Last Sunday was International Women’s Day and there were lots of events to celebrate women’s sporting achievements and to encourage more women into fitness at the grass-roots, including those organised as part of Sport England’s inspiring #ThisGirlCan campaign, which is aiming to get more every day women into fitness and inspire women to “wiggle, jiggle, move and prove that judgement is a barrier that can be overcome”.
I’m passionate about helping break down the barriers that stop so many women from getting into sports and fitness, and hope this workout, full of songs by women and about the power of women, will help inspire a few more women to take on their own challenges and show the world #ThisGirlCan. (I’m making no claims about the feminist credentials of all the songs, but there’s certainly some good ones in here which you should enjoy, whether you’re a man or a woman).
How to use the workout
This work out is for use on a gym bike or turbo trainer. You’ll need your phone to download/ stream the playlist below but you might find it easier to print out the instructions to avoid risking dropping your phone if you’re trying to read off the screen.
You can use the work out in 2 ways. Either as a fun 60 minute general fitness work out or as part of a build phase in a training programme, once you’ve already got a solid base of endurance training over the winter.
Cadence: Either way you should follow the cadence (speed, or rpm) given in the instructions, so where it says @67 this means keep to a rpm of 67 (look for the rpm field on the bike screen, or just follow the beat of the music).
Resistance (or effort level) You’ll need to change the resistance (or effort level) so that you can get the right cadence. The hills are shown with an H, you’ll need to increase the resistance for these ones. The flats are shown with an F, you’ll need enough resistance that you’re not wobbling all over the place, but keep it fairly low, the main challenge on these one is to keep the speed up.
If you are doing it as a general fitness work out then you should choose an easy enough gear for each track so that you can feel you are working but not pushing too hard as it’s a hard set with around 10-11 minutes work each time before you get a rest.
If you are doing it as build phase training then you want to be working at just below your lactate threshold. Forcing your body to deal with a lot of lactate (which leaves you with that heavy feeling in your legs) for relatively prolonged period of time will make your body more efficient at dealing with lactate, meaning after sustained training, you’ll be able to go faster for longer before the lactate build up forces you to slow down. This is a hard work out and should only be done at this intensity if you already have a strong base to build on. If you’ve done a test with me then this means you want to be in Zone 4 (Subthreshold) for the flats, and Zone 5 a (Suprathreshold) for the hills, if you’re using %MHR then it’s around 85% MHR, or to keep it simple, around 8/10 on your own effort scale (down to 4-5/10 for the recoveries).
Get the music – Spotify playlist for IWD
(I’m working on getting the sexy plugin, in the mean time you’ll need to click on the link to access the music on Spotify. You can download it if you have an account with that option or just play it online).
** Warm up**
Can’t hold us down, Christina Aguilera (4.15)
- Don’t worry about the beat for the warm up, instead:
- First 2 minutes: Start at 80 rpm, with a fairly easy resistance
- Until the end – take it up to 90 rpm
Cannon ball, The Breeders (3.34)@ 90
- First 90 seconds: Take it up to 95 rpm, with 15 secs max effort at the end
- Until the end: Take it up to 100 rpm with 15 secs max effort at 3 mins=
Run the World (Girls), Beyonce (3.56) @67
Find the right resistance that means you’re comfortably pedalling at 67 rpm. Even if you’re doing a hard training workout, we’re still warm up.
In the choruses (1.37 – 2.01, 2.59 – 3.22) stand in the pedals for 2 pedal strokes on the ‘Girls’ and then down for 2 beats, up again on the ‘Girls’, and down again (when I taught this in a class I had the women going up on the ‘girls’, and then down for 2 whilst the men went up. It wasn’t entirely coordinated, but fun way to start and wakes the brain up!)
** Main set **
H: Get your freak on, Missy Elliot (3.31) @67
This track is the theme tune to the Sport England’s brilliant #ThisGirlCan campaign, if you haven’t already, check out the videos at www.thisgirlcan.co.uk.
