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No offense to Zumba or gym class enthusiasts, but when I think about group exercise, I think about cliquey middle-aged women doing step aerobics. I must have teased Taylor for weeks when I caught wind of her affinity for classes like Body Pump, not to mention spin, provided there’s a good DJ with an ear for top 40s electro-pop. Somewhere between caving and attending my first spin class at Equinox Pine Street and then taking a sampling of their classes during different time slots, something highly unusual happened: I realized that I love spin class.

The great thing about fitness is that there’s no right or wrong method; everyone can decide what works for them and improve their health and well being in the process.  When I attend spin class, my goal is to mimic outdoor cycling best I can.  I’ve found that a good spin instructor (see: DJ with a good taste in electro-pop) can lead a workout that rivals a longer expenditure outdoors; the time I spend stopping for traffic lights and slowing down for foot and vehicular traffic really adds up.  One of my goals for Ironman Lake Tahoe training is to maximize my time and train less overall, and spin class will be a cornerstone of my training plan.  Preparing for a ride (layering, pumping tires, packing fuel, etc) can tack on quite a bit of time – time that I’d rather spend biking or stretching.   Spin also allows me to lump either pool or strength workouts on top of a hard cycling effort in less time than I’d spend on a shorter outdoor ride.

Where the magic happens

Where the magic happens

After training outdoors exclusively for every triathlon I’ve raced to date, I’ve found a couple drawbacks to spin, the biggest being the spin bike itself. Although modern spin bikes rival a conventional bike down to the clip-in pedals and aerobars, there’s no replacement for time in your bike’s saddle. Spin class is an excellent cardio workout, but doesn’t give me the same challenge I’d get from climbing a steep hill into the wind, core engaged, quads firing.  For that reason, I’ll swap spin workouts for weekday cycling, (especially once the days get shorter) and ride long outdoors over the weekend.  I’ve also found that some instructors lead a more accessible class that incorporates jumping in and out of the saddle, dancing (seriously), and performing stretches or reaches.  Those classes are good for some, but I prefer to keep cycling in place of those exercises.

So there you have it: spin class is not just for middle-aged women taking a week off from step-aerobics.  Spin’s complemented my training without replacing important sessions outdoors, and it’s also a really fun way to wake up in the morning.  Like any other workout, approach classes at your own pace, and most importantly, enjoy it.  If you do decide to dance, I won’t judge you.