Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Everything You Need to Know About Spinning - An Interview with Cindy Bell of Pedal Spin Studio

I remember my first spin class like it was yesterday. I was newly engaged and wanted to lose 20 lbs. before my wedding. My friend, Andy, suggested I join her at a spin class, and though I hadn't done a lick of cardio in years, I thought it would be easy. I mean, really, anyone can ride a bike.  Right? We went to her all-girl gym, grabbed our water bottles, and entered the spinning room. The bikes were assembled in a U shape; the instructor at the front, commanding our attention. She was a lawyer from New York, with bleach blonde hair and an accent that made you immediately think... Brooklyn

As soon as I sat on the bike, I wanted to stand. The seat felt really uncomfortable. I was in and out of the seat, but always in the pedals, before the class even started. My feet were strapped in so I had nowhere to go. My friend reminded me to tuck my laces in so that they wouldn't get caught, and as I did it, I remember thinking, '45 more minutes, just get it done.' When the instructor asked if it was anyone's first time, I pretended not to hear. Big mistake.

The lights went out, the music blared, and off we went. It was exhilarating. We did hills, jumps, and sprints. I felt like Lance Armstrong, and (almost) completely forget my discomfort. What a ride.

I woke up the next day, on Christmas Eve, so incredibly sore that getting out of bed was painful. My quads were sore to the touch. Walking down the stairs was torture. But the excitement of the class drew me back, again and again, until finally I became a Certified Spinning Instructor through Johnny G (Mad Dogg). I know now that if I'd just taken it easy and stayed in the saddle, I wouldn't have been so ridiculously sore that next day. As a trainer and instructor, I always tell people to check out a spinning class, but I also tell them to start slowly.

There is a studio devoted exclusively to spin classes, called Pedal Spin Studio, with two locations Montrose and Rancho, California. (Ugh! Dream come true!) I immediately contacted Cindy Bell, co-owner of Pedal Spin Studio, to get the details on her studio, spin, and all the things you need to know to get started!

BF: I've been spinning since 1998. I think it's the greatest form of cardiovascular exercise a person can do. It builds muscle, burns fat, and gets your heart and lungs working. For people who have never taken (or seen) a spinning class, explain what it is and how it works. What should they wear, how much water should they bring, and what do they absolutely need to know before going?
CB: The most important thing you should bring is an open mind and a good attitude.  Wear comfortable, breathable workout attire with hard soled athletic shoes or cycling shoes.  Bring plenty of water - you will need it and a towel if you club or studio does not provide one.  (We do at Pedal).  Expect to sweat, a lot, but leave invigorated.

BF: My heart belongs to spinning. Truly, it does. I began spinning with a friend who begged me to go. Instead of taking it easy and staying in the saddle for the first class, I did what the instructor said. Jumps, hills, the whole shebang. The next day, I couldn't sit down without first bracing myself. My quads were on fire. What advise and direction do you give to new riders?
CB: I can't agree with you more!  I was introduced to spin by my partner and sister-in-law, Michelle.  I couldn't believe people voluntarily did this to their bodies on a regular basis.  I couldn't stand stay out of the saddle at all and limped away from class... but.. Michelle convinced me to keep going, and now it I'm hopelessly devoted.  The best advise I can give to all first time students is take it at your own pace.  Know your body's limitations and respect them.  We were all beginners at one time and there is no shame in backing off the resistance and staying in the saddle.  The key is hanging in there.  That's the beauty of SPIN.  You will be surprised at how quickly your body adapts and improves.

