The most excellent indoor cycling workout

I just got back from a PowerMax workout at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine, and I’m not sure I’m lucid yet, but …

… to paraphrase Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, “I want a CompuTrainer, and I want a CompuTrainer NOW!!!!”

The setup
The Boulder Center for Sports Medicine has a program called PowerMax, which is a series of indoor training sessions on a MultiRider Computrainer system.

This system is awesome: You clamp your bike into the trainer, the machine calibrates itself, you enter your threshold wattage level (the amount of power you can sustain for an hour), then the machine controls your effort.

Eight bikes are linked together, and you can see the hill profile, as well as everyone’s speed, wattage and wattage per kilogram, on a huge screen. If Brandon Sloan and I did this together, one of us would leave in an ambulance!

The Center offers a wide range of classes for general riders, women, kids and racers (and they are all sold out). On Tuesday nights my boss Leslie Bohm at Catalyst Communication has been doing the “Spin Doctors” session — everyone in there is apparently a doctor — and, since he was out of town, he gave me tonight’s spot.

Leslie told me he’s the least fit rider in the group, which is scary because Leslie is very fit, but — what the heck — let’s go for it.

Pinned to the point of failure
In case you’re wondering: Yes, I was the only person rocking a Stumpjumper with a slick rear tire. Everyone else was on high end road bikes (six out of seven were Specializeds). As a matter of fact, one of the riders was Dr. Andy Pruitt — the man behind Body Geometry saddles, shoes, and gloves.

Spin Doctors, indeed.

Coach Lester Pardoe, a three-time Olympic qualifier in speed skating and now a high-end endurance coach, entered my threshold at 220 watts (a guess) and turned on the DVD of Roam. “This one is on honor of Lee.” Pretty cool.

While Shandro, Bearclaw and Peaty ripped sweet love, we warmed up at about 50% of our threshold power. For our first “hill,” the CompuTainer steadily increased our effort to 90% of threshold.

No matter how fast you pedal, the machine adjusts so you generate the target power. If you turn the pedals slowly, it cranks up the tension. If you spin fast, it backs off. It’s amazing how much easier it is to make, say 220 watts at 100 rpm than at 60 rpm.

The first hill was easy, so I cranked up my threshold power up to 250 watts. For the second hill, we did some mellow surges, and that felt great. Each of us settled into an average pace, around 25 mph on my readout.

The third hill became interesting. Lester had us slow way down to very low rpm, sprint above our average pace, then settle back in. We did a lot of these.

I would slow to almost zero rpm, and the resistance felt impossible. When Lester said go, I pinned it. My wheel slipped on the roller, my innards strained, and I cranked up the wattage — braaap!!! I could only pin it for a few seconds before the machine adjusted, but I was hitting about 880 watts. That seemed pretty good — everyone else was in the 400s, and the next strongest guy hit 700.

At the top of that third hill, Lester had us sprint out of the saddle, and I began to pay for my lack of high-end endurance. I survived the interval, but afterward I sat down, and despite my best intentions, the rpm dwindled: 100 … 80 … 60 … 40 … Mr. 700 Watts suggested I stop for about 10 seconds, recover, then resume. I stopped for a bit, and he and the rest of the class resumed their average pace.

The cooldown was mellow and satisfying. I seldom pin it so hard and long that my legs stop working — and, I must say, it feels great afterward. This is the kind of training I need. This is where I’m weakest.

To sum it up
This was super fun. It was a great workout, and the data and group kept me hammering when I’d usually back off. Everyone was warm and welcoming, and I hope to do it again.

Learn about the PowerMax classes

Learn about the Computrainer. Study up, buy one and send it to my house.



– Lee

The day after: I commuted and ran errands on my P.3 today, and I am worked!

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