At Project by Equinox, creative fitness instructors think up new ways to propel the upscale brand forward. Can they build the next big exercise trend?
That’s because in it lies a laboratory of sorts, a barely known incubator devoted to the future of fitness. Project by Equinox is a sweaty think tank where instructors, exercise specialists, and program directors brainstorm the next Zumba. Created by Equinox, it independently lives outside a traditional studio to create an intimate training community.
“Our ultimate goal is to welcome ideas and innovation into the brand from outside that might provide us with scalable ideas to use back at Equinox,” explains Keith Irace, Equinox’s VP of group fitness.
Inside, it’s an equal mix of trendy boutique studio and a secretive underground bunker. The blocky and matte cement interiors resemble a panic room, though dotted with a few unexpected amenities like a cold brew tap, tubs of Orbit gum, and a bathroom stocked with Drybar products.
The workout room, meanwhile, features support pillars encased in cognac leather and sleek glass. Grates cover the ceiling, letting bursts of bright colors like melon pink shine through. This place doesn’t look like your average gym, and that’s the point: This is a place to get instructors to, hopefully, think differently.
“We wanted to make sure that we weren’t missing anything that didn’t organically fit under our umbrella,” says Irace of the program.
Embracing the new is on par with the luxury brand, as it continuously expands beyond the gym floor. Most recently, Equinox announced plans for a hotel and launched a line of high-end goods with famous designers like Virgil Abloh.
Rapid consumer interest in health and fitness activities has skyrocketed, with 1 out of every 5 Americans heading to the gym (or at least paying for a membership), according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. IBISworld predicts the gym and health club market will grow at an annualized rate of 3.2%, a faster pace than the overall economy.
“It’s never been better to be in the fitness business,” Equinox executive chairman Harvey Spevak recently told CNBC. “Demand has never been stronger . . . Health is the new wealth.”As boutique fitness grabs a greater percentage of the $30 billion U.S. fitness industry, big brands know they need to innovate to keep up with trends. Cycling studios, for example, doubled in the last few years. The intention isn’t to simply copy what’s working for cult-favorite studios, but to come up with The Next Big Thing.
As such, Project by Equinox acts as both an incubator program and a talent scout. Forward-thinking fitness instructors can apply for a yearlong program on premises, though some are “discovered” by an in-house scout who frequents boutique studios, then sets up auditions. Some are already employed by Equinox, but the majority are new to the brand. It’s an even mix of insiders and outsiders.
At the same time, anyone can take a class at Project. While the studio doesn’t advertise itself in traditional ways, it does get a decent-sized group for each class simply by word of mouth. That, and the fact that many of the instructors boast sizeable social media followers (or as fitness enthusiasts call them, “tribes.”) Attendees are encouraged to provide feedback on each class, thereby helping to improve the end result.
National Geographic Explorer and best-selling author Dan Buettner searched for the happiest Americans. Where he found them will surprise you.
Boulder, Colorado—the happiest city in America according to the National Geographic Gallup Special Index—is best explored on two wheels, with over more than 300 miles of dedicated bikeways.
MEN’S STAGE BREAKDOWN Stage 1 – 1:10 p.m. Thursday (approximate finish 4:40 p.m.), Colorado Springs. 93.5 miles, 5,934 feet of elevation gain. Professional road cycling returns to the Pikes Peak region for the first time since 2014. The route being used to christen the Colorado Classic is a familiar one for local fans and some of the riders, with all of the roads having been raced during the USA Pro Challenge. Cyclists will ride six 15.5-mile laps. Prime viewing spots include downtown – site of the start and the finish – Garden of the Gods and Old Colorado City. Expect multiple attacks early to spawn a breakaway. But a single rider or a small group likely won’t be able to hold off a hard-charging peloton to
Sweat dripped down my face as Beyoncé blared overhead. My cadence was off-beat. As my cheeks grew red, I lost my words, looking out in front of me to an empty room. Then it happened: I broke down. Overcome with emotion, I began to wonder if I’d ever be able to get this whole Spin instructor thing down. I wondered if maybe I was making a mistake
You see, at the beginning of the year, I lost my full-time job as a fitness editor when they shuttered the magazine I was working for. I hit the ground running, navigating the world of full-time freelance writing and editing, but I had so many questions. What would be next move? What would be my best move? Just over a month later, I found myself in talks with a cycling studio called Swerve I’d been going to for years. As a certified personal trainer and run coach, I thought being a Spin instructor could be right up my alley. And at this particular studio, where teamwork and community are key, it felt like an opportunity that was too good to pass up.
So I did it. I rallied up the courage, stopped asking myself “what am I doing?”, and auditioned. In that first stint, it immediately felt right. I got the sense that this would be a place where I could connect with others. This would be a place where I’d take on my next adventure. This would be a place where I could learn about myself. But little did I know at that moment just how much I’d learn.
