15 Things I Learned From Indoor Cycling

As I posted last Wednesday, the cycling studio I briefly attended closed its doors 10 days ago. While the owner told me tearfully she had yet to turn a profit and that her dream was over, my mind raced to a bigger issue: what was I going to do now? Join a big-box gym? Shout “time’s up!” to my not-cleared-to-run-from-surgery knee and hit the pavement?

But the dust settled. I’ve moved on.

And as I reflect on my time on a bike, I realize I’ve learned a few things along the virtual road. They are, in no particular order:

  1. Pants are preferable to shorts unless you’re sure of the prior rider’s hygiene.
  2. Apparently I have no obliques because despite the instructor’s shouting encouragement to engage my core and LEAN, I move a pitiful few inches.
  3. It’s not a seat—it’s a saddle.
  4. Whatever it is, it has no padding. And a gel cover makes no difference.
  5. Go conservative when you’re told to “gear up.” You’ll thank yourself when the instructor shouts encourages you to keep adding gear later in the ride.
  6. Sit where you can see the clock.
  7. Don’t mind the defibrillator on the wall—it’s probably just some requirement.
  8. If the class is over and the instructor asks who wants to go another 15 minutes, don’t be proud—chances are no one knows how to use the defibrillator.
  9. There is no coasting in a cycling class.
  10. There are no stop signs or signals, either.
  11. Plan on going directly home. You won’t even look good enough for Home Depot when you’re done.
  12. If the instructor shouts encourages you to “grab a drink,” do it. Pretty soon the only thing you’ll hear is your heart pounding in your ears.
  13. Bring a towel. Not a washcloth—a towel. The thirstier, the better.
  14. “Almost there” means 5 different things to 5 different instructors.
  15. If the instructor stops to help someone to the ground before that someone faints and hits their head on the concrete floor (true story), watch the clock yourself or that 1-minute sprint you were promised could easily go long. (See # 6.)

Running For Dummies

No, I’m not implying you’re a dummy; after all, you’re reading my post—that’s a testament to your intellect right there.

But I’ve been challenged to explain running in such a way a child could understand it. Which is ironic, because kids and running go together like devil’s food and cake.

For the sake of this assignment, though, let’s break it down.

Invest in decent running shoes. You will be spared untold agony if you purchase from a specialty running store (sorry, Sports Authority). They have people who know what they’re doing, not some high school kid earning minimum wage on weekends. And dress nicely—chances are you’ll be videotaped while running so they can check your footstrike.

Stretching is optional. Want to start a firestorm? Ask a group of runners what they think of stretching—it’ll make a presidential debate look like two best friends chatting over coffee.

Start out slow—slower lower than you think is necessary. So what if you appear turtle-esque to passersby? Better that than be doubled over a mile down the road. You can only pretend to check your shoelaces so many times before it arouses suspicion.

Have fun. Okay, technically it’s called fartlek, but it’s what kids do all the time: pick a spot, and run to it. It could be a mailbox in the distance, or every other telephone pole—doesn’t matter. Just catch your breath, and do it again. And again. And again. And…

What fartlek should feel like.

What fartlek ACTUALLY feels like. Courtesy middlegroundmusings.com

Push yourself a wee bit. That sounds less threatening than “run at or about your anaerobic threshold.” You should be able to talk, but it will sound something like this: “I…think…I’m…having…a…heart…attack.” You can throw out the phrase “tempo run” next time you’re at that fancy shoe store, because that’s what you’ve just done.

Push yourself a wee bit more. The “wee bit” may have been optimistic, because when done correctly you’ll swear you’re about to die. The good news is, you only run a short distance and you get to recover before the next one. The bad news is, there’s a next one. These are called “intervals.”

Looks like SOMEONE just finished his interval training. Courtesy: wikimedia

Distance doesn’t matter. Oh, who are we kidding? Distance is everything.

Have more fun—you’re done! Since you’re just starting out, we’ll save hill repeats for another day.

An Offer I Should Have Refused

“Club what?” I asked.

“Club Pilates. It’s opening next to Subway,” the woman on the bike next to me answered.

Hmmm. When one door closes…

Because as it turned out, a door was closing—the door to the spin studio I’d joined eight months back. I’m not a fan of cycling, but it gave my legs a break from running without sacrificing endurance. So last week when I learned the studio was closing, like, tomorrow—and me five weeks postop from knee surgery and not cleared to run yet—I thought I’d be stuck.

Until the Club Pilates door opened.

“Yeah, they open tomorrow,” she continued. “Their website’s up with a schedule. The first class is free.”


Still, Pilates? I knew little about it, other than it had a lot of Hollywood-type devotees. At least according to People, they were devotees. But Pilates.

These people are paying big money for this torture. Big money. Courtesy: CC/Flickr

During my free class the instructor explained the philosophy, and she used all the key words they’re told to tell runners rehabbing an injury, like stability, flexibility, and core strength. The class worked every part of me as promised, and I was hooked. But their schedule only has a few classes a week that fit my schedule, and their 3-classes-a-week package is close to $125 a month. Yikes.

But stability, flexibility, and core strength!

I visited another Pilates studio in town that has an expanded schedule, plus they offer barre and Indo-Row. The classes are unlimited, so I could go 7 days a week if I wanted! Actually, I’d have to go 7 days a week to make it pay for itself, because it’s almost $180 a month.

So that’s where it stands—me and 100 hits on each studio’s website as I toggle back and forth, trying to decide which is the better deal. And I use the term very loosely. That free class was anything but.