A disclaimer about me, I have horrible social anxiety. Now is as good time as any to confess. When it comes to social settings, it can be sheer force of will that pulls me through. Parties, dinners and even group fitness can cause my inner gears to go into overload. My first spin class began like any other group fitness experience. The first 20-minutes I look around, realizing that everyone else knows someone else, that evolves into my realization that I am not aware of the slang (what the hell does she mean, ‘rise and shine?’). I fight off thoughts of negative self-talk, and I stick it out. I got through it, and now I love spin class. I dedicated myself to spin to work on advancing my training for Death Ride but continue attending for the mix of cardio and the strength training that it provides.
I recently participated in a spin class at Phoenix Cycling Systems run and operated by Rod and Kristy Halbert. The room instantly greeted me with a lighthearted ease. Kristy had my bike set up and ready to go and the packed room was welcoming, as opposed to intimidating. Rod jumped into the class with a playful introduction of the newbies (myself included). During the class, he took us through various zones of intensity. Each person has zones unique to their age/weight. It was the most fun I have ever had in a group class. The entire class was cheering each other on and tested their vocal limits when everyone sang along to ‘I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction).’ The hour flew by as Rod expertly motivated us to push our limits.
In the offseason, I try to take a spin class once or twice a week. If I am training, I can take spin 4-5 times a week. It depends on what goals I am trying to achieve at the time.
Talk with a Master:
Rod Halbert is a Level 2 USA cycling coach and owns and operates Phoenix Cycling Systems with his wife, Kristy. He said, “We work on HIIT (high-intensity interval training) efforts, and we work the zones of power training.” He said that his class helps with becoming a better outdoor cyclist because they work on climbing and things that happen on the road. He was careful to select spin bikes that resemble road bikes.
He told me how his class helps with weight loss. He mentioned a man in his class that lost 88lbs. Rod would personally call him and motivate him to come into class. “He was nervous about being overweight. He went from barely able to finish a class to being proficient on a road bike.” He said he was sure to tailor a program to the unique goals of not only that man but for everyone who takes his classes.
To reduce the risk of a plateau when losing weight, Rod switches up his class styles. He says to find the class that is right for you to ask yourself what you are looking for from the class. If you are an outdoor rider, then classes that dance on the bike may not be for you. If you just want to lose weight, then a class like that may be a good fit. Ask, “What are the classes like? Do they cater to the cyclist? Do they cater to the everyday person?”
If you are nervous going to class, he suggests to go in the back row and request your numbers are private (if it is a class that puts everyone’s numbers on a big screen), get to know people. Most importantly, bring a friend to help you feel more comfortable until you get the hang of the class.
A great spin class is going to have a small computer screen on the bike. The screen should tell you several details, including how fast you are going, your rpms and your watts. Your instructor should go over this with you before class and help you utilize this information. Try to be about 15 minutes early to your first spin class. You will need time to get fitted on your bike and have a heart rate monitor linked up if the class allows. Ask your instructor what terms you need to know and to explain the monitor on your bike. Be sure to call ahead before your first class. More and more classes are requiring that you reserve your bike online in advance.
When cycling to lose, or maintain weight it is important to remember, cycling can help you focus on both cardio and build muscle, but you have to do it right. When working on your speed training, you will find it easy to get your heart rate up. I suggest getting a heart rate monitor and learning your target heart rate zones. In doing this, you will be able to set goals more accurately to fit your individual needs. The other area in which cycling can help you focus on muscle. You are going to get that from climbing. Pushing gear in spin class can contribute to building your climbing muscles for when you are out on the road. Training for Death Ride, my legs got rock solid in a way that nothing else could do for me. When I am focusing on climbing, I note that even though I am going at a much slower pace, my heart rate is still elevated. My biggest downfall as a cyclist is I am one sided and only focus on climbing. Because of this, I am slow. Spin class helps enhance my outdoor training and is getting me faster
I do the bulk of my core work off the bike. I have found that, for me, everything I do comes from my core. Having a strong core helps increase my proficiency as an athlete. Every cyclist I have spoken to tells me that cycling is great for the core. Maybe I am doing it wrong, but I don’t feel it. Because of that, I am sure to have a solid core routine off of the bike.
When climbing, it is tempting to hunch over. Remember, hinge at your hips, NOT your waist. Keep your shoulders relaxed. I used to get horrible back pain from riding. I was told you periodically wiggle my fingers to relax my hands and shoulders. Working on my posture helped greatly. The spin class will help you with posture on the road and will also help with that important pedal stroke. An efficient pedal stroke is the key to cycling success.
What you need:
-Clips-If you want to get serious about cycling, you will need to learn to clip-in. Spin class is a good way to get a feel for clips before ever hitting the bike trails. Clipping-in works different leg muscles. You pull up as well as push down. To-Date I still use mountain bike clips on my road bike and in spin class.
-Heart Rate Monitor- It is important to learn your max heart rate and your heart rate zones. You will spend the bulk of your time in the fat burning zone. A spin class will give you a good feel for how much time you need to spend in each of the target heart rate zones.
Of course, you will also need the basics from my first blog in the cycling series
What you don’t need:
-Your own saddle in spin class. Look, if it is the difference between going to spin or not— then bring the saddle, but if you are of a typical fitness and health level, I suggest you suck it up buttercup and go through the same process we all did. It will get easier.
I hope to see you in a spin class soon! Now get out there and make every day an adventure!