Last time we discussed the importance of balance for runners of all levels and at all speeds. It’s critical to virtually every element of running, and perhaps most important of all, because it is at the root of good running form. [Read more…]
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I’m going to guess that most of my readers have, at some point, taken a spinning class. If not, you might want to consider doing so, and the sooner the better. As a coach, I love spinning for runners, but I didn’t always love it.
I’ll give you an overview; then, I’ll tell you about my inauspicious early spinning days. Don’t laugh! Finally, I’ll explain the benefits of spinning for every runner. Oh, and I’ll even go over gear and spinning class etiquette.
First, you should not think of ‘spinning’ as biking because, while both provide excellent cross training, the two are vastly different.
Spinning, as you probably already know, is performed on specially designed spinning bikes, indoors, usually in a group, with music, and led by a motivational and, hopefully, certified instructor, who chooses music specifically selected for that day’s class. This is a general description, and I am referring to classes that are offered along with a gym membership or at a local Y. There are spinning franchises that may have a different arrangement, but the huge benefits for runners would generally be about the same.
Classes normally last 45 minutes to an hour, but at some gyms hard-core spinners may take two or even three classes back to back. Yeah, three, and no, I’m not kidding.
Oh, one more thing, a spinning class is normally quite intense. So, if you’re comparing it to a leisurely bike ride around the neighborhood, think again. It’s more like a strenuous, high-speed 20 to 25-mile ride on varying terrain.
When I first tried it, many years ago, it didn’t go well. At the time, my husband and I frequently rode our mountain bikes for two hours or more on off road trails. We thought we were working hard. It seemed like it, and my significant hamstrings and quads were impressive proof; so, when Wendy and I joined a spinning class at the gym, I was confident it would be a breeze. Ha! I lasted about ten minutes and never felt like I got the hang of it.
“I recall my feet flying off the pedals and my pride dashing out the door only moments before my physical self made a sheepish exit.”
Three years later – yes, it took me that long to get over the injury to my pride – after hearing many people drop the spinning word, I decided to try again. The experience was a little better, but when the instructor asked us to stand and pedal while hovering several inches above the seat, for a prolonged period, I knew I couldn’t last, and after thirty minutes, I ducked out again, my pride, once again, sorely wounded.
Now, keep in mind I’m no wimp. Back then I wasn’t running as much as I have in the last few years, but I was running 30 miles a week and frequently competing in half marathons. I was also swimming regularly. Most people would think I was in excellent condition, and I did, too, but obviously, there was room for improvement.
That experience taught me that despite the running and racing I was doing, my leg muscles could be much stronger. I think most runners assume they don’t need to strength train their lower body because those muscles get adequate training while running. That is far from the case.
Helpful hint: A year later, determined, I signed up for a beginning spinning class, which turned out to be a great idea. Also, by this time, my friends had pointed out that just because the instructor says to increase the resistance, which is accomplished by turning a knob on the bike, doesn’t mean you have to do it. You are in control, and you can turn it as much or as little as you want. Duh! Why didn’t I think of that? So simple!
Since then, I’ve heard many spin instructors explain as much. After all, they really do want all members of their class to succeed and return next time. They know people may need to take a few classes before they can keep up.
Another tip: This time I spent a few minutes with the instructor before class. First, she showed me how to determine the correct seat and handlebar adjustment, which is critical; then she explained the three hand positions she would refer to during class. This provided me with some confidence. Of course, it also helped that the class was less intense because it was a beginner class.
I survived, and that was the first of many, many weekly spinning classes. In fact, our Y had a Tour de Y challenge during the Tour de France, which required participants to take two spinning classes a week. I did, and discovered an amazing result: Spinning is g-r-e-a-t cross training for running. There are many reasons why I recommend spinning for runners.
Benefits of Spinning for Runners
- It builds strength. Spinning is an intense leg exercise that utilizes virtually every leg muscle, at least if you do it correctly. You’ll know that, because you’ll feel it by the end of the class and even more the next day. A good instructor will remind you to use your muscles to push the pedal down, then toward the back and then to pull it up and pull it forward. In other words, you should be moving your foot in a rotation, working all the way around the circle. In order to do this, though, you must be clipped in or use what are called cages, which are metal frames, attached to pedals, into which you place your foot.
- Spinning moves the legs in a completely natural circular motion, and although it is intense, there is no pounding as there is in running. A good instructor will have participants standing some of the time, spinning with lower resistance part of the time, and spinning with higher resistance at other times, also known as pushing a high gear, providing a very complete workout.