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Setup Timeout Error: Setup took longer than 30 seconds to complete.
Here’s the thing. I’m a perfectionist. I’d also never taught a Spin class. I live my life by the mantra that all it takes is all you’ve got. Getting the call that they wanted me to train to become an instructor, having never done it before, was enthralling. The training program, though? It was grueling. For give-or-take six weeks, I learned everything from proper bike setup and how to structure a playlist to form cuing and how to command a room.
At Swerve, the class is divided into three teams competing against one another. You have a couple of different ways to earn extra points for your team, via sprinting past the beat of the music and “Swerving to the beat” (that’s holding the RPM — or revolutions per minute). Both of those involve using a special technology that’s unique to the studio, all while cuing everything from bike positioning to cadence. It’s . . . a lot. But it’s a lot of fun, too. The team aspect fosters togetherness. Being part of a community of athletes like the one at Swerve meant that I had to put in my time. I had to learn all of the special tech’s in and outs so that I could best lead a class. (Have I mentioned I’d never done this before?)
I was giving it all I had. Hour after hour, whether I was working with the studio’s head of training or talking to myself in an empty studio, I was learning. But still, I was missing cues. Despite dedicating so much time to this new skill, I kept feeling like I was failing. I kept feeling overwhelmed. I kept feeling . . . stuck.
I remember that breakdown day in the studio like it was yesterday. I removed myself from the bike. Looking down at my bright red leggings, I had my moment. I thought of an interview I had done with Olympian Dawn Harper-Nelson about a year earlier. On the phone, we talked about her spill at the World Athletic Championships in Beijing. She told me about how she felt ruined after tripping over that. She was overcome. Despite wanting to run and hide from the media, she persisted. We talked about the lesson she learned that’s stuck with me: in times of difficulty, it’s important to have your moment. You don’t work hard to fail. You work hard because you’re passionate. You work hard because you care. So when things don’t go your way, when mistakes happen, have your moment to appreciate the frustration and how you feel. Then, reflect. She encouraged told me to ask myself: why is it that the mistake happened? What is it that you can learn, and how will you best move forward?
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For the zillionth time, I confronted my reality: Spin was something I’d never done. Being good at this was going to take time. Just because I wasn’t perfect off the bat didn’t mean that I couldn’t be great. It didn’t mean that I didn’t have potential. It didn’t mean I wasn’t working hard.
So I began to accept the mishaps. Instead of getting choked up when things went wrong, I grew to appreciate the chaos and learn how to incorporate small flukes into the swing of things. I began to realize that the small errors I was making may have been blaring to me but unnoticeable to everyone else. I started to realize that in time, with practice, I was getting into the swing of things.
One day, everything clicked. My demo ride, where you invite a bunch of good friends to hit the saddle and squad up for a little practice ride, was the next day. I set up in the studio by myself and ran through my entire playlist. By the fifth song, no mess-ups, no frustration, just this feeling of accomplishment. And the next day, in front of 24 close friends, I did it. I lead my first class, nearly bursting into tears the second the final song came to a close. Surrounded with love, I’d done something I wondered if I was even capable of doing in the first place. And the best part? I did it well.
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A slew of classes in, I’m proud of myself. I’m proud to report that I haven’t burned down the studio. I’m proud to report that I encouraged my mom to take her first Spin (slash boutique fitness class). I’m proud to report that I am part of an amazing team. I’m proud to report that I’ve learned to love myself, flaws and all. It was never that I wasn’t good enough to do this. It was I’ve come to learn that during the hard times when you want to give up, you’ve gotta dig deep. Challenges emerge in life because we are capable of handling them. We are capable of the growth necessary for moving forward. Now that I’ve risen to this one, I can’t wait to see what’s next.
INTRODUCING THE WORLD’S FINEST INDOOR BIKES
We’ve partnered with Stages Indoor Cycling to bring the most technologically advanced indoor bike to Equinox, setting your success in motion with the smoothest, smartest and strongest ride of your life.
Simple and fast bike adjustments allow you to refine your ride from posture to pedal stroke. Reliably accurate data puts your performance into perspective. Designed with an unmatched outdoor road feel, your cycling experience is as elevated as your highest goals.
A carbon-fiber belt replaces the bike’s chain for the most efficient and silent transfer of energy, delivering the most natural road feel.
Adjust gear resistance to build workload rapidly or gradually, or drop it instantly to recover between power intervals.
Whether counting calories or logging in-depth stats, the StagesPowerTM meter ensures the most accurate results from the most competitive workouts.
More than just measuring your power, the EcoSCRNTM stats-crunching computer display feeds off your physical output to give you more detailed input.
