Saturday, March 28, 2009

Spinning to Train

Earlier this week, my secretary who is just back from maternity leave asked me where I was going. I told her I was doing a spinning class over lunch hour. She laughed and asked if I was the only guy in the class. People have preconceived notions of spinning being some kind of glorified aerobic dance class. That isn't the case, at least at the Gold's Gym downtown. More and more cyclists are using spinning as an opportunity to stay in biking shape year round.

Over the winter I decided to do spinning classes to stay in shape. Starting in December I did spinning classes 5-6 days per week, or about the same number of times as I rode outside during the season. My thinking was that it wouldn't keep me in the same shape as outside riding, but it would give me a decent base from which to start the season.

At the end of last season I felt like I was dragging. Hills were a struggle and I couldn't climb out of the saddle for very long. Once the weather started to break this year I headed out on the road. I feel much more powerful on hills. I'm able to maintain whole climbs out of the saddle, use a series of quick out of the saddle repeat sprints to power with speed over other hills, and I can also now use hover lifts over the saddle for quick bursts to accelerate.

I attribute this to the spinning classes. They really have helped me to strengthen those areas of my legs that control out of the saddle support. Also I used a heart rate trainer in the classes. I rarely use it on the road. So, in every class I was cognizant of exactly what I was trying to do with my aerobic threshold. By taking classes from a lot of different instructors I working various different exercises. Some of the classes focused on climbing, others sprint repeats and others jumps. Some days they focused on endurance and other classes were for power. Although none of the instructors are road riders, some had routines that seem to be perfect for road riding: not many jumps but lots of climbing and sprinting. I enjoyed all of the classes, although one in particular named Michelle has a sadistic streak. Classes ranged from 45 minutes to two hours.

Last weekend I did two rides with several tough climbs. I found myself getting to the top well before my riding partners. Nothing makes riders angrier during the early part of the year to see one of their equals powering out of sight up the hill, only to see him waiting for them of the bike and looking bored at the top, as they spend themselves to finally reach the peak. I have a feeling that more riders will be populating spinning classes soon.

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