By Anne Stanton
Yes, we are in the dead of wintera time when most serious cyclists put on their skate skis or snow shoes or ride a stationary bike. But now theres a new optiona hardcore indoor cycling class for those determined to increase their speed and strength over the winter.
Its almost guaranteed, said Lauri Brockmiller, who runs the class. Of course, theres a niggling caveat. The cyclists must commit to a three-day-a-week, 90-minute training sessionover eight weeks and follow a specific ride progression of minutes and intensity.
Its hard not to get better when the training is dialed in, said Brockmiller, who writes down the ride format on a card for each rider before each session.
Of course, a 90-minute ride (at 5 a.m. no less) is easier said than done. But the universal lesson in life is the more you put into it, the more you get out of it, plain and simple.
Brockmiller is a pretty, dark-haired mom of two young children with a powerhouse body. She has a rather unique way of telling students what to doquietly gentle, but all business. She has worked for years as a personal trainer and spin instructor, tending to favor clients who want a serious workout, rather than a social hour with friends. Brockmiller frowns down upon idle chitchat during workouts. Not to be harsh, she said, but if you can talk, it means youre not exerting yourself enough. and who wants to waste all that money.
Now shes become the beloved coach of Traverse City areas elite bicyclists. Close to 20 of them have signed up this winter for her highly tailored torture program on the highest-tech bikes in the country, PT 400 CycleOps. And the bikes do deliver a gigantic work-out, which Brockmiller has designed based upon the advice of Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan, the gods of training with power and Chris Carmichael and Joe Friel, the nations top cycling and endurance coaches.
I combined the methodologies from all these guys, she said.
On a Sunday morning, one day after Christmas, seven cyclists showed up ready to work. All seven focused intently on their computer screen pedaling to loud, high-energy music. Every cyclist came prepared with two water bottles and a couple of towels on the handle bars to mop up sweat. Profuse drippers put a towel underneath their bike.
That evening, Brockmiller downloaded the data, and later had a gentle talk with those who didnt meet their performance marks. (She designs a unique ride format based upon the riders ability.) One student, for example, was making his numbers, but his heart rate was high. Perhaps he was dehydrated or had too much caffeine.
She has a web page for each student, so I can put in what Im doing every day of the week . She knows everything about what youre doing. You can put in your diet, your calories, what youre drinking, said Eric Grassa, a well-muscled 30-something dude who skate skied the VASA trail the very next evening. Shes like a personal coach for everyone. Thats something you dont get anywhere. I get up at 4 in the morning three times a week to take her class. But if Id have to get up at 2 a.m, I would do it. Shes an amazing talent.
Thanks to the fall class, Grassa said he shaved 10 minutes off his previous time on the Iceman Cometh Challenge, a 27-mile mountain bike race from Kalkaska to Traverse City. Brockmiller herself raced the Iceman for the first time, beating out 62 women.
Brockmillers students largely come from a spinning class she used to teach at a popular Traverse City gym. The class gathered a loyal following and maxed out at 26. The most serious students have joined this elite cycling class. Lisa Hathaway was one of them.
She trains you like an athlete. I love having the structure and purpose to it. But youve got to be dedicated. She looks for people willing to put in the time, and if you are, shes willing to go the extra mile for you, said Hathaway.
Hathaway is a shining example of how even a busy parent can become super fit. At 41, shes the mom of four kids, age 5 to 12. Hathaway finds work-out time by getting up at 4:30 a.m. and going to bed close to midnight. Somehow, she gets by on five hours of sleep and has loads of energy. She was an avid runner before knee problems steered her toward cycling.
Jill Slagal, another student, is new to cycling, after laying down $3,000 for a serious road bike this past year. She doesnt mind being the relative newbie in classeveryone has their individualized program and its un-cool to peek at the others work-out card. All you really need to qualify for the class is experience in a spinning class and a desire to consistently push yourself, she said.
Brockmillers fall class averaged a 7% increase in performance, ranging from 2% to 18%. Those in the worst shape enjoyed the highest performance gain, not surprisingly.
You get in here realizing how good the bikes are and it gets kind of addicting seeing the numbers, she said. The small groups of morning and evening cyclists are becoming like family. In the end, its all about having fun and getting fit.
Brockmillers motivation to open her new businessBrockmiller Elite Endurancewas to offer training that was rooted in research. I wanted a more science-based program than your typical spinning class, Brockmiller said.
And were talking science. At the start of each eight-week course, each student performs a functional threshold power (FTP) test to get a baseline measure of the riders power. Brockmiller uses that initial data to design the cyclists unique riding.
During the 90-minute sessions, the rider follows a specific set of ride instructions and can see on the computer screen how many watts of power he or she is delivering to the pedal, along with heart rate (each cyclist wears a heart monitor), cadence, calories burned, and more. This provides a far more comprehensive picture of exercise intensity than measuring ones heart rate alone. At the end of the 90-minute workout, Brockmiller downloads the workout data of each student to keep a running record of their training.
The data can tell me if a person is over-training, progressing, or staying the same. Over time, it can also show me an athletes strengths and weaknesses, she said.
For example, Brockmiller can assess whether a person might be a better sprinter or long-distance cyclist. She can also look to the training as a recipe for success.
If a client really performs well, we can look back on what led up to that success. Likewise, if things go bad, we can determine what went wrong.
Another of Brockmillers motivation to go beyond the traditional spinning class was to offer an extended 90-minute class.
Intense rides require longer warm-ups, and sometimes you just cant get it done in an hour, she explained.
REST & RECOVERY
She also needed a clientele that could commit to an eight-week plan, instead of a drop-in format. One reason: she builds in a recovery period in the fourth and eighth weeks, dropping down bouts of power and duration by as much as half. Without rest, you keep breaking the body down, she explained.
Most amateurs dont realize this principle and most elite athletes have a hard time abiding by it, Brockmiller said.
Brockmiller varies the workouts, depending on whether the riders are gearing up for a race or want steady improvement over the winter. She also tries to keep the music fresh.
But I am a firm believer in entertainment doesnt equal results, she said.
One would question how many people are quite this serious about their cycling or willing to pay the $360 for an eight-week class. But amazingly, Brockmiller has filled every class shes offered and the waiting list has lengthened. Thats a relief to herself and business partner Doug Petersen, owner of the Rock Bottom Gym in Building 50 at the Grand Traverse Commons, where the bikes are aligned in two neat rows in front of wall-sized mirrors. The two personal trainers have invested thousands in the upstart company, buying the eight bikes at $2,800 apiece.
So far, their investment is paying off.
Its been stressful to begin a business, but I knew I could offer something better with the sole focus of performance. I needed longer classes and bikes that could measure power, Brockmiller said.
For more information, call Lauri or Doug at the Rock Bottom Gym at 590-6300.