How I Became a Spinning Addict
This is the story of a self-diagnosis and my journey into spending way too much money on exercise equipment.
Here's my story: it all started when I moved to New York for grad school in September, 2009. I lived with three friends (all male), none of whom were cyclists, but one friend thought he would like to ride again. He purchased a Diamondback road bike from Craigslist, and we went out once or twice together. I was still using the Schwinn Airdyne at the YMCA near our grad student housing for some cardio, so I didn't have any desire to own my own bike yet.
I had some credit card points saved up, so during Christmas break in December, 2009 I decided it was time to buy my own stationary bicycle. I decided on the Schwinn IC3 because of great reviews and a good price point (Now I use the schwinn ic4 bike of course, but back in the day the IC3 was the thing to go for).
When I returned to school in January, I was excited to use my new bike. Unfortunately, it gave me some pretty bad knee pain after using it for less than 10 minutes at 80 rpm (I didn't know this is what the knob said at the time). I think this was due to poor leg extension when pedaling - where your foot doesn't go all the way down when you pedal, but stays at an angle instead. Also, 80 rpm seemed very high compared with riding outdoors which usually ranges between 40-60 rpm depending on terrain and speed. Therefore, despite really wanting this equipment in order to ride longer and harder than I could at the YMCA, I had to stop riding it after a couple weeks of sporadic use.
I didn't know how to adjust the resistance; at my friend's house we just changed gears when we wanted to be challenging, but trying that on this bike was really hard because it is single-speed (which made things like pedaling up hills hard!). So when I stopped using it for my knees' sake, I stored it in my room with hopes that one day I would make time to figure out how to work it and start cycling again.
Early 2011: Enter spinning classes: A constant factor in New York City is spin class. Whether you're a biological male or female, if you want cardio , you go to the gym and take a spin class. So as I got more into fitness, I tried out several different classes at two local New York gyms: Flywheel and Soulcycle.
Flywheel's bikes are similar to the IC3, but with resistance knobs rather than handlebars that control how much you pedal and tension that is fine-tuned. The seats were way more comfortable than the IC3 too. It was also nice sitting upright so I could see around me! But most importantly, flywheels have dual pedals - meaning your right foot doesn't have to turn all by itself like on a traditional bike! Other than these features, flywheel claims they do not use weights or momentum for resistance (unlike Soul Cycle).
Soulcycle's bikes are different than the IC3 in that they're stationary bicycles with handlebars, but do not have any gears or resistance knobs. Instead, you just go "all out" for 45 minutes and then get off the bike. I was really excited about this class because it seemed like a real workout , and everything was set up so it would be easy to jump on and off of the bike with minimal effort (unlike flywheel where you had to adjust your seat and clip into your pedals every time you were done - very annoying!).
So even though I enjoyed both classes overall, Soulcycle won out as my favorite because despite all of their hype, I didn't like Flywheel gave me a.
Mid 2011: Enter spinning addiction : My love for Soul Cycle developed quickly. I talked about it all the time (which drove my roommates crazy). I became obsessed with getting new gear to match each outfit I had. The place, the lights, the music - everything was perfect! Once again though, life got in the way and I wasn't able to go as often as I would like (maybe once every 2-3 weeks), but that didn't diminish my enjoyment of this form of cardio.
Early 2012: Enter Kiesha's modified class at Flywheel : Back when these classes first started popping up on Groupon for really cheap prices, one night a group of friends decided to try out a "spinning" class at Flywheel. It started out with some light cardio , but then quickly turned into 45 minutes of high intensity intervals that included running up stairs, weight lifting, and sprinting back down the same stairs. The instructor got on the microphone at one point to explain why she was doing these seemingly random exercises - apparently it added resistance to your workout.
Disappointed with this class, which I'm assuming is similar to many of the classes they offer (the flywheel website doesn't list any specific classes), my friends came up with a new name for it: "Kiesha's Modified Class" since Kiesha was our favorite Soul Cycle instructor. We all agreed that although this class might be good if you are trying to train for a marathon, it wasn't very fun or intense for a Soul Cycle lover.
Late 2012: Enter all-inclusive gyms. So I couldn't afford to pay $35 every time I wanted to do cardio, and the only way to make this cheaper was to join an gym (New York City has many options). Since they usually include spin bikes during the enrollment process, I decided to try out several different all-inclusive gyms that included classes similar to what my friends and I now called "Kiesha's Modified Class" at Flywheel.
Overall, I would rate these classes as better than Kiesha's modified class because most of them incorporated weights/resistance their high intensity intervals which made for a much harder workout.
Unfortunately, the all-inclusive gyms have three major downsides:
- They cost more than flywheel - for just spin classes! Believe it or not, I could only afford to go to one of these high-intensity interval type classes once every 2-3 weeks which really limited my exposure to this type of training. It also meant that after the first full month without cardio , I was completely out of shape!
- They won't let you come and go as you please like Flywheel (which is basically free). If you live in New York City and work 9-5 M-F jobs like me, your schedule will vary day to day and it is nearly impossible to find a class that fits into your daily routine. You can almost always find a time that works for you during the week, but on weekends it's nearly impossible! For example, my gym offers classes in the morning (8:00), afternoon (12:00), and evening (6:30). I don't wake up early enough to get there by 8:00. It sends me into work too late for 12:00, and leaves me with only an hour free if I do go at 6:30 which means I'd have to skip dinner or eat so much frozen food just so I could make 6:30 - not healthy nor fun!
- The instructors are usually very uninspiring. They are less like intructors and more like loud, annoying cheerleaders. I also find that they usually lack real-world experience when it comes to fitness. And if you've taken any great spinning class in the past (regardless of where you took it), the instructors in these classes always say "well this is how we do it here", which is discouraging for people who enjoy taking classes at nice studios, but can't afford them anymore.
Now onto my absolute favorite type of cardio : Spinning at Soul Cycle !! This studio repeats their 45 minute class schedule every single day so no matter what time your job ends or your gym class starts, you will always be able to find 6:00 pm spin class on a weekday.
The instructors at Soul Cycle are very inspiring and positive, but not over-the-top like some of the other classes I've taken. They make you feel like you can accomplish anything by the end of the class - plus their music is great (which really makes a difference; there's nothing worse than bad pop songs).
I'd never been in a cycling studio before going to Soul Cycle because I was afraid I wasn't fit enough or strong enough for cycling. But when I tried it out, the bikes were set up in a way that made me feel comfortable right away. The instructor helped me get started with a simple warmup and within minutes, I felt confident that I could keep with everyone in the room - it is not as intimidating as it looks like!
But the main reason I love Soul Cycle and cycling in general is because of how much weight I lost (and continue to lose)! Every class makes me sweat buckets and I feel that my body is constantly burning fat.
So what's the point of all this? All this talk about studios, instructors, classes, etc. boils down to one simple sentence: I need more time for spinning! Between work , other activities , friends, family, etc., there are only 24 hours every day - but if you divide each hour into 24 little pieces then that means that there are 1440 minutes every day! Since I've started cycling, I've noticed great changes in my appearance and I feel better than ever! I've lost weight, my legs are toned, and my confidence is at an all-time high! If you can make time for one class per week (which requires only 50-60 minutes of your time), I highly recommend it.
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