Fit to Ride

  • By richard watson
  • 10 Apr, 2017

Are you ready to cycle fit?

Cycle Fitness
Cycle Fitness

There has been a huge increase in interest in cycling over recent years as more people become aware of the health and fitness benefits’ cycling achieves, as well as its advantages as a fast and economical means of transport. Studio cycling has also grown and has been identified as one of the most popular group exercise formats in clubs worldwide.

Here are some training basics for cycling that will be helpful across the spectrum of participants.

  • Cadence - The number of times the legs turn the cranks in a full circle over the space of a minute. It is measured in revolutions per minute (RPM). That is, the number of times that the right or left foot passes through the bottom of the pedal stroke over 60 seconds.
  • Gearing - Allows the rider to change the distance that a bike would travel forward for one revolution of the cranks. If you change into a higher gear while keeping the same pedal speed, the bike will travel faster. More power is being generated, so it will feel harder. In the context of indoor cycling, resistance replicates the effect of gearing.
  • Power - Produced when cadence and gearing are combined. Power is a rate of doing work and measured in watts. In terms of generating power with the least fatigue, cadences in the region of 80 to 100rpm are often quoted. However, beginners will often struggle to sustain these speeds and often “mash” a larger gear (struggling against too great a resistance). This can have the unfortunate effect of inducing lactate build up, which may put them off. More experienced cyclists tend to use lower gears and “spin” the cranks at speeds of 85 to 100rpm.

Components of Fitness


Most people learn to cycle as a child and, once they’ve mastered movement and balance, very little attention is paid to technique. From that point on, it is usually assumed that people can just get on and go. As a result, good pedaling technique and, just as importantly, good posture tends to be forgotten. As adults, people may often repeat any bad habits picked up in childhood.

A constant awareness of smoothing out of the pedal stroke is crucial for efficiency as power comes from the whole of the pedal stroke. Good pedaling technique takes advantage of the entire pedal circle, rather than just the down stroke. This has been helped considerably by the wide-scale adoption of cycle-specific shoes and pedals.

Posture is also much neglected. Good basic posture points (lengthened, neutral spine, relaxed and gently retracted shoulders, core engaged) should apply even though the upper body is tilted forwards towards the handlebars. Observe some participants in an indoor session, and you will see a huge difference in the participant who is hunched over the bars, grinding away and the participant with strong, tall posture.

Cardiovascular System

The rhythmic nature of cycling, in its use of large muscle groups, requires an efficient delivery of oxygen from the heart, lungs and circulation. All cyclists need a good cardiovascular base, which gives them the ability to produce power steadily for sustained periods.

Skeletal Muscle

Cycling in the real world is generally an endurance activity, but it is interspersed with intervals of greater speed and resistance. As well as a good cardiovascular base, cyclists also require the capacity for shorter bursts of power, whether that is to climb a hill, accelerate away from an imminent hazard or to break away from opponents towards the end of a race. This means that cycling challenges muscle fibre types across the range, including Type I (endurance biased), Type IIa (medium duration/moderate to high intensity biased) and Type IIb (short duration/high intensity biased).

Benefits of Outdoor Cycling

Essentially, outdoor cycling is a random interval training session. If you think about all of the key elements (up hills, down hills, flats, accelerating to overtake, recovery, sprint finishes etc), a variety of cadences and resistances are used, which place differing demands on the skeletal muscle and the cardiovascular system.

Low cadences with higher resistances tend to challenge fast-twitch fibres and lactate tolerance, while higher cadences with lower resistances tend to challenge slow-twitch fibres and the cardiovascular system.

For the majority of participants, a level of cross training is key in order to work all the systems involved. This approach provides the widest variety of health and fitness benefits from a single exercise session. Some athletes may want to concentrate on encouraging more endurance or speed from their short duration/high intensity biased fibres, depending on the duration/intensity of their discipline.

Outdoor cycling also provides the challenge and excitement of engaging with a constantly changing environment.

Benefits of Indoor Cycling

Originally, indoor cycling was developed by endurance rider Jonathan Goldberg (“Jonny G”) as a way of complementing his outdoor training. But he found that the combination of indoor training and the use of music brought a different and complementary aspect to his regime.

