By Peter Pastijn, Spinning® Master Instructor | Belgium
Here is one of the most erroneous questions I’ve regularly heard in a Spinning® studio:
“I am already fairly fit and I do not have a real weight issue so why should I do endurance rides, let alone 60% of the time?”
In short, the correct answer is, everybody needs endurance! Need a compelling reason why? I’ll explain.
Ask Yourself These Questions Before Increasing Intensity
There’s a lot of hype about high intensity interval training. But before you begin a high intensity program, answer the following questions:
- Do I spend 60% of my training time in the Endurance Energy Zone (EZ)™?*
- Are most of my cardio sessions comfortable all throughout the year?
- Do I have periods of six to eight weeks each year where I train without losing my breath at?
There are a lot of promises about the results with high intensity interval training, but you must remember the importance of the basics of the body! If you are a Certified Spinning Instructor, it’s your task and duty to make it clear in the studio why we are focused so much on the Endurance EZ.
If you are an Spinning instructor struggling finding a very basic explanation for all the weekend warriors in your classes saying no to endurance training, I hope you find some words to make it clear to them that endurance is a must — it’s not an option. Do not expect highly technical explanations to come in the words below. If this comes as a relief to you, great!
If you’re a rider in a Spinning class, you’ll want to read this too for better results with your training!
Always Follow Rule Number 1: Start with a Strong Base
Rule number one of efficient cardiovascular training is and will remain getting your base training right, which means at least two to three months of aerobic, comfortable (without gasping for oxygen) training. These are facts you cannot deny if you are trying to achieve long-lasting fitness, health and body composition goals!
You may have heard that while training at lower intensities, fat is the main energy source. And yes, as a novice participant this is definitely your first stop for good fitness and health. Of course, not all exercise can be at low intensities, and at a certain times, you will overcome some serious workloads for results.
Instructors we must warn our riders, and riders you must understand, there is danger with quick-fix solutions that go in the direction of a ‘no pain, no gain’ culture.
Here is a metaphor I like using. Let’s consider ourselves as being like a hybrid car using both fat and glycogen (in comparison to electricity and gas). When you drive your hybrid car, it moves by using a mixture of electricity and gas. It is recommended to save the gas as long as possible as this will cost you at the pump or, failing to get to the pump in time will make your car stop all together! The electric battery recharges itself while driving downhill and during other “off” moments, and hence if the car is used wisely you will be able to go longer on one tank of gas.
This is exactly how the body works, and this is where it so often goes wrong, resulting in overtraining, decreased fitness and health levels, fatigue, burnout, loss of motivation and, believe it or not, even weight gain in the long term!
So let’s compare our bodies to the hybrid car above. At all times our bodies consume energy, even while sitting in a couch. And the energy we consume is always a mixture of both fats and glycogen (let’s leave protein out of the equation for simplicity’s sake here).
Understand the Sources of Energy for Exercise
The general rule is that when training or just existing at lower intensity levels, the mixture of energy used is predominantly coming from fats. We all have a specific heart rate (per sport) at which this mixture shifts to predominantly glycogen (carbohydrates stored in the liver and the muscles).
The real catch about these energy sources is how much your body has in stock of each and this is exactly why everyone, especially fit individuals with performance goals, have a real need for endurance training.
For example, a man who is 5ft. 8.5in. tall (174cm), weighs 154lb (70kg) with 12% body fat, has 94,500 calories available from fat. This same man will only have about 1800–1900 calories available from glycogen. The 94,500 calories available from fat is pretty much a limitless pool of energy you‘d rather use before spending the more scarce 1900 calories from glycogen. Once you have used these 1900 calories, you will be slowed down or even stopped, just like the hybrid car that runs out of gas!
You could say that you could eat while training to keep this stock of glycogen up. This unfortunately will not work to keep it up completely. You body can only take up a few hundred calories an hour before your digestive system kicks in heavily and slows you down. Training at too high a heart rate will also eventually slow you down and make you stop.
These are some of the reasons why endurance training is needed for everyone, not only for novice participants or people aiming at weight loss. If you wish to be a healthy person and perform well at endurance sports (especially efforts over 90 minutes) you will not get away with insufficient endurance training.
I hope this sheds some light into the matter, which so often is not understood or not explained clearly.
Enjoy your comfortable rides…
* The purpose of the Endurance Energy Zone™ is to improve the body’s efficiency in metabolizing fat, increasing aerobic capacity, improving pedaling efficiency and long term energy.