Three-hour spin heart rate workout, but not ready for the Tour de France

Last weekend I did a three-hour spin heart rate workshop at Uforia Studios in Palo Alto. The monotony of spinning for three hours didn’t bother me, but I’m not in shape to ride a bike for that long. Alas, no Tour de France for me — not yet, at least.

Spin heart rate workshop

We did a test to determine our maximum heart rate, then spent the rest of the time working at different percentages of our max — learning how to increase/decrease/maintain different heart rates, etc. I was probably a little crazy to have signed up for the class, and I had to remind myself more than once during the three hours that it was actually something I had chosen to do. After awhile it was easy to ask myself, why am I spending  three hours in a dimly-lit room, peddling a bike that’s doesn’t go anywhere?

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Finding your max heart rate

Although testing to find your max heart rate sounds difficult, this was actually the easiest part of the morning. Maybe because it happened first, before I got tired. Everyone was wearing a heart rate monitor, and most of them synced with the bikes’ computers.

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A non-cyclist’s guide to spinning, part 2

In my last post, I went over some spinning terminology and outlined a few of the reasons I keep going back to spin class, even though the workout is punishing and leaves me with tighter hamstrings than a three-set tennis match.

Today’s spinning “benefits” might be thought of as negatives, depending on your point of view. Going over them can help you decide whether spinning’s really for you.

Spinning fashion is boring

Compared to tennis fashion, most sports lag in terms of fashion interest, and spinning is no different. One test of fashion-worthiness: you wouldn’t want to run errands after class in your spin clothes, even if you didn’t get all sweaty — no one’s derrière looks good in those padded shorts. A cute tennis skirt with matching top and jacket, however? I’ve actually been asked if I got dressed in tennis clothes just to shop at the fancy grocery store in town (the answer was “no,” by the way — although I do like tennis outfits better than some of my other clothes).

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Plus, who wants to own more than a couple of pairs of those bike shorts anyway? It’s no wonder they come mostly in black, leaving possibilities for interesting color combinations limited. The best we can do is to wear a good top and maybe some lively socks. But it’s all going to get soaked in sweat, so what’s the point? Maybe spinning’s non-emphasis on fashion is actually a benefit, after all.

Spinning is social. Well, sort of.

There’s a regular crowd that attends our Tuesday/Thursday class. People have their usual bikes, even. The same gals are always in front of me — they never miss a day. One of our class member’s friends saves her a bike so she can arrive late. Another one sings to the music — and she has a good voice. People visit a bit as they’re changing their shoes and setting up their bikes. But once the lights go down and the music goes up, no talking is allowed. If you’re talking, you’re considered to be slacking off. Which leads me to my next point.

 

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A non-cyclist’s guide to spinning, part 1

In a previous post, I talked about going to spin class after trying (and failing) to find easier ways to stay in shape while tennis elbow prevents me from playing my favorite sport. It’s true, spinning produces endorphins, those amazing neurotransmitters, or brain chemicals that decrease sensations of pain and increase feelings of well-being, often referred to as the “runner’s high.”

But it’s not just the endorphins that keep me coming back to spin class. There are a number of other reasons spinning works for me.

Spinning burns serious amounts of calories

Since I don’t run  (bad knees), there’s no other exercise I do that provides me a comparable workout. I love the fact that, on days when I go to spin class, I don’t worry about having dessert or an extra glass of wine — I earned it!

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Spinning doesn’t require a ton of physical coordination

Yes, there are fine points of weight distribution and balance, but face it: you’re pedaling a stationary bike. You can’t fall over, can’t run into a tree or a ditch. You fix your feet to the pedals with clips on your bike shoes, or by putting your toes into cages that hold them in place — you’re not going anywhere. So much less embarrassing than having to lunge and kick and spin, all on the count of four that repeats before you figure out how to do it properly.

There’s a spin class at Uforia in Palo Alto called Revolutions that incorporates dance moves to give a full-body workout while riding the bike. You lift some weights and do pushups on the handlebars. Some people prefer it or find it more efficient and/or fun, I suppose. For me, however, dancing on a stationery bike is not spinning.

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Aerobics fever: move over, Jane Fonda!

Redoubling my efforts to find a way to stay in shape while tennis elbow issues are keeping me off the court, I checked out an aerobics class at a fitness studio called Uforia that opened two years ago in a historic building formerly belonging to the AME Zion Church. It’s pretty cool to be working out and glance up to see stained glass windows.

