Monday, December 26, 2011

My Cadence Workout (Mind-Body Synergy) (Pt. 1)

It's been a while since my last post, and I really hadn't intended on doing one now, but something that someone wrote in response to one of my Daily Mile posts (a site that I keep pretty up to date cause the additions are brief and to the point) got me to thinking.  By the way, if you have the desire to get fit and would like to join a site where you encounter a lot of like-minded and motivating people, you might want to have a look at Daily Mile.

Back to the topic at hand............ During the last month or so I have been going down to my wonderful local YMCA fitness centre (H2O Adventure and Fitness Centre) on a fairly regular basis (3 to 4 times a week).  Almost every time I go I try to do some kind of a brick involving 2 out of 3 of swiming, biking on a trainer, or running on a treadmill.  Focusing specifically on biking for the moment, I generally try to do 1 minute cadence intervals, alternating from 85 -100 up to 100 - 110.  I typically get into this rhythm after a  4 - 5 minute warmup during which I get my body up to speed.  After posting one of these sessions to Daily Mile, one of my favourite friends and motivators asked the following question...... "Got any tips for me on getting my cadence increased?"

At first this seemed like an easy enough question to answer, but after giving it some thought I realized that a discussion of this topic opens up avenues of thought that are central to my personal view of biking, swimming, and running, and can certainly (in my opinion) be applied to other life activities as well.

Before I get into the more philosophical aspects of this topic, I will spend a bit of time answering the question head on......from my own personal experience.

My typical trainer session at the gym lasts 30 minutes.  When I first get onto the bike, my usual cadence for the first couple of minutes is about 75-85.  I set the tension on my bike at a level that suits me for what I'm going to do for the next 30 minutes, and leave it at that level.  That level will, logically, increase in future sessions as I become stronger and my fitness level increases.  By the end of the fourth or fifth minute I am usually at about a comfortable 90 and am well warmed up and ready to get serious.  At that time I crank up my cadence to 105 - 110 and keep it there for the next minute.  During the high cadence sessions I am in aero position and trying to be as relaxed as possible.  My focus is to keep smooth and keep my upper body still.  No jerkiness allowed(!!!!) in my pedal stroke.  Pedal through the entire circle, not just on the downward stroke.  If my upper body is jerking from side to side I know that my form is not correct, I gently reprimand myself and remedy the situation.  Being in aero position helps me keep my body still and calm.  My breathing is typically relaxed (at least during the first half of the workout) and usually in sync with my cadence.  I usually find that I am counting to myself during the high cadence minutes.  Each minute I count from 1 - 20 about three times(1 and 2 and 3 and.....). 

At the end of the high intensity minute, I sit up and relax my cadence a bit, bringing it down to around 90.  I keep it there while I prepare myself for the next intense minute.  How do I prepare myself.  Well, I relax as much as I can.  Perhaps I have a sip of beer (just kidding) from my water bottle.  I look around the room and see what's happening.  I see how I'm doing on that little screen that my trainer has.  It shows my progression around a little track and it's kinda fun to watch.  I find that at the lower cadence level and at the tension I have it set at, I am going about 30 -34 k/h.  At the higher cadence I am in the low to mid forties.

During the last few seconds of the relax minute I get down into aero and crank up the cadence one again.  Onto another intense minute.  Count. Relax. And above all, be smooth.  Aim for a calm body and mind.  And so the intervals continue.  I find that I really start to sweat 10 - 15 minutes in, and a towel off becomes part of every relax minute.  When I get to minute 26 or so I am typically pretty bushed and I stay under 100rpm's for the last few minutes.  After the 30 minutes is up I loosen the tension and spin easy for 2 or 3 minutes before calling it quits.

The keys factors that I think are really important keys in my workout if my goal is to maintain my  desired cadence are:
1.  Make sure the tension you've set the trainer at is manageable.
2.  Always warm up the 4 or 5 minutes first.  If I tried to hit 105 - 110 during the first minute it would be very difficult, and I would become prematurely discouraged and exhausted.(and I would probably hurt myself)
3.  Keep calm, still, and steady.  Don't waste energy.
4.  One minute at a time (or you'll tire yourself out just thinking about the upcoming minutes).
5.  Take ownership of YOUR workout.  Make sure that you set your personal interval times, cadence and difficulty settings at a level that's manageable for you.  To ensure success you want your mind and body to remain friends and work as a team (mind-body synergy). 

This ends Part 1 of my discussion of my cadence workout.  Part 2 is going to focus on the importance of the mind-body synergy that I just mentioned.   I can hardly wait to see how it turns out!

Oh, and by the way, MERRY CHRISTMAS and Happy New Year!