*UPDATE* Psychological Effects of Heart Rate Monitor Use Study

12/21/2010: Preliminary results were reported at Indoor Cycle Instructor in October 2010. Manuscript in preparation. Once published, results will be made available on this site and at ICI.

Monday, May 25, 2009

"I'm Going to Make a Ride About This"

Please take a moment to picture this ridiculous scene from one week ago today. I'm laying on a stretcher about to be loaded into the ambulance, neck-braced and boarded, bleeding all over the place, unable to abduct my left eye. EMT kneeling next to me on my left, my riding partner on my right. I look up at my friend with my right eye, catching a glimpse of the blood still gushing from my mouth as I speak.

"I'm going to make a ride about this," I tell her.
"Of course you are."

It's hard to pinpoint when this transition took place -- that is, how it came to be that my daily life experiences (both major and SUPER-trivial) get transformed into generalizable concepts from which someone-who's-not-me can actually have a meaningful experience of their own. I suppose this evolved over time. When I first started instructing, my rides had very concrete, simple objectives (i.e., "Today we're going to try to stay aerobic the entire ride" or "Today we're going to practice the Perfect Pedal Stroke"). Over time, the objectives got a bit more complex ("Today we're going to practice using our breathing techniques to modulate the relationships between speed/resistance and heart rate."). Today if I were coaching a ride based on the latter (see also: every friggin' ride I ever do), it COULDN'T stop there. Modulating heart rate response to change would HAVE to be framed in terms of commitment to a greater life truth, a reflection of personal integrity and triumph over distraction and despair.

Or something like that.

About a year and a half ago, I started reading a ton of sports psychology books (at which time I linked all my favorites in the lower left corner of this blog). Very much inspired by the concepts and the language to which I was exposing myself, I incorporated whatever 'turned me on' into the training sessions I developed for my riders. Over time, I started to appreciate how directly all this "stuff" translated beyond cycling, athletic performance, etc.; sports psychology, I reasoned, was the direct pathway to a structured, logical, rewarding life. I already conceptualized my world as a stage for achievement -- just the same as a huge race/event/whatever an athlete would shoot for. By applying solid coaching techniques for breathing, focus, visualization, self-talk -- ALL that stuff -- how could I NOT be contributing, globally, to my performance on said stage? And how could I not try to deliver that special experience to my riders?

So that's where my rides started going. I think I've played my cards right, over time. The original formula must have been something like four parts logic, speckle of cheese, powerful song, speckle more cheese, solid technical concept, TON of cheese, self-deprecating remark, bit more logic, speckle more cheese, really great song, RIDICULOUSLY CONCENTRATED CHEESE, self-mocking chuckle. Whatever it was, it either worked... or it didn't need to. Over time, I grew into the role that I'd been inadvertently carving out for myself -- as a coach, as an athlete, as a human being looking for a 'space' in the world that makes sense. In so doing, I came to define and redefine the way I approach my own daily existence. Through processing the shades of gray with deliberate specificity, it has become almost second-nature to abstract some "general life concept" to which the average Spinning participant can relate. There's something about articulating "life concepts" to a group of people who trust you that somehow makes you get your shit together. Quickly. And so it happened for me. I have FAR better coping mechanisms for, err, EVERYTHING since I started accepting responsibility for other people's coping mechanisms.

These days, my stimuli for ride ideas comes from one of three things:
1) Something I see/read that gets me thinking -- I create a ride as a mechanism for processing a particular angle of my experience with it that I think my classes would benefit from processing, too. This can be technical ("Guys! I was watching these two guys struggling up a hill, pointing their toes -- and I declared a personal life mission to teach YOU all how to NOT be Those Guys!") or abstract (I once did a 90 minute ride about a chapter in Stephen Covey's "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" -- parts of the same chapter that are STILL being worked out through various rides, months later. Fantastic book, by the way.)

