Whether you ride your road bike for general fitness, for road racing or in triathlons, spinning can provide the missing “X Factor” to your workout program. You may be the biggest skeptic going on the value of indoor cycling without wind or real terrain -- but spinning has won over even Edmund Burke, the titan of U.S. outdoor road racing and training theory. So get ready to clip in, rock out and become an indoor/outdoor cyclist.
If you’re not already in super-fit condition, “before you get on your journey, the first thing to do, is to get in shape,” advises master cycling instructor and certified spinning instructor Eddie DeVaughn, based in Baltimore, Maryland. He recommends taking two long-format, full-hour spin classes a week, as opposed to the typical 45-minute classes. Work up to three to four classes a week by the end of the month, he suggests.
To augment your outdoor cycling, find a spinning instructor whose class replicates hilly terrain -- meaning a lot of high-resistance or out-of-the-saddle work. “This gets your heart and lungs acclimated to workout on hills,” DeVaughn says. The spin class can also include some flat road segments so can work on your speed. “Different teachers have different focuses,” DeVaughn notes. “You need to find an instructor who offers an all-round workout; or if you find one that mainly concentrates on speed, take that class once a week, and take a class that offers a lot of hills two or three times a week.”
Even for the most serious of road cyclists, spinning provides a top-notch winter or bad-weather-day workout. Training expert Edmund Burke notes that concerns about bike handling and road safety go right out the window when you’re indoors, and the instructor does the work of selecting the music, providing inspiration and motivation, and guiding your visualization of the terrain. You move in and out of the saddle and to different positions on the handlebars to mimic your hills, flats and jumps.
While health clubs program most of their spin classes for 45 minutes, DeVaughn recommends that road cyclists look for longer, special 60-minute classes. This allows you time to warm up during the early intervals, marked by the first two or three songs played. “Your body doesn’t kick into overdrive for 12 or 18 minutes,” he notes. “The body then starts burning calories during the main 45-minute block of the 60-minute class, before the cool-down.” As you become a better indoor rider, your body changes over time. “You get more power in your hamstrings,” DeVaughn states, so lower the handlebars a bit more to become more aerodynamic.
- Eddie DeVaughn; Master Cycling Instructor and Certified Spinning Instructor; Baltimore, Maryland
An award-winning writer and editor, Rogue Parrish has worked at the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun and at newspapers from England to Alaska. This world adventurer and travel book author, who graduates summa cum laude in journalism from the University of Maryland, specializes in travel and food -- as well as sports and fitness. She's also a property manager and writes on DIY projects.