Spin Class for Fitness

My experience:

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!



Road Bike 101

Road Bike 101

When I first started cycling, it began as a means to complete a triathlon. I didn’t feel passionate about cycling. I had a goal in mind and cycling was a tool to achieve that goal. Over time cycling became one of my biggest loves, but it was a journey for me to get there. When I purchased my first road bike, my knowledge of cycling was limited to the generic mountain bike I owned in elementary school. I knew nothing about what I needed regarding buying a bike.  A young woman that lived near me offered to let me try out her bike to make sure I liked riding before I went out and bought a bike of my own.

Here is that humbling story: I had no idea what I was doing. I had heard there were several different kinds of bikes, but the meaning of that didn’t resonate with me at the time. I assumed ‘a bike is a bike.’ I told her I wanted to train for triathlons; she loaned me her huge beach cruiser with three gears. I gladly accepted. I took the bike out on city streets. I live in an area surrounded by steep hills. I attempted (with ZERO training) to take that huge beach cruiser on the city street (that did not have a bike lane) and up the biggest hill in my area. How I survived to 35, I have no idea. I had to walk the bike up the hill, then down the hill, then back home.

I decided I needed to talk to someone who knew about cycling and buying the right bike. I went to a bike shop. I was very clear my goals were a triathlon and Death Ride; I was told a hybrid was what I needed. I dropped the cash and was ready to ride off into the sunset with my new bike. Luckily a friend clarified that I needed a road bike. I was able to make an exchange (I am glad I purchased from a bike shop with a liberal return policy), and I got my road bike. As far as road bikes go, mine is considered cheap. It is about $600 and has an aluminum frame. I am delighted with Vixen (aka my road bike) and she got me through two triathlons and Death Ride.

Though cycling began as a means to complete a goal; I have grown to love cycling. I love taking my bike up in the mountains. As my legs burn and my heart pounds, I will often look in the valley of a big climb and admire views that make me feel alive.

Talk with a Master:

Rod Halbert has been riding for 25-30 years. He is currently a cycling coach and owns the cycling studio, Phoenix Cycling Systems in Loomis, California. “Cycling is a metaphor for life. There are ups and downs, some days it is easy, others it’s difficult, and there are climbs that feel like they take forever.”

His advice for people just starting out is, “If you have never clipped-in come to (spin) class and try to clip-in. See how you like it. Mountain Bike clips are best for beginner riders. The shoes are easily walkable and easier to get in and out of. Take time to learn how to keep your pedal stroke in a nice, smooth, circular motion. Take your spin shoes to the shop and have them match them to the right pedals.”

When asked about how to pick the right bike, Rod responded, “You don’t need carbon fiber. Make sure you’re serious and perhaps spend a little more, so it (your bike) lasts longer. The size and fit are the most important thing. Don’t get a good deal that’s the wrong fit. Most people’s first bike doesn’t fit them. “

Rod also had advice for riding in a group, “Leaves and white lines can be like glass. Try to avoid them. New riders are unpredictable. Make sure your moves are smooth and gentle. If you are going to make a dramatic move, tell people. Before you ride with a new group, discuss stop signs (full stop or slow) and ask how they communicate. When you are coming up on a car on a side road always get eye contact. Make sure they are looking at you.”


What you need to know:

When buying a bike, ask yourself why are you doing this? What is your ultimate goal? My goal was to complete a triathlon. At the time, I thought a hybrid bike would meet my needs. I assumed it was the best of both worlds, mountain and road bike all rolled into one. Why would any idiot need two bikes when one hybrid can do everything? I was wrong and very blessed I purchased from a bike shop that allowed returns. A hybrid is too heavy to ride more than 50 miles with any real climbing. (That is my personal opinion. And we all have a friend of a friend that did a triathlon on a mountain bike—unless you are that friend— get a road bike). Hybrids are great if you just want a casual fitness bike. The average person will not be able to keep up on a hybrid if their friends are climbing 1000 feet per 10 miles nor will they be able to traverse the terrain on a mountain bike. Hybrids do have their place and are useful for the novice rider.

