Off-season insights from Vélolabs

Located on the banks of the Lachine Canal, steps from Ma Bicyclette, lies a training nook and winter mecca for cyclists, called Vélolabs.   Team Ma Bicyclette is well into its second winter season with Bruce Zigman (owner of Vélolabs) and his tremendous team of coaches.  TMB manager Milo Manzano took a minute with Bruce to have him explain some of the FAQ’s off-season training newbies may have.

Could you explain what is Functional Strength Training? 

Our goal in the gym is to address the entire body and to chose specific exercises  that will allow you to better perform in your sport.  We work to strengthen your body in ways that replicate movements seen in your sport and to prepare your body for stresses it will incur while competing.

Who should be doing this kind of training?

Anyone who rides a bike and wants to improve their fitness or performance on the bike can benefit from a structured training program.

How do the classes at Vélolabs differ from a regular spin class?

Spinning classes vary in themes with some of them using light free weights, others are paired with rhythms or music and some have you envision a certain course or terrain and match it with a perceived effort.  At Vélolabs we train with the same theory and parameters as pro cyclists.  We use power (watts) as the primary means for structure in our training sessions.   These sessions are designed with sets of intervals varying in length and intensity.  The parameters of these intervals are based on our goals.  At Vélolabs you are able to mount your own bicycle to our trainers and to view live feedback through the computer system and the TV’s.

What is FTP, and can it determine someone’s race performance?

FTP (functional threshold power) is the actual or estimated amount of maximum power that can be sustained for an hour.  It is limited by the point at which lactic acid begins to form in the exercising muscles.  The higher your FTP, the greater your level of fitness and this will allow you to compete with the racers around you.

Could you give us an explanation and importance of the “watts per kilogram output”?

Watts per kilogram is an extremely important number when comparing one rider to another.  It makes sense that a trained 90 kg rider will likely have a higher FTP than a trained 60 kg rider given the extra body weight and the amount of leg muscles which both help to turn the cranks.  We must remember  that the 90 kg rider also has a lot more weight to carry up each hill and through the entire 120 km race.  Just because he has a higher FTP doesn’t mean that he is in better physical shape nor that he will finish the race before the 60 kg rider.  One must compare their FTP to their own body weight if they want to compare themselves to other riders.

What does ‘off season’ training mean, and why is it relevant?

The off-season is the time of year when you are not competing. For a cyclist, this would be the time between their last race of the year and the first race of the following year. Training during this time is crucial as it allows you to become stronger and better prepared than you were the previous year.

Will I really see a difference in the spring once I’m back on my bike on the roads?

Yes.  Spending time on the trainer during the off-season will definitely make a difference come spring.  That amount of difference will depend on how often you trained and how effective your training plan was.

Once the offseason training is over, what is the best way to jump back into the racing season?

It’s important to have a transition period between your off-season training and your racing.  This is the time to cut back on total training hours and be more precise in the training you are doing, particularly certain aspects of your race.  Most importantly, get outdoors, get on your bike and have fun!

Thanks Bruce!

To push your limits this winter, visit Vélolabs.

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