2) Identifying a poor personal coping mechanism in ANY realm of my non-cycling life, and dealing with it. Whatever I learn from the "dealing with it" part almost 100% makes an excellent ride theme. For example, I decided in October that I was utterly incompetent as a medical student (after being unable to memorize 2100 nerves, arteries, veins, spaces and hole in the head/neck alone), and clearly unfit to be a doctor. I shut down, stopped learning and just wallowed in my self-pity. So I made a ride about the premise that the way we see ourselves dictates our performance -- so over the next 45 minutes, we would break that down and see what difference it makes. It's not that complicated to get people thinking... they may not be used to it, but it's all in the way that one pitches the merit of investing the energy to do so.

3) Training solo -- on a Spinner, on a road bike, on an Arc trainer (love), on an elliptical (hate; insist on doing 2x a week because it instantly inspires boredom, frustration, and discomfort, and thus forces me to develop creative training coping mechanisms on which to base rides. My recent "TELL ME WHY" ride that many of you liked came directly from a tedious 60 minutes on the elliptical, where I had to justify to myself why I was training -- and in so doing, came to appreciate legitimately rewarding aspects of that experience.

I made three profiles already about my concussion and its aftermath.

Premise: Sub-ideal things happen all the time. We can dwell, or we can tap into SOMETHING about a particular experience that brings us benefit -- something we learned, something that changed the way see see ourselves or others, something that now uniquely qualifies us to serve in some new way. What allows us to make this transformation is exerting complete control over our attitudes -- talking to ourselves, inhabiting the thoughts that empower us most.
Ride: 3 blocks.
First block: gathering data about how your body responds to challenges - speed, resistance, change in position.
Second block: Progressive load into TEDIOUS seated climb. 25 minutes. It was slow. It was boring. There were segments where I stopped talking (their task was to talk to themselves). There were segments where I shut the music off for additional challenge to their focus. All the while encouraging them to husband their resources on the task at hand, envisioning the opportunities their success would afford them.
Third block: Celebrating their strength, for having endured through that challenge -- and climbing through three surges (because what else would I do?!) in a way that somehow feels different. Because they are somehow different. They've learned and experienced something that they can take with them.
Disclaimer: I try to avoid projecting self-enamored grandiosity whenever possible, but SOMEONE needs to steal this line that magically spontaneously came to me through my post-concussive fogginess.
Upon the last surge to the finish line: "You can make this minute last as long as you want to."

Turns out, the 'make yourself tearful' threshold gets drastically reduced when you bang your head on concrete. Dork.

Premise: My first few days returning to normal life after my accident were super-fuzzy. I was walking into walls, checking out of conversations, falling asleep all over the place. Lame. Mid-week, I went to the rural clinic where I'm training -- and I felt like I wasn't able to completely "interact" with my world. I wasn't hearing or seeing or even touching things normally. I couldn't take blood pressure, I couldn't hear heart sounds. I was just fuzzy, detached from my senses. So the premise of the ride was to reconnect with our senses - to focus so intensely that we can detect the very subtleties and nuances that enrich our experiences, if we take the time to appreciate them. Reacquainting ourselves with our own senses, a powerful experience that we rarely take the time to do.
Ride: Warmup. Progressive loading. 14 surges (remaining below LT) -- same as always: opportunity to respond to the challenge of one's choice. Sometimes I alerted people when they were coming; sometimes I cued them to close their eyes, anticipate the challenge, rehearse their response, and go with what they felt -- that they'd know EXACTLY when it was time for them to surge; and if they didn't, then it wasn't time for THEM to surge. (Not going to lie. This ride was pretty sweet...)

I'm debuting a ride tomorrow, based on my return to my bike (yes, Day 6 - I got back out there. It wasn't pretty: I was a wreck. Every time I saw a pebble or a twig -- not to mention a car -- I stiffened up, got tearful, and dismounted. Lame. I'm still going to force myself to immerse myself in my fear; that's how I'd treat anyone else engaging in this defeated avoidance. It'll be fine.). Admitting fear is ok -- that's the first step to proactively dealing with that fear. So that's the premise of the ride: accepting reponsibility for SOMETHING holding one back, and spending the next 40 minutes working through that (it's a 40 minute seated climb; I hope my riders don't read this tonight! Heh.)

While it sure has been convenient to have a single event inspire three separate rides, it is my hope that my next inspiring stimulus be slightly less dramatic. At least for the next three weeks while I finish up my first year of medical school. I don't have time for this melodrama, fantastic creative fuel source or not!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My Helmet Saved My Life.

