Phoebe Richards

What started with bribery has resulted in a healthier, happier and more content me! I never expected that a year at Njinga would change my life quite so much.


FTP Improvement: 33 watt increase in first 5 months and 49 watt increase across 1st year at Njinga

Weight: Since starting her journey at Njinga Phoebe has lost over 10kg

Completed in our 2018 year long Njinga World Championships and came 1st in her age group and 3rd overall

30 second average power of 506 watts - highest female score seen in the Njinga Lab


Before joining Njinga I’d never participated in any cardio workouts, all I had done was weight training. The thought of doing a class at Njinga didn’t appeal to me. For a start everyone that attended looked really fit and I knew because my mum and dad were regulars, that most attendees were also outdoor cyclists. I also didn’t think I would be very good at it...why would l put myself into something that I thought I would be rubbish at. I’d never been that interested in cycling after all. But bribery, I’ve since found out can be a wonderful thing!

My mum and dad said that they’d pay for my first few classes as a try before you buy type approach. Consequently, there was nothing to lose. I headed off to my first class and the rest you might say is history. Who knew that I’d enjoy it so much! The instructors were fantastic, and their motivation really helped keep me going. The music was great, lots of rock which I love and the class was broken down into intervals with breaks for recovery, which made it more manageable as a newbie to this type of training. At the end of class I was a sweaty mess. I have never sweated so much, but the endorphin rush…wow! That was like nothing I’d experienced before. You don’t get that from weight training and it really surprised me. What a workout. I could see from the first class how you can get hooked on that feeling.


The dreaded FTP Test

I completed a FTP Test within a few classes of joining Njinga. I could see immediately that this would benefit my training as all classes are built around your individual training zones. After completing my FTP Test I was able to manage my efforts throughout the class intervals a lot better and track my progress week on week. I was soon pushing beyond my zones and initially realised my first FTP was perhaps a little undercooked, but I’m 4 FTP’s in now and it’s taking longer to move up.

FTP’s are hard. I hated the first one, but now I see them as a personal challenge. Having done 4 this year, I’ve experienced the positives and the negatives of the test and know that you must be in the right frame of mind to do it. For my first test the worst thing was the unknown element of it. 20 minutes as hard as you can go is tough and I found it difficult to know how to pace it. However, the second time was better, and I was really chuffed to increase my FTP score by 33 watts and get onto the FTP Improver board. My third was not my best, but I kept going but I was back to it on my fourth attempt and smashed my numbers, with earning extra Njinga World Championship points a real motivation for me.

Personal goals and the Lab camaraderie

FTP results going up and up have given me some of my biggest buzzes at The Lab and from there the drive to push myself further kicked in. I’ve set myself personal goals using the various competitions that have been held in the Lab across the year. I set my own personal goal to compete in the Giro d’Njinga and was really chuffed to win the sprinting competition. That’s where I now see my strengths. I’ve ended the year top of the Sprint Finale Power Profile board which has been a bonus.

I’m now attending between 3-4 classes a week including Yoga, which has really developed my inner strength and I feel more zen from attending Sam’s Yoga classes.


Njinga World Championships

The drive to increase my attendance at The Lab and expand the classes I participate in, came in part from competing in the World Championships. For me it was not about competing against others, but purely about my own personal goals and the inner challenge I’d made to myself. I only realised that I was in contention for a place a month or so from the end when I saw the gap was about 5 points between me and the leader. Along with the fact I had already decided to take part in ‘Sober October’ I thought I’d see what I could do to compete in the last stages of the competition. I did do some double classes and my personal drive really kicked in. By the last 10 days I knew I wasn’t going to win, however, my personal goal was to get my overall World Champ score as high as it could be. The result...I won my age category.

The rewards have been plenty and I’ve developed some lovely friendships in The Lab, particularly with other contenders in the women’s category. The banter we have when finding ourselves at the same classes has given an extra dimension to coming to class and it has been so much fun. The camaraderie culminated in us all attending the last class of the competition and celebrating our achievements with cake and bubbles.

My overall health has improved

Njinga for me was never about losing weight, although that has happened. I've always ate well, but maybe more than I needed. The main objective for me was giving up smoking and I'm pleased to say within 2 months of riding in The Lab I had. I was concerned about stopping and impact on my weight but in fact due to all the exercise I’ve been able to eat what I like.

Mentally I know that I need to be in the right mind frame coming to class, which can be hard with my challenging job. I know when the class includes some longer intervals if I’m not in the zone I can struggle, but I try and keep focused on the buzz I know I’ll feel at the end of class. Even if my numbers are not what I’d expect, I take away the positive I made it to class and completed it.

It’s been incredible to see how I’ve progressed and how my numbers have just kept on climbing. I find inspiration from the cycling quote in the Njinga Lab ‘It never gets easier, you just get faster’. That resonates with me and motivates me on the tougher days.

My overall wellbeing has significantly improved since joining Njinga. I’m so much lighter in spirit, have lost over 10kg, given up smoking and now contemplating riding outdoors in 2019.


2018 was a blast - roll on 2019

Next year’s goals are already mapped out. I will take on some mountain goat classes which I’ve avoided so far and I want to get on two of the boards in the Lab. The Peak Power, which I just missed out on this year, and the FTP Score board – which might mean I knock off my mum! I’ll kick start my year by joining the Firestarter Programme in January and by summer I’m hoping to get out on the road on my new bike in cleats and join the Njinga Collective.

I can’t say enough about how Njinga has improved my mental health and wellbeing. Since starting Njinga and creating personal achievements and goals for myself, I have a focus outside of work which has helped reduce my day to day stresses. I’m so much happier and content in myself. To anyone considering joining Njinga do it. Whether you want to improve your fitness or cycling, it’s great because it’s based on your current levels and you don’t push yourself too hard beyond your own abilities with the Njinga TrainSmart philosophy. The instructors are awesome – keep going with the rock playlists! What’s particularly special at Njinga are the people, there’s a great community at the Lab and everyone is so supportive and very welcoming to new riders. I was sceptical about coming at first, but I’m so glad I took the bribe! Rock on 2019!!


Phoebe's journey with Njinga has included:

  • Regular wattbike classes
  • FTP Testing to TrainSmart
  • Yoga classes and Strength and Conditioning classes
  • Participation in the 2018 year long Njinga World Championships

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