So You Want To Try Spinning?

With many people still tackling their New Years Resolution of getting fit (or taking it on for Lent) a lot of my friends have been trying spinning classes at their local gym. Inevitably when they get home they send me an email informing me they don’t know how I can love it so much- their bums are sore and while they got a great workout, they are not sure if they can sit through the agony again.

Luckily for them (and you, if you are so inclined) with a few pieces of gear you too can fall in love with spinning- I often burn upwards of 600 calories a class, so it is one of the most effective cardio workouts I’ve tried, and I love that it is in a group setting, which always makes me push a little further.

First, you need the basics: a towel and a bottle of water. Don’t even consider going to spinning class without them. Ladies will also want some supportive undergarments, so don’t skimp out- you’ll hate yourself on the first set of “jumps” if you don’t wear a good sports bra. If you have one, a heart rate monitor is incredibly helpful so you know when you can keep pushing and when you should dial it back a notch. If you have long hair you’ll want it pulled back – I find a headband is a must for spinning.

I like this one from Lululemon, because it keeps sweat from dripping in my eyes and has gripper material to keep it from sliding off mid class. Win!

Now, onto your bottom half, which lets face it, is the half that takes a beating on the horrible cheap seat. If you want to take spinning seriously you want to wear chamois bottoms with padding, but no gym cycler wants to wear the ABSURD looking gear road cyclists wear. You have two options: mountain biking shorts (I recommend these) or cycling capris. I like cycling capris at the gym since they look the most like running tights or “typical” gym gear. Because cyclists like to be special, we call them cycling knickers.

This is my favorite pair of cycling knickers, and the best part is you don’t have to break the bank for them:

These will save your bum from the horrible post-spin-class-bruised-feeling. Promise. Gentlemen, I recommend you also go the mountain biking shorts route:


Cycling shorts and knickers have a special set of rules regarding how you wear them. First up: no undies. Yup, you go commando. Second, you always want to put them on when you are clean so you don’t get any funky bacteria in the chamois. A super quick rinse in the shower does the trick nicely. Before you slide the shorts/pants on, you want to put a thin thin coat of chamois cream on the chamois pad and on your bum cheeks and upper thighs. Just…trust me. This is what prevents chaffing, blisters and a variety of sore skin spots. A lot of chamois creams also contain natural antibacterial agents to keep you from getting gross and funky down there. Toss a tube of this (or travel pack) into your gym bag:

Cycling shorts/knickers should be washed within 24 hours of wearing them and hung dry to ensure the life of the chamois and to keep it bacteria free.

Once you get into spinning you might decide to invest in a pair of clip in shoes. Using clip in shoes makes you work more effectively in class, burning more calories and utilizing your leg on both the downward push and the upward pull, which is more energy efficient and comfortable. You don’t need (or want) to invest in pricey carbon road shoes, with the clip sticking out and making walking hard. Leave that to the road dorks. You want to have an SPD clip installed (ask the bike store when you buy them) and don’t spend more than $100- I’d recommend something like this pair.

Another popular pair of shoes for men and women are these slightly pricer Keen shoes. If you buy your cycling shoes online make sure the SPD clip is already installed, and if it is not (i.e. there is just a hole in the bottom of the shoe with spots to screw the clip into) take them to a local bike shop and purchase and install the clips, typically less than $10. As for cycling socks, sure they are nice, but definitely not necessary. Just don’t wear pure cotton socks (they don’t breathe!) and make sure they fit nicely so you don’t get any blisters. If you find, after a class or two, that one leg is perpetually sore in a particular spot, flip your shoes over and make sure the clips are installed in exactly the same spot on both shoes- if one seems uneven, take them to a bike store for a quick adjustment. It should help with the sore spot on your leg. If you don’t want to wear clip in shoes, pick a pair of gym shoes with the stiffest sole you can- no dance shoes or flimsy Pumas in spinning class!

Finally, unless you are very modern or what not, you’ll probably want a top to wear to spinning. You don’t need to spend the money on a fancy cycling shirt with pockets (since you are not carrying protein bars or flat tire kits) so just make sure the shirt you wear is both wicking and long enough – shirts tend to ride up during class and it is so annoying to keep reaching back to yank it back down. An old cotton t-shirt from college isn’t a great choice either since you’ll end up sopping wet in heavy cotton- yuck. One of these GAPFit shirts would do the trick nicely.

The final piece of the puzzle is knowing how to set up your spin bike so you get a great workout without hurting yourself or over exerting yourself. This short video shows you exacty how to set your seat and handlebars up:

And there you have it- the components to an awesome spin class. Cycle on! I know you can believe in yourself!

 (No sponsored brands in this post- none of these companies know who I am!)
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106 Miles Coming to You in 2012

Today I was supposed to be hobbling and whining and telling you that although it was really hard and it rained can you believe it seriously, not fair I made it 100 miles on my bike. 106 after the apparent construction sent the riders for a funny loop, which, you know, SUCKERS.