- Spinning mimics the desired movement of the legs when running. You always want to think of your legs as moving in a circular pattern while running, and spinning reinforces that.
- Helps prevent running injuries by strengthening the weaker muscles, thereby helping to prevent/correct muscle imbalance, which is a common cause of running injuries.
- It’s an intense cardio workout, easily as intense as speed work. Most people will leave class, dripping. If that grosses you out, don’t go.
- The high cadence – 90 rpm or higher most of the time – is a great way to increase leg turnover for running. For many runners, increasing turnover is the single best way to improve race times. If you haven’t listened to my podcast about cadence, you can listen to it here.
- It’s an ideal workout when the weather prohibits outdoor training.
- You can count on the instructor to motivate the group; every instructor is different, so visit several classes. You’re bound to find an instructor you particularly like.
- You will get to know the other people in the class; that always makes it more fun.
- You can take the class with friends who run or bike faster or slower than you, but you’ll all stay together when you’re on stationary bikes. Hehe!
- It’s a great way to burn a lot of calories in a short time; of course, running does this, too.
- Because you are in a class, you are less likely to back off; this is good, for the most part, but as always, if you are not feeling up to par, it’s important to listen to your body and back off. And if you ran hard the day before, it may not be a good idea. It’s okay to do it after a hard running day, sometimes, but you wouldn’t want to do that every week because that would cut into your recovery. It would be better to do it on the same day as your hard run, which, granted, will be harder, but then your body gets to really rest and recover the next day. You’ve got to let it recover, or you’re asking for trouble.
A Word About Gear
If you have biking shoes to clip into the pedals, wear them. Spinning bikes have caged pedals on one side, but they are made so that if you have clips, you can clip in on the other side of the pedal. This is preferable because it makes you more efficient, and it’s easier to rotate your foot deliberately, in a circular fashion, thus utilizing more muscle groups. If you don’t have biking shoes, then just be sure to tighten the clips.
Tuck the laces in your shoes to keep them from getting caught anywhere on the bike.
Always bring a full water bottle. All spinning bikes are setup to accommodate this, and you will drink the whole bottle during class.
Always bring a towel if your gym doesn’t supply them. You’ll need at least one. Did I mention that spinning is intense?
If you have bike shorts, wear them. Those seats are not comfortable. I’ve seen some people bring cushy seat covers; that’s an option. If you don’t have bike shorts, at least try to find some stretchy shorts that fit close to the leg. They will help you slide on the seat and facilitate getting into and out of the saddle.
A few things to remember that will make your experience better, and equally important, will make the experience better for other class participants.
- It’s polite to arrive a few minutes before class to make sure you have time to get your bike adjusted.
- Try to arrive 20 minutes early if it is your first time, and inform the instructor that it is your first class.
- Turn your phone off.
- If you have children in the building, ask them not to interrupt the class.
- Bring water. Even if you think you don’t need it, others will feel stressed if they see that you don’t have water.
- Bring a towel and use it rather than dripping all over the floor.
- Wipe down your bike after class. Most gyms provide sanitary wipes for this purpose.
- Try to resist having conversations with others during class.
- Do not leave early, as this is disruptive. If it can’t be avoided, explain to the instructor ahead of time, choose a bike in the back of the room, and remember to wipe down the bike.
- Follow along. If you just want to sit and spin, do it some other time or on a stationary bike that is not in a spin class.
- People sometimes get attached to particular bikes. The standard rule is first come, first served. If you get to class, and someone is on the bike you like, just choose another bike. I’ve seen some ugliness when a ‘regular’ arrives and discovers someone else on ‘her’ bike. Really?
- Do not ask the instructor not to turn on the fans. If you don’t want the fan, don’t get a bike close to it. Most people love the fans as it gets quite hot in a spinning class. I’ve seen some ugliness here, too. I suspect these are the same people who yell at the coaches of their kids’ little league team.
To recap: Spinning will help with your running form, help to strengthen other muscles that may be weak, provide a great cardio workout without any pounding, improve your running cadence, and add variety to your training.
I am so glad to have finally become successful at this excellent activity.
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List of Episodes by Title and Number
BRV 001 Welcome to the Beginner Runner Village Podcast
In this episode I give you an over of this podcast, who is for, and how it will help you achieve your goal.
