Journey into Spinning

The story starts with an injury.  I remember the day very well.  We were on our 17 mile run just coming down from the Ringling Bridge.  I had been training with a group out of Fleet Feet Sarasota for my first marathon – the 2009 Disney marathon. Just as we were at the bottom of the bridge with about 2.5 miles left to the store, I turned to my friend – a much more expereinced runner than I – and said, “My foot hurts.  Everyone morning when I get up I feel a shooting pain up from my heel.”

Looking back, I was so naive. I was new to distance running, so I’ve never experienced the injuries that come along with it.  Growing up a swimmer, I didn’t have to worry about foot or knee injuries. My friend turned to me and said, “You have plantar fasciitis.” 

I finished the run, went home to take a nap, woke up, stepped down, confirmed the shooting pain in my heel, and began my obsessive internet search on this condition.  I was 99% certain that I had plantar fasciitis so I began the treatment process.  I (reluctantly) stopped running.  I started sleeping in the Strassburg Sock.  I wore one of three pairs of shoes with either inserts in them or great arch support (any fashion sense was thrown out the window during this time).  I began seeing a chiropractor for the first time in my life to get Active Release Technique (ART).  I switched to a heavy swimming workout.  And then finally, after a few months, I began spinning!  (Just an FYI – I did (barely) complete the Disney Marathon in 2009)

I was traveling for work, working out at a YMCA in Fernandina Beach, FL when the spin instructor came onto the cardio floor and started asking (begging) for people to join her spin class.  There was only one person in there who came often, but the others who joined were all new.  I don’t know that lady’s name, but THANK YOU for bringing me in there for change!  I’ve always seen the “spinners,”  but I was always intimidated to jump in there myself.

That was nearly 2 years ago, and I’ve been addicted to spinning ever since. It is a workout that isn’t hard on the body like running, but it gets you moving and those endorphins high.  Nothing like some bumping music and sweat dripping off your face to start your day!

I encourage you all to try a spin class. In a 45 minute class you will burn anywhere from 500-650 calories!  You don’t need any fancy gear to do it either.

A Beginner’s Guide to Spinning 

  • Show up to class at least 20 minutes early especially if you are taking a class at a peak time (5pm – 7pm). 
  • Most gyms have a “sign-in” system (sign a list, grab a number, or sign a list where your sign in spot corresponds to your bike number, etc.).  Be sure to inquire about this at the front desk when you arrive.
  • Choose a bike.  Some things I look at when choosing a bike at my current gym.  You probably wouldn’t be aware of these things when you are just beginning, but after a few classes you will start to know bikes you like.
    – Location, Location, Location.  Are you a front-row Joe or a back seat driver?
    – Is it a newer bike or older bike?  I can tell because the newer ones are not rusted near the pedals.
    – Is the seat narrow or wide?  The solid black seats are narrower and hurt my bum more, so I like the black and grey seats.   
  • Tell the teacher you are new.  She/he will help you adjust your bike to the correct settings.  
  • Mount your bike and test things out a bit.  Is your seat far enough forward?  Is your seat high enough?  Are your handlebars at the right height?  After a few minutes you might want to tweak some things to ensure a comfortable ride.
  • The nob in the center of your bike controls your resistance.  For your first class keep things light.  Over time though you will look back and realize that at the beginning you thought you were kicking ass, but really you just had about 1/10 the resistance as  your power house neighbor.  
  • Bring a large bottle of water and a towel (unless your gym supplies them)
  • Don’ think you have to go out and buy cycling shoes to spin.  Your regular running shoes will work just fine as a beginner.  If you decide this is something you’d like to spend more time doing, then you can invest in a pair of cycling shoes.  You will need MTB shoes with SPD cleats. (Finally after all this time, I’ve invested in a pair of cycling shoes – Specialized BG SportMTB Shoes.  The verdict is still out on how comfortable I think they are.)
  • After the class be sure to discuss with your instructor anything on the bike that wasn’t quite right, or if everything was great, REMEMBER your settings so the next class you can easily set up your bike to your liking.
  • Enjoy the adventure.

Experienced Spinners: What to do if you can’t make it to a Spin Class?

This weekend I was talking to a lady before class started.  She was telling me that she used to spin all the time but with her new job, her schedule won’t sync up with the class times our Y is offering.  I suggested that she create her own workout by finding spinning programs/playlists online, loading her iPod, and creating a solo class on the spin bikes in the cardio room.

If you find yourself in the same situation – making excuses on why you can’t attend class – download these songs and get spinning on your own.  If nothing else, these songs will crossover nicely to any cardio routine you do.

