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A Spin A Day, Might Keep The Doctor Away

by on April 6, 2012

 by Krista Wilbur Maloney

Pre-class adjustments at Personal Best Fitness in New Hartford
© Sharon Wilbur 2012

I. Love. Spinning. There it is. Nothing more to say! I am a Mad Dogg Athletics Certified Spin Instructor. That only means that I have been certified to instruct a real “Spinning” class in a Spin Certified Studio. It’s all about the copyright.  There is some controversy amongst the indoor cycling enthusiasts over what belongs in a Spin class, but I have no interest into getting into that here. The only reason that I touch on this, is that finding a Spin class that brings you joy, is like finding a husband. The Madd Dog Certified instructors are taught to stick to focusing on real rides & becoming better outdoor  riders. If you wouldn’t do it on an outside bike, it isn’t done on a Spin bike.  Other certifications can turn it into more of a varied aerobic class, and yes some Madd Dog instructors move toward a more hybrid format as well.   I’m touching on this so that you know the options exist.  Music & profiles also vary according to the instructor. I like rock & am not much of a techno fan.  My classes reflect those preferences.  My riders expect eclectic music mixes, heavy hills & a propensity to spend what some consider a prolonged time in a near breathless state, always followed by a predictable recovery.  I believe that breathlessness must be rewarded.  I don’t get out much, and when I do, I make the most of it. I enjoy HIIT or high intensity interval training, and will write about the benefits of this in an upcoming  post.   That being said, if you dislike my class, move on because someone will offer something that will be a better fit for you. I’ve never experienced a divorce, but from what I’ve seen as an observer, switching Spin classes is light years easier than switching husbands.

Now that you know there are options, let’s talk about mechanics. Spinning class involves riding a stationary bike with an adjustable resistance knob simulating a ride that the instructor leads you through, with the aid of music & hopefully a room filled with fans. Sweat happens. Be sure to bring a towel, a full water bottle, wear breathable, stretchable fabric- and stay away from long pants.  There are gel seat covers and biking shorts that can be purchased to cushion your tush, stiff soled cycling shoes that will make a more efficient and comfortable pedal stroke, and heart rate monitors that become an important investment in taking control over your workout, once you begin to get serious.  I suggest everyone wears a heart rate monitor, but it’s an investment that not all decide to make. I always wear one. It keeps me honest. If I’m slacking, it reminds me. If I’m overtired and need to rest more, it tells me, and when I burn 800 calories in a deliciously sweaty hour, I swear I can hear it congratulate me.

Spinning can be intimidating if you’ve never tried it. What you need to know, is that you’re in control of the intensity of your workout. That little resistance knob is your friend. If you feel like you’re working too hard, release resistance. If you’re not working hard enough, crank it up.  I have people in my class that decide they’d like to veer off on their own ride frequently. There’s no shame in that. We all made the decision to get off the couch that day. We instructors support your desire to get fit, and no two riders are the same.  I always tell my newbies that if they feel embarrassed releasing resistance or slowing their pace at any point, they should tell themselves that 1) It’s likely that no one noticed, 2) they’ll get there with perseverance, and 3) to tell themselves that they had loaded much more resistance much more quickly than anyone else in the class and that their neighboring riders have just been slacking!  Seriously, there really is no accurate way to gauge how hard your neighbor is working as a casual observer. Consequently, they cannot gauge your level of intensity either.  As you become a regular in a class, you’ll appreciate the support of the regulars that surround you. I have many friends today, that I’ve made on the Spin bike.

Spinning is low stress on those joints. If you do have knee problems, avoid some of the heaviest of hills, never pile on enough resistance that your pedal stroke loses it’s smooth rotation.  If you’re ever in a class where an instructor leads something called “isolations” which are heavy resistance climbs while standing & removing all upper body movement and as much bounce as possible, choose to go off on your own for a little while. These movements are hard on the knees. Similarly, if you have lower back problems, and happen to be in a class when an instructor leads you in a maneuver called a “hover”, where you repeatedly stand and lower your body over the handlebars and seat, bringing your butt to a position hovering over, but not sitting on the saddle, opt out. It could aggravate lower back problems.

Spinning is a great exercise during pregnancy. Obviously this is a generalization, and in no way a suggestion to ignore advice from a doctor that will advise you on appropriate levels of activity based on your unique pregnancy. Spinning while pregnant is safest with a heart rate monitor, and a familiarity with your maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is unique, and an instructor can tell you how to find it when you show up wearing your heart rate monitor.  I highly recommend a heart rate monitor for every rider, but it is especially important during pregnancy. There are charts based on age & sex, but they are reported to only be accurate for about 30% of the population.  Once your maximum heart rate is discovered, calculate your anaerobic threshold, which is 80-90% of your maximum heart rate, and drop another 20 beats. This is the max that is considered safe for the average, healthy expecting mother. Anaerobic exercise occurs when the body switches from burning fat to burning carbohydrates. It is a heavier intensity than aerobic exercise, and can be sustained for much shorter periods. Spinning classes should be generally kept to 45 minutes or so. This  is to protect mom & baby from drops in blood sugar. Also, as the pregnancy progresses, your change in body habitus will necessitate bike set up adjustments, and you may need to limit out of the saddle movements because changes in your center of gravity will cause increased pressure on the knees when standing on a Spin bike.  If you are comfortable, inform your instructor that you are expecting and that you will be modifying & possibly shortening your ride.  I always give my expectant Mom’s advantageous fan placement to keep them cooler, so you might find it earns you some preferential treatment.  You deserve it!   I took several classes a week during my second & third pregnancies until just weeks before delivery, and can attest that the decision to remain active during those pregnancies helped me feel much better throughout them.

Spinning is a great workout for the elderly, as it is low stress on those joints & control of intensity is easily modifiable for this population. I’ve heard that there are classes tailored to this population, so if you fall into the silver sneakers category, look out for one. I have regulars in my classes that fall into the elderly category. Decidedly, they are more fit than many people decades younger, so the benefits of consistent, lifelong activity are evident.

Spinning, or any exercise, will help diabetics enjoy improved blood sugar control, will improve cardiovascular endurance, help control an individual’s weight, and provides a much needed outlet for stress management.  Before starting any exercise routine, discuss any issues that you may have with your doctor.

Why are you still sitting there? It’s time to get moving!


From → Fitness & Health

  1. Sister, I couldn’t have said it better…your fellow Spinning geek, purist, advocate, enthusiast, etc.!!

  2. Sister, I couldn’t have said it better! Your Spinning geek, enthusiast, advocate, enthusiast, etc.

  3. Krista Maloney permalink

    Thanks SpinDot!


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