Easier to set up for a harder workout, the Stages SC3 indoor bike for Equinox is engineered for maximum comfort and ergonomic efficiency.
Training with a power meter is the absolute best way to get the most out of both your training time and effort. Unlike heart rate-based training, power allows us to measure the muscular demands of the effort instead of just the aerobic. The metrics-based approach to training that power provides is invaluable in helping athletes reach their goals, but what is it that we need to focus on, and how do we decipher all of the available information when one wants to get started training with power?
There are a few key places we can direct our attention to begin to understand the information generated from our power meters, and how to best utilize it to inform the decisions we make regarding training prescription.
What is Threshold?
In order to grasp and apply power metrics to our training we first need to understand the foundation on which everything is built: threshold. Threshold is simply the maximum wattage (power) you can maintain while your body can still remove the lactic acid being produced by your working muscles.
It’s also the point at which your body begins to recruit greater amounts of fast-twitch muscle fiber. Working for longer periods of time above your threshold creates the familiar “burn” in the legs as a result of accumulating lactic acid. Athletes can increase their body’s lactic acid clearing potential by spending significant time training in specific ranges below and right at threshold.
Time in these ranges also trains the body to slow the rate of carbohydrate utilization. Once you understand the concept of threshold we can take it a step further with FTP (Functional Threshold Power). FTP is the linchpin of power-based workouts, and the key to executing them properly.
Setting and Maintaining FTP
By now you’re no doubt at least familiar with FTP, how it impacts your training approach and your overall performance on the bike. However, knowing what produces a strong and accurate FTP, how to establish it, and how maintain it are vital to keeping your training on track.
Setting your FTP, or rather producing efforts that yield the results you want, takes some practice and know how. With tools like TrainingPeaks and WKO4 we can understand and analyze power numbers more accurately and consistently than ever before.
So how do you know what your FTP is? With the tools we have available to us today there are a couple of things you’ll want to do and look at to ensure your FTP is accurate. The first step is to produce threshold level efforts in training. The “field test” is a tried and true method, and usually the first step in setting your FTP. To perform the field test use the following protocol.
- 20 minutes at endurance pace
- 3×1 minute high cadence drills at 100 RPM w/ 1minute rest between each
- 5 minutes at endurance pace
- 5 minute all out effort.
- 10 minutes at endurance pace
- 20 minute all out effort
- 10-15 minutes easy
Once you’ve performed the FTP test, upload your data and analyze your performance. To calculate your FTP take 95 percent of your 20-minute, all-out effort. This will serve as a good approximation of your lactate threshold, and a strong baseline number for your training. However, while the field test is a strong indicator of FTP and a great place to start, physiological adaptation and performance is more nuanced than a simple 20-minute test.
The Power Duration Curve
WKO4 takes things a step further with the concept of modeled FTP (mFTP), which plots your performances across a curve and generates an mFTP based on historical efforts. Since everyone’s strength isn’t necessarily a 20-minute TT, the PD Curve can be a good way to gain insight into where you’re strongest, and what efforts you may need to focus on to elicit critical adaptations.
If you’re using mFTP and the PD Curve, it’s best to perform all-out efforts of varying durations anywhere from 30 seconds to one hour to get the most out of the “curve.” When establishing any power-based metric, the importance of valid and accurate data can’t be overstated. Power spikes and inaccurate data can drastically skew test results, and can even result in an inaccurate FTP or other power-derived metrics. Whether you’re using the field test, the PD Curve, or a combination of both, you’ll want to perform FTP level efforts four to six times a year so that your FTP is set correctly at key points in the season. It’s tools like this that make training with power so insightful!
Establishing Power Zones
Now that you’ve determined your FTP, and understand what it is you need to do maintain an accurate threshold, you can calculate your training zones. Power-derived training zones are what you’ll use for every workout and ride to decipher how intense the ride was, and whether the planned intent of the ride or workout was achieved. Zones allow you to establish the appropriate intensity to induce the adaptation necessary for aerobic, metabolic, and muscular development. Power zones also further highlight the importance of an accurate and up to date FTP. There are several different zone structures available for athletes to use, but ultimately the more detailed and accurately the zones reflect your physiology the better. Below is one example of a seven zone format that can be used:
Zone 1 Active Recovery (AR) = < 55% of FTP
Zone 2 Endurance = 56%-75% of FTP
Zone 3 Tempo = 76%-90% of FTP
Zone 4 Lactate Threshold = 91%-105% of FTP
Zone 5 VO2max = 106%-120% of FTP
Zone 6 Anaerobic Capacity (AC) = 121%-150% of FTP
Zone 7 Neuromuscular Power (NP) = Maximal Power
If you’re using WKO4 you can also use Dr. Andy Coggan’s Individualized Power Levels that allow for an even more granular approach to workout prescription and ride analysis.
