Although my poor bike Rory hasn’t seen the light of day since the Ironman, I have been getting some cycling in since the race in the form of group spin classes. A few years ago I got really into group fitness classes and eventually found myself in my first spin class. Although my bum didn’t agree with me for a few days afterward, I was immediately hooked. I had shied away from the classes for at least a year because I knew that they filled up quickly and I didn’t want to show up at the gym an hour before class in order to secure my spot. However, when I returned from my backpacking adventure in Asia I was unemployed and could easily make it to the 11 a.m. pilates class followed by the noon spin class at my local gym. Once I knew what spinning was all about, I continued to make it a priority. Once I moved back to San Diego and got a real job, I started going to 6 a.m. spin class at least once a week. I’d make sure to get there at least 20 minutes early to guarantee I’d get a pass and only once did I get rejected because the class was full.
However, once Mike and I moved in together up in Encinitas and the gym wasn’t a 3 minute drive away, I stopped spinning and started P90X and running. And then we all know what happened post-Marathon – I borrowed my Dad’s bike and bought the gear nad began a whirlwind year of triathlon training. Although I did attend a couple of spin classes over the course of the year, I had heard that group cycling classes weren’t actually good for triathletes since there was so much work out of the saddle (and you rarely get out of the saddle on a road bike) and were more geared toward calorie burning than increasing efficiently on a road bike. Instead, I bought a trainer and Mike and I would ride it and watch trashy TV like The Bachelor and about once a week, we’d do a Sufferfest interval workout which are specifically geared toward cyclists.
Now that I’m no longer training for triathlon, I can do what I want! And one of my favorite workouts is a good spin class. I love the fun music and the group atmosphere, both of which motivate me to push myself to my limits. Another great thing about the class is that now I can train with my non-triathlete friends. Since taking up spin again I’ve sweated it out with two different non-triathlete friends. Having a friend to meet up with also helps me get out of bed when the clock strikes 5:15 a.m. Knowing that someone is waiting for me helps me get my butt in gear. Also packing my bag, lunch, and breakfast the night before reminds me that if I don’t go, I wasted time preparing all that stuff in advance.
If you are a triathlete looking to improve your cycling, I wouldn’t completely rule out spinning. Like I said, I tend to push myself harder in spin class and it’s a great workout, so I definitely think it can be incorporated into a training plan. However, always remember that you will push yourself hard in spin class so it’s a good idea not to schedule any other cycling interval workouts that week. Also, you can kind of make the class go the way you want it to go. As cyclists outdoors, we rarely spin out of the saddle. Sometimes in spin classes the instructor encourages you to “run” standing up out of the saddle, a move that you will never do outdoors. Don’t be afraid to sit back in the saddle and do your run sitting instead of standing. You can adjust the workout to fit your own preferences. If the instructor announces that today is hills day and you’ll be pedaling at a very low cadence with a high gear all class but you just did a hill workout a few days prior, don’t be afraid to pick up your cadence. You can just pedal faster when they add resistance.
Do you attend spin class? Do you think it’s ok to do spin during triathlon training?