Indoor cycling has the following benefits:

  • It allows pure focus on technique without any of the distractions of being outdoors (i.e., traffic, road surface, intersections, etc).
  • It allows use of music. This is a major motivational tool that may not be feasible or safe to use on the road. In some indoor cycling courses, the focus is on cycling to the beat and phrase of the music. In this way, cadence is controlled, and a variety of different speed tracks can be used to create a cross training approach.
  • Only the hardcore want to put a load of outdoor miles under their belts on a cold, dark, wet morning.
  • Indoor cycling can accommodate a number of participants at different levels. They may all be pedalling at 80rpm in time with the beat, but their power outputs can vary significantly depending upon the resistance they have chosen.

So indoor cycling can help to give participants a cross trained effect that will directly impact upon their outdoor performance, not to mention their technique and posture. In addition to this, it can be made much more specific and tailored for participants training for an event if they wish to take part in very controlled, steady state or interval training without the distractions of the road.

A common mistake in indoor cycling is use of excessive speed. Many classes utilize extremely high cadences (in excess of 140rpm), either for prolonged periods or as a “sprint.” These speeds are likely to place substantial stress on the hips and knees, by transmission of rapid, uncontrolled, inertia driven forces through the joints. For this reason, some cycles have now imposed a 140rpm limit on the cadence readout.

The beauty of cycling is that it can accommodate the needs of an incredibly wide variety of participants. Indoor or out, focusing on these key concepts can help you create a stimulating and effective workout for whatever level of fitness and ability you are.

In The Zone

By richard watson 10 Apr, 2017

There has been a huge increase in interest in cycling over recent years as more people become aware of the health and fitness benefits’ cycling achieves, as well as its advantages as a fast and economical means of transport. Studio cycling has also grown and has been identified as one of the most popular group exercise formats in clubs worldwide.

By richard watson 01 Mar, 2017

Good bacteria can help you lose weight

For every probiotic evangelist there are several that sneered at the idea that these ‘good bacteria’ products did anything other than leave a big whole in your pocket. But according to a recent study, probiotics are very much more than a health food gimmick.

Probiotics, which are available as yoghurts, drinks and pills, contain so called ‘good’ bacteria that manufacturers claim aid digestive health and boost the immune system.

But the jury remained out – until now when a study has found that they do have many health benefits, including proving effective medicines and helping to control weight.

But you need to need to use the probiotics every day to see any benefits and you should be mindful of the sugar content (it’s best to opt for a pill over yoghurt) which will negate any of the benefits.

By richard watson 06 Feb, 2017

The definition of motivation is that which gives the impetus to behaviour by arousing, sustaining and directing it towards the successful attainment of goals. Abraham Maslow (1954) proposed that we all have a hierarchy of needs, the most basic being physiological needs such as food, and the highest needs being those related to self-fulfillment. Motivation directs behaviour – it organizes behaviour towards a particular goal state. It maintains behaviour until that goal is achieved.


The marathon is a long-distance running event with an official distance of 26 miles and 385 yards that is usually run as a road race. The marathon was one of the original modern Olympic events in 1896, though the distance did not become standardized until 1921. More than 500 marathons are contested throughout the world each year, with the vast majority of competitors being recreational athletes. Larger marathons can have tens of thousands of participants.

By richard watson 05 Jan, 2017

Although, all of the information that is presented in this article is geared toward the benefits and/or effectiveness of anaerobic high intensity interval training (HIIT) vs. low intensity aerobic training with regards to fat utilization, there is an understanding that some reasons for aerobic training supersede the outcomes. For the sake of pure enjoyment, personal goal setting (training for a triathlon, marathon, road race, etc), and the challenge of competition are all viable and respectable reasons for interacting with long slow distance (LSD) activities. For many people these types of activities are suitable for their lifestyle and enjoyable means of living an active life. The goal of this article is not to discount or diminish the value of physical activity in all its modalities, but to merely present data with regards to optimum fat loss, hormonal indicators, and other factors of cardiovascular and cardio respiratory markers as they pertain to exercise intensity prescription.

By richard watson 01 Nov, 2016
Cancers are classified as a family of related diseases that result from uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells5 that usually become a tumor. The most common causes of cancer related deaths in the United Kingdom are seen in Figure 1 below.The evidence linking low levels of physical activity and an increased potential for development of cancer is growing. More studies are focused on determining if physical activity can be used as a preventative measure in the incidence of cancer.