It's not exactly an everyday event to crash your bike and hit your head hard on the concrete -- but, unfortunately, it's also not by any means rare.

Everyone has a story; mine is no more "special" than anyone else's. It's not exceptionally dramatic and, fortunately, it has a good outcome (so far...). But I'm writing to write about it now because I just appreciated that my story actually lacks a pretty central detail held by ALL "wear your helmet to avoid tragedy" stories *I've* ever heard, at least.

The key element that my accident lacks: A CAR.

<--- No car required to look like THIS.

I'm fortunate to be surrounded by really smart people -- and by virtue of being "really smart people," by definition most people in my life wear a helmet when they engage in activities in which they are not 100% in control of their own motion: biking, rollerblading, skateboarding, etc. But because it's not 100% universal, I want to understand why. Yesterday, I had an idea. As a physician-in-training, I consider it a my top priority in connecting with human beings to understand their motivations for doing AND not-doing important acts to further their basic ability to function. The latter is exceptionally important. Deep-down, there are REASONS that people do not take their medications, monitor their blood pressure or blood sugar, quit smoking/drugs, engage in moderate aerobic exercise. Not everyone is aware of those reasons -- but they're there. And it's going to be an important part of my job to tap into those reasons and work through them, as a partner in a person's care. If you understand WHY someone holds certain beliefs, reflective of their values, you can work together to accomplish specific positive objectives in a way that remains consistent with those values. Motivational interviewing is an important clinical skill, which is why I try to incorporate aspects of it into my Spinning classes.

Back to helmets. I think that it would be fairly easy to design and conduct a study of the factors that contribute to people's decisions to NOT wear a helmet during activities that require one. Why this is important: if one can appreciate an individual's specific reasons NOT to do something, one can target interventions SPECIFIC to those very reasons. The more I sit here thinking about how I can't budget the time/energy to do this study now, the more ideas I have about how easy it would be to actually do it -- and the more I'm entertaining commitment to it. Yes. I'm going to do this study. (Uh-oh: this sounds like an idea subject to 2009 Life Policy #1 -- must take action on new idea within 12 hours. Clock starts ticking now.)

I remember as a little kid, not wanting to wear a helmet when I rollerbladed because it "looked dorky" and "nobody else was doing it." Safety statistics wouldn't have done a thing to engage my REASON for not wearing that helmet. There were great campaigns in the late 80s/early 90s that appealed to that very rationalization: that is, that helmets were "cool" and that everyone wore them. I don't think that perception is the issue anymore; maybe it is... I guess we'll find out.

Present public health efforts to encourage helmet use are largely based on on the true concept that getting hit by a car is common, and injuries/deaths can be prevented by helmet use. It can, and it does. Helmets save lives, as supported by literature so extensively accepted by the general public that I don't feel compelled to cite any of it.

It follows that if one anticipates being near cars --> wear a helmet to avoid tragedy. But is it the case that people who do not anticipate being near cars do not consider that this message applies to them?

With the development of car-free bike paths and roller parks and everything else out there to promote safe recreation, this does nothing to specifically connect with the entire premise of the most central theme of helmet promotion efforts.

Yesterday, I was in a pretty bad bike accident. There was no car involved, other than the kind Vermonter who stopped by to wait with me as I awaited an ambulance. I wasn't doing anything dangerous. I wasn't going too fast, or climbing terrain that surpassed my abilities. I crashed because... I just did. I crashed because, sometimes, shit just happens. My front tire got stuck in a deep groove at the dirt-concrete interface, and I couldn't steer out or clip out in time.

BAM. Hit the concrete hard. REALLY hard. The sound of your own head hitting the concrete is truly quite unique.

I hurt badly. I was dizzy and throbbing and bloody. Way too much blood for this to be ok, I reckoned. I was alert enough to consider medical interventions (tracking my own finger, asking my riding partner to look at my pupils) and alert enough to arrange for friends to come pick up the bikes 25 miles from the hospital as the ambulance loaded me into the truck. Alert enough to appreciate that I always rode with my cell phone (as many people do NOT, during "quick spins"). Alert enough to appreciate that I always rode with my helmet.

