Fiber Content: Indoor cardio workouts for the winter: part II

This week’s edition of Fiber Content will expose you to other cardiovascular options besides working out on the treadmill or elliptical. So grab your water bottle and Clorox wipes, dust off the spinning bike, and get to work.

For the past 10 to 15 years, the indoor cycling industry has grown, with sales of equipment reaching new heights. Following the trend of the professional circuit, modern Americans have also taken up this familiar training mode. Spinning classes can be found at most health and fitness facilities, even here at Carnegie Mellon. If anyone is looking for a challenge, I recommend signing up for one; most spinning classes that I have witnessed look more like an advanced stage of the Tour De France than a stroll in the park. Those not quite ready to take on Lance Armstrong can follow these simple steps to create their own program.

Step one is determining the total training time. You may choose to set up three or four different training protocols for different days depending on what your work and workout schedule permits. For example, on Mondays plan on doing 20–30 minutes of strength training to limit your total fitness time to an hour, so you can schedule 30–40 minutes of ride time. Wednesday may be your off day from lifting so you can spend more time on the bike. Make sure you have a specific plan for each day of training.

For most beginners, I would recommend anywhere from 30–45 minutes of riding. Individuals with a more extensive training base may be better suited to ride for longer — 45–60 or more minutes — but it is all up to your schedule.

Step two is about setting up the specific stages of your race. Once again, this becomes an arbitrary number based on your experience, your interest level, the time allotment you have set for the specific training day, and your personal goals. For beginners, I would recommend anywhere from five to 10 stages. Keep in mind that the more stages you set, the more changes you will have to make and the more intense the training will become. Advanced exercise enthusiasts can have anywhere from five to 20 stages or even more; remember that more stages means more complexity. Once you have the number of stages, move on to step three.

Step three entails designing the specific time intervals and intensities which each stage will be performed. First, the time intervals and intensities should always be inversely proportionate. What that means is that the higher the intensity, the less time you should spend in that stage, whether you measure intensity in repetitions per minute (RPM), perceived rate of exertion (how hard you feel like you are working), percentage of maximum heart rate maximum or percentage of aerobic capacity, or the maximum amount of oxygen the body can use.

So if you are working at 90 percent of maximum intensity, your time in that stage should be less than your time spent in a stage at 64 percent intensity. Intensity and duration are always inversely related. For recommendations for intensities and time for both beginners and advanced individuals, please see the included table. Once you have your numbers in mind, proceed to step four.

Step four is the final piece of the puzzle. The format of the program will determine your adherence and your level of excitement. For general purposes, it is better to put your lower intensity, longer time period stages at the beginning and end of your program. This will allow your body to properly warm up prior to the high intensity training and cool down afterward. Another general recommendation is to alternate low intensity and high intensity stages to allow for recovery between high intensity bouts. For example, a beginner may want to start with 5 minutes of low intensity riding then possibly 30 seconds of high intensity followed up again by 2 minutes of low intensity. More experienced people with a greater training base may choose to follow up a moderately high intensity training stage (e.g. 85 percent) for 60 seconds with an even more intense stage (95 percent) for 5 seconds, followed by a low intensity, long duration stage to rest.

Trial and error with program design will become both your friend and enemy. You will find out in a hurry if your perception of your personal fitness level may not actually match your fitness level. With all new endeavors in life, we learn best by falling down, picking ourselves up, and learning from our experiences. Always continue to challenge yourself, striving for improvements in your health and fitness levels. However, be careful that the goals you set are safe, realistic, and attainable; even the best laid plans often go awry.