Training with Power
The reason that you purchased a power meter is to enhance your training and improve your fitness. So, how do you go about training with power? The variations of workouts that can be performed are endless, but there are several key areas that you can focus on to elicit the greatest response.
These efforts are performed at 88 percent to 94 percent of your FTP and are a great way to strengthen and build your FTP. Typically they’re performed earlier in the season, or mid-season to rebuild toward priority races. The duration of Sweet Spot intervals can vary depending on the athlete, but the goal should be to extend the duration and number of intervals throughout the season.
Threshold workouts are meant to directly improve your FTP and should be completed at 96 percent to 105 percent of your FTP. These should take you to your limit. Much like Sweet Spot intervals, the goal is to increase the length of time you can spend at this level. Typically these FTP-specific efforts build off the time you’ve spent training in your Sweet Spot.
STEADY STATE TEMPO
Tempo workouts are the foundation for most cyclists, especially those looking to increase muscular endurance and/or those training for longer endurance events. Tempo workouts occur between 76 percent and 88 percent of FTP, and should be long sustained efforts lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours.
These efforts are often the focus for traditional criterium and road racers looking to improve sprint and lead out performance. Lasting from three to eight minutes, they’re very challenging and should be planned for accordingly, as they require proper recovery upon completion of the workout. Depending on the duration of the interval, the intensity may range from 105 percent to 120 percent of FTP. These are valuable when matching race specificity for climbs, sprints, etc.
Analyzing and Tracking Training
Power-based training is only as good as you and/or your coach’s ability to track and analyze it! To get the benefits of training with a power meter you have to analyze your workouts and chart your progress over time. Again, the beauty of training and racing with power is our ability to quantify the effort and assign values to it. Here a some key areas to focus on when it comes to analysis:
- Analyze your training to measure progress and understand what prescription is necessary to move you toward your goals. How did a particular workout go? How did you feel? Comparing the qualitative with the quantitative is not only good practice, but it’s how you improve and learn more about yourself as an athlete.
- Review race files to understand if your training has been impactful. The goal of training for the majority of athletes is to prepare for race day. There’s more to race day than just fitness, but understanding your performance is a start.Take the time to perform an in-depth review of races to look for valuable insights that can also help inform your training moving forward.
- Use the Performance Management Chart (PMC) to track your buildup to priority races. Paying careful attention to training load, ramp rate and fatigue will ensure you’re not overtraining, and will also help you peak for race day.
- Pay special attention to Chronic Training Load (CTL), Acute Training Load (ATL) and Training Stress Balance (TSB) to take full advantage of training with power. These core metrics allow you to keep your finger on the pulse of your training. They’re invaluable for properly structuring training blocks, and being prepared for priority races.
Often times the barrier to entry for athletes that are new to training with power can be the learning curve as it relates to power-based metrics. Yes, it’s true that there are a lot of metrics and numbers that an athlete can pay attention to, but here a some of the most important ones:
WATTS PER KILOGRAM (W/KG)
All things equal, the rider with the highest W/Kg will be the fastest. Simply put, it is how much power you produce per kilogram of body weight. The higher the number is, the stronger you’ll be.
NORMALIZED POWER (NP)
Due to the inherently variable nature of cycling, NP is a better representation of how metabolically challenging a workout was. It takes carbohydrate burning power surges into account and thus highlights the overall fatigue of the ride better than average power.
INTENSITY FACTOR (IF)
IF is the ratio of the Normalized Power of a ride to your FTP. Think of IF as a snapshot of how intense (hard) a workout or ride was. You can use this metric to understand if your perceived effort matched the actual intensity, and if you were on target for the workout.
TRAINING STRESS SCORE (TSS)
TSS measures the total workload of a ride. TSS quantifies how much work was done, and thus how much recovery is needed. Training Stress Score is important to track over time because it drives both fitness and fatigue, which in turn tells you how prepared for a race you are.
Tracking your peak power numbers for key durations will help you not only see how you’re improving, but also ensure your training is matching the demands of your racing. As a rule of thumb if you’re focused on shorter and more intense races you should see higher peak powers for shorter durations, and more endurance focused athletes should focus on longer durations.
Training with power, no matter the ride or race, is extremely valuable to athletes at all levels. The ability to quantify and track efforts, as well as to make individualized training prescriptions ensures that you’re getting the most out of your training time. There’s a lot that goes into training successfully with a power meter, but in the end if you grasp a few basic concepts you’ll be ready to begin. Make sure your FTP is accurate and take the time to review and analyze both your workouts and races. Successful athletes are always looking to improve, and training with power is the best way to make sure it happens.
Ready to dive deeper into the world of power-based training? Download our free ebook, “How to Start Training with Power” now!