I landed on the visor projection, which was dented in and cracked from the impact. My old helmet (which I wore as recently as 9 months ago) didn't have that extensive an extra projection.

I'm lucky. Lucky to have not sustained any fractures. Lucky to be training at an OUTSTANDING institution with a team that took such outstanding care of me. Lucky to have such generous, selfless friends who dropped everything to come to my aid.

But everyone who has met me since yesterday has asked me things like: "WHERE WERE YOU WHEN YOU GOT HIT?" -- "HOW FAST WAS THE CAR GOING?" -- "DID THE DRIVER STOP?"

It's not about the car. Sometimes it is. Often it is -- and when it is, it is always tragic. But it's not always about the car.

I reckon that the majority of my readership wears helmets. But I also reckon that you know people who don't. Why don't they? Is it because they don't perceive danger, riding/skating in a cars-free environment? Is it because they perceive of themselves as superstars at their sport, IMPOSSIBLE to accept the possibility that they could fall? Are they 100% confident that, if they fall, that they are 100% in control of how they land?

What can we do to encourage people to consider this paradigm -- simply, that they CAN fall?

It IS always that there is a chance that, no matter where one is or how skilled one is, that one can fall. And if one falls, sometimes one cannot control how one lands. Sometimes shit just happens, where "shit" means, in my case, "you hit your head on the concrete and are a bloody mess on the side of the road."

By writing this post, it is not my design to change the world. However, I do hope -- if nothing else -- that this prompts someone to start this conversation with SOMEONE in their lives.

By at least considering that we CAN fall (independent of external stimuli), the decision to wear a helmet vs. not wear a helmet truly does become a no-brainer.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Translating Life On The Bike --> Off The Bike

I spend a fair amount of time rationalizing to myself why I spend more than a fair amount of time blogging, putting rides together, downloading new music, developing HR training programs for both people I see everyday and people I've never met, answering Spinning-related emails, reading like a fiend about my go-to coaching cue constructs, etc. -- as opposed to, say, memorizing brain stem pathways. Arguably, it's a bit irresponsible of me -- so why do I do it? Because I'm a horrific procrastinator? Because it's nice to feel useful and effective? Because it's important to appreciate that, in some realm of my world, that I actually know enough about something to actually help other human beings (unlike my physician-in-training realm)? Because it gives me a sense of immediate purpose, a place in the world where I am contributing to something -- "doing," as opposed to "will one day do?" Because it contributes to my own self-efficacy -- that deep-rooted belief, at one's very core, that one can and will successfully navigate the challenges of one's world? All of the above.

At the end of the day, I have to take ownership of the fact that I invest this much time and energy because it's my way of processing my own world. Most of my rides these days reflect a particular life theme or life policy or life 'whatever' I feel like exploring (during the process of creating and preparing for it), and decide that others find valuable to explore through actually riding it: some technical, abstract, most both.

Note to self (and, apparently, to hundreds of people -- just to keep me honest): After my killer exam next week, I'm going to write about my new theory comparing insomnia to ride-development creative ruts.

Anyway - as I accumulate life experience, I get ballsier and ballsier with the "abstract" stuff. I'm kind-of 'over' the self-imposed construct that most people don't want to think about "life off they bike" while they ride a bike. The comfort of having accumulated a core of "regulars" who somehow decided to bestow me with the street cred to pull it off, the "delivery" of only taking myself 99.9% seriously when I dip into Cheese Mode, the balance with valuable technical training -- all of that has taken time, and I've arrived at a coaching style that (I think/hope) affords me to connect with both people who are looking to 'go there' and who occasionally think I'm nuts.

But I found myself wondering if I couldn't push the envelope a bit more...

I've written a bit (on this blog and my other one) about my good ol' 2009 New Life Policies, including the one that obligates me to take action on any "idea of something I say I'm really gonna do" within 12 hours of conception. One of said "somethings" was a pseudo-insane idea to start an actual for-fee course about all these things I write and think and talk about all day long. I've been integrating this on-the-bike --> off-the-bike training "thing" into my classes for a while. We occasionally ponder some heavy stuff: deepest fears/insecurities, creative freedoms, life-purpose. So much for The Bike That Doesn't Go Anywhere. Climbing, breathing, striving for improvement -- that's all pretty standard now, in small doses. But doing ENTIRELY this, training a group of people specifically SEEKING this? Could I even pull it off? Would I out-cheese myself? Would anyone even be interested?