A road bike is more lightweight and meant only for paved surfaces. Some bike shops have stringent return policies, whereas others will let you ride the bike for a few weeks and then return. Ask questions before you buy.

Check out meetup.com or facebook groups in your area to find organized rides. Many local bike shops host weekly organized rides. Call your local bike shops for more details. Be honest when signing up for a ride. Ask if it is a no drop ride. I once signed up for a 100-mile ride with a group of expert riders. I was left behind in the parking lot trying to clip-in (not my finest moment).  You don’t want to be 20-miles into a ride and make the group wait on you, or even worse get lost. Ask if the ride is on the street or a bike path. If it is on the street, let them know you are a novice and will need someone to go over the rules of the road. I suggest a first ride with a friend on a bike path. This training ride will help you learn your ability with distance and pace. When I look for a group ride, I let the organizer know I ride 50 miles, flat (meaning no elevation/climbing) at 15 mph. They can tell me based on that information if I am a good fit for the ride.




What do you need:

-A bike. Shop around. LEARN ABOUT THE BRAKES! Disc brakes are relatively new to road bikes, and pros have strong opinions on brakes. For a road bike, I like my caliper brakes. They are the most common brakes on road bikes today. My bike has an aluminum frame. If a carbon frame is in your budget—go for it. I was a total beginner and held my own in triathlons and Death Ride (129 miles and over 15k climbing) with my aluminum frame.

-Water bottle and cage for the water bottle.

-Bike shorts-I wish someone would have told me about bike shorts before I went into the store. I thought they were just like the skin-tight shorts from the 80’s. They are not. They have a chamois pad to protect your sensitive parts. I can be a bit modest, so I was very put off buying shorts that felt like they had a diaper sewn in. I thought I wanted the most modest and thinnest pad available. I was wrong. Get over it. All cyclists wear them. You do not wear underwear under your shorts (chafing). You will also want chamois cream. The seat can get very uncomfortable, and you do not want to have to call a long ride short because you went out unprepared for the discomfort of the seat (aka saddle).


-Clips. I didn’t even know clipping-in was a thing when I bought my bike. I knew I had big goals with that bike, and I did not want to learn my bike THEN learn clipping-in. So, I went for it. I went with mountain bike clips instead of road bike clips. They are a bit easier to get in and out and you can clip-in from both sides of the pedal. Road bike clips only clip on one side of the pedal, but they have a bit more surface area which helps with a bit more power. If you want to be considered a serious cyclist, you must learn to clip-in. Different muscles are used when clipped-in. You push down as well as pull up on the pedal. The bike store should be able to put the pedals on for you and put the clips on your shoes. I went to an empty school playground and got next to the wall and clipped in and out. YOU WILL FALL, IT WILL SUCK, get back on your bike and keep going.

-Small repair kit.

-Lights. If you plan on going on the road, you must learn proper etiquette. In many places, you can get ticketed just like a car. Riding alone is not a good idea. Cars are much less likely to see a single rider. Someone once said to me, “What do you call a cyclist who thinks cars are paying attention? Dead” Get good on the bike before you consider going on the road. And when you do, be lit up and visible.

-Helmet.  A must. Have the salesperson at the bike store fit you properly. If your helmet is in an accident and still looks intact— throw it out. It is considered compromised. Rod suggests anything with the MIPS system.

-Bike rack. You can usually find a cheap one on Craigslist. I prefer the hitch mount bike rack. I started with an arm bike rack that went over the trunk of my sedan, and it worked fine as well. Learn your bike rack and secure your bike well. If your bike falls off and causes an accident, you could be held responsible.

-Bike lock.