Whilst doing this workout why not make your own promise to yourself to take on a fitness challenge, however small, that you’ll work up to this year and show the world #ThisGirlCan. If you’re feeling brave, post it on my blog here. If you’re a man then think what you can do to support the women around you show the world they can!
F: Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Zero (4.26) @100+
You can take an optional quick breather for the first 30 seconds until the beat kicks in)
H: I am woman, Helen Reddy (3.24)@ 65
I can’t get enough of this track, it’s so powerful. If you’re ever feeling in doubt about what you can achieve, put a blast of this (whether you’re man or woman!), sing alone and refuse to be held back “I can do anything, I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman”.
[RECOVERY]: Fighter, Christina Aguilera (4.06)] – don’t worry about the cadence here, take your effort levels down to 4/10 and have a breather.
Use the recovery to think about your pedal technique. You want to make sure that you use the up stroke as much as the down (If you are using toe straps or cleats) so that you get a full 360 degrees of power on each pedal revolution and a smooth continuous pedalling action rather than having ‘dead spots’ at the top and bottom of the stroke.
- Imagine you’ve got some mud on the bottom of your shoes and you’re trying to scrape it off along the bottom of each stroke.
- (if you have toe straps or cleats) On the chorus unclip one foot and just use the other foot for the whole revolution, focussing on the up as much as the down.
- Left foot : 1.00-1.20, Right foot: 2.11- 2.30
H: In for the Kill, La Roux (4.08) @ 75
Keep going through the break at 3.30
F: Changing, Sigma, Paloma Faith (3.11) @ 100+
Grab a quick recovery for first 30 secs, until the beat kicks in.
H: Running Behind, HOLYCHILD (3.00) @ 75
[RECOVERY]: Independent Woman, Destiny’s Child (3.41)
Don’t worry about the cadence, and take your effort levels down to 4/10. Use the recovery to think about your position on the bike:
- Elbows slightly bent, don’t lock them, they need to stay loose so that out on the road they act as your shock absorbers
- Keep your spine neutral, don’t arch at the top or stick your bum out
- Shoulders should be relaxed, not hunched up to your ears. Stretch your neck
- Keep your chest up and open and your chin down so there’s as straight a line as possible through your spine. Keep your chest open so you can breathe.
- Keep your hand grip loose and move them around to reduce muscle fatigue.
- You want a solid core to eliminate unnecessary upper-body movement so that all your energy goes directly into a smooth pedal stroke, and most importantly eliminate lower back pain
- Core drill: You should be able to use your core to balance with your hands just above the handlebars. On the chorus try lifting both hands up, or if your core isn’t strong enough, try balancing with just your finger tips on the bars (and get to work on you core when you get off the bike!)
- 59 – get ready, 1.02 – hands up (just for a few seconds)when she says ‘throw your hands up at me’
- 07 – get ready, 2.11 -2.28 – hands up
- 04 – get ready….
H: Born this way, Lady Gaga (4.20) @67
F: U-Huh, Tkay Maldza (3.27) @ 95+
H: All Night, Parov Stella (2.46) @67
** Cool down **
Man, I Feel like a woman, Shania Twain (3.53) @ 65
- Drop the intensity a bit, we’re getting to the end now
- Stand on chorus (c. 30 secs each – increase resistance slightly if you need to for standing): 0.54-1.26, 1.56-2.27. Sit out the last chorus as your heart beat starts coming back down to normal.
Roar, Katy Perry (3.44)
Take the resistance right down, and let the cadence drop.
A good cool down is important, not just to get your heart rate back down to normal and stop blood pooling in your legs (leaving you feeling dizzy when you get off) but also to help your body flush out metabolic waste products from your muscles.
Just because I’m a Woman, Dolly Parton (3.04)
Continue cooling down, and then end with some stretching of the main muscles you’ve been working.
Hope you enjoyed it! Do let me know in the comments below.