Try A Spinning Class At Roworx

On the Inside Looking Out: How to Use Indoor Cycling to Become a Better Outdoor Cyclist

Published in City Sports Washington and City Sports Florida, March, 2000, then later in City Sports and Competitor California.

I can totally relate to this article from my own training when I completed my first Ironman in Nice, France in 2008 and my second Ironman in Florianopolis, Brazil in 2009.  Approximately 90% of my cycling training was on the Spinning bike! Also, while training at Cal Berkeley on the Men’s Varsity Crew Team a group of us took up cycling as a perfect way to cross-train for rowing.

Jake Wetzel, my former teammate at Berkeley, was recruited to row from the Canadian National Cycling Team and several years later ended up winning several Olympic Medals in rowing, Silver Medal in 2004 Athens, and a Gold Medal in 2008 Beijing. He explained to all of us that throughout his childhood and training as a cyclist, it was a direct cross-over to rowing.  This was a testament that cycling does in fact contribute to the leg power that you use when rowing. Cycling along with Rowing is yet another low-impact sport that you can do your whole life. -Jack Nunn

Article continued from top of the page..

In 1998, when triathlete Ruben Barajas of Torrance, CA finally qualified for the Hawaii Ironman after many years of trying, he credited his success to one major change in his training:

Spinning. Specifically, Spinning taught by cyclists.

That qualifier is critical when serious cyclists analyze the benefits of the popular pedal-to-the-music health club classes.

“I learned from instructors who were real bike riders—people who knew about proper body position, sprinting, hill climbing, using hamstrings and calves, not just quads” says Barajas, 35, the director of the Scott Newman Center, a drug prevention charity. “You don’t get that from converted aerobics instructors.”

The point is well taken. Most spin-class teachers are indeed aerobics teachers in clipless pedals. Many have never even ridden a bike on the road. They know how to select good music and exhort their followers through a killer 45-minute workout. But can they make you a better cyclist?

Emilio DeSoto says yes— and no. “Yes, you’ll get a great workout and see some increases in leg speed [due to the momentum of the 44-lb. flywheel of a Schwinn Johnny G Spinner],” says the president of De Soto Sports triathlon clothing, a former pro triathlete and popular twice-a-week instructor at La Jolla’s Personalized Workout. “But no, you won’t “learn” much cycling.”

“Instructors who don’t come from cycling often will stress things like ‘Jumps’ (popping up and down off the seat) and doing push-ups on the handlebars—things that have nothing to do with real cycling,” he says.

What do I do to prepare for the first time?

The first time you go to a spin class, it’s easy to be intimidated.  There will be people there who do spin classes 2-4 times a week, are all decked out in bike gear and look like they could ride a bike up Mount Everest.  Here’s the bottom line – they all had a first class, just like you.  Secondly, the instructor (and most of the people there) will be happy you are there and learning.  Finally, you don’t have to do all the moves – You can sit on a bike in the back of the class and just pedal – and no one will say anything.

When you find a class you’d like to try,  call and ask if the instructor will meet with you for 5 minutes to explain how the bikes work and how to best adjust the seat and handlebars.  Alternatively, show up 10 minutes early and ask the instructor to show you what to do.

You don’t need anything special for your first class, but you will need a towel and a bottle of water.

What “moves” will I see in the spin class?

In addition to just sitting and pedaling, the instructor will “simulate” a ride.  For example, he/she may use a specific song during a “hill climb” – and will ask everyone to increase the resistance on the bike so it’s hard to pedal.  They may also have you do “sprints” i.e. increase your cadence so you are pedaling really fast.  The only other move you’ll see involves standing up to pedal.  The first time I did a class I couldn’t do this at all (so don’t worry if the same is true for you).  It will come with time as your quads get stronger.

Should I buy any equipment?

Initially, no.  You can do a spin class with regular gym clothes.  A heart rate monitor is a good investment for any of your cardio exercise, but it’s particularly helpful for spinning.

If you end up liking spinning, you’ll want to buy a pair of good bike shorts.  (They REALLY make a difference!)

The pedals on spin bikes have both a toe cage (to use with regular running or workout shoes) and a clip (for bike shoes).   When you use the cage or the clip, you secure your foot to the pedal, which allows you to pull up as well as push down.  If you become a real fan of spinning, you may want to buy the shoes, but make sure the cleats are “SPD” which is what is used on almost all spin bikes.

Be Your Own Teacher

For that reason, you have to be your own coach if you are an outdoor cyclist on the inside, according to Chris Kostman, the teacher of triathlete Barajas and hundreds of instructors nationwide through his instructor workshops (

“While you can’t rely on the instructor since few are real cyclists, you can easily build outdoor cycling skill in any class with a little knowledge and discipline,” says Kostman, a one-time Race Across America finisher and founder of the RoadRacers indoor cycling program at the L.A.-based Bodies in Motion fitness chain.