BRV 002 Learn to Run the Easier Way
With all my years of coaching beginners, I’ve learned a lot about what works and just as much – maybe more – about what doesn’t work. Turns out, the best way to start running is not the most intuitive way. It can be much easier than most people think.
BRV 003 Find Your Appropriate Starting Point
One of the secrets to starting running and – more importantly – succeeding is starting at the appropriate point for you. It’s extremely individual.
BRV 004 Your Body, Your Team
Every part of your body has to be ready for that particular level of effort, and there is much more to consider than you probably realize. In this episode, I help understand how all systems need to be ready before you move on to the next level of intensity.
BRV 005 Buying Running Shoes
While runners require very little equipment/gear, everyone realizes that wearing the right shoes can be the difference between injury/pain and comfort/success.
BRV 006 Beginner Runner Program
While there are many beginner running programs available to all runners, mine is certainly unique because it is much more gradual, virtually guaranteeing success. This episode explains how it works.
BRV 007 Hard Easy Running Training
You’re probably saying, “Well, since I’m a beginner, everything is hard.” The whole point of the episode is that it shouldn’t be hard, and if you make the right adjustments to make most of your training very easy, you’ll become a runner and actually improve much faster. This is a principle that all knowledgeable, experienced runners apply. I explain how you can utilize it, too, and actually make your training much more comfortable at the same time.
BRV 008 How to Breathe When You Run
Of all the questions I get, this is the very most frequent, and I am happily to say that after just listening to this one episode, many people have solved their breathing problem.
BRV 009 Running Form Explained
The best time to learn good running form is when you are just beginning to run. Why learn bad form with the idea of working on improving it later? That’s counter-productive, but more importantly is that poor form is the cause of many injuries, particularly in new runners. Let’s aim for concentrating on this from the beginning.
BRV 010 Running Form, Part 2
Running form is a big topic. This is a continuation of the last episode.
BRV 011 Running Form, Part 3, Foot Strike
How your foot strikes the ground, i.e., on the heel or midfoot or forefoot, will have a huge effect on your running economy, effort, and predisposition to injury. So, what I’m saying is that it is critical.
BRV 012 Runner Watching
This is actually a summary and homework on running form, and it’s something that can be a constant form reminder as you run in years to come.
BRV 013 Running Cadence
All runners will be more successful if they learn and always run with the ideal cadence.
BRV 014 Training Intensity for Beginner Runners
Most runners, even very experienced runners, sometimes don’t understand the value of training at the appropriate intensity, but this is especially critical for beginners.
BRV 015 Program Launch and Massages for Beginner Runners
The Beginner Runner Program is finally, live, but it has changed slightly since I first envisioned it and explained it in this podcast. Plus, I have divided the beginner portion into two 12-week program, instead of the six month program I had planned. I explain that here, as well as all the details of how the program works. I also explain the important role massage, both self massage and professional sports massage, can and should play in the life of a beginner runner.
Biking – or cycling – might be the very best cross-training for runners.
The rotational movement is exactly the same movement you should be trying to use when you run; so, biking helps train those muscles while giving your legs a break from running.
Any bind of bike will do, although when you are more fit and ready to do the intervals described below, a bike with variable speeds will be helpful.
Don’t have a bike? Try Craigslist. You’ll find great deals. People have grand ideas about getting fit; they buy a nice bike, justifying it because it’s for fitness, but it sits in the garage while they sit on the couch. Lucky you can get a great deal.
Important tip: Whatever your price range, better to get a better quality used bike than a poor quality new bike.
In the beginning, just get out there and ride a few miles. This will help to strengthen different muscles through a greater range of movement. You don’t need to work it during the first few weeks of beginning to run. When you start getting more fit, you can do intervals of spinning alternated with a little resistance at a lower rpm.
Cycling improves cadence. Ideally, on a bike with variable speeds, you want to set the resistance very low and ‘spin,’ which means to use a high rpm, preferably around 90 to 100 revolutions per minute. This is harder than it sounds. Start with an rpm that is a little bit of a challenge and increase it each time out, but don’t try to use that high rpm all the time.
When you have obtained a greater level of fitness, do this:
- Warm-up with a very easy 10 minute ride.
- Next, alternate one minute of high speed spinning, fast enough to be a little uncomfortable, for 1 minute.
- Then increase the resistance a little bit and ride several minutes.
- Then repeat the high speed spinning.
