Thursday, 18 June 2009

Legendary rider Matt Hart from TORQ , Talks about spining.

Is “Spinning” all it’s cracked up to be?

Some mates of mine have been going to spinning classes all winter and they’re dropping me like a stone whenever we go out riding together. Are these classes any good, or is it just aerobics on bikes?

Steven Ames, Surrey.

What is “Spinning”

When we talk about “Spinning”, we have to be very careful, because rather like the incorrect use of “Hoover” as opposed to “Vacuum Cleaner”, the term Spinning is used synonymously with all studio cycle workouts, when in fact it is a registered trademark of the Schwinn Bicycle Company.

According to Schwinn, their Spinning classes are taught in over 5,000 clubs in 100 countries around the world by over 20,000 certified instructors. Schwinn claim that their indoor studio cycle workout burns an average of 500 calories per forty-minute class. This obviously depends upon the fitness level of the individual, but I would think that most Mountain Bikers could exceed this figure if they put their minds to it. Add to the Schwinn figures, those of numerous other company’s that market their own interpretation of Spinning, and you have a very popular exercise class indeed.

Johnny G, the face behind the Schwinn Spinning program, was a huge influential force when it came to me designing and structuring my own classes. I participated in one of his classes at a fitness show in Germany some years back and was amazed at his incredible ability to extract every ounce of energy from my body and push me to levels of pain and intensity that I would ordinarily only experience during a race. Although my personal studio cycling certificate was issued by Reebok, not Schwinn, my own “Cycle Reebok” classes certainly contain that element of Johnny G sadomasochism, which has been forever etched on my memory.

Who takes part?

According to Johnny G, "The Schwinn Spinning program allows people of all ages and fitness levels to take a stationary bike and transform it into a powerful workout. Indoor cycling classes allow participants to experience road cycling without all the associated dangers. The program is also a great choice for the cyclist who wants to take his/her outdoor program inside during inclement weather."

When I worked in a London health club, the attendees of my classes were incredibly varied in ability. The cycling enthusiast would bring his/her own pedals and shoes and others would simply turn up in shorts, T-shirt and trainers. Studio cycling works well with different ability levels, because no one in the class knows how much resistance another person is using. This is because the resistance level is controlled by a discreet knob, or lever, with absolutely no consistency between machines whatsoever. So, if you consider yourself at the lower end of the fitness spectrum, don’t worry, no one will know unless you tell them. In fact the ‘keeny beeny’s’ end up far more knackered than anyone else, because they are all so darn competitive.

What does a class entail exactly?

A good instructor will play with your mind and push you to your limits. After a warm-up, the instructor may proceed by making you compete in a mock three-minute time-trial. You will then sprint for the line and try to beat the guy that’s sat next to you, also stationary and also frantically whipping his/her legs around in the struggle to the tape. You will get out of the saddle and climb an Alpine pass, with Marco Pantani dancing on the pedals just ahead of you. Then you will need to catch up with him, stick on his wheel for a while and then drop him like a stone as you sprint off for the King of the Mountains jersey (easy if you’ve got a vivid imagination). On the way down the other side, the hill will be so steep that the gear you are using just isn’t big enough and your legs will be spinning at your maximal RPM. This whole imaginary trip will be built around some formal interval training drills and sections of pedalling in time to the music. Fantastic fun when you’ve learnt the moves!

Will it help with my Mountain Biking?

I don’t think you’ve been imagining it Steven, your mates have definitely benefited from their “Spinning” classes (or whatever form of studio cycling they do). Regardless of your personal situation, I feel that one class per week could pay huge dividends to your fitness. If you find it difficult to motivate yourself to cycle on weekdays during the winter, you must try a class. If you only usually cycle at weekends during the winter months, the impact on next summer’s form from two-weekday studio cycle sessions is likely to be phenomenal.

I say “do it” if the weather’s not good, otherwise get out there and ride the singletrack with your pals – you can’t beat the real thing.

The Race Against Time (TRAT)


I’m Iain Houston, partner of Bryony Evens, who is a Pedal Studio regular and has been since the studio first opened.

Bryony is helping me raise funds for The Race Against Time (TRAT) which is a fast, six day ride from Land’s End to John o’ Groats in aid of the Bishop Simeon Trust. The Bishop Simeon Trust do vital work in South Africa dealing with the social and economic effects of the AIDS/HIV pandemic on both adults and children. I would be very grateful for any support that you are able to give me and the charity.

