Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Wisdom Wednesday: Spinning

Spinning is cycling minus all the risk factors. You are on a stationary bike in an air conditioned room. There are no road hazards (think flat tires), no wind to ride against, no rain, and best of all – no traffic! While I suppose it is possible to fall off a stationary bike, in several years of classes, I have yet to witness such an event. I know competitive cyclists that do all their training in spinning classes to avoid the dangers of the road.

It does not have the beauty of the road. My wife and I did a five day, self-guided tour of Vermont and Western Mass last summer and the scenery was remarkable. Our training rides at home are generally up and down A1A in South Florida with the Atlantic Ocean as a backdrop.

To keep it interesting, spinning classes have an instructor guiding you through a workout of 45 minutes to an hour, varying intensity, speed, and bike position. If sitting on a bike is hard on your bum, spinning might be for you as you often get to stand and pedal. The class begins with a gentle warm up, then a series of simulated climbs and sprints to keep your heart rate up and burn calories. Each series is followed by a short recovery period to bring the heart rate down and allow you to hydrate.

The bikes are equipped with computers to monitor your cycles per minute (CPM), watts of energy produced, calories burned, heart rate, millage, and resistance. The instructor uses resistance and CPM recommendations so you can mimic their efforts.

I always wear my heart rate monitor as an additional guide through the class. I try to get up to my aerobic zone as soon as possible and keep my heart rate there for the first 10-15 minutes. As the intensity of the class increases my heart rate will go above my aerobic zone, but I never exceed my Vmax (maximum heart rate) and always return to my aerobic zone at least once every 10 minutes. In a 45 minute class I will generally burn about 500 kcal.

Music is a big part of any spinning class. Instructors take obvious pride in creating custom music tracks for their classes. They use the BPM (beats per minute) to match the CPM. It’s really easy to pedal to the beat. I prefer classic rock, but hip-hop, pop, even 90’s grunge works well. Most instructors play the music loud and use a microphone through the sound system to give direction. (Think dance club on a bike with no drinking) I find the music very motivating. Even the hip-hop has grown on me.

Spinning is a great cardiovascular workout that targets the legs. Clipping into the pedals allows you to pull on the upswing and push on the downswing just like cycling. The pull targets the hard to work gluteal (butt) muscles better than anything but squats. Just the sheer repetition in a single class will firm and lift the backside.

I spin all year long, usually twice a week and ride my bike on the weekends for fun. Starting in late summer, my wife and I begin training in earnest for our annual 165 mile bike ride. I still do the two spinning classes a week and just add a lot of long bike rides. Spinning builds riding strength and speed that is particularity effective for going up hills.

The Bottom Line:
Give spinning a try, at least as an alternative to biking in bad weather. You just might get hooked.

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