-Gloves. I am the only cyclist I know that rarely wears gloves. They pinch in between my fingers. When I do wear gloves, I make sure I am buying them from a place with a liberal exchange policy. When you are riding for 5 hours, you will be very aware where they pinch and where they put too much pressure. Buy an inexpensive pair and learn what you need before upgrading.

-Pepper spray- if it is legal in your area. It took being chased by one dog, one time before I realized I need pepper spray.


What you don’t need…yet

-An upgraded saddle. Everyone gets hit differently by the saddle, so you do not know what you need until you have ridden. Most bike shops will have a demo saddle they can loan you to try out first.

-Apparel. Wait before buying the jersey. A tee-shirt is fine. If you are going to join a club, you will want their jersey. If you do organized rides, jerseys will be for sale. I often ride in a tank top. You do not need a jersey right out of the gate.

-Paneer. The basket. I have a big paneer on my bike. I have been told this makes me less of a cyclist. I did Death Ride with that big paneer, so it stays. It holds my phone and my snacks. Wait to buy one until you learn your needs as a rider.

-GPS. You will see riders, myself included, playing with their Garmin’s before and after a ride. Before you invest in a Garmin, try using apps like Strava and Ride with GPS. For my first year, I found that they tracked my rides with everything I needed.


The most important thing is to get out there and have fun! Cycling will make you feel like a kid again!


Camping with Kids

My Story:

The move to Northern California awoke within me a passion for the outdoors I never knew existed. I recall my first trip to Tahoe, the roads winding up through the mountains and my head out the window like a dog on the way to the park. I was in love. My new church had a camping group, and I remember standing at the kiosk after services as the leader of Bayside Adventure Sports told me about the fun, fellowship and communion with nature. At the time, it seemed like the empowering setting I was seeking.

I stood in Wal-mart looking at the various tents and sleeping bags, my preschooler pulling on my arm. She can’t handle 20 minutes in Wal-mart I thought to myself, how am I going to handle three days without SpongeBob to save me from her mood swings. I left Walmart overwhelmed and empty-handed.

The next day I searched online for what I should bring. I ran into extensive lists that included survival knives that could kill a bear and first-aid kits that could replace an ER. I pulled up Google maps. My campsite was less than 20 minutes from several restaurants and less than 15 minutes from a large grocery store. I am a single mom on a budget, and though it was tempting to purchase the travel trailer complete with a refrigerator I just wanted to know three things, what do I need, what do I want and what is being marketed to me that I do not need.

After talking to several people and figuring out some basics my little and I were ready to go. I watched in awe at how natural it was for my child, (frequently surrounded by electronic screens and plastic toys while constantly complaining of boredom) to be in nature. I put my phone away and watched my daughter and her new friends play with dirt, rocks, and sticks for hours until dinner time. The next day at the lake we arrived at 9 am, she happily played in the sand until we went home at 5. That night she escaped her sleeping bag and crawled into mine. She cuddled into me, and I held my child as we slept. In a house surrounded by ‘things to do,’ my child and I are more entertained by the wonders of nature. Some of my favorite moments as a mother are camping with my kid. I watch the girl I treat as oh so fragile, scale rocks, climb trees and roll in the dirt. I see her as more independent and capable. I fall in love with my child more and more every day but there is something about camping with her that also makes me fall in love with being her mother.

 A talk with a Master:

Erik Allen and his wife are lifelong campers. Erik works for a local camping ministry. He has guided several campers (including myself) on their first trip into the wilderness. He said, “A cool thing someone once told me in relation to bringing kids and doing things as a family in general” Start small, short, easy and often. As they get older, or when you decide to do a big trip, it won’t be such a shock. It will become just something that you do.”

Erik is a self-proclaimed ‘gear lover.’ He told me that you want to be sure to have insulation between the ground and yourself. He bought a cheap foam pad at Walmart for each member of his family to help keep warm at night. The pad goes under your sleeping bag. He told me he likes this better than an air mattress alone because ‘an air mattress doesn’t have insulating properties.’ He went on to say, ‘I love my 2-burner camping stove’. He suggests bringing pots and pans from home before investing in a camping set.

