Does hosting an Indoor Century appeal to you?

By Team ICG® Master Trainer Jim Karanas

Using power/watts conventionally in indoor cycling improves students”™ fitness. But it”™s the tip of the iceberg, a small projection of the immense power below the surface. Consider, instead, introducing the concept of effortless power in your classes.

Without the inner aspect, indoor cycling can limit students”™ imagination, causing confusion and disappointment when progress wanes. The inner factors — center and intrinsic energy — provide controlled determination, calm, clarity, and an extraordinary source of power.

To get students to look at power abstractly takes patience. Pursuit of an ideal may not lead to measurable results, but enhances understanding and engages you for life.

Experiencing effortless power is possible, albeit challenging, in daily classes. Students won”™t prepare adequately because outside preparation is necessary. An in-house event enables you to coach outside aspects of their lives. I like to use a 5-hour indoor century, during which the students must maintain a certain power output to cover 100 miles in 5 hours. If they don”™t complete it in 5 hours, they keep riding until the odometer displays 100 miles.

During the event, minimize time off the bike. No breaks are scheduled; the goal is continuous effort. The event can be a fundraiser, but focus on preparing the riders to maintain a specified power output the entire time.

Some students will consider 5 hours impossible. Others will gear up and train for competition. Both perspectives miss the point. It needs to be viewed as a training session that reveals potential that”™s difficult to realize in daily classes riddled with schedules, distractions and unconsciousness. Five hours allows students to detach from what they think is (im)possible.

A key to experiencing effortless power is being centered. Finding center requires Life Balance, which is coached pre-event. It has little to do with training.

Life Balance

Many of us experience life as hectic and frenzied. The experience of effortless power isn”™t possible unless chaos becomes order, and motion comes from stillness. When coaching this, one-to-one conversations may be necessary, as individual circumstances vary. Balance needs to start with Lifestyle, then move to Nutrition, and finally to Training.

Your Lifestyle must be in order as you approach the event. Does your spouse support the time you need to train properly? Does your job allow for adequate recovery? Does your schedule permit adequate sleep? Do you have time to sit quietly and contemplate?

Nutrition follows Lifestyle. Do you have time to prepare healthful meals? Are you able and willing to remove alcohol, caffeine and sugar from your diet?

Last is Training. Is your training schedule regimented? Have you made time for ancillary training off the bike, including necessary recovery therapies?

Effortless power comes from balancing and coordinating intrinsic energy, not from endless training. On average, students won”™t make all the necessary concessions, but a coach needs to move them toward simplicity and order. My experience has been: the greater the sacrifice to bring balance, the greater the experience of effortlessness.

Coordinating Intrinsic Energy

Daily workouts prepare the body for the rigors of the event. They”™re also what the students are used to doing. Below are six effective trainings to help students achieve effortless power while riding. Introduce them sparingly and practice them yourself, so you can teach from experience. Some may resemble exercises you currently use. The shift lies in the intent behind the exercise and what you want the students to accomplish. Build in more of these concepts as you approach the event.

1. Ride position. Grace always accompanies effortless power. Whichever ride and hand positions you use, emphasize the discipline of maintaining proper position and transitioning fluidly. Coach conscious awareness of riding technique: Straight back. Soft elbows. No sitting up or standing unless coached. One hand on the handlebars when drinking water. Fluid transitions from one position to the next. Seated Flat Road at 90 rpm for 32 counts (use Beatmatch: match cadence to the music); 32 counts of Seated Climb at ~75 rpm (use Freestyle); 32 counts of Standing Climb at ~60 rpm (use Freestyle); 32 counts of Standing Jog at 90 rpm (use Beatmatch). Find a 90-rpm song that”™s about 10 minutes long. M”™Bali Jo by Pili Pili works well.

