Friday, October 23, 2009

My Favorite Things: Spinning!

I'm sure you've probably heard the term spinning before, you already probably know what it is too. And maybe you look at the people after they come out of the class at your gym and think they're insane! But don't knock it till you try it!

Simon Pegg is about to die in his first spinning class**
Most of us look like that the first few times.

Ok, so spinning class...

what is it? Spinning could be referred to as "Indoor Biking" but essentially it's an intense cardio work out on a stationary exercise bike. Spinning bikes have knobs on them to adust the tension of your pedalling to simulate going up hills at high tension or biking on flat ground at low tension. The instructor will call out commands on when to raise and lower tension, how fast you should be pedalling and which position you should be in. There are three common positions in spinning class when you're sitting or standing:

  • Forward, with hands at the front-most part of the handlebars where the handles are parallel to the sides of the rider's body, used only when out of the saddle
  • Middle, with hands on the 12-14" part of the handlebars that crosses the rider's body
  • Rear, with hands at the center part of the handlebars
Each of these positions works the muscles in slightly different ways. Proper form for standing while pedaling requires the body to be more upright and the back of the legs touching or enveloping the point of the saddle, with the center of gravity directly over the crank. The center of gravity or pressure of body weight should never rest on the handlebars.
The three positions used in indoor cycling each work a different part of the body and it depends on the level of exertion whether or not someone changes position or the instructor can tell the class to change. Position one is when the rider in the saddle (seated) and the hands are resting on the center of the handle bars. Position two is when the rider stands up but can still feel the saddle between their legs and their hands are light on the handle bars because they are only there for balance. Position three is used for heavy climbing and the body is extended over the handles. It is important to remember to always be light on the handle bars because they are only there to help one balance and to adjust resistance accordingly when changing positions otherwise one's feet might stick in the pedals. (Source: wikipedia)

what should you expect if it's your first time?

So you're probably going to experience some discomfort after your first class. I'm not going to lie and there's no way to put this gently... the seats are not comfortable and it's probably going to feel like your back side has been violated (there are padded pants that cyclists wear that you can purchase at a bike shop or you can bring an extra cushioned bicycle seat cover to class as well).

This class will take some getting used to, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't give it a try!

Now, consider your fitness level for a moment...
Are you inactive, moderately active or very active?

If you're inactive to moderately active you're probably going to experience some soreness in your legs (and tush) after your first class.

Before I had taken my first spinning class I hadn't even started dieting yet. I thought walking/ jogging a mile on the tread mill, or occasionally doing 30 minutes on the elliptical and weekly yoga was enough. I worked out maybe twice a week (if even) and I didn't diet. No wonder I thought I was always destined to be overweight! So when I decided to get on that spinning bike for the first time my muscles weren't used to the activity at all and I experienced pain in my quadriceps for a week afterward.

The pain you experience after you exercise is usually referred to as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. This is most common for people who are just starting a work out routine... Here's an article from WebMD about sore muscles after exercise:

Sore Muscles? Don't Stop Exercising

Delayed onset muscle soreness is common after exercise and usually means your muscles are getting stronger.
Exercise physiologists refer to the gradually increasing discomfort that occurs between 24 and 48 hours after activity as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and it is perfectly normal.
"Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a common result of physical activity that stresses the muscle tissue beyond what it is accustomed to," says David O. Draper, professor and director of the graduate program in sports medicine/athletic training at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
To be more specific, says Draper, who's also a member of the heat-responsive pain council, delayed onset muscle soreness occurs when the muscle is performing an eccentric or a lengthening contraction. Examples of this would be running downhill or the lengthening portion of a bicep curl.
"Small microscopic tears occur in the muscle," he says.
The mild muscle strain injury creates microscopic damage to the muscle fibers. Scientists believe this damage, coupled with the inflammation that accompanies these tears, causes the pain.
"The aches and pains should be minor," says Carol Torgan, an exercise physiologist and fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, "and are simply indications that muscles are adapting to your fitness regimen."
Don't let the pain discourage you though & keep you from sticking to your new routine!!!!
...for the deconditioned person starting out, this can be intimidating. People starting an exercise program need guidance, Torgan says.
"The big problem is with people that aren't very fit and go out and try these things; they get all excited to start a new class and the instructors don't tell them that they might get sore," she says.
"To them they might feel very sore, and because they aren't familiar with it, they might worry that they've hurt themselves. Then they won't want to do it again."
Letting them know it's OK to be sore may help them work through that first few days without being discouraged.

The worst thing you can do if you have sore muscles after exercising is sit around and wait several days for them to recover! It's best to keep moving by doing a light exercise and plenty of stretching!
So what can you do to alleviate the pain?
"Exercise physiologists and athletic trainers have not yet discovered a panacea for DOMS," says Draper, "however, several remedies such as ice, rest, anti-inflammatory medication, massage, heat, and stretch have been reported as helpful in the process of recovery."
Stretching and flexibility are underrated, says Sharp.
"People don't stretch enough," he says. "Stretching helps break the cycle," which goes from soreness to muscle spasm to contraction and tightness.
Take it easy for a few days while your body adapts, says Torgan. Or try some light exercise such as walking or swimming, she suggests. Keeping the muscle in motion can also provide some relief.

So back to spinning class....

My only other concern jumping up on that spin bike for the first time was embarrassment. I weighed 275lbs. I was out of shape and none of the other people in the class looked to be. I was afraid that every eye was going to be on the only "fat chick" in the class and they were all going to be laughing at me as I fumbled my way through the work out.

But you know what I discovered...

My fears were all in my head. The instructor was incredibly supportive (and yes she did warn me before hand about the soreness I would experience). She told me to go at my own pace and that the only rule was that I wasn't allowed to walk out of the class, because then I would never want to come back. I soon felt a camaraderie with my classmates because we were all in this crazy work out together, trying to help push each other mentally over those "hills". None of them judged me for my weight.

Spinning became part of my weekly routine very quickly, and not long after I started taking it twice a week. After a couple of weeks I was having no problems keeping up with the rest of the class and following along with the instructors commands.

Now when I see someone who was my former size try spinning out for the first time the only thing I think is "You go!" and I hope I see them back in class again!

Anyone can spin! so now that i've talked about the class and what to expect. What's keeping you from giving it a try??

Your feet are strapped to the pedals. I've never seen anyone fall off a spinning bike during class.

This isn't kick boxing or jazzercise (and I ain't talking 'bout working out with jasper) you don't need to be perfectly balanced or coordinated, just willing to work hard.

Like I said before soreness and some pain is bound to happen but it is only temporary, and after a couple classes you'll get right into the swing of things and you'll experience probably one of the most intense cardio work outs you've ever had!

There's no way to accurately gauge how many calories you burn in an hour long class, it varies from person to person. If you wear a heart rate monitor with a calorie tracker it would be the most accurate way to tell, but spinning is guaranteed to get your heart rate up and make you sweat like crazy!!

Plus because you've worked so hard during class you always have a huge sense of accomplishment after!!

**Go rent Run, Fat Boy Run! It's about a slacker who finds the motivation to train for a marathon so that he can prove to his sons mother that he can commit to something and win her back. It's super super cute funny heartwarming and motivational and Simon Pegg is awesome!

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