of a power output as possible. The energy was peaked and a little frantic at first, but when “Break on Through” by the Doors came on everyone had settled into a groove.
Athletes began to adjust their resistance and cadence to find their optimal sweet spot for producing power. Through the halfway point, Moby’s “Go” kept everyone on track, although signs of fatigue were beginning to show as breathing rates started increasing. Athletes were coached for pace and patience, but when “Uprising” by Muse plowed into the speakers everyone seemed up for the challenge of going harder.
With 5 minutes left, someone said, “The next song better be good!” Everyone was at his/her breaking point.
I purposely drew back some energy with “Tikal” by E.S. Posthumous. It has a solid driving beat but a calming sense to it. Everyone was going to need that little extra energy to finish strong. “Tikal” crescendos at the end to bridge into the finale, “The Sound” by Switchfoot. After a brief guttural bass guitar and drum riff, the first word of the song is a resounding “BOOM.” This song just bleeds energy and power. You could see and feel everyone just ground themselves into their machine for the final dig to the finish. Everyone livened up and drove it home to the 20 minute mark.
The Functional Threshold Power test was over and the averages were recorded. From the back of the room, someone said, ”That was the hardest I have ever worked for 20 minutes!”
After 10 minutes of recovery and some instructions on power zones, I introduced some drill work to get our athletes used to reading and adjusting power effort. There was a huge “light bulb” moment when everyone discovered what happens to your power when you stand and pedal without making a certain adjustment.
The class winded down, but to my surprise the energy remained high. I have never seen so many people so excited about the next 7 classes and this program.
They were “jacked” on power training!
Despite having presented to over 100 students at the Indoor Cycle Instructor Pro conference in Boston the night before, this first Psyclewerks class was the high point of my weekend. I spent most of Monday calculating and creating power zone cards and their weekly homework training session. Sure enough, Monday night, as I was posting the homework and power zone cards in the files, one of my athletes was asking where it was.
It is going to be a great eight weeks!