Over the past few months, I acquired the support of my manager at UVM and set up the right infrastructure -- and lo and behold, people started registering for this thing: a 16-session "Cycling & Mindfulness Fusion" course. It started last week. 15 women. All of them primed and ready to 'go there.' Half of them are my regulars. Half are of an entirely different demographic (more of what I'm used to from my NYC days!), some of whom have never been on a Spinner before. They were attracted by the Mindfulness part. Cool.

The premise, of course, is to develop techniques and approaches ON the bike to contribute to their worlds OFF the bike. Mindfulness can be defined in a variety of ways -- by people FAR more qualified than me to define it; but how I'M using it in my course is the art of paying attention on purpose. Experiencing one's world, through all of one's senses. Unleashing one's power by tapping into the wholeness of that experience. Unleashing the power of breathing. Improving one's focus and general sense of connectedness to one's world.

I structured the first training session as sort-of an "Intro to Mindfulness" -- an orientation to breathing and form, proprioceptive awareness (I refrained from including any details on the specific neural pathways that contribute to one's knowledge of how one's body is moving in space -- though I actually KNOW this now; see how useful that whole 'medical school thing' is? Heh.), detaching from distraction, soaking up one's experience with every sense. I didn't talk pedal stroke. I didn't talk heart rate. I took the clock off the wall, and guided them through the art of guiding themselves. Two 20-minute seated climbs. Boring, steady beats. Their job was to just 'collect their data,' absorbed only in the task of paying attention. If their attention wandered, that was fine. They would then give themselves permission to reorient, reset. Permission to begin anew.

It was pretty ballsy. And it was pretty awesome.

This week, we evolved toward a bit more 'standard' stuff. Monday, we "collected data" again -- this time, introducing more variables: changes in resistance, speed, and position. I called the ride "Flaneur" -- a concept I've been exploring in my non-Spinning life after it was suggested by the family medicine doc with whom I've been working as a model for what I SEEM to be doing through my adjustment to Vermont life -- the idea of "wandering" through the world, taking in each experience without interpreting/judging. Clearly, one can appreciate how this just HAD to become a ride.

So that's how it went. Generic three-loop ride: experiencing the familiar in an unfamiliar way. Just paying attention to how their form, heart rate, and breathing change -- if at all. Tuesday, we did a "HR Survey." Experiencing the subtle differences between 70%, 75%, 80% and 85% MHR, and collecting more data. Both rides: not trying to control or change anything. Just experiencing it, attending to it.

I'm about to go coach a ride that will synergize what they practiced all week: Gathering data, and applying it to COMMIT to a target heart rate.

4 min seated climb, progressive loading to maintain 70%
3x "surges" -- 75%, 80%, 85%
(I use "surges" to mean an opportunity to respond as one sees fit: changing resistance, speed, position, or nothing at all)

4 min seated climb -- progressive loading to target HR (70, 75, 80. 85)
Loop 1: SURGES x6 (see above) -- still committed to that single HR
Loop 2: Recover. Progressive load back to target HR. Commit to it by whatever means necessary. Embracing this commitment as a promise to yourself, a reflection of your integrity.

(They don't know this yet... but they're going to hold it for 16 minutes. I can pull this off because I took the clock off the wall...)

We'll see how it goes....

EDIT 5/14/09 8:24PM: They rocked it.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Do your riders know WHY they're riding?

Have you participated in my research on the psychological effects of heart-rate training? If you've ever worn a HR monitor during exercise, you can take my 5 minute survey here. (You can also tell all your friends, colleagues, and riders about it, too!) I've been getting responses from around the country (and even quite a few international responses), and I'm learning SO much fascinating stuff that I can't wait to share with the world. But for now, I must bite my lip and refrain from biasing future participants.

I will, however, tell you where the first two weeks of this study have taken me. So far, it's been a sweet ride.

