Winter miles at Digme Fitness. Every triathlete and cyclist knows the importance of winter miles.
“Get the winter miles in. Build a base. Get some fitness in so that when spring comes you aren’t gasping and floundering at the back of the pack like a Walrus out of water.”
But how? It’s so cold and dark outside, plus it’s raining and I don’t have a flappy jacket or indeed any vaguely appropriate winter gear. So what do I do?
“Well I know a place where we can go.
If George has booked it then we can’t say no.
It’s hard core, and will help you burn off those pies.
And a bucketload of sweat will get in your eyes.”
Digme Fitness is the (unusual) name. Pain and suffering is their game.
14 Sexy Walrus athletes turned up bright eyed and bushy tailed on Sunday morning for the 11 o’clock 90 minute spin class. For most this was to be the first foray into some winter miles, that vital initial step in their rigorous training program for the 2017 Sexy Walrus Club Championship – bigger, better and weirder than ever before. Digme offered one of those fancy modern spin classes though, with all bikes were linked up to a central computer that gave live feeds of everyone’s performance on two enormous screens at the front. Absolutely no pressure then.
We met our instructor for the day, Gareth Petts, who was wearing a Kona Ironman 2016 cycling top. For my own mental wellbeing I assumed it had been purchased at the local charity shop (no such luck – he was a sub 10 hour Ironman at Kona a few weeks earlier.) We were provided with lovely white shoes, extremely soft towels and guided to our bikes. Gareth took us through setting up the bikes so that they were comfortable for our various sizes. After a brief warm up and explanation of what all the various settings and numbers meant, we were ready for the off. 90 minutes (now 80 with warm up complete) of unknown territory lay ahead.
Gareth started us off with a 5 minute FTP test. 5 minutes as hard as you can go. Hmm. This did not bode well. Surely if you 5 minutes as hard as you can go then you will be too exhausted to continue? No, Gareth explained. You get a 2 minute break at the end before you start the next set. Ah, good. 2 minutes cures all ailments. Excellent. We charged in to the test, full of vim and vigour.
5 minutes later there was less vim and vigour. However the results were in. The central supercomputer had calculated our thresholds and was now giving us live stats and percentages. Gareth explained how this would drive the rest of the session. We now had 4 sets of 5 ‘over-unders’. Over being 110% of FTP. Under being 90%. EASY, we cried. Give us something we can’t do.
Nobody actually said this, but I recognised that look in Hadcock’s eyes, pedalling gleefully on the bike next to me. He’d clearly taken it easy in the FTP test, improving his chances in the race that inevitably lay ahead of us. Cunning.
I gazed round the room. The same could not be said for Caspar. He’d somehow managed to average around 1,500 watts for the 5 minute test and really had set quite a mountain for himself going forwards. He was a man staring down the barrel of a gun. But he’d been here before, many times. I was sure he’d survive.
The rest of the herd was a mixture. Some blissfully ignorant of what was to come. Others already with a dead look in their eyes. 2 minutes rest was nearly up. I was awakened from my investigative gaze around the room by a bang. It was Mr William. He’d arrived late and was adjusting his headset but had somehow managed to slam it down onto the lowest setting. He waved the concerns away and carried on pedalling, now looking extremely aerodynamic – always a must for indoor spin classes.
The ‘over-unders’ began. The session passed in a blur. A mixture of blood, sweat and tears; cries of pain from us and encouragement from Gareth. Around 2/3rds of the way through he mentioned there was a surprise at the end. Hadcock and I tried to guess what it was in a rest period. Probably the new Michael McIntyre DVD. Or perhaps some chocolate cake?
Strangely, it was neither of those. Instead it was a 5 minute hill climb. We raced to the top – already exhausted – I chasing Caspar, but being chased by Hadcock and Ed Smith. This was no ordinary spin class. You couldn’t dial it down and coast in. Everyone would know. We arrived at the summit, spent. Collapsed on the top tube, we revelled in our completion and congratulated each other heartily. Gareth chuckled. Just one more effort lads. A 3 minute race back down the hill.
The effort was commendable, but ability had long left us. Few made it down alive.
Gareth and the Digme team dragged our spent carcasses out of the spin class and slapped some life into us. We staggered to the showers, and allowed the water to wash the sweat away. Life returned. Just. We thanked Gareth for his tuition, and apologised for our ability. He smiled, barely a bead of sweat on his brow.
We wandered outside, back out in to the cold. Ah yes! It was winter! What a way to get some winter miles.
Review of Digme Fitness – Cycle Studio
Overall this was a fantastic experience at Digme Fitness, Oxford (one of two new studios – the other is in London). The facilities are excellent – plush showers/changing rooms, new bikes and a cool studio with some great lighting effects – and the fact that they provide shoes and towels keeps your own admin to a minimum. The instructor – Gareth – was superb and kept trying to push us that little bit further. It’s a real ‘cyclists’ studio, aimed at those who take their data and stats seriously but not to such an extent that novices would be discouraged from going along. Highly recommended by the Sexy Walrus clan and we’re likely to be back for more soon enough.