Spinning For Runners

Saturday, 24 January 2009  |  Running + Triathlon

“People think running is just about getting out there, but it’s all of the other factors—sleep, proper nutrition, and cross training—that allow you to get the most out of the sport.”

– Deena Kastor

I have a confession to make, Deena. The only time I take cross-training seriously is when I am injured.  Do you think that’s why I am, uhm, always injured?

Injury has been a major curse in my running life, but I’ve realized—just as I was writing this—that it’s been a blessing as well.  The curse of the runner’s knee forced me to take up TI last year (which started a whole new love affair with swimming) and now, with the respite from running, I tried spinning. 

Yesterday morning, Jun and I joined Annie’s spinning class at Fitness First.  Jun, my running buddy, and I accepted Annie’s invitation as we our both currently suffering from knee injuries.  

Cycling is a great alternative to running as it develops lower body strength without the hard impact on the knee.  Experts say that cycling works out your leg muscles even more thoroughly than running since the quads and calves are strengthened with every pedal rotation.

Spinning is a great alternative for those who wish to bike, but don’t have bikes yet (ehem).  It’s also safer and easily accessible to the gym rats.  

For Jun and I, we also thought it would be fun to watch Annie transform from our crazy, barok friend into serious instructor in a snap. We thought we would get a good laugh out of it (although, by the end of the class, I think it was Annie who got the last laugh!)

By the time I arrived, the class was already warming up.  I stepped into the spinning room, all four walls in black with the milky way galaxy painted on them, as if to remind me that I was venturing into uncharted territory.  I hopped unto the bike beside Jun’s and—3…2…1—blast off!  I started pedalling away!

The first 5 minutes were easy.  Just a warm-up.  The rest of the 55 minutes were excruciating.  Whatever mountain it was we were climbing, it sure was high, and long, and not for newbie bikers like me!  

The first spinning instructor guided us through the first half of the workout.  There was never a dull moment as we increased and decreased tension and speed at varied intervals.  The music was loud and intense so it helped to keep me pedaling on despite the weary leg muscles.  More than once, I could feel my heart pumping and, had it not been for those recovery portions, it would have leapt out of my chest.  By 30 minutes, I was beat. I thought my poor ol’ running legs couldn’t take any more.

Then, as we continued spinning, Annie steps out for a couple of minutes and returns with a CD in hand.  She puts it on and takes over from the first instructor.  Suddenly, she’s not the Annie that I know.  This Annie raises her arms up and commands the class to step it up.  Drenched in sweat as we all are, she raises her arms up in a fury and pushes us to climb that steep hill, pedal faster, or go up to standing position.  Gawd, who is this alien Annie and what did she do with my friend?!

We ended the session with the first instructor taking us through the cool down and Annie leading the stretches.  Needless to say, I survived the whole out-of-this-world experience.  It was tough on the quads (something my patella needs for realignment), it was utterly exhausting (my type of workout), it was humbling (just because you’ve run long distances, it doesn’t mean your legs are strong) and it was fun (although not as enjoyable as a run).

I’ve decided to add spinning to my list of cross training activities.  Hopefully, I get to practice it not only when I’m injured, but even when I’ve fully recovered already.  This would make Deena and that alien Annie proud!