“Spinning classes are an ideal place to work on classic, old-time technique—a traffic-free laboratory environment that can go a long way toward replacing the on-the-road instruction once handed down by veteran riders,” he explains. “It’s a great place for cycling novices to improve two aspects of cycling that will quickly make them a better rider: climbing and speedwork/turnover.

“By the same token, it’s a great place for the vets to refresh their technique—as long as they remember NOT to ride an indoor bike the same way they do their ‘outdoor’ bikes.”

Here’s what Kostman means:

1. Climbing

Face it, there is no greater confidence builder—and time saver— than good climbing. That’s why it is crucial to learn how to use all the muscles of the leg—not just the quads. There’s no better place to focus on this than indoors.

  1. SEATED CLIMBING: Most outdoor cyclists know that they should pull up on the pedals on the upstroke, which activates your calves and reduces the load on the quads—but they rarely do it for long outdoors. Here’s the technique for indoors: Suck in your lower abs to help push your butt to the back of the seat, then drive the pedals down with your heels lower than the toes. Keep the heels low when you pull up, too; as soon as you lift the heel above the ball of the foot, you turn off the calf muscle. Most outdoor cyclists sit too high on an indoor bike and don’t hinge their torsos forward enough, says Kostman, keeping their heels up and pulling up with their shins and quads, not calves.
  2. STANDING CLIMBING: To cultivate the hamstrings, glutes and back muscles as you would outdoors, you must adjust your posture for the lack of angle, says Kostman. On an outdoor climb, the front end of the bike is tipped up. To replicate the position on an indoor bike, hinge at the hips, keep you back straight and parallel to the ground, and push your nose down to within a few inches of your handlebar.

In addition, since a stationary bike cannot be rocked beneath you, simulate the effect by moving your body side to side.

2. Speedwork

Road cyclists are locked into a “90 rpm mentality” says Kostman. While the spin bike’s weighted flywheel will push any rider’s cadence higher, huge gains can be had with specific techniques.

  1. STANDING SPEEDWORK: To build explosive power and raise your lactate threshold as well as rapid turnover, stand straight up and “run” on the pedals, says Kostman. The key to is put the entire weight of the body on the quads. The technique: Stand tall, with ears, hips and bottom bracket in a straight line, the upper body stabilized by tensed abs, with no hand pressure on the bars (using only fingertips for balance). Then blast your cadence up to 200 rpms (revolutions per minute)—which blows away the 150 rpm most top cyclists can manage outdoors.
  2. SITTING SPEEDWORK: Ideal for building rapid turnover, this technique is easy: Use very little resistance, sit forward on the saddle, suck in abs to stabilize hips and upper body, and go like hell. Again, shoot for 200 rpms.

3. Gradual Warm-Up

A big problem indoors is that many classes red-line from start to finish. “That shoots your heart-rate up—and once it’s up, it’ll never come down (the rest of the session),” says Kostman. “Consequently, you never train for recovery—allowing your heart-rate to drop— a key to cycling endurance.”

What that means is that a truly fit person will see his heart-rate drop by as much as 50 beats on a 30 second downhill. That is important because it allows the body to rest. The problem with charging out of the gate and freezing your heart-rate at a high level is that you never train your heart to rest. “You’ll burn out,” says Kostman.

Warm-up goal: Warm muscles in conjunction with a gradually rising heart-rate. Never do speedwork until 12 to 15 minutes into the class. Regardless of what your class is doing (unless you’ve done your own spin warm-up before class began), ride the first two songs seated with light resistance, followed by a seated and standing climb for one song each. Then, go for it.. Spin Hard And Have Fun!!!

Rowing / Spinning / Zumba Classes at the Warehouse

1347 Loma Street, Long Beach, CA 90804
*near corner of Anahiem

6:00 – 7:00 AM
Shelley   Genevieve   Shelley    
7:00 – 8:00 AM
8:00 – 9:00 AM
    spinning class
    spinning class
9:00 – 10:00 AM
9:30 – 10:30 AM
Jack Genevieve Jack Joe Jack    
10:15 – 11:15 AM
4:00 – 5:00 PM
        spinning class
5:30 – 6:30 PM
John Shelley John Kent Ian    
6:30 – 7:30 PM
spinning class
zumba class
spinning class
zumba class

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The Video Below Shows The Biking Basics 🙂


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Jack Nunn

Jack Nunn is the head trainer and owner of Roworx. Jack is a former national team rower who has competed in more than 100 triathlons, including 9 full Ironmans. He has created a system of rowing that prepares the whole body for both competition and fitness longevity.

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