If anyone would like to read more about me, the ride or the charity there is a lot of information on my TRAT blog at:

If you are able to sponsor me, visit my Just Giving page at:

I have been impressed by how much Bryony’s cycling has come on since she joined the studio and I’m intending to join her myself after TRAT is over, just to keep ahead of her if nothing else. I’m 40 this year, so I’m starting a programme to get as fit and healthy as I can over the next 12 months and I think that spinning will be a big help as part of that.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Best wishes,


Sunday, 7 June 2009

Q&A with Mieka Takhar - Competition Winner

So what sport are you into?
I used to cycle a lot, but now I focus on spinning. I like to keep a balance with yoga, as well, but for the moment I'm focusing more on the bike.

When did you start Spinning and why?
I started spinning about ten years ago, as part of my training for the California AIDS Ride. I really like the combination of high intensity/low impact; it's perfect for me.

How did you manage to cram in so many Spin classes, how many again?
I work from home, so I can manage my schedule in such a way that I'm able to spin a lot. It's my favorite type of cardio workout, because it reminds me of cycling; I've been going 4-5 times a week for the past several weeks.

What affects did it have?
I'm finding I have a new depth in understanding of my workouts, in part because of the Suunto monitors, and definitely because of the knowledge being shared by the instructors.

Any plans to become an instructor?
I don't have any plans to become an instructor, no. I just enjoy the ride!

What do you like the most about PS and the least?
Pedal Studio has a great sense of community; it's a friendly environment. And, I enjoy the way the classes are structured as training sessions, and not merely cardio classes. I feel like I'm learning about my workout, in addition to getting a workout.

Any tips for folks out there?
Have fun!

Any races coming up?
I've actually never participated in any races, and I don't really have any on the agenda.

Are you coming on the boat cruise on the 8 August?
Yes, I intend to be there!

Spinning with a bump...

As a keen triathlete heading into another cold Winter and dreading the approaching but inevitable turbo training sessions, I was very excited when my friend e-mailed me news of a new spinning studio opening in Putney. Fantastic – I had always enjoyed Spinning but have an aversion to Gyms as they tend to rip you off and I do most of my training for free in the great Outdoors (running and cycling).
However, almost immediately after hearing this news, I found out I was pregnant. That was going to change things a lot!!! I was determined to stay as active as I could throughout my pregnancy but would obviously be cutting my exercise load significantly.

Having done my research on exercise in pregnancy and talking to my GP, I realised that Spinning and Swimming were going to be the 2 things I could keep doing throughout. The great thing about Spinning is that you can adjust your effort to the zone you want to work in while still taking part in the class and enjoying the group atmosphere (not to mention the extra motivation it provides!). All I had to do is keep an eye on my heart rate, make sure I stayed hydrated and not overheat – which is why I always hog the bike nearest the fan (sorry!). Latest recommendations for exercise in pregnancy is to avoid going above Lactate Threshold so basically, as long as I stayed aerobic and felt good, then there was no reason not to continue.

In the first trimester, I found the Pedal Studio fantastic as it was so icy outdoors, I was really reluctant to ride my bike as risk of falling was just too high. I had a quiet word with my instructors to let them know and they were all really fantastic and supportive. I was a pretty frequent attendee then but I have to admit as the weather got better and the days longer in the second trimester, the call of my bike and the outdoors proved too much and I spent some time riding gently in Richmond Park (and sometimes further afield) while I still could. I managed to keep running until 23 weeks and stopped outdoor cycling at 26 weeks and since then have been at the Pedal Studio 3-4 times a week as and when work schedule allows. As my bump has gotten bigger and bigger, everything has felt like hard work but once I’m on the bike in the studio, I don’t even notice I’m pregnant. Being able to Spin has kept me sane and I plan on keeping going as long as I can fit on the bike (though I will obviously slow down more and more as time goes on).

I would like to say Thanks to Andrew and all the instructors at Pedal Studio for being so friendly, helpful and understanding. (Also Thanks to my fellow Spinners for not laughing as I now have to wear my Husbands training top as nothing else fits!!)
It really makes a difference to have such a great facility on our doorstep and with childcare also available, you can be sure I’ll continue to spin once the bump makes his or her way out into the big bad world!!!