Sunday, February 19, 2012

Virtual Reality Check

Depending on what websites and/or social media you might peruse, you may have noticed the recent uproar about a new rash of hybrid indoor cycling programs.  The complaints vary from "that's unsafe" to "not being real enough."  
The beauty of the Spinning® program is in its simplicity;
5 movements and 3 hand positions.
The Unsafe Club
Anyone that has gone through Mad Dogg Athletics Spinning® certification program has heard of Contraindicated Movements, things like don't point your toes, don't use hand position 3 while in the saddle, etc...  These movements along with many others are considered contraindicated because they're considered unsafe and usually have no positive upside, and if there is a positive upside it's not worth the potential risks.

One of my favorite (on the ludicrious side) I've seen recently posted on YouTube was from the Underground Spin Club in Miami and a program they call Spinnercise.  While I have no proof, I believe that the creator of this program either has a spouse that is an orthodontist or they also sell dental insurance at the front door.  I'm thinking this club needs to stay way underground, or maybe come out long enough to attend the WSSC which is hosted right in the same city.  Maybe they'll learn something about safety.

On the surface the program looks fun, but they'd be much better off spending 25 minutes riding the cycle in the proper manner and then spend another doing Zumba where they can still get their groove on, and work on their abs.

Check it out...

And it's not just Spinnercise, these types of programs are popping up everyday, like Soul Cycle, and then there are instructor's that are just inventing stuff like Lila's Cycling.  Year's ago I used to use a term, "Around the World", and the Group X instructor who is a fantastic Spinning® instructor said, "What's that?  You just made that up."  And she was partially right.  The moves were all legit, just the terminology wasn't.  

(For those interested, Around the World is just an interval through all 3 hand positions.  The terminology was just a short-hand for when I wrote out complete words for my profiles before I adopted using the Spinning symbols, and of course before I started using Class Builder™ by Cycling Fusion.  You'll see me still use this combination of movements in my ride profiles, I just don't call it Around the World anymore.)

So what's up with these programs, moves and instructors?  I believe it's a way in which they try to remain popular and essentially reinforce their own self esteem.  There are those fitness fanatics that will try anything because they want to see if they can do it, and some that want to multitask so they can be more efficient, and then are those that just want to ride the wave of what's the newest fad.  All three of these types can have high energy and filling your room as an instructor, makes you feel successful.
Don't think so, tell your class that your going to do nothing by Endurance rides for the next month and see how many people come to your class.  My guess is that you won't be very popular for long, and will quickly change your position.

So here's the rub, I'm sitting there on a Sunday afternoon watching the Superbowl, more interested in the commercials than in the game, and I got to thinking about coaching the game.  The professional coaches don't just come out to practice with the team, pick shirts and skins and play football.  They spend hours devising strategy while they have their players in the fitness facility lifting and strength training.  And when they get together they don't just jump into playing, they run drills, and when they're done with those drills they do more drills.

Even in figure skating, my wife's sport of choice to watch, they don't just get some choreography, pull on their skates, and then practice only that routine.  Before they can do the routine they do hours upon hours of single movements, like maybe only a single axle jump before they combine it with other movements just as diligently practiced.

So why do they do all these things instead of just playing a game for practice, or just doing the single routine?  Because it's all about creating a foundation of basics from which to build upon.

Now let's get back to Spinning!
Spinning® is NOT the game, Spinning® is a conditioning tool for the game of life.  Why do people Spin?  Because it helps them get into, or maintain a certain level of fitness.  There are no Spinning® contests in the Olympics.  No televised Spinning® competitions.  People do it to work out and get a sweat on.
Spinning® is a conditioning tool for the game of life.
Sure, some may do it because it just too dang cold to ride their real bike outside, but the overwhelming majority of participants are not athletes or even outdoor bike riders.  I think it's fantastic when a cyclist comes into my class, and I will try to accommodate them with a profile that can help them, but I know when the weather changes they're going to leave me like a bad blind date; leaving me to wonder why they haven't returned to my class, or invited me to go riding with them.

What we as competent, educated, fitness professionals must do is create an environment which motivates our participants to continually come to our classes so that they can attain their goals, but to do it in a safe manner.  Spinning® in it's self is not about cycling it's about fitness, just like TRX, Zumba, Tae Bo, etc...  Yes, it has its roots in outdoor cycling, and it can help you to be a stronger cyclist, but it is not cycling so if it doesn't perfectly emulate the rules of the road so what.

What's this mean?  No you don't have to spend tedious hours in the saddle doing nothing but pushing the pedal around in circles.  Throw in some Sprints where they don't make sense.  Yeah, do some jumps; sure if you did that on a real bike going up the road someone would think you should be riding the short bus to school, but your in a Spinning studio.  Creativity doesn't mean you have to make up new and unsafe moves, maybe it just means you're developing a ride profile in a world that at the top of a hill exists another hill.

I challenge every Spinning® Instructor to evaluate yourself:
  • Are you providing ride profiles that that are challenging and diverse to appeal to a wide range of fitness participants?  
  • Are people having fun in your class? If  they're not then they'll quit long before attaining any of their goals.
  • Are you stuck in a rut only teaching a single format like only Interval or only Strength?  There are benefits to all the training zone, explore them maybe you'll find something new without having to make up unsafe drills.
  • Do your profiles all appear the same or do they provide variety for your participants?  This goes along with the previous point, but do all your SEZ rides always have the same 3 hills, etc...?
  • Can you appeal to the cyclist and challenge them, while being interesting enough to the person that doesn't even own a bike?  My suggestion here is come up with some really challenging strength rides, cyclists don't like intervals, not because of the heart rate response, but many of the things people integrate into interval rides make no sense to them and border somewhere between confused and insane.  
  • Are you adhering to core principals and movements promoted within the Spinning® guidelines to create a safe and effective exercise program?
Once you strike the balance between the safe, the fun, and virtual reality then you'll find Spinning® to not only be more appealing to your participants, but to yourself because you'll have more variety and challenges as well.

Spinning Freak™


  1. That 'Spinnercise' has made me so angry I could spit nails. What the hell is that? Way to take everything that we've learned and crap all over it. The most ridiculous cycle program I've ever seen.

  2. Chris thank you very much for the article. It really is a virtual reality check. Teaching 5 classes a week truly makes it hard sometimes to come up with "the plan" for a Spinning class. Yes, the plan is important, but the reality does comes in when like in your article says, they are just there to workout, maybe that is why I go back to a lot of my profiles that I carefully thought out to the movements and the feelings of the music. Safety is my biggest thing about teaching, then the workout. Proud to be a Certified Spinning Instructor here, and thanks for sharing.

  3. Hater !!!! Spinnercise is fabulous really upsets those with no rhythm and aweful cordination maybe you should leave it to those of us that do have the ability to take anything and make it wonderful.....No matter how much you don't like Spinnercise, it's one of many fittness craze that has changed the FACE of spin ..and only a hater with a veneer of sly racist undertones would try to take a below the belt shot about self esteem of these ladies , by recommending they head on down to!!! can hate it all you want but there will Never be another Jane Fonda , type fittness world ...the Face of fittness is forever changed ..#WelcomeToTheNewAge