Archives for March 2012

Tips for making indoor cycling more enjoyable (really!)

Today, I wrote a guest post for Trainer Kim about spinning. More specifically, about why I think spinning is a great workout for just about everybody!

I thought I’d follow up with some specific tips for making indoor cycling more enjoyable.

  1. Prepare yourself for fun. That’s right. Arrive on your bike, expecting to have a great time. Nothing puts a damper on an enjoyable workout faster than a negative attitude.
  2. Don’t ride the horn. You know, the front part of your seat? Horn riding not only takes the fun out of your workout, it also makes for sore ‘lady parts’ the next day. Enough said.
  3. Dress the part. Long, flared pants are not only too warm for spinning, they also run the risk of getting caught in pedals and wheels. I’ve seen this happen and it’s not pretty.
  4. On the other hand, full coverage of your upper torso (especially if you’re large chested), will make you (and your instructor!) feel less self-conscious when you lean forward over the handle bars in ‘aggressive’ stance.
  5. Bring your singing voice. I love to sing in spin class. It not only makes the time go by more quickly, it makes me feel happy!
  6. Pedal with a flat foot. Pointing your toe will reduce the power of your stroke as well as lead to sore calves the next morning.
  7. Pull on your pedals as much as you push. Pushing from the top of the stroke down targets your quads. Pulling up from the bottom of the stroke targets your hamstrings and glutes; you know, the part of your body people look at when you walk away from them.
  8. Drink lots. You can expect to sweat more than usual while spinning. Make sure you’ve got at least 750 ml of water to replenish as you go. If there’s not a puddle under my bike at the end of class, I know I’ll be dehydrated later that day.
  9. Go at your own pace. Ignore your neighbour. Unlike a road bike race, indoor cycling has no destination so it doesn’t matter who gets ‘there’ first.
  10. Adjust your tension accordingly. While you needn’t add as much tension as your instructor requests (particularly if you’re new to spinning or just tired from a late night out), it’s really boring to spin at the same tension for the entire class. Variety will make the workout infinitely more enjoyable.

And finally,

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t love it the first few times on the bike. When I started spinning, my instructor told me that many participants hate it for the first 5 or 6 classes. It’s a challenging workout and even those who exercise regularly find it very different from running and group aerobics. I considered myself lucky, in only hating the first 3 classes I took 🙂

How do you make exercise more enjoyable?

‘Spring’ into spring: plyometric training and why you should be doing it

Well, spring has finally arrived. Hooray! No more snow for the Pacific Northwest (except for the little bit that surprised us on Wednesday), longer days and a hint of warmth in the air. My cherry trees are almost in bloom and the hummingbird feeders are full and awaiting their first visitors.

plyometric training

It’s the perfect time to add some ‘spring’ to your training!

Plyometric, or ‘jump training’, is defined as ‘any exercise that enables a muscle to reach maximum strength in as short a time as possible’. It involves first stretching (or lengthening) the muscle then rapidly shortening (or contracting it), producing a more powerful muscular contraction than a simple concentric muscle contraction. Think about an elastic band; the band (analogous to your muscle), when stretched, has the potential to rapidly and powerfully return to its original length upon release.

The key is to be quick; spend as little time with your feet in contact with the floor as possible. Feet should be nearly flat in all landings and the elbows should be brought behind the midline of the body so the arms can be rapidly moved forward to help with ‘lift off’.

Examples include;

  • jumps-in-place (forwards and backwards, laterally, single and double footed, tuck jumps and split squat jumps)
  • standing jumps (long jump, jumping over barriers, jump up and reach)
  • multiple jumps (hopping over cones or hurdles, helicopter squat jumps, stadium or stair hops)
  • box drills (single leg push-offs, lateral step ups, box jumps, lateral box jumps)
  • depth jumps (jump from top of box, incline pushup depth jump)
  • bounding (skipping, backward skipping, forward or lateral bounding with arm action,
  • upper body medball exercises (underhand/overhand throws, side throws, slams, chest passess)

The benefits of including plyometrics (or ‘plyos’ as they’re sometimes referred to) in your regular training program include;

  • improved speed and agility
  • increased bone density
  • integration of speed with strength (producing more powerful movements)
  • elevated fat burning

Although frequently performed by competitive athletes wanting to improve their sport, even relatively new exercisers can incorporate plyometrics into their training if they pay special attention to the following points;

  • choose a soft surface to train on (grass or rubber rather than concrete or cement)
  • start slowly, interspersing a few repetitions of a plyometric move between sets of your regular strength training exercises
  • build intensity (how high you jump), volume (how many repetitions you perform), duration (the length of the plyometric interval) and frequency (how many times per week you do plyos) as your body gets stronger and adapts to the new load
  • rest adequately both immediately after a plyometric interval and between plyometric workouts
  • always perform a full body warmup before jumping (you should warm up before any type of workout, but plyometric training requires extra attention to knee and ankle mobilization)
  • stretch big muscles afterwards and replenish fluids immediately

Excited to ‘spring’ into action? Try the plyometric circuit below. Feel free to share it with your friends, ‘Pin it’ on your boards and tell me how you did, in the comments section below!

plyometric training

Coincidentally, I came across another blog post on plyometric training just yesterday with a title similar to mine (I guess ‘Spring into spring’ is an obvious name for a post about jump training!). Check out Bonnie and Steve’s plyo workout here.

Disclaimer: Although I am a registered Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer. Always adapt workouts to suit your body and fitness level. Always consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise program.