My attitude toward indoor cycling (a.k.a. Spin) classes has done a 180 recently. The first time I tried a few classes was 10 or 11 years ago, and I really kinda hated it.
I was new to road cycling, and disappointed because I couldn’t see any correlation between the two. On a road bike, you want to find the most efficient (easiest) gear to accomplish your objective (go faster or get up a hill, for example). In class, the instructor kept increasing the resistance, akin to riding in the most difficult gear — even walking over to my bike and turning the knob herself. I don’t think I came back to her class after that. I told myself it was more fun to ride outdoors. Riding outdoors certainly helped me learn to read hills and understand the gears on my bike better than an indoor class did.
Still, the more I rode, the more I recognized that strong riders train indoors. When my fitness center added cycling classes, I was excited to try them, but procrastinated for six months. Why? It’s more fun to ride outdoors with my regular group and actually “go someplace.”
Okay, we only go someplace on Saturdays. I could work in some cycling during the week in addition to my favorite Zumba and Pilates classes. I tried a Tuesday class, and then another the following Tuesday. On my next Saturday ride, a long steady climb seemed easier than usual. I was hooked.
After nine classes, I completed my first century ride and attributed my inceased strength to indoor training. I began to consider becoming a certified instructor.
As I researched various programs, I came across a book called Keeping It Real by Jennifer Sage, which is dedicated to showing cyclists how to benefit from indoor riding to improve outdoor performance. In it, she blasts instructors who teach aerobics-on-a-bike style of indoor cycling, and even uses the example of the instructor from hell who turns up the resistance knob on a participant’s bike. She says that any move that isn’t safe on a road bike shouldn’t be done in class. I’m only part way through the book, but already inspired.