Indoor Cycling, Mindfulness, & Facing FearsI’ll never forget my first spin class. I was in my early thirties and complained to a friend
of having low energy and just not feeling great in my skin. My friend invited me to take a
spin class with her. I’d never heard of spin but thought, how hard can riding a bike be?
Turns out, hard.
I don’t know how I made it through that first class. Because spin bikes
are stationary, it’s possible to pedal a great deal faster than you would on an outdoor
bike. At one point the instructor cued us to stand up as we pedaled — and even though
I’d done it hundreds of times on my bike as a kid — nope. Couldn’t do it. I was so
annoyed with myself that I came back a few days later to try again. And that is the
beginning of the story of how spin changed my life.
More on that later. Right now, let’s take a look at three reasons why indoor cycling is
such an addictive and amazingly beneficial movement practice.
1. It’s high-intensity but easy on the joints. Indoor cycling, or spin, originated
with a bicycle racer named Johnny Goldberg in the 1980s after he was hit by a
car on his bike. Looking to rehabilitate after his accident, Johnny eventually
developed a specialized indoor bike for spin along with a workout program. Spin
has the magical combination of being a high-intensity workout that’s low-impact
on your joints — a difficult combination to find! Whether you’re looking to get into
shape, rehab after an injury, or up your cardio game, spinning will get you there.
2. Cardiovascular health/weight loss. The American Heart Association
recommends at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a minimum of three
times a week. Taking a 60-minute spin class a few times a week will give you
that and then some! An
hour of indoor cycling burns on average 400-600 calories, making it one of the
best movement practices ever for calorie burning.
3. Mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation. I have always found taking a spin
class to be an amazing way to de-stress. In fact, during challenging periods of
my life, I’ve described spinning as “sweating out my demons”. It’s hard to worry
or feel down when your heart rate is up and you are fully focused on your body
and what it’s doing. Spin focuses on proper form and alignment to create the
most efficient workout possible. High-intensity cardio and moving to the beat
combine in a way that can also be meditative. That’s why in spin, it’s easy to
cultivate mindfulness: the ability to be in the present moment with an observing
mind. You are experiencing the workout, but you are also noticing your body and
how it feels, adjusting your form, coming back to your breath and the rhythm of
the beat to focus and push through challenging moments.
The mindfulness you develop in the spin studio will spill out into other parts of
your life! Because mindfulness teaches our brains to focus on the present
moment, it’s is an amazing tool to reduce overall stress as well as manage
anxiety and depression. An anxious mind worries about the future. A depressed
mind experiences sadness and hopelessness about the past/future. Mindfulness
creates an observing mind focused on the present, allowing us to choose our actions rather than react to situations.
As a therapist, I regularly recommended
both exercise and mindfulness practice to my clients as both preventative and
prescriptive methods for anxiety and depression. In the dark, rainy winters of the
Pacific Northwest, regular exercise, and a mindfulness practice will go miles
towards elevating your energy levels and your mood. (Also, no rain, wind or cars
in a spin studio!)
Another feel-good (literally) side effect of all that cardio: it releases endorphins.
Between the physical exertion, stress-reduction, and endorphins, it’s not
uncommon to leave spin feeling blissed out. And who doesn’t need a bit more
bliss in their life?
These are some of the reasons why I spin. When I think back to why I kept coming back
to spin class all those years ago, it wasn’t just because I wanted to prove to myself I
could ride a bike. The real reason I kept coming back was that I was having fun
and finding a wonderfully supportive community. I came back because I was having fun
and feeling a sense of accomplishment. Because I was growing stronger and
discovering that the mental exercise of spin was teaching me to do the same in other areas of my life.
That spin class, over ten years ago, planted a seed: it was the start of
me creating a place for fitness in my life. I eventually became a spin instructor because I
wanted to help others discover what I’ve learned (and what I continue to learn). I’m so
grateful for the lessons spin has taught me, the most important being that I am capable
of far, far more than I ever realized. Have you been to a spin class at Honest yet? Come
check out a class — you never know, it just might change your life!
Click here to sign up for a spin class now! Mandi’s schedule @ Honest is about to change! Starting in Dec. she teaches 60s spin/power yoga classes Tuesdays and Thursdays 5-6 and 6:15-7:15p.