2. Pedaling technique.  To promote awareness, start each class with 10 minutes of soft-pedaling at <50 rpm, with light resistance.  Use ambient music to avoid emphasizing the downbeat, such as The Flow of Let Go by Anugama. Independent crank arms work wonders on technique but aren”™t available on indoor cycles.  The KRANKcycle by Matrix is an effective substitute.  Through kinesthetic awareness, you”™ll develop leg control by training your arms with independent crank arms.  Master and perfect smooth rotations by using the Split, hands exactly 180 degrees apart.  Rotations (arms or legs) must be slow (<50 rpm), with little to no resistance.  Most students will become frustrated with this exercise.

3. Cadence and power ladder. 20-minute ladders (80, 90, 100, 110 rpm), 5 minutes at each cadence. Power output ladders up, as well. Identify the specific power output (or HR) for each cadence and keep it constant. Intensity is easy to moderate. Use four songs, and Beatmatch each cadence. The following playlist works well: Salt Water Sound by Zero 7 (80 rpm), Whole Lotta Love by Vitamin Dub (90 rpm), When You”™re Falling by Afro Celt Sound System (100 rpm), and Reckoner by Radiohead (110 rpm). Cadences don”™t need to be exact but should show a definite progression in speed.

4. Breath/cadence integration. After warm-up, perform 20 minutes of one ride movement and hand position (Seated Flat Road is best) at easy-to-moderate intensity. Don”™t change position for 20 minutes. Keep power output (or HR) constant. Keep the diaphragmatic breathing pattern (number of pedal revolutions between exhalations) constant. Keep one hand on the handlebars when drinking water. Kanga by Professor Trance (80 rpm) is perfect for this exercise. Use fast, forceful exhalations, pulling the navel to the spine, and relax the abdominals while inhaling every 4 beats. You”™ll breathe 20 times per minute for 20 minutes. 400 conscious breaths is a powerful meditation. Students who stay engaged could well experience effortless power during this exercise.

5. All-terrain cruise. After warm-up, vary ride and hand positions for 20 minutes. Change cadences while maintaining a consistent power output (or HR). Select easy-to-moderate wattage or HR and keep it constant, regardless of the terrain changes. Any combination of songs is appropriate for this exercise. Don”™t allow students to fall into a rhythm. Use Freestyle more than Beatmatch.

6. Limited recovery with breath/cadence integration. 30 minutes in the saddle at a constant cadence (80, 90 or 100 rpm), using two distinct power outputs or HRs (upper threshold and slightly below). Alternate 5 minutes at each power output. This is a high-intensity effort. The limited recovery should enable students to repeat the high threshold effort. Specify a breathing pattern (number of revolutions per exhale) for each effort level. You”™ll need six 5-minute songs at the selected cadence (Beatmatch works best). The cadence need not be exact, but keep it the same throughout. The breath integration described above is necessary, although the rhythm might be different at this higher intensity.

Special trainings help to move students toward effortless power during the 5-hour event. One example is “90 at 90”: 90 minutes at 90 rpm at one specific, moderate power output, using integrated breathing. The discipline is not to change ride or hand positions. Drink water with one hand on the handlebars. The students”™ breathing pattern, coordinated with their pedaling, will get them through this exercise with minimal adjustments. Although not mandatory, it will help students to realize effortless power on the day of the event.

The Event

Divide the 5 hours into ten 30-minute segments. Have only one instructor. Each segment should have a beginning, a close, and a defined playlist. Don”™t actually break between segments, but allow students to sit up and relax, without disengaging. Quickly bring them into the next 30-minute sequence.


The benefit of Forward Motion Video in this event can”™t be overstated. The sensation of forward movement will better enable students to channel their intrinsic energy. That, accompanied by a change of location every 30 minutes (e.g., World-Tour Challenge videos on Myride®+), will dramatically impact students”™ sense of effortless power.

This 3-part article challenges conventional thought on power in indoor cycling. Its current use solely for measurable fitness results is not sustainable long-term. Power measurement can instead develop inner balance and the awareness, and coordinated extension, of intrinsic energy, resulting in effortless power.

To learn more, read Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience and Zendurance: A Spiritual Fitness Guide for Endurance Athletes - both cited in earlier posts.

Originally posted 2012-12-17 05:22:45.

Jim Karanas
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