The indoor cycling conundrum (or aka… the way indoor cycling should really be)

Let’s talk cycling for a minute.

First of all…what do you think of when you hear the word cycling? I’ll let you think about that as I begin.

Recently one of my good friends has started to take up indoor cycling and I have been venturing out with her to several different indoor cycling studios. Which is how I’ve found myself caught in a bit of cycling conundrum.

This conundrum has to do with the concept of cycling (where an individual sits on a bike and moves the pedals to get him/herself from one place to another, either for sport or leisure) vs. indoor cycling (where an individual sits on a bike and does a bunch of upper body movements in coordination with their lower body in an effort to… burn calories?)

I wouldn’t call myself an expert cyclist but I feel I know a little on the subject. I do know how to ride a bike, after all,  and I have done it in a variety of ways ranging from downhill mountain biking, to urban commuting, to a casual ride around Brooklyn on a sunny Sunday.

I also happen to be a certified indoor cycling instructor, a personal trainer… and someone with a general appreciation for bio mechanics and proper form. It is with this experience that I am sometimes quite perplexed by so many indoor cycling classes that I have taken.

First and foremost… I like classes. Of all kinds. Dance, cycling, kickboxing, even acro-yoga-pole-core fusion-trampoline, or whatever trendy thing is going on at the moment. I enjoy taking them and I encourage others to take them as well. If a group fitness class is motivating people to move, to be active and to do something good for themselves, than I am all about that! Especially if I get to listen to fun music and get a good sweat on. That being said, I am also very much about a purposeful workout. If something in a class incorporates improper form, poor methods, or is just a “time filler”, I am not about that.

So when I am in an indoor cycling class and I am being instructed to perform exercises that make me look more like the unicyclist in a circus act, where I am juggling 2 pound weights and contorting my body to all sorts of positions that don’t seem comfortable for me to be riding in, I begin to start questioning many things.  Why are we doing this?  Who is the target audience? and What is the point?

I often wonder what if a cyclist, say for example Greg Lemond, took this class, what would he think? Would he walk away from that class feeling that they insulted his sport with all of these gimmicks? Or would he even feel that it was a valuable use of his training time?

I know that professional athletes are more than likely, not going to be in class with you, but whether you yourself are an cyclist looking to use an indoor class as a way to train, or you are just a weekend warrior trying to get your fitness on, wouldn’t you like to know that you are doing it in the best way possible and getting the most optimal energy expenditure that you can?

I understand that the more dance type spin classes might seem more entertaining, with the special effect lighting and occasionally  even live DJs. And I realize it might seem appealing to multitask and get your arm workout in with your “leg” and cardio workout, because you feel like those 2 pound weights really are somehow magically “toning” your arms. But here is my two cents, if you like to dance you might consider… taking a dance class. And if you really want to see results in your arms try picking up some heavier weights and doing 3 sets of 10 reps, rather than 7 minutes straight of bicep curls and triceps kick backs. Just to give you something to think about, that song that you usually pedal slowly to ( essentially sit out)  while you are doing your arm exercises could have been an extra 100-200 calories you burn off!

Not that burning calories is everything,  but if you are taking a class for the aerobic advantages it might be good to use the whole 45 minutes of the class the best that you can. And that goes the same for form. If  when you are on the bike you feel awkward, and you don’t feel like your body should be in a certain position, it probably shouldn’t.

So if you are an avid indoor cyclist who goes everyday or even if you are a newbie who has been thinking about taking a class for the first time, I encourage you now to be a bit more mindful about the workout that you are doing the next time you get up on that saddle. I believe you can still get great results, have fun, and have a great workout all while doing something the correct way, and hopefully learning something more about the sport of cycling in the process.

 

And don’t just take my word for it.

Check out what Jennifer Sage, founder of the Indoor Cycling Association has to say in her blog (http://www.indoorcyclingassociation.com/blog/ ) and in her book Keep It Real In Your Indoor Cycling Class

http://www.active.com/cycling/articles/how-cyclists-should-approach-indoor-classes

 

Move Better. Live More.