He wanted to impress the importance of camp etiquette. He told me once he was camping and his youngest was crying at night. They put on the portable DVD at 2 am and watched cartoons with him. He laughed and said he couldn’t believe he was watching TV at 2 am in a tent. But whatever works. People will understand when your kids are crying, but you still need to be respectful if they won’t stop. He suggested taking them for a car ride.

 Questions to ask yourself:

-Why are you camping? If you just want to try something new vs. you want to immerse yourself in nature be sure to take that into consideration. The joy of camping in Sugar Pine, Lake Tahoe is there is a grocery store 20 minutes away. In fact, not just a grocery store but also a casino, hotel, movie theater and anything else you could want. It is amazing to wake up in a tent and hike down the lake and back then drive to breakfast at Denny’s. You feel immersed but not isolated. If you are looking for an in-depth immersion into nature, perhaps backpacking is more up your alley. Just make sure you research local wildlife and necessary permits if any.

-Who are you camping with? For first-timers, I highly suggest linking up a group. I am lucky enough that my church started Bayside Adventure Sports. They do all the legwork and have a great staff to help with gear, and they even have gear they loan out if you want to try before you buy. Another great option is joining a meetup group. Check meetup.com to see if there is a camping group in your area. There you can look for locals that already know the area and perhaps are willing to let you join up on one of their trips. If you can’t get a group of friends do some research on popular places to camp in your area. Ask for a more populated area, so you are not isolated if you have questions.

-What is your fitness level? Are you interested in biking, hiking, kayaking? Be realistic. I have been on hikes with people that get in over their heads. You may drive up a mountain to get to your campsite and go on a downhill hike. Remember that you have to go back up that hill to get back to your tent.

-Is the site safe for kids? Camping right on the water is a romantic idea if you aren’t going to have to worry about your child running into the lake the entire time.  My favorite campsites are near the water but not right on the beach when camping with the kids.

Questions to ask others:

Make sure your desired lodging is accommodated. If you are bringing an RV or travel trailer, be aware some campsites may not have the required hookups.

At many National parks, you may need to book six months in advance as spots are in high demand. About 50% of campsites are first come first serve. If possible, scout out sites in advance. Go by yourself and note what site best serves your needs. (IE away from the dumpsters is nice, but also walking distance to bathrooms is a big plus). There is almost always an info board or kiosk with how to make reservations posted at the entrance to the park. It is always good to do a scouting trip.

Ask if there are toilets and showers and what your proximity will be?

Are there any rules unique to your campsite (i.e. regarding wildlife, alcohol, pets, etc.). Do not assume your pet will be allowed at the campground. Also, many campsites require the use of bear boxes. You will want to know the dimensions of the bear box before you arrive. My first time camping I brought an oversized cooler that would not fit in the bear box. It was a huge inconvenience to leave the campsite to drive to the store to find a smaller cooler. Call the site ahead of time tell the ranger station that you are a first-time camper and would simply like to know of anything they want to say to you in advance. The staff at the campsite is a great resource. They want you to be prepared. Be considerate and learn the rules.

Another helpful tip, clean and vacuum your car before you camp. Bears have very sensitive noses. Every season bears destroy cars trying to get in when they smell food.


What Gear should you get?


If you can borrow a tent for your first-time camping, then do so. If you are going to buy a tent, then I suggest splurge on the pop-up tent. It may cost a little more, but you will be glad you did so when you see others around you wrestling with those annoying little poles. Also, and I cannot stress this enough, SET THE TENT UP BEFORE YOU GO. You do not want to be stuck in the middle of nowhere and have the profound realization you are unable to set up your tent.