- Continue these intervals for the appropriate number of miles.
A few weeks later, you’ll be ready to step it up to this:
After warm-up, alternate:
- High speed spinning
- Easy riding
- Pushing a higher gear
- Easy riding
Any time you’ll be running for more than an hour, you know you’ll need to have a hydration plan, which will, no doubt involve one of the many hydration systems available. [Read more…]
Years ago, most runners would finish their whole running career without ever doing a marathon or even a half marathon. [Read more…]
This is the second in a series of three podcasts about running shoes. Last time we talked about what should happen when you go to a running store, what you need to know, and where to go to buy running shoes. We also talked about terminology. This time, I discuss the advantages of minimalist shoes, the philosophy, transitioning into minimalist shoes, degrees of minimalism, and the impact the whole movement has had on running and running shoes.
- “Minimalist, Heal Thyself” by Phil Latter from Running Times Magazine,
- “Running Shoe Finder: The Best Shoe for You“
- “Heel Forefoot Drop, Foot Length, and Ramp Angle: How Shoes Alter the Oriention of Your Feet” by Pete Larsen, author of the RunBlogger.com blog
- “Should You Run in a Zero Drop Shoe?” Competitor Magazine By Jay Dicharry, Published Sep. 11, 2012, updated Sep. 12, 2012
- “The Key to Successful Minimalist Running” Competitor Magazine By Danny Abshire and Brian Metzler, Published Mar. 13, 2012, updated Mar. 14, 2012
- “Are You Running in Too Much Shoe?” audio from Running Times Magazine
The Ideal Running or Walking Shoe Complements Natural Foot Function Dr. Mark Cucuzella, http://naturalrunningcenter.com/2011/12/08/2652/
Whether you are just running for fun, training for a 5k PR, or approaching your first marathon, this podcast will help you achieve your goals. Practical coaching tips and advice. Click on the link to listen, subscribe in iTunes or use any podcast app.
Episode 147: How to Run Trails
Episode 146: Six Reasons to You Should Run Trails
Episode 145: How to Make Easy Runs Work for You
Episode 144: Running During a Pandemic
Episode 143: Sensible Running Resolutions for 2020
Episode 142: The Challenge of Running Through the Holidays
Episode 141: Returning to Running After a Break
Episode 139: The Mental Side of Running
Episode 138: Base Miles
Episode 137: Boston
Episode 136: Three Reasons to Do a Plank Every Day
Episode 135: Micro Cycles
Episode 134: How to Optimize Performance with Periodization
Episode 133: From Brutal to Boston
Episode 132: Explaining Dreadful Runs
Episode 131: Gifts for Runners
Episode 130: Running Through the Holidays
Episode 129: Electrolytes, Part 2
Episode 128: Electrolytes
Episode 127: Training Fundamentals
Episode 126: The Running Documentary, The Human Race and More
Episode 125: What to Do When You Lose Your Running Mojo
Episode 124: Half Marathon Magic
Episode 123: Thoughts on Knee Surgery
Episode 122: Run Off Road and On Trails
Episode 121: Three Key Changes to Run Faster
Episode 120: One Foot at a Time
Episode 119: The Five Pillars of Intelligent Running
Episode 118: What to Wear for Cold-Weather Running
Episode 117: Accountability Hacks
Episode 116: Hydration for Long Runs and the Goldilocks Principle
Episode 115: Big Cottonwood Marathon Race Weekend
Episode 114: Destination Races
Episode 113: Running and Families
Episode 112: Running in the Rain
Episode 111: Stair-Climbing as Cross-Training
Episode 110: Cycling as Cross-Training
Episode 109: Swimming as Cross-Training for Running
Episode 108: Cross-Training Basics
Episode 105: Grandma’s Marathon Race Report
Episode 104: All About Aid Stations
Episode 101: Runner Etiquette
Episode 100: Listener Stories
Episode 98: Cadence, the Magic Bullet
Episode 97: Runner Safety
Episode 96: Doing a Race as a Training Run
Episode 95: Compression Gear
Episode 94: Warming Up for Your Race
Episode 93: You Must See Run Free and Other Running Films
Episode 92: Perspective on a Few Days Off From Running
Episode 90: Running Drills
Episode 89: High Intensity Interval Training
Episode 86: Exercises and Drills to Improve Proprioception
Episode 85: Balance and Proprioception for Runners