But I didn’t ride 100 miles on my bike, inside or out in the horrible, awful, slightly too cold misting rain. Instead I waited for my padded base layer tape to come so I an use stronger (skin ripping off tape without the base layer) tape to keep my knee cap in place and tentatively ride 5 miles, total. Which by my very complex calculations is 101 miles shorter than 106 I should have ridden.

Instead of riding 106 miles I had a few girlfriends over to watch Bridesmaids (more on that tomorrow) on Friday, had a lazy day with my husband on Saturday, watched a lot of football and made a big Sunday supper of grilled pork chops with a balsamic vinegar, apple juice and brown sugar gravy, roasted apples and sweet potatoes with orange zest and roasted brussel sprouts and green beans with garlic and salt and pepper. It was delicious. But it wasn’t the victory meal I’d envisioned (a juicy cheeseburger and an ice cream sundae at a nearby diner). I don’t have a stupid cheap medal and I don’t have bruises, blisters or soggy cycling clothes to show for the weekend.

And while I’m glad I haven’t done my knee any further damage, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wasn’t extremely disappointed. I suppose this means that I put it in that column of “things to do next year” along with planning another trip to Europe and finally getting a king sized bed in the master bedroom (SPACE OMFG, SPACE TO TURN OVER WITHOUT SQUISHING THE DOG) and drapes in the guest bedroom. Our guests are so *polite* about the streetlight that shines in that room, only to have it go out when the sun rises and illuminates the room with blinding rays of heat and melting, but I know that I should *probably* do something about that situation.

Next year.

I have a lot to do next year, don’t I?

Disabled List

I started bike riding as the result of a gentlemen’s agreement. I playfully told my Dad if he dialed it back – and only rode in one 100+ mile bike race a year- then I’d ride in that race with him. I was surprised when he said yes, but I dove into the hobby with reckless abandon. One new bike, numerous pieces of ugly riding clothes and many air pumps later, I was hooked. I cycled away. I’ve been slowly building and last weekend I rode 70 miles in one go, something that was simultaneously exhausting and exhilarating.

But at the end of my 70 mile ride my right knee swelled up. Just like it had done after the 50 mile ride the week before through hill country. For the past few months it has been nagging me, getting stiff at the end of long drives and generally causing me irritation and annoyance. To take care of it I went and saw my doctor. I had thoroughly convinced myself that they’d tell me I’d pulled a muscle, hand me a brace and recommend some physical therapy. When they told me that my knee cap wasn’t tracking properly and was floating all around, willy nilly like, and that I required weeks if not months of PT, some taping strategies and some significant rest I was dismayed.

Then the doctors dropped the bomb that my distance cycling days are over for the near future. My first 100+ mile race is September 18, directly after the end of my training program…..and until September 20th I’m in physical therapy and under orders to not ride more than 5 miles in one stretch. My next race isn’t until November, but the time leading up until November is now slated with physical therapy, swimming and light cycling. It seems that a distance ride isn’t happening again this year.

I’m …pretty disappointed. November was supposed to find me with my Dad and his friends, riding through Tucson, conquering a 109 mile course. Instead I’ll be swimming, strengthening and working towards the one and only goal of “not getting arthritis in my knee.” Somehow that isn’t nearly as much fun, nor is it a bonding experience with me and my Dad. I’m looking at my bike, wondering what went wrong, wondering why my knee cap decided not to move up and down properly.

There isn’t an answer to that, beside luck of the draw and fate. But it doesn’t mean I’m not sad that this Sunday I’m going to the dog beach and they gym instead of heading out for a 75 mile ride. As crazy as it sounds….I was kind of enjoying my new hobby. Conquering fears, riding through mile markers and talking with my Dad about my training.

Have you ever been sidelined? Did you make it back?

Because my ugly green shorts, they miss me. I can tell.

Sunday Funday

While most of Chicago chose to use Sunday morning to do normal things like sleep in, go to church or attend the Air and Water show, I decided to break in the day with a 70 mile bike ride. Yes, you read that right, SEVENTY miles. And it wasn’t even the highlight of the day. After I got home (many, many, many hours later) I headed out with B to take 30ish of our closest friends sailing. It was a gorgeous night, and since I like everything to be all about me, I started it off by promptly watching my iPhone slide off the boat and into Lake Michigan.

Yeah. I thought riding my bike 70 miles sucked, but it turns out watching your phone spiral into the drink is worse.

I won’t lie, having our friend Tom dive down and find it was pretty spectacular especially since my directions regarding where it fell resembled hand flapping and general pointing in all directions. Sadly the phone is not remotely considering turning on, so I’m giving it a good soak in some dry rice to see if I can get a glimmer of something out of it. We shall see.

After all that excitement, we went sailing. Along for our three hour tour were many friends including the Namby Pamby, Kristabella, and Judgy Amie. We were treated to some wild sailing (including a few spectacular jibes that had all of us lying flat on the top of the boat so we didn’t get decked by moving parts) and splashing (seriously, I though we ordered a dry sail?) but then…the views. Oh the views.


What? I count too.

Ok, maybe not. But this does.



This is the face of someone contemplating how much this little “dropping of the phone” mistake is going to cost:

Hint: one million dollars.

Give or take.


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