Sleeping bag or air mattress AND a pad. (If you require a pump for the air mattress I suggest a foot pump as many campsites do not have an outlet for the electric pump). There are many sleeping bags out there. I camp in the summer usually at places like Tahoe. I have a $30 sleeping bag from Walmart, and it works great. Extreme temperatures or backpacking will require specialized sleeping bags.

LAYERS! I have camped Tahoe, Santa Cruz, Yosemite and Burning Man. Being outside you feel the fluctuations in temperature. I love baggy yoga pants over my shorts. Zip up hoodies help that transition from morning cold to afternoon heat. Erik noted that people often get holes burned into nice coats from a stray campfire spark. Be aware that fleece will melt. So around a campfire, he likes to stick with flannel and jeans.

Trash Bags!

GLOWSTICKS!!!- at night kids like to run around. I cover my child in glowsticks. So I can always spot her quickly in the mess of playing children.

Toys- Nerf football, Frisbee, if you are brave a slingshot (hey where else can they use one). My daughter has a big toy dump truck that is a camping favorite. She loads it up with dirt for hours

Cooking Stove. I have a small tailgate stove. It works great. But if you plan you can get away without cooking. Sandwiches, Lunchables (DIY or store bought) as well as prepackaged breakfast can save time and space. If you do want to cook, even a jet boiler can help you with premade stews and save on space.

Never forget a can opener.

Flashlights or lanterns

baby wipes (wipe down hands, face, surfaces)



When camping with kids I like do as much as I can ahead of time. My friend is a master at finding little cheats to save time during meals. He pre-scrambles his eggs and has most everything chopped and ready before he leaves the house. I have taken note, and one of my easy camping dishes is below.

Canned Tacos:

1 can black beans drained

1 can corn kernels drained

1 can rotell tomatoes

1 package taco seasoning

Mix ahead of time and put in a plastic container in your cooler.

Bring tortillas and shredded cheese. Simply heat up the taco mix and serve. Simple and quick.


Picture Frame Craft:

I love this because it is simple and allows the kids to create a keepsake from the trip.

In advance, you only need to buy some craft popsicle sticks and wood glue.

Have the kids glue the sticks in a square to create a picture frame. They can then use the glue to decorate the frame with rocks, shells, sticks, leaves, whatever they find meaningful to them.

I like to take fun pics and selfies and later glue them to the inside of the frame. Add magnets when you get home to put it on the refrigerator.



Ask yourself, when was the last time you did something for the first time?         

Step one for trying new things: Get off your ass. Stop self-deprecating and tap into the awesome that is already within you. All the greats had to take a first step. Michael Jordan may play basketball like he came out of the womb doing lay-ups but never let it escape your brain that he had to pick up a basketball for the first time just like everyone else. Stephen King put pen to paper to write his first book Carrie, which was rejected 33 times. Marilyn Monroe was told by a modeling agency she was more suited to be a secretary and Elvis was infamously told he should go home and drive trucks. The point is everyone had to start somewhere, and getting started is the hardest part. There is something raw about putting yourself out there to try something new. Entering into a world in which everyone around you is already steady and well-versed, then there is you just learning to walk, and talk is difficult for almost everyone.

As humans, we resist change. The idea of new beginnings brings out our most paralyzing insecurities and reveals our greatest deficits. Once over that hurdle, we break the mold we have created for ourselves and find that we are capable of more than we ever thought possible. I love trying new things and have learned that mastering a new skill is not the challenge so much as getting started is the hardest part. But once the first steps are put into motion something beautiful happens, a momentum takes over and you realize that it wasn’t that a particular hobby got easier, it was that you got better.

I often find myself encouraging my friends to put themselves out there and try new things. I am writing this blog to tell my story about the various things I have tried in my life with the hopes that I can help you on your journey to try something new. If it is just to check something off a bucket list or if you have a desire to begin and lifelong passion, I just want to encourage you to get off your ass and get started. If you know of something you are interested in pursuing but you do not know how please message me. I am always up for trying new things.