SPINNING MY WAY TO FASTER CYCLING
Coming from a swimming background, triathlons aren’t always fun. You are forced to start up front, only to be blown off the road during the bike portions. Even if you can hold your own on the run, the bike is where time is either lost or gained. This was my experience for the first 7 years of my triathlon career. Luckily, I found what was missing.
At the end of an internship working in personal training at BAC, I was approached about teaching spin class. It sounded like an opportunity to get paid for a workout and be more involved at the gym. My first year was primarily myself on the stage with one loyal member that came to every class. She was one who didn’t hesitate letting me know which workout was hard, too easy, or if my energy just wasn’t there. This evolved my spinning method to where it is today. Tuesday is a 45minute “speed day”, Thursday is a 60minute “hill day”, and Sunday’s class is just a good way to get the week started!
Unexpectedly, I started noticing a boost in my riding outdoors. After talking with a coach I had at the time and many other avid cyclists, it seemed my experience was based on an unpopular opinion. Does spin class have any positive effect on cycling performance outdoors? Let’s break down the pros & cons of each.
- Does training inside offer you advantages outside?
- A spin class is not the place to learn how to handle your bike in a hard cross wind. Nor is it the best place to practice handling for a rainy ride but when the weather is holding you back from riding or the motivation just isn’t there, spin class is a great option.
- There is no such thing as too cold or too hot, too windy or too rainy, or too lazy or tired when it comes to spin classes. There is a room full of energy and excitement to give you exactly what you need which is “time in the saddle” working on your endurance.
- Does the Flywheel feature benefit or harm a cyclists training?
- The flywheel is a weighted plate that builds speed as you put pressure into the pedals. It is typically where the resistance is added (whether magnetic or brake), but can also be somewhat of an assist to keep your legs moving along. This sounds like cheating to a cycling; on the contrary, it could be what has helped me more than anything.
- Aside from outright power, the speed at which your legs can move is the most basic aspect of how fast you can potentially go. Think about doing downhill sprints for running, you are being forced to turn your legs over faster to prevent a face plant. On the spin bike you should be safe from wrecking, but you don’t want to be the one whose pedals are turning over on their own while hitting you in the heels. Faster leg turnover is the key.
- Can the set-up of a spin bike alter your training?
- All bikes are designed slightly different. Whether it is switching between your road bike and mountain bike or beach cruiser and time trial bike, your hip angle will be different. The spin bike is no different and I certainly believe this is for your benefit.
- A body builder will do the same exercise 3 times and only change the hand grip in which they do it. This allows them to work that same muscle from different angles to fully develop that muscle. Why would cycling muscles be any different? The slight difference in the width of the pedals or handlebar height could help train some undertrained secondary muscles. Strengthening these stability muscles will help to overall develop the muscle groups used and also have a positive influence on injury prevention.
I no longer have to look over my shoulder to see another cyclist about to pass me. In fact, I’m hardly ever caught during the cycle portion of the triathlon. My bike time splits have improved every season since actively including indoor spin classes into my training program. Teaching spin allows me to spend an extra 2.5-3 hours a week of time in the saddle. “Speed Day,” with help from the flywheel, has allowed my leg turnover to increase, in turn raising my cadence during races. “Hill Day” takes the watts up and strengthens my legs to become more powerful on hill climbs and into headwinds. If you are a cyclist looking to move a little faster or needing some motivation on a rainy day, try out a spin class and be pleasantly surprised by a fun, but challenging workout.
This article was written by BAC’s Instructor Jordan G. For more information about Jordan’s spin classes or to see our full schedule please check out our website: www.bgathleticclub.com.