Last week, I had the unique opportunity to guest on the Indoor Cycle Instructor Podcast this week. John Macgowan (who is one of the coolest people EVER, as an aside) invited me on to be interviewed about my investigation of the relationship between HR monitor use and self-efficacy: one's belief in one's ability to navigate the challenges of one's world. Listen to my interview here. I was super-nervous and awkward, and somehow took on a Southern accent -- despite never having lived in the South -- but it was a fantastic experience nonetheless. And next week, after my awful awful awful neural science exam, I'm going to write up a step-by-step guide to my protocol for helping new HRM users (who resist my encouragement to commit to even ONE metabolic testing measurement or a sub-max field test) figure out their training zones. I was so focused on NOT talking too much in this interview that I inadvertently came across as super-vague when this came up, as you'll hear.

This experience prompted me to observe how I truly wish I could talk and write and breathe "this stuff" all day long. But as it turns out, medical school isn't quite so conducive to that. But as I sit here brainstem-deep in the torturous treachery of neural science, I constantly remind myself WHY I'm doing this. I'm doing this so that when Mr. Smith tells me that his right knee is going numb and that he's falling down, confused and scared, that maybe one day I'll have a clue what the hell to do to help him. Because you know what? Right now, I don't -- and I want to.

I find myself wondering, often, if my riders know WHY they're doing whatever they're doing on the bike. For all my talk about deep, thoughtful analysis of physical and mental training goals, I can't help but wonder whether it's possible that SOME of my go-to "cues" have become so automated that I no longer take the time to explain -- with precision -- their origins and significance. Could I go deeper? Could they go deeper?

As per usual, I decided to make a ride about it.

"TELL ME WHY," as I titled it (they aaaaaaaaalways have titles: contributes to the vibe of having every class feel like a big event worth coming to), took four basic technical "concepts" and challenged people to probe the root of what each of them meant to them, their training, and their lives.

Pedal stroke. Posture. Breathing. Heart rate control.

I talk a good game about each of them ad nauseum, and I'm proud to say that my "regulars" are largely on top of all of those fronts. I glow when I see people respond to my cues -- and when they don't, I consider it an intellectual challenge to devise alternate ways of describing the same point until they are prompted to self-improve. Communicating to a large group in such a way that each individual internalizes one's words, interprets and processes it as a unique, individualized experience is a challenge, fo' sure. But the REAL task, as I see it, is to communicate in such a way that said individualized experience lasts. Inspiring someone to take away something that they can apply to their experiences training solo, training in other people's classes, and even when they're not training at all -- THAT'S where it's at.

So am I to assume that because I teach a group how to execute the Perfect Pedal Stroke, that Sally in the corner really 'gets' why said Perfect Pedal Stroke matters? When I coach a group to flatten out their foot to engage the muscles in the back of the leg and hamstring, does Sally do that because "I said so" -- or because she gets, at a deeper level, why one even WANTS to engage those muscles? Does she care why EFFICIENCY (a term I use often) is going to do her any good? Does she see why it's worthwhile to attempt to get more work done without working harder? Does she see how her pedal stroke directly impacts upon muscle imbalances -- and if so, why that's something we care about avoiding? Does she know how to become a fat-burning machine?

Don't get me wrong: I am ABSOLUTELY thrilled that Sally stopped pointing her toes. But you know what? If Sally doesn't 'get' everything at the root of why I coached her otherwise, Sally's going to go right back to pointing her toes when she leaves my class. She may have been riding just swell in my class -- but if her new practices don't 'stick' when she takes someone else's class, I have failed her. If I had an opportunity to translate my knowledge into a forum that could be meaningful to her and I blew it, that's unacceptable to me.

Hence, my new ride.

Here's how it worked:


4 loops. Each loop emphasizing one of those concepts:
1) Perfect Pedal Stroke
2) Posture
3) Breathing
4) Heart Rate Control

1) Perfect Pedal Stroke
5 minute seated climb --> 3x seated accelerations
I explained the Perfect Pedal Stroke and why it mattered, whether one rides outside or not. I explained why we can ultimately get MORE work done (support more resistance, more speed) if we allow 100% of our leg muscles to work instead of merely mashing down with the quads. I asked them to close their eyes (for an anonymous poll -- I employ this technique often) and raise their hands if they were opposed to any of my questions: Who's opposed to being able to demonstrate their own strength to themselves? No hands. Anyone opposed to seeing more sculpted legs? No hands. Anyone opposed to being able to last longer without needing to take a break? No hands. Anyone opposed to preventing injury? No hands.