The class was called “fever,” billed as “a fun and athletic aerobics inspired class.” Supposedly it would be “45 minutes of heart pounding, sweat pouring and smile inducing fun,” and no prior dance or fitness training was required, just a readiness to come and move. The description also added that “Jane Fonda won’t know what hit her.”

Aerobics fashion: check

Great, I was there. I showed up early, attired in black Nike capris and a racerback tank — clothes I thought would help me blend in, fashion-wise. I didn’t want to stand out as dorky, or edgy. As others arrived, I decided my clothing choice had been good, but if I continued with this class, I would definitely need to upgrade my shoes.

 

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Aerobics moves: not so much

Our instructor connected her iPod to the speaker system and put on her cordless mic. After a bit of stretching and warm-up, we plunged into the moves. “Lunge right, feet together, lunge left, feet together. Now forward, two three four, back, two three four. Grapevine right, two three four. Left, two three four. Add a twist, two three four. Left, two three four.”

She shouted over the pulsing beat, pointing right and left to help us stay in step. By the end of the first song, I was back in the aerobics class I used to do in a converted store at the mall during evenings between my sophomore and junior years in college. For me, it was 1982. Jane Fonda had just released her first Workout video:

How ’bout those high-cut leotards? Hopefully they won’t come back, the way some fashions do. I was reminded of being on college tours with my daughter. When we visited my own school, our student tour guide was energized to hear I had lived in the residential college that enjoyed some small fame for an Austin Powers-style party. “Essentially, it mocks the ’80’s — it’s become quite the tradition, I’m sure you remember it.”

I had to remind him that actually, I was in college during the ’80’s, so it would technically be my generation that the party would be mocking. No problem.

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Why’s exercise walking so tough?

I love to walk. It’s a chance to get outdoors, breathe fresh air, clear my mind. Exercise walking takes no special equipment, just some decent shoes and for those of us who are fair-skinned, sunscreen. I can walk my dog, walk with a friend, or my personal favorite, walk by myself. I can catch up on podcasts, an audiobook, music or just think my own thoughts in silence.

So what’s the problem?

In a word, self-judgment.

 

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I can’t walk just for the pleasure of it. I worry about whether I’m walking briskly, burning enough calories, keeping my heart rate up. Add to that the mental distractions. If I walk in our neighborhood, I brood over how many people are remodeling their homes. I start to worry when, if ever, my husband and I will replace our fifty-year-old shower, drafty windows, etc. At the same time, I hesitate to drive to a woodsy trail twenty minutes away — that lengthens my workout, plus it’s steep, and it’s dusty. After all, I just got my car washed.

Exercise Walking at The Dish

There’s a terrific walking trail near my home on Stanford land that locals refer to as “The Dish,” because it houses a large radiotelescope belonging to the University. It’s a looping, up-and-down pedestrian trail about 3.5 miles long. The Dish trail doesn’t allow dogs or bikes, and it’s entirely paved. Like lots of others, I enjoy walking in the Stanford hills, away from traffic. The views are spectacular, affording vistas over Silcon Valley’s foothills, Stanford and the San Francisco Bay.

 

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Correction: please notice the views, they’re spectacular. I myself have trouble enjoying them while trying to keep my heart rate up. I pay attention to the ground ahead of me. While I walk the Dish, I’m usually bothered by an internal conversation that goes something like this:

What? Who are those women who just went around me, and on an uphill part, too? Oh no, I know that one — I played her in a USTA match. Well, no wonder she’s a 3.5 now and I’m not. Is she seriously MY AGE? I can’t believe that. What’s wrong with me? I have to walk faster, this is ridiculous.

Exercise Walking and the Dreaded VoJ

It’s that Voice of Judgment again. Only this time it nails me on a walking path where I’m supposed to be communing with nature, clearing my mind. Seems that I can’t stop competing, can’t stop evaluating my own performance and finding it deficient.

I don’t think I can silence my VoJ, at least not anytime soon. Maybe I can get it to quiet down a bit, though. If I temper my concerns about walking fast and burning calories with appreciation and gratitude for being able to enjoy a nice day, maybe that’s the best I can hope for right now.

See you later. I think I’ll take a walk.

 

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