I found this playlist from the blog – Spinning Music.  There are tons of great workouts there, so be sure to check it out.  You might just find a few that hit the right note for you.

Best of 2009 Spin Mix

I Gotta Feeling – Black Eyed Peas (4:49):  This song has been on heavy rotation on my iPod since it came out.  It’s one of those tunes that just makes you want to move.  Warm up your legs with some easy spinning and throw in a few dynamic upper body stretches.
Sexy Bitch (feat. Akon) – David Guetta (3:16): I am such a bad feminist for liking this song… but I do.  It reminds me of a lawyer I knew when I was first practicing.  He was about 25 years older than I was and continually said inappropriate things to women.  But the thing was – it didn’t come from a place of malice.  He adored his wife, and thought highly of women.  You could just tell.  I had a huge soft spot for him.  And this song is kind of like that.    Let’s tackle some small rolling hills to get going.  First, we climb out of the saddle, then sit down and sprint.  For an extra challenge, do the sprints standing.  Here we go!  First hill: C: 0:15 – 0:30, S: 0:30 – 0:45.  Second hill: C: 0:45 – 1:15, S: 1:15 – 1:45.  Third hill: C: 1:45 – 2:45, S: 2:45 – 3:15.
Love Drunk – Boys Like Girls (3:47): More sprints?  Sure! Three of them: 30/45/50 seconds at 0:48 – 1:20, 1:45 – 2:28, 2:38 – 3:28.  Wanna do ‘em standing?  You bet!
Right Round (feat. Ke$ha) – Flo Rida (3:27): Crank that tension up to 6 or 7/10 and  do some random lifts: 4/8/2.
Love Game (Chu Fu Ghettohouse  Fix) (feat. Marilyn Manson) – Lady GaGa (5:21):  We deserve a 45 second rest.  Give your shoulders a roll and take a big drink.  The second large hill starts here.  This one’s a fast standing climb.  We’re going to alternate between regular and aggressive stances, 15 seconds each, then 30, then 45, then 60.
Waking Up in Vegas – Katy Perry (3:19): More sprints, this time at each chorus: 15/15/45.  They’re at 0:47 – 1:02, 1:29 – 1:44, and 2:22 – 3:07.  Shorter sprint intervals are the perfect time for new riders to try a standing sprint or two.
No You Girls – Franz Ferdinand (3:40):  More high tension lifts – 7/10.  Do 8 counts to the bridge, then 4, then 2 for the choruses.
Good Girls Go Bad (feat. Leighton Meester) – Cobra Starship (3:18): Okay, there’s only one big, 7.5 minute hill between us and the showers.  Roll the tension back to 4/10 for this fast climb.  Take a posture break and switch to a standing jog for the choruses.  Remind new riders and those who’ve been away from the bike for a while to take a break when they need to.  The transition between songs here is a natural spot to kick back and reload.  Advanced riders, keep it going for the whole 7.5 minutes.
Fire Burning – Sean Kingston (4:03): Keep the climb going, and keep it fast.  This time we’re going to do at least three tension increases, while maintaining the pace.  Shoot for pleasantly thrashed by the end of the ride.
Africa (feat. Culture) [Radio Edit] – Karl Wolf (3:52):  Ahhh….. we made it.  Roll the tension back to 2/10 and take a few minutes to spin easy.  We’ll lower our heart rates and do some static upper body stretches on the bike, then climb off and treat our quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves to nice long stretches.
Down (feat. Lil Wayne) – Jay Sean (3:32):  Some extra cool-down and goodbye music.

Here are some other sites to get spin programs from:
Spin Freak

Enjoy the journey.

Be well,



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      4 responses to “Journey into Spinning

      1. I've always wanted to try a spin class, and my gym has them all the time. Thanks so much for the "beginner tips!" Now I'll have some idea of what's going on. 🙂

      2. Cynthia

        Hi Carolyn,

        Cynthia over at Spinning Music. Thanks so much for mentioning my blog in your post. My transition from spinner to instructor started when I couldn’t get to classes and began making my own playlists and riding by myself. It doesn’t have quite the same energy as a spin class but I liked it a lot better than using the cardio machines.

        All the best,


        • Hi Cynthia,
          Thanks for stopping by! I secretly want to be a spin instructor… maybe one day life will make that happen. In the mean time, I attend spin class a few times a week. I haven’t done a “class” on my own yet, but I plan on it if the schedules don’t work out for me. Thanks for creating such great playlists!

          Be well,

      3. Pingback: A look back at 2010 « Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well.

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