Pushing the Power: The Hurtbox Effect

This is the 4th and final post based on my experiences at Hurtbox, an indoor cycle training facility based in Southampton. You can view Part 1, Part 2 & Part 3 here as well as at https://hurtbox.co.uk/blog/.

I’ve come to the end of my weekly sessions at Hurtbox and in my final post I’ll be sharing my experience of the FTP test as well as the benefits from my time at the cycle studio.

But first to the numbers, and more specifically Watts. For my final session at Hurtbox I was lucky enough to get myself on one of the FTP Tests to see how much I’d improved in pure power terms.

The test is very simple to understand. After a longer than normal warm up, you ride as hard as you can sustain for 20mins. The average amount of power (Watts) you produce over those 20mins is your FTP. Going into the test my FTP had been 247 Watts which was based on a test I’d done almost a year before. That number had dictated the intensity of the all the sessions I’d ridden in the previous 2 months and I had been mostly able to cope at that power level so I was confident I could get some improvement.

I turned up to the studio on an incredibly hot evening so it was rather fortunate that there were a few spare fans to keep us slightly cooler during our test.

Into the test and the first noticeable difference to the normal Hurtbox sessions is that you are the master of the power put into the pedals as there’s no resistance offered by the Kickr. Getting the amount power right in those first few minutes is really tricky: Go too hard and you’ll fade in the second half of the test, too easy and you’ll not get a true reflection of your power. Keeping the power consistent is also really important, so I worked hard on being as smooth as I could on the pedals to avoid the readings on the screen jumping up and down. For the first 5 mins of the test I managed to push to around 252 Watts which I was pleased with and hoped I could sustain until the end.

As the session went on the build up of heat and sweat started to make each pedal stroke that little bit harder. I really focused on pushing the most power I could sustain out of my legs and breaking the session down into 5 min chunks as per Coach James’s pre test advice. Into the last 5 minutes and although the average power had dropped slightly, I was determined to hit the 250 Watts marker for the test. Those final few minutes were broken down into their own little 60 secs of intensity to keep the legs going even when they wanted to stop. Into the final minute and the little extra that’s always hidden away magically appeared and I pushed hard on the pedals until the clock reached zero and I could slump in a sweaty mess over the handlebars.

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The result: A small improvement of 3 Watts, giving an average of 250 Watts. I was pleased with the increase regardless of its size as I know the heat had made it that little bit harder and I hadn’t tapered off my running intensity before the session (as is normally the recommendation). Not quite enough to power a toaster but apparently 250W is the typical power in the battery of many electric bikes so its good to know I’d be able to keep up with most people whizzing round the streets on them.

Of course the numbers are great to have but its the feeling you have when riding your bike which is important.

I’ve felt more powerful when out on my bike, especially when riding to work. I’m riding with a much improved cadence, rather than slowly churning round a big gear and that’s made a big difference to how my legs feel when getting off the bike and going for a run when I get home. This ability to spin the legs round much quicker than before has also been really apparent up hills as I’m getting up them much more efficiently rather than getting out of the saddle.

With the much improved weather and longer evenings I’ve also been out in the fresh air riding a lot more, including with the Hurtbox crew on their regular Social Rides for members. I can feel the improved endurance on the bike as well as the ability to pick up the pace at times when I fancy a change of speed. A number of Strava Personal Records have been achieved in the past few weeks, sometimes without making a concerted effort to push the intensity along the route.

How has that translated into my running?

As mentioned in my previous post its been hard at times balancing the riding with my running and it was a little unfortunate that I had a set of regular races coinciding with my time at Hurtbox. That being said the sessions have been good at keeping my endurance high and its been beneficial to give my body a different stimulus to adapt to. The variety in the sessions, from short, sharp intervals to longer tempo efforts have also helped with improving my fitness overall. This has led to some good performances in those races, posting high positions and encouraging times. Crucially its given me a strong foundation to build on as I target some bigger running goals later in the summer.

I would absolutely recommend for any cyclist, triathlete or runner to sign up to Hurtbox. Not only do you get a great variety of sessions to build your fitness and power but also get the advice of some knowledge coaches, and on top of that there’s a great community to ride alongside and share your experiences with.

I’m definitely looking forward to getting out on my bike over the summer, especially on holiday around Lake Annecy and I’ll appreciate the time spent at Hurtbox when I’m riding over some climbs in the Alps.

 

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