At one of my recent Stages trainings I had a participant struggle with my explanation of various intensities. When I would ask them to ride at a lower intensity she would ask “Flat Road?” and if I said moderate intensity she would ask “Seated Climb?” and when I would ask for a high intensity she ask “Standing Climb?”. My response was “easy is easy, moderate is moderate and hard is hard, it doesn't matter if the “terrain” is flat or up hill.”
As anyone who has ever ridden a bike outside knows a flat road can be VERY hard and if your bike has proper gearing an uphill ride can be VERY easy. I have always been confused but the instructors who use cues like “Flat and Fast” or “Seated Climb” or “Standing Climb” and assumed I should know the intensities associated with these cues. I have ridden in time trials that were very flat and very fast and VERY intense so why would I automatically assume “Flat and Fast” is easy.
Now that more and more facilities are introducing bikes with power to their members it is our job, as instructors, to change the way we cue intensities to our riders. First and foremost it's important to understand that, when riding inside, we are riding at ZERO miles per hour, going ZERO distance at ZERO incline. Most bikes with power will estimate MPH and distance by taking the wattage being produced and placing it into a formula that assumes an average size rider, riding at sea level, on a flat road with no wind. With a watt being a watt no matter if it's produced while riding at a fast or slow RPM or while seated or standing the estimated speed or distance will be the same. So 100 watts will translate to the same speed no matter what position or RPM a rider is riding.
In my classes I do a lot of distance challenges. For example I'll ask my riders to perform three 4 minute intervals with 90 seconds recovery between each while attempting to ride “farther” for each interval, using the odometer on the bike console. I'll change the riding position and RPM range for each of the 4 minute intervals and without fail when I have my riders stand for all or for a portion of an interval I'll have someone comment the they ride slower miles per hour when climbing a hill. My response is always; “I never said we were climbing a hill, I said we were standing”. A watt is a watt is a watt and when riding inside, on bikes that go nowhere, more watts translate to faster estimated speed therefore more estimated distance.
So let's stop using those corny and senseless cues “Flat and Fast”, “Seated Climb and “Standing Climb”. We are riding bikes that go nowhere and we certainly don't gain elevation throughout a class. It's very simple, higher wattage means more intensity! It doesn't matter if you produce those watts by riding with a lighter resistance and a faster cadence or with a heavier resistance and a slower cadence or if you are standing, MORE WATTS MEANS MORE INTENSITY!
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