Didn't think so.

So with that, I explained the Perfect Pedal Stroke -- went through the clock metaphor, and the three "secret power moves" I wanted them to focus on: the FORWARD drive, the BACKWARD wipe, and the powerful UPSTROKE. I explained which muscles they should feel working during each part. Then we did pedal stroke drills for 6 minutes. Imagine? Ballsy as hell. They loved it.

Direct all your energy into your right leg. Left leg is still moving but just let it go to sleep.
First, FORWARD strokes on the downbeat. Generate the motion from your glute, extend the leg. Kick your heel out to the front of the wheel.

Repeated left. Then right and left working together -- all just the FORWARD.
Repeated for the BACKWARD. Generate the motion from your hamstring, calf involved in the "WIPING" motion - like you've got something disgusting on the bottom of your shoe. Dropping the heel a smidgeon just to keep the foot flat. Right, left, right and left.
Repeated for the UPSTROKE. Motion comes from the hip flexor. Squeeze the hip flexor, forcefully pulling your knee straight up to your chest. Right, left, right and left.

I encouraged them to develop their own language to "coach themselves" through each part of the pedal stroke -- something that would ultimately become automated. Using the beat of the music in whatever way they found helpful.

UP / UP / UP

Threw in 3x accelerations (30 seconds) seated, challenge to commit to the PPS.

Progressive loading -- seated climb --> heeeeeeeeeeeeavy seated climb (60 rpm - I don't talk cadences with my classes at UVM; I just give 'em a beat) --> 3x accelerations
Explained the merits of relaxed upper body posture to promote efficient breathing, to prevent momentum from being transferred to the joints.
Your challenge as you load more and more resistance is to breathe extra calmness into that upper body. As you accept more opportunity to demonstrate your strength, your upper body gets LOOSER and LOOSER. Find that natural groove to your shoulders. Give the energy you're creating somewhere to go.

3x accelerations -- get those shoulders movin'!

Seated climb --> progressive loading --> heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeavy seated climb

Start at 65% MHR. Every time you touch the resistance knob, DEEP BREATH in through the nose and LONG breath out the mouth. Heart rate goes nowhere. Extend the breath on the way out even longer. Heart rate drops. When heart rate drops, add a smidgeon more resistance. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Any time your heart rate does not come down, do not add any more resistance. Keep breathing, keep lengthening the exhalation. Smidgeon more. Smidgeon more.

At the end of 5 minutes, this hill is INSANELY heavy. 60 rpm. It's a "no joke" hill, as I call it.
But where's your heart rate? Still at 65% MHR because of HOW gradually you accepted that challenge, using your breath to fuel your ability to take on each opportunity to demonstrate success.

* This is my absolute favorite progressive loading drill. I call it "Increase and Breathe." I named my other blog after it, as I see it -- cheesy or not -- as a metaphor for life. *

Seated climb --> 3 intervals: first, speed; second, resistance; third, change resistance
Pick a heart rate. Observe how your body responds to challenges. Practice using breathing to maintain the same level of intensity.
(Trying not to fail out of school... so limiting my elaborations! I refer you to my "SURGES" described here.)

Choose one of those themes. Make every effort reflect a pure commitment to it. Make it mean something.

20 minute climb. You choose how to climb it. And why.

At the end of the climb, I took another closed-eye anonymous poll.

Who feels like they accomplished what they set out to do today?
Who feels more self-confident, like they used their time wisely?

I reminded them that their training is THEIR time -- and that everything they do should be done for a SPECIFIC reason. And that if there's ever anything that I coach them to do -- that anyone coaches them to do -- that they should demand to "TELL ME WHY."

Tell me why I spent 90 minutes blogging about a Spinning ride instead of studying? Oops.

One more shameless plug, as justification: Please encourage everyone you know who has ever trained with a HRM to participate in my study!