In my first installment of Finding Her Strength, I talked about the importance of diversifying your fitness game for three main reasons: to stay injury free, to prevent burnout, and to have fun! Over the next few installments, we’ll explore my top 4 things to add to your fitness routine:
- Strength Training
- Mental Muscle
As a running and fitness coach, I recommend adding in some type of cross training activity at least 1-2 times a week. Just like with running, too much too soon will set you up for disaster. I am not suggesting that you add all of these workouts in all at once. One step at a time. Let’s start with Spinning, that is, riding on an indoor stationary bike through a guided, coached workout.
What are the benefits of Spinning? (Why should I sit on a bike for an hour?)
Spinning is a fantastic complement to running because it fosters leg strength and cardiovascular conditioning and stamina … but with little to no impact on your precious joints. A spin workout will help to develop your quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings, but will give your knees and ankles a rest from the pounding of the pavement. A spin workout will also teach you how to get up close and personal with your effort levels (perceived rates of exertion) and your heart rate zones (if you wear a heart rate monitor) – all valuable lessons that can be applied to your running. Spinning is a self-regulated workout. You have control of your pedal speed and your resistance dial, so you control how hard you work. And of course, you get to rock out to awesome music along the way. It’s also not weather dependent since it’s indoors. Raining? Cold? Dark? No problem! Oh, and if you’ve shied away from fitness classes because you’re uncoordinated … no worries there either! I promise that even the most uncoordinated person can still spin. Top it off with an epic post workout endorphin high (just as there is a runner’s high, there is a Spinning high too!) and plentiful caloric burn … boom!
What will I need? (Do I have to wear spandex?)
Only a bottle of water and a towel are must haves. You can choose your own attire, just be sure to select shorts that stay in place and don’t ride up. Other recommended items as you start to become a spin superstar are a heart rate monitor (to gauge your effort), cycling shoes that clip into the pedals of the bike (to promote proper pedal technique), and padded cycling shorts (to protect your sensitive parts).
What are your favorite spin workouts? (Won’t I get bored?)
My favorite spin workouts are ones that provide a variety of terrain – remember that a spin workout should replicate the experience of outdoor riding – so a blend of flat road speed work, uphill climbing efforts, with some power surges mixed in are my favorites. I really enjoy Tabata or HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), which are short intervals of hard/very hard effort followed by easy recovery, to build my fitness. I like to think of these intervals like my speed workouts on a track. I also enjoy long, climbing intervals to build my endurance and I like to think of these like running hill repeats or like a big hill embedded in my long run. A spin workout should present a journey, just like your run, so no, you won’t be bored!
What about the music? (I don’t listen to the Top 40…)
Part of the driving force in a spin workout is the beat – so if you are a music fan, you are going to be stoked! The workout is designed for you to ride to the beat of the music to simulate the proper riding cadence of a sprint, a hill, etc. So that presents a variety of music choices – fast beats for speed, slow/calm beats for climbing. Techno, Rap, Rock and Roll, and instrumental pieces all have a place in the ride. You are always in for a musical treat!
What should I look for in a good Spinning class? (I’ve seen videos of people dancing on their bikes..)
First and foremost, make sure you arrive early to class and have your instructor help you with bike setup. Coming into class and randomly jumping on a bike and cranking into the workout is like going into someone else’s closet and randomly grabbing a pair of running shoes and heading out the door. They’re probably not going to fit you, and you are probably going to be pretty uncomfortable pretty quick. The instructor will show you how to custom fit your bike for your body. This will ensure a comfortable and safe ride. Second, be sure that the class promotes safe and effective movements on the bike that simulate functional outdoor riding. You don’t do pushups on a bicycle while riding outside. You don’t pump dumbbells on a bicycle while riding outside. Then you really shouldn’t be doing those types of movements in a spin class. Third, find an instructor that you like and have fun!
Alright, so we’ve got a self-regulated, low-impact workout that promotes strong legs and lungs all to the beat of awesome music … what are you waiting for? “But won’t it hurt my butt?!” This is the question I hear the most from first time Spinners. You may be slightly uncomfortable spending an hour on the bike for the first time – know that you can slowly build up to an hour class – you don’t have to do it all at once. Start with 30 minutes and over a few weeks build up to the full hour. Second, if you are particularly sensitive to the saddle, invest in a pair of padded cycling shorts to make yourself more comfortable. Third, like with anything, practice makes perfect. After 3 classes, I guarantee you won’t notice the saddle and you will start to learn how to support your body more with your legs and less with your bum!
Here’s your call to action – try mixing things up once a week for the next 30 days! Pick a non-running activity and commit to it at least once a week for a month. I suggest you give Spinning yourself free a try. But stay tuned … in my next installment of Finding Her Strength, we’ll dive into the world of weight lifting and strength training. Until next time, find your strong. Strong is beautiful.
Sweat, Smiles, and Miles,
Group Fitness Instructor and Running Coach, Community Coordinator for She.is.beautiful