Burn Baby Burn – Why You Should Give Spinning a Try

How many of you have taken a spinning class? I took my first one after registering for the Boise Half Ironman, which will be held June 10. My plan is to spin through the cold weather in preparation for outdoor action in May.

What I have discovered about spinning during the last month or so is that it kicks my marathon butt! As Adrienne at The Skinny Fight has observed: “It’s an hour designed to kill you.”

But, if you only have an hour and want to get in shape and burn some calories, this is a program to try. Though body weight, age and intensity play a factor, you can burn as many as 450 calories in 45 minutes.

But that’s not all! After interviewing personal trainer Karrie Wood, who was one of the first spinning instructors in Idaho in the early 90’s, I discovered that there is an interesting story behind spinning.

What is spinning? Spinning was started by a guy named Johhnie G. In 1986, he won a grueling 3,000-mile, 9.5-day bike race called the Race Across America. The following year, however, he was hit by a car during training. Since he also had a pregnant wife at home, he decided to move his training indoors. This sparked the development of a commercial training program that we now call spinning.

What kind of bike is used for spinning? Johnny G designed a special spinning bike with a solid cast fly wheel and fixed gear. It has a seat post that slides back forwards, as well as up and down. By changing the angle of the bike, a person is able to work different muscle groups. He also designed handlebars for easily standing up and sitting back down. Another big change was the removal of the computer, a feature of most stationary bikes at the time, and the addition of manual resistance.

If you can’t afford a spinning bike and prefer working out at home, a bike trainer like the one pictured below is a possible alternative for cycling indoors. Though not as sturdy and versatile, you can still burn some serious calories by using it to hold a bike you already own.

A mind and body experience: The idea during a spin class is that you envision yourself on the road. Music is an important part of the class, and the lights are dimmed so you can disengage and simulate the actual riding experience. Using a bike that enables three hand positions and five body movements, you can pedal with your eyes closed, or drop your head, move your body from side to side, or imagine yourself cycling up or down hills. You can reach the same heart rate with and without resistance. Physically, you can challenge yourself exactly how you wish – that’s why there are no numbers on the resistance knob.

What to Expect: Personally, I take a class at 5:15 a.m. and was somewhat startled the first day when I walked into room full of exuberant people with the music blaring. Though I initially found the dim lights unusual, I am growing to appreciate that no one can see my face and hair at that ungodly hour.  The hour-long class generally seems like three, as I am always sweating and exhausted after fifteen minutes.

As I have continued to take classes, the experience is getting more manageable (I didn’t say easier). Perhaps I am tailoring the tension and effort to my mood and energy of the day, or maybe I am getting in better shape. I guess I will find out when I hop on my road bike when the weather warms up.

Benefits of Cycling: Though I still prefer a scenic outdoor backdrop to a small, dark room without windows, the benefits of spinning are hard to beat. It’s low impact and incredible for the cardiovascular system. By engaging the shoulders, triceps and legs, the entire body gets toned (at least that’s what I am hoping). Another bonus is that it makes my long marathon training runs seem far less tedious. Here’s a great article  explaining how spinning can benefit a triathlete.

More information: You can get more information about fundamentals, safety, energy zones, weight loss and more at the official spinning web site. Good luck and enjoy the ride!

Melinda Hinson