The All-Spin Zone: The Best Bike Ride to Nowhere
Stationary-bike workouts are taking off.
Credit: Getty Images
The humble old stationary bike (the one gathering dust in your garage) has been reborn. In its new incarnation, it is a more demanding, pedal-to-the-mettle taskmaster, capable of inflicting pain as never before. But it's good pain. Or so we're told.
Spinning, a trademarked program of Mad Dogg Athletics, has taken indoor cycling to a new frenetic level. In the Spinning program and others modeled on it, Spandex-clad gym-goers spend forty to sixty minutes pedaling a bike with a weighted wheel and adjustable resistance. With music pumping and an instructor barking commands, they simulate sprints, steep climbs, and blessed stretches of flat ground, shifting between sitting and standing. Some instructors guide visualization, leading bikers past cheering crowds toward the finish line. Whatever the virtual setting, it's a monster of a workout.
Since bike racer Johnny Goldberg opened the first Spinning Center in southern California (where else?) in 1989, Spinning has erupted in popularity. The program now boasts 120,000 instructors at 30,000 facilities in eighty countries. Participants set their own resistance, so even novices can get into the low-impact workout. Any gym or health club can offer stationary biking classes, but to call it Spinning, the gym must become an Official Spinning Center featuring Spinner bikes and certified Spinning instructors.
If you take an indoor cycling class, know that there may be moments when you despise the instructor and ask yourself, "How could this chipper young woman in bike shorts be such a sadist?" At the end of a forty-minute ride, though, you'll have achieved your daily requirement of cardiovascular exercise, according to the Sports Medicine Web site of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, and burned 500 to 700 calories. All you need is a water bottle and a towel (oh, yes, you'll sweat).
Of course, you could crank up the music and will yourself through a grueling stationary-bike ride in your own home. Simple stationary cycles are available online for about $400; more elaborate rigs cost up to $1,600. But it's tough to match the rigor of a full-fledged group workout without help from one of those chipper sadists.