As the weather turns cooler we all start to look inside for fitness classes. Here is my case on why you should consider really anything but spinning this season:
Long before Matt (circa land before time) I had a crush on this guy who was into spinning. So obviously I took the sport up. I religiously went to 60 minute spin classes 4x a week for about 3 months. After all that I didn't get the guy but I did get the WORST leg (IT band) pain I've ever had in my life.
I was in and out of physio appointments because it got to the point that I couldn't even walk properly without feeling like my knees were going to click off. Finally I figured out the problem - it was the freaking spinning. I immediately stopped spinning, took up foam rolling and went back to running - my legs have been great ever since.
In a nutshell
Here's my main thing about spinning - We sit ALL DAY. So then why go to a workout class that just involves more sitting?! If you're like most people you probably spend at least 8 hours of your day at a desk, on a couch, on the subway - sitting. And then finally when you get the chance to break that cycle you go sit AGAIN?! Hello hip flexors!!!
Spinning is also just the worst for posture - have you looked around in your spin class - doing it right means you're completely hunched over and completely kyphotic (pictured above). We hunch at our desks over computers like this all day long. Then to go back into a tiny, sweaty dark room and reinforce these patterns is really just asking for a hunchback if you ask me. Spin class is where good posture goes to die a slow and painful death.
And then if that's not bad enough there's your joints. The repetitive rapid leg turn over is so bad for you. Sure spinning is "low impact" but when ever in nature do you turn your feet in circles 130 times a minute?! It is just SO unnatural. Seriously! Even on a normal bike ride you would never ever pedal that fast even if you were being chased by a pack of wild monkeys. It is impossible, you just can't move the bike chain that fast. This rapid cadence from spinning is ultimately caused my IT bands to flare up. The friction caused by my legs spinning at 100 revolutions per minute + left me unable to walk properly for months. It just isn't worth it.
Then there's the whole no tracking thing. There is absolutely no way to tell if you've actually worked hard in a classic spin class. As a trainer I find this extremely difficult - I like data. I bet if you stick 40 people in a small enclosed space and have them breathe heavily for 45 minutes it's going to get hot and sweaty no matter what they are doing. Plus that many people are sucking up oxygen which makes it feel like you're working harder than you actually are. It is easy to trick yourself into believing you're having a better spin workout than you actually are. Whenever the instructor says, "turn it up 3 notches, I'm always like - 'I thought I was already at the top!!". Find an activity you can actually track, it's WAY more motivating to watch progress!
Don't even get me started on the numb private bits. As a female it's so bad... I can't even imagine what it's like for the guys. Even in my spinning prime it still happened to me every time. And they say it gets better ... but then I wonder what has to happen to allow for that to happen?! I'd rather not find out.
So why is it still popular in studios? Well I know from the owner's perspective spinning is cheap and cheerful. There's no other class that you can pack 60 people into a room and charge $30+ for. It's also good for insurance purposes because there is very limited risk factors of an acute injury happening during the class. It's easy to train people how to do and for some strange reason people still pretend to like it.
So what should you do instead?! Well if you ask me nothing beats the treadmill mixed with interval sprints like this workout.
Try this workout: Warm up at your typical run pace (5.5 - 7.0 mph) then try 2 minutes on at a 8.0 mph, rest for 1 minute at a 3.0 mph and repeat the 2 minute intervals for 5 times total. Then complete 5 sets of 10 push-ups with 30 seconds off between each set. BOOM! Now there's a workout! In 20 minutes you can accomplish what you would in a 60 minute spin class hands down.
Try a new indoor class - some of the HIIT classes I've heard are excellent now, maybe go to a boxing class or a dance class and if you're in Toronto well there's always bod squad :o).
If you're into the biking try airdyne bike sprints - I know Fuel Training Club in Toronto loves this torture chamber of a bicycle. 30 seconds on the airdyne will make you wish you never asked about it in the first place!
If you must then spin your heart out. Just make sure you foam roll after every single ride and counter your time on the bike sitting with at least another hour of non-sitting!