When doing the Time-Crunched Cyclist Plan, you get to know several abbreviations: PI is Power Intervals, OU is Over/Unders and SS is Steady State. There are several more and one popped up on my workout plan for today. The thing is, it has been so long since I’ve used it I had to stop and think, “What is it that FP stands for?”
Of course, it didn’t take too long for me to recall that it stands for Fast Pedal. Today I am supposed to ride for an hour and during that period complete 4 x 3 minute FP intervals with 3 minutes RBI (Rest Between Intervals). It isn’t that I need to switch up from a low cadence — say 85 and under — I typically pedal at a cadence between 90 rpm and 100 rpm. This session calls for me to move it up even more.
The goal is to within the three minute interval to work your way up to between 108 rpm to 120 rpm without bouncing around in the seat. I can typically pull this off at around 114 rpm and hold it for the required period. I’ve pedaled up over 200 rpm, but that is when I feel like I’m about to fly off the bicycle!
So, what is the advantage of this? Well, there are two kinds of muscles in the world, Slow Twitch and Fast Twitch. Those Slow Twitch muscles are the ones that help you grunt through things. Imagine a weight lifter pushing up a huge barbell. The Fast Twitch muscles are the ones that help you get out of the way. A runner speeding down the track in a sprint is utilizing these muscles.
A cyclist will use both of these at various times. As such, you need to train for both… though studies have shown that a faster cadence — 85 rpm and above — are more efficient. However, as I mentioned above, I rarely train below that cadence. Why this high speed stuff?
Part of it is just to loosen your legs — shake out the muscle memory you have developed over the last couple of weeks doing the same work outs over and over again. I find now days when I get on the trainer and just spin without thinking about what I am doing, I end up each time sliding into a zone of around 88 rpm to 93 rpm. Raising your cadence for a period of time confuses that memory and gets the muscles to kick in to a new level of burning carbohydrates and sugars.
Another part of it is just to train your form. Fast pedaling is a good way to build good form — as long as you are paying attention. If you just go flailing your knees all over the place it isn’t helpful. It is tempting to do that as you are spinning at around 120+ rpm.
Imagine watching something spinning around slowly. You can see the object on the end of a string clearly as it spins slowly around the center point. However, you can reach a speed where the spinning object seems to turn into a solid line.
When spinning at a high rate and not worrying about the power you are producing you are able to focus on how your legs move around the crank. Push down. Scrape off the bottom of your shoe. Pull up. Keep your knees coming up straight. Now, don’t think of those movements as separate actions. Make them all one continuous movement. Before long you are in a trance and the motions become second nature.
Another benefit of spinning at a higher cadence like this is that it is a good fat burner. Maybe if I do enough of these I’ll be able to start working off those love handles. It would be worth it just for that!