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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Get Fit For 2011~Improve Your Running Skills With Indoor Spin

Indoor Spin

By Helen M. Ryan

For an energetic cross-training activity this winter, consider an indoor cycling class at a local spinning studio or athletic club.

Indoor cycling is one of the best forms of cross training for runners because it consistently trains your aerobic base, works your muscles in different ways and increases your range of motion.

"For runners, indoor cycling increases leg strength and perfects your turnover, which is great for taking time off your run," says Cindy Bell, owner, partner and instructor at Pedal Spin Studio in Montrose, Calif. "It is a great alternative for runners, especially in the winter when it is too cold to run outside."

Another bonus? Indoor cycling burns an average of 500-700 calories per hour. Unlike a generic exercise bike workout, indoor cycling features a lively atmosphere, motivational support and an ability to visualize the journey.

Indoor Cycling Basics

There are three key indoor cycling workouts. An endurance class is great for beginners because it helps to build an aerobic base and keep your heart rate within the 60-65 percent zone. While not as challenging as other levels, many instructors will switch up the endurance workout to include some slight inclines.

A strength class features many hills, shorter recovery times and frequent climbs with tension to build leg strength. If you want to increase speed, power and build your heart strength, an interval class is the ticket.

An interval class will start with a low-intensity pace and then ramp up to a high intensity pace to raise your heart rate. "Often, an instructor will integrate all three workouts in one class: they will start with endurance, then intervals and finish with strength," Bell says.

An indoor cycling class is approximately one hour, including a five-minute warm-up, 45 minutes of intense cardio and a 10-minute cooldown. According to Bell, the cooldown is essential to bring your heart rate and breathing back to normal and stretch out leg muscles.

Perhaps the best aspect of indoor cycling is the ability to change the resistance based on your fitness level and goals. Since no one in class can tell your resistance level, you don't have to worry about competition. "If you're climbing a hill and struggling, you can back off from it," Bell says. "You're still getting a quality workout, but you control the intensity." The workout is within your control, which is what makes indoor cycling a consummate companion to running.

Get Pumped

Many classes will begin with the instructor visualizing a setting, such as a ride on the beach or up a  mountain. "At our studio, we have a particular instructor who says at the start of class, 'Where will we be riding to today?' and participants will call out nearby cities," Bell says. "He will then set up the ride based on the route to the city so everyone can visualize it."

Other instructors will use visualization techniques based on the terrain such as "I can see the crest of the hill," "prepare for 12 switchbacks ahead" or "a cobblestone road is approaching--ride smooth."

The exciting environment of an indoor cycling class inspires motivation. From riding in a studio with black lights, a disco ball and party techno music playing to riding in a naturally lit room to the pounding beat of world music, indoor cycling offers a fun, lively atmosphere. "We often get an energetic group who will be so energized by the music that they'll yell out, 'Woohoo!' during class," Bell says. "Even the most reserved people will let go and have a blast!"

Finding the Right Instructor

If an instructor is trained properly, you will receive similar workouts at any spinning studio across the country. What differentiates the class is the instructor's coaching style. Some instructors will set up a visual or goal at the beginning of class, while others will coach throughout the entire class. As with any group fitness class, connecting with an instructor is key. If you don't respond to their coaching style, you won't stick with it, and consistency is the only way to succeed.

According to Bell, a good instructor will ask you about your goals, current fitness level and if you have any injuries or health problems. From these questions, they should explain how to modify your workout. "For example, a new person might tell me they've been doing Pilates for two years, but no cardio," Bell explains. "Since it's a completely different workout, I know they should stay in the saddle and not push themselves too hard to prevent burnout."

Gear 101

For a beginner, a towel and a water bottle are the most important items to bring to class (you will sweat a lot!). A towel is essential to dry your face, hands and handlebars during an intense workout. Bell recommends bringing at least 40 ounces of water per class.

As for apparel, you will need a moisturewicking top, preferably sleeveless, moisture-wicking shorts and running shoes. Once you fall in love with indoor cycling, investing in special cycling shoes that clip into the bike's pedals will add a new dimension to your rides. These shoes help your feet stay in proper position and provide a smoother pedal stroke with greater engagement of your leg muscles. Also, padded cycling shorts or an inexpensive gel seat will increase your comfort.

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