 

 

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MOVE BETTER, LIVE MORE, and survive the Zombie Apocalypse (or how I came up with my fitness philosophy)

While being interviewed for my first position as a personal trainer I  was asked what my fitness philosophy was. At the time… I remember being stumped.

I had grown up always being active and fitness was a part of my life. As a child I was a competitive gymnast, later I would go on to study dance… I surfed, rock climbed, hiked… for me, movement was an integrated part of my lifestyle, and I knew no other way.

So when I was posed with the question, “what is your fitness philosophy?”, I realized at that moment, that I had never really given it much thought. I did know that I believed in movement and I thought being able to move and move comfortably was important to me, so I’m sure I answered with something like, “I think people should stay active to be fit, so that they can get the most out of life”.

I was hired for that job and I began my career as a personal trainer.

As I started training, I continued to think about that question I was asked “what is your fitness philosophy?”.  What was it that I wanted for my clients? What did I believe in and what was my motivation?

I had come to the fitness industry because… well, I had been encouraged to do so. My years of being a gymnast had given me a strong and sturdy build, and I was often asked by random strangers if I was a personal trainer. Friends of mine would also try to get me to work out with them, so I guess that I heard this frequently enough, that the idea was planted into my brain, and eventually those small thoughts manifested into a career.

Before I worked in the fitness industry I waited tables. On more than one occasion, I was a asked by a customer  if worked out, or where I worked out. Often times I was asked by a young male… who I suspected had other questions on his mind that went along with that… and not just his curiosity as to how I got so strong. Hmmm. So, out of my own amusement I began to answer this question with a very straight face and serious monotone voice… “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I’m just trying to survive the zombie apocalypse.”(zombies were all the rage that year). The person who asked the question typically did not know how to respond to this (unless of course they were awesome and shared my hilarious sense of humor), and I always got a kick out of it.

Point of this story is… when I really did start to work as a trainer, I thought about the fitness level that it would take to actually survive the zombie apocalypse and decided that this was an excellent measure of fitness! If I could get my clients to be able to run away (cardiovascular endurance), climb a fence, lift their own body weight up (pull up), be strong enough to catch themselves from a fall (push up) or pick up a fallen comrade (dead lift)… then we would have achieved this great goal!

However, once I had a little more experience working with people, a variety of people,  from the elderly, very overweight, pregnant women, and those recovering from injuries, I began to come up with a new philosophy.

Though I still liked the idea of being able to survive the zombies, what I now really wanted was to just improve the lives of my clients. For many of my clients… performing the tasks in an apocalyptic world, were just too out of context or at the time unrealistic and unnecessary.

My senior clients needed to work on balance, flexibility and coordination… to ensure that they would have many more years of being self-sufficient. My clients who were overweight, needed to start moving in ways that eliminated pain, to get to the place where they could begin to move better and then move more.

In addition to working with my own clients, I witnessed poor form amongst many other gym goers and sometimes would hear stories about how they had suffered injuries due to their poor form.

I became aware of how important form and body awareness were for everyone. I recognized how nit-picky I was about form with each of my clients. I understood  that for most of my clients, a goal more relevant than surviving the zombie apocalypse, was just surviving their daily activities. I became increasingly passionate about working with my clients, and taking them from where they were… to where they wanted to be… a place where they weren’t hindered by their movements. A place where they could be victorious and look forward toward the next goal.

feeling strong today!

feeling strong today!

So… this is how my fitness philosophy actually came to be. Not only did I just want people to move, but to move better with the best quality.. to provide a lifetime of movement. Because when we can move… we can be self-sufficient, we can be strong, we can enjoy life to the fullest and not be limited by our bodies. And if we so choose, we can climb… heck, we could even move mountains (or larger boulders at least?).

So live your life to the fullest, thrive not survive…. unless of course there is a zombie apocalypse… in which case, survive that!!

MOVE BETTER. LIVE MORE. (do it now. don’t wait)