Today I swapped my road bike for a spin bike. I swapped the fresh air, sweeping fields and light-blue sky for four walls and a stuffy hall. I swapped solitude and reflection, for company. Spinning versus cycling: is there any comparison?
At heart, I am a cyclist: I love cycling for miles through the countryside. I relish the quiet country lanes, the beautiful sweeping views and the speed. But when I don’t fancy braving the worst of the British weather, spinning helps to maintain my cycling fitness. In recent years, I have dipped in and out of spinning; mostly opting for the stationary bike when it’s pouring with rain and today I primarily went for my friend Kamila, who has apparently missed my scintillating company over the summer cycling months! I am not sure that I offer much chat during the sweat-enducing class, but it’s still lovely to be missed!
I started cycling long distances on a mountain bike about 25 years ago. Due to our nomadic lifestyle, I have been privileged to cycle on lots of different terrain: sand, cliffs and dirt tracks, to busy roads and quiet pot-holed country lanes. My backdrops have varied from the rolling green hills and beautiful stone villages of Rutland and Nottinghamshire; through to the azure-blue sky and sea, and vegetation-barren mountains of Cyprus; the vineyards, lavender and sunflower fields of France, to the flatland and big skies of Cambridgeshire.
I experienced the ultimate in resistance-training when I hitched a trailer to my mountain bike, whilst the children were too small to go to school. As I clocked-up the miles and slogged up hills, towing a sleeping (if I was lucky!) toddler, I discovered muscles I had never felt before! And recently I transitioned to a road bike; experiencing the thrill of longer distances and faster speeds, as well as the not-so-thrilling embarrassment of the inevitable falls when trying out cleats for the first time!
And in those years I have hopped in and out of spinning classes, experiencing many different styles of spin; from the downright waste of time to the I can barely walk down the stairs the next day! Too many classes have been spent regretting that I didn’t hop on my bike instead: usually where the instructor hasn’t compiled a playlist and just plays a CD of tracks mismatched to what we are doing on the bike and with no variety. In contrast, I have fond memories of my spin instructor from Cyprus, who upgraded the routine in line with our improved fitness levels, used lots of funky tracks and also used a lot of visualisation “You are going up a hill, nearly there, keep pushing”. Another instructor planned the whole routine to the Tabata discipline of high-intensity, interval training. Whether we were sprinting, working against resistance, hovering or doing arm work, it was a 20-second on, 10-second off pattern, for eight repetitions. This was seriously hard work: by the end of each class you were dripping with sweat and felt it in your legs for days after! But it was fun!
For me, a stationary bike in a stuffy studio can never truly compete with the freedom and fresh air of cycling in the countryside. But with an enthusiastic instructor it can be fun and certainly helps to maintain your cycling fitness when the British weather excels itself!