Episode 84: Training for Multi-Day Race Events
Episode 83: Stop the Pounding, How to Tread Lightly When You Run
Episode 81: For All Runners about Older Runners
Episode 80: Overtraining Syndrome
Episode 79: Injury Prevention
Episode 78: How to Run Hills Part 2 – Running Downhill
Episode 77: How to Run Hills Part 1 – Running Uphill
Episode 76: Encouraging Words for Runners
Episode 75: Tempo Runs Explained
Episode 72: Running Tips and Tricks
Episode 71: The Mojo for Running 2015 Challenge
Episode 70: Great and Not So Great Running Advice
Episode 69: My Broken Arm PR at the San Francisco Marathon
Episode 68: Shin Splints
Episode 66: Hydration Systems for Runners
Episode 65: First Time Half Marathoners
Episode 64: Two Words Runners Love to Say
Episode 63: Lifesaving Advice for Runners
Episode 62: The Value of a Running Coach
Episode 61: Three Runners Decide to Try a Tri
Episode 60: The Hard/Easy Principle Revisited
Episode 58: Streaks and Habits
Episode 57: Your First Marathon, Part 3
Episode 56: Your First Marathon, Part 2
Episode 55: Your First Marathon, Part 1
Episode 54: First Time Trail Racers
Episode 53: Dear Race Director
Episode 52: Winners, Losers, and Quitters
Episode 51: The Running Detective
Episode 50: Running Principles Revisited
Episode 49: First Time Marathoners
Episode 48: Trail Running, Part 2
Episode 47: Boston Stories
Episode 46: Trail Running, Part 1
Episode 45: Comments for Race Directors
Episode 44: Running Under the Influence of Endorphins
Episode 43: Running Shoes, Part 3
Episode 42: The 13 x 13 in 13 Half Marathon Challenge
Episode 41: Minimalist Running Shoes
Episode 40: Running Shoes
Episode 39: Negative Splits
Episode 38: Break Up Your Run, Sometimes
Episode 36: Where I’ve Been and What I Do
Episode 35: Jumping Rope
Episode 34: How to Find a Running Group
Episode 33: Running Friends
Episode 32: Mojo Metronome
Episode 31: When You Have a Horrible Race
Episode 30: The New and Improved Pete Nelson
Episode 28: Cadence, Part 2
Episode 27: Cadence, aka Stride Rate or Leg Turnover
Episode 26: Running Form
Episode 25: Breathing Issues
Episode 24: Keep a Running Journal
Episode 23: How is Your Base Coming Along?
Episode 22: Running Personally
Episode 21: Date a Girl Who Runs
Episode 20: Spinning for Runners
Episode 19: A Great Work Ethic, a Challenged Runner
Episode 18: What Does DNF Mean to You?
Episode 17: Running Through the Holidays
Episode 16: You Just Never Know
Episode 15: Food, Birthdays, and Calories
Episode 14: Running in Hot Weather
Episode 13: Per Mile Pace Difference for Hard/Easy Runs
Episode 12: Dealing With Running Injuries
Episode 11: There’s Always Next Time
Episode 10: The Long Term Effects of Running
Episode 9: Easing Into Speedwork
Episode 8: Tips for Running Faster
Episode 7: Tapering for Your Goal Race
Episode 6: After Base Building
Episode 5: Macro and Micro Cycles
Episode 4: High School Cross Country Runners
Episode 3: The Once Weekly Long Run
Episode 2: The Hard/Easy Principle
Episode 1: Overview of Future Episodes
If you want to become a runner but are very out of shape, you’re not alone, but you can stop worrying. My Beginner Runner Village Podcast is just what you need! I provide the motivation and the instruction.
Beginner runners benefit from training based on the same principles that guide the most experienced runners. They’re just applied on a much easier scale.
- Do you want to get fit?
- Do you want to be a runner?
- Would you be content to gradually build endurance?
- Do you want to feel the accomplishment of crossing a 5k finish line.
- Do you have a greater challenge because you are overweight, middle-aged, or both?
No worries! Really! In this podcast, I am speaking to YOU, the out-of-shape want-to-be runner.
If your doctor gives you the okay, and you’re patient, recognizing that it’s a process that will take months rather than weeks, you can and you will become a runner, but you need a program geared to your current level of fitness. I’ve got that program, my Beginner Runner Program. You can learn about that here, but even if you follow some other schedule, the knowledge and motivation in the Beginner Runner Village Podcast will help you succeed.