Figure 1: The 9 Most Common Causes of Cancer Death in 2014

Number of Deaths per Year, All Ages, UK

Cancer Site                Male           Female       Persons
Lung (C33-C34)       19,563       16,332         35,895
Bowel (C18-C20)       8,566          7,337         15,903
Breast (C50)                       73        11,360        11,433
Prostate (C61)          11,287                               11,287
Pancreas (C25)           4,426          4,391           8,817
Oesophagus (C15)   5,213          2,577          7,790
Bladder (C67)              3,614          1,755          5,369
Brain                                2,881          2,342          5,223
Liver (C22)                    3,055          2,036          5,091
By richard watson 05 Oct, 2016

In the world of endurance, it seems that you cannot discuss fitness without discussing VO2 max. Ask any endurance athlete about it, and you will hear epic stories with names like Indurain, and LeMond. Many of you, however, may find yourselves wondering what exactly VO2 max is and why is it so important. To better understand this concept; let’s take a little trip back to school, specifically back to physiology class. According to the Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning textbook, VO2 max is the maximum amount of oxygen in millilitres one can use in one minute per kilogram of body weight (ml/kg/min). In other words, maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) is the greatest amount of oxygen that can be used at the cellular level for the entire body. VO2 max has been found to correlate well with an individual’s degree of physical conditioning and has been accepted as an index of total body fitness. Numerous studies show that one can increase his/her VO2 max by working out at an intensity that raises the heart rate to between 65 and 85 percent of its maximum, for at least 20 minutes, three to five times per week. The estimated mean value of VO2 max for male athletes is about 3.5 liters/minute and for female athletes is about 2.7 liters/minute.

By richard watson 14 Sep, 2016

It is ironic that in this age of information, people continue to be confused about supplements. While in The UK alone, billions of pounds sterling are spent annually on vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids and other nutritional products, studies still show that people in all walks of life (including fitness professionals) need a good foundation in basic supplement information to help them make informed decisions about which products might best suit their individual needs. Because of this, the following is a list of what I feel are the top 10 supplements facts that can help save you time and money - and get the most out of the products you use.

By richard watson 27 Jul, 2016

Caffeine is one of the most heavily researched and beneficial ergogenic aids available. It is mostly consumed in coffee, with 1 cup containing around 75mg of caffeine. The understanding of the performance effect of caffeine has increased and this has widened its use. Most people know that “caffeine may improve performance” but what does it actually do and how can we make the most of caffeine?

Caffeine is classified as a stimulant and is the most common drug used in the world. Caffeine crosses the membranes of all the body's tissues. It can wield effects on the central nervous system and the peripheral tissues that result in physiological effects. Studies have shown that caffeine can help an athlete perform better. It has been shown to be a powerful ergogenic aid that is beneficial in athletic performance and training. Caffeine has been shown to increase speed and power output, improve the length an athlete can train, and assist the athlete in resisting fatigue. Caffeine has also been proven to stimulate the brain which contributes to an athlete's clearer thinking and ability to concentrate harder on the task at hand.

By richard watson 08 Jul, 2016

You’ve seen it before, and you’ll see it again. You have been intensely training for months, but you start to mention that you haven’t slept well for weeks, and the stress is starting to get in the way of your performance. You may suspect you’ve overtrained, which is quite common among competitive athletes. While overtraining can occur in a variety of different ways, it typically results from a combination of hormonal, neuroendocrine, and nutritional imbalances, secondary to heavy training (Kreher, 2012).

Learing Objectives:

  1. Identify the signs and symptoms of overtraining.
  2. Determine ways to help your clients recover from overtraining.
  3. Understand the importance of training breaks in the prevention of overtraining.

By richard watson 10 Jun, 2016

Hamstring injuries are prevalent in many sporting and training environments. They are the curse of many top athletes and urban warriors alike and have a horrible tendency to recur with monotonous regularity.

In the past, rehab specialists and trainers may have fallen prey to the hypothesis that "if it keeps tearing, it must be tight and therefore needs a stretch."

In this article I would like to pose a different hypothesis. One that looks at the length-tension relationships between the hamstrings at the back of the pelvis and quads and hip flexors at the front of the pelvis. We’ll look at how this relationship can contribute to these types of injuries.

More Posts
Share by: