NJINGA

Cathy Bell

A inspirational rider who battled back from a devastating cancer diagnosis to record new PBs and reach our FTP Improver leaderboard. Find out how Cathy did it...

NOTABLE PERFORMANCES WITH NJINGA

FTP Improvement: 27 Watts increase over 8 weeks - 3rd highest female FTP Improvement in 2019

Power to Weight: 0.43w/kg improvement in just 8 weeks

Improved 1 minute average power output by 22.2% over 8 weeks of the Ride Like A Pro Group Indoor Training Programme. Increased 43 watts from 194 to 237 watts

Completed a 64km Sportive with 3131 Feet of climbing after a year of very little cycling.

Where my journey with Njinga began:

I first discovered Njinga when a friend I had mountain biked with for some years, was suddenly cycling much faster and also further than me. After interrogating her about how she had achieved this, I was told with great enthusiasm about Njinga, and decided to see for myself.

The wattbikes are more high tech than any spinning bike I had ever used in a gym and when I arrived at my first class, I was slightly overawed by all of the numbers on the screen in front of me. However, once the wattbike was set up for me; the power, cadence, and pedal stroke information on the screen were explained, the class was great. The numbers were fascinating, the elephant balls prolific, the instructor was very encouraging and as soon as it was finished, I was on the App booking the next class.

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My first few classes at Njinga:

For the first few classes, as I hadn't taken an FTP test, I rode at rate of perceived effort but found this difficult as I always started off in too high a gear and couldn't maintain the effort. Once I had completed an FTP test and had training zones it took the guesswork away, kept me focused and gave me a goal to work to. It also meant I was able to see improvements in my ability to keep within the zone and as I got fitter and stronger, I would aim for the upper end of a zone.

I would highly recommend that everyone take an FTP test – it's a challenging 20mins but worth it! Using training zones is a world away from a spinning class where random bikes have different resistance levels and you're told to increase the resistance by turning a dial. If you have an FTP score and training zones you work at your pace and can be assured that you are putting in the required effort. It's definitely a great way to measure your improvement.

I find it very difficult riding at a fast cadence and although this has improved, if I were given the choice, I prefer to ride at a cadence of 85-90rpm at a higher resistance rather than a lower resistance with a cadence of 95-100rpm. I just love those Mountain Goat classes!

A devastating cancer diagnosis:

In the summer of 2018, I was diagnosed with head and neck cancer and whilst waiting for an operation I went to as many classes as possible as I have always found exercise a great distraction from stress and love the feel-good factor afterwards. Fast forward to January 2019 and with surgery & radiotherapy behind me, I returned to Njinga with the realisation that I had lost most of my fitness but was determined to haul it back. After a few classes, intermingled with some weeks of absence as I had overdone it on the exercise front, I decided that the Ride Like a Pro programme would be perfect – a much needed tailor-made structure to help regain some fitness.

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Njinga Training Programme:

At first, I thought that 8 weeks, with classes twice a week, would last forever (in a good way!) but it went so quickly; even when I was tired, I looked forward to the classes and always felt more energised afterwards. I always looked forward to the stretching, which is awesome, too!

In the first week we did an FTP test and I found that my FTP had dropped by 19 watts, so I had a ready-made goal to regain that power and more. I am nothing if not determined! We were also given training zones, the great thing about training zones is that you are just focussing on yourself, it doesn't matter what anyone else is doing. We all had to set targets - a minimum we'd like to reach, an intermediate, and a gold target that we'd hope to reach. In the FTP test at the end of the programme I had gained 27 watts; not only did I reach my gold target, but I beat it too. I'm proud to say that my name is on the wall on the FTP improver chart – something I could never have imagined possible.

Reassured I could regain my fitness:

The programme was really well structured, becoming increasingly more challenging over the 8 weeks. There were random surprises - an extra minute added to a sprint, an extra 3-minute interval; amazingly everyone took these in their stride, proof that we were all capable of more. Togo knew everyone's training zones, who could push themselves harder, and we were all consistently encouraged to reach our targets or to work harder to surpass them. I feel absolutely certain I would not have been able to improve my FTP without the help of the programme & I was also given the reassurance that it is possible to regain fitness once lost, even if it's really hard work.

It was great to train with the same people each week, hear which Sportives people had done over the weekend & what challenges lay ahead for them. At the end of each class we had a recovery smoothie and we all took it in turns to bring in a 'healthy' snack so there was always something to nibble on too.

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What's next and why Njinga:

Post course I'm attending wattbike classes as often as I'm able - even managing to go to a 90-minute class which is great fun with a quiz during the first 18 minutes. I've also been to some of the Pilates & Yoga classes, both are great for conditioning and stretching for cyclists.

I've signed up for a sprint distance triathlon in August and am determined to improve my bike split and hope to complete a half Ironman next year – I'll definitely join the Collective to help with training for that.

If you're thinking of trying a Njinga class – go for it – you will find it much more structured than a gym-based spin class; there are classes to suit everyone – sprinting, climbing, etc. Once you've done a few classes, think about joining a programme. It's an amazing way to train especially if you know you need to improve your FTP & your fitness. It's non-threatening, friendly, supportive and fun with guaranteed results.

In three words, Njinga is awesome!

START YOUR OWN JOURNEY

Cathy's journey with Njinga has included:

  • Njinga Training Programme
  • FTP Testing
  • Regular Yoga and Pilates classes
  • Regular wattbike classes

FEELING INSPIRED? READ OTHER STORIES HERE

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