SPIN – Sweat , Gears, and Techno Beats

Who hasn’t heard of SPIN class? For the longest time, this exercise phenomena, this exercise craze, seemed to me like little more than another late-night infomercial fad. Thai-Bo, Pilates, Hip-Hop Abs, or P90 X, they come and they go. But SPIN doesn’t appear to be fading away.

Leading up to the Transrockies, in my quest to arm myself with training/fitness knowledge, I have been continuously reading books specific to fitness and cycling. Joe Friel’s ‘The Cyclist’s Training Bible’, plus ‘The Mountain Bikers Training Bible’, Ned Overend’s ‘Mountain Bike Like a Champion’, and Ross’s ‘Maximum Performance for Cyclists’, to name a few, but when it comes to SPIN, one book stands out; Gina Kolata’s, ‘Ultimate Fitness’ painted the most vivid picture of what SPIN is about. In her book, she describes a SPIN program where her and her husband joined that was designed to simulate the physical challenge of riding up Mt. Everest. Throughout her highly readable, and richly anecdotal book, she describes her personal fears, apprehensions and struggles as her SPIN class trains several days a week for the big day when they will pretend to ascend Mt. Everest. In many ways, this struck me as a Yuppie pastime, as I pictured a room full of middle-aged, career driven execs rushing into their ‘Members Only’ health club to make their mid-week SPIN class so they could pretend to be real athletes. It seemed like a hollow shell, a faded facsimile of anything even close to a true riding experience. But, that was before I knew what SPIN could be like, and I found out recently, as a fitness/training tool, SPIN is awesome!

River Valley Cycle, the bike store where I bought my first ‘real’ mountain bike (Cannondale M800) some 15 years ago, is promoting this summer’s Ride To Conquer Cancer and has been offering off-season training with none other than 2004 Olympic gold medal cyclist Lori-Ann Muenzer.

I found out about this and thought, “Well, if I am ever going to give this a try, this is it.”

Spin at RVCNS with Lori-Ann Muenzer

Twenty-some people were there on this particular Monday night, road bikes and stationary trainers ready to go – no spin bikes here I need to point out. And Lori-Ann was on rollers. We all set up in a close circle. So close that it seemed uncomfortable to me at first; it felt like we were jammed in and right on top of each other as Lori-Ann went around arranging us the way she wanted it. The session was 1 hour and 30 mins – a healthy spin length for me these days, but what was extraordinary was the ENERGY in the room. Yes, there were some techno beats blastin’ through the store speakers, but what was so much more powerful was having us all set up inwardly, and facing each other so tightly – Lori-Ann at the center of it all, driving us on with individual eye contact and attention. The result was amazing. It was a sweat-fest! I spun harder than I have in a while, since my fitness testing earlier last month for sure. The drive that a group session delivers is something I hadn’t realized I missed, until I went to that spin class. Training on my own, on my stationary, or my trainer in front of the TV just pales in effectiveness now. Sure, I can push myself, get the heart rate up there, and I do. But I admit, I don’t push myself like I do in a group. I thrive on the energy, and the ‘competition’, for lack of a better word. I don’t think a SPIN class should necessarily be looked at as competitive, but there is something about the collective drive, the group ‘pull’ to keep going and not let up until the interval is over, that is difficult for me to replicate on my own. Riding with an Olympic gold medal cyclist can’t happen everyday – this was a pretty special experience, but from here forward, now that the snow is melting away I am going to leave the solitude of my indoor training rides behind and get out on group rides as much as I can.