BF: I know people who are not certified yet they teach indoor cycling at gyms. Why is it important to have an instructor who is certified?
CB: I think the most important aspect to certification is safety.  The SPIN certification means you have been trained in all aspects of indoor cycling, from proper bike set-up, form, and safely to heart rate energy zones.  Certified instructors can not only lead a challenging class, but are educated in why certain moves are beneficial and why contradictory moves are harmful.
BF: What is a typical class like at your studio? (We will get to your specialty classes in a minute.)
CB: A typical class at our studio is a truly unique experience.  Coming in, you are greeted with a smiling face and a fresh towel.  If it's your first time in the studio, you are introduced to your instructor and asked if you have any questions, concerns or physical issues you may have and the bike property adjusted.  Once you are set up and comfortable, that's when the magic happens.  The lights are dimmed, the black lights turned on, the music starts and the show begins.  The music and teaching style varies with each instructor, but the basic format is standard. We start with a 5 minute warm up to get the blood flowing, release any tension and get you body prepared.  Once warmed up, plan on working hard and sweating for 45 minutes, followed by a 5 - 10 minute cool down and stretch.

BF: I love that you offer specialty classes like Pedal Yoga and Pedal Tone. A lot of studios try and incorporate bands and weights while on the bike, which is a no-no in cycling, but you do it off the bike, as part of the class. What motivated you to start these classes?  (And I wish I lived in California...)
CB: We wanted to be able to offer our clients a nice balance in their workouts. SPIN is such a fantastic cardio/strength workout, but the body cannot thrive on cardio alone.  The pilates inspired movements of our tone class and the muscle lengthening of Yoga complement the SPIN workout and give you an overall mind/body connection.  Some of clients have actually given their gym memberships because they feel they get everything they need from our specialty classes.

BF: Most people don't know much about heart rate training. Is it important to stay in a certain range?
CB: Heart rate training is the key to reaching your fitness goals and maximizing your calorie burn.  Each zone has it's own benefits and monitoring your heart and targeting these zones will insure that your workout is both efficient and safe.  A common misconception with any sort of excersize is that as long as your heart is pounding and your are breathing heavy, you are getting a good workout.  In actuality, the real calorie burn happens when your heart rate is elevated to between 65% and 75% of your max.  Heart rate training will increase your overall efficiency while spinning.
BF: So now everybody reading this wants to start spinning. For the beginner, how many times per week do you recommend taking spin?
CB: We recommend 3-4 times a week to build a good aerobic base and then 2 - 3 classes a week to maintain cardiovascular health.

BF: I know people have told me that they think they can't spin because they have bad knees, or a bad back, or they are pregnant. But they can spin, right?
CB: Absolutely!  Michelle is 5 months pregnant and still teaches 6-10 classes a week.  You should always consult a physician before beginning any exercise program is you are pregnant or have any sort of injury or medical condition.  As with any exercise, it's always important to know your limits and monitor your heart rate throughout the workout.  SPINNING is the best cardio workout because as long as you are properly set up, there is no stress at all on your back and joints.
BF: Lastly, please debunk any myths about spinning for our readers (like it makes legs big).
CB: I think the biggest myth about spinning is that you have to be super fit to take a class or that it is just too difficult for the average person to take.  SPINNING is challenging, but you take it at your own pace, and you choose your intensity.  You are part of a group, but it is truly your own ride.
Another myth is that spinning will bulk up your legs. Spinning is all about increasing and decreasing resistance while increasing and decreasing speed - there is no component of it that is geared at bulking up your legs. In fact it's quite the contrary, since the quick rotations will leave your thighs and calves lean and sculpted. Pedal Spin Studios are boutique studios and each are one of the few licensed SPIN studios in their area. For more information, visit them at    

In the words of Cindy Bell: We began as a conversation over margaritas with my sister-in-law, Michell Bell, who owns our Rancho Cucamonga location and we kicked around how we would envision the perfect studio.  We are both Johnny G certified instructors and teach every nearly every day.  I have spent the past 15 years in advertising and Michelle has been in cosmetics retail/sales for 13 years in addition to her background in music.  Both of us are Los Angles transplants and midwest natives.  We longed for something that was welcoming and unpretentious, yet had a sort of boutique-"make you feel special" kind of feel.  Out of this idea, Pedal was born.  We opened Montrose in September of last year and Rancho in November.  Our goal was to open the type of studio that not only had top of the line equipment and the best, most motivating instructors, but to have an atmosphere where everyone felt comfortable, confident and strong.  We also want to be a major contributor the community overall.  We jump at the chance to donate our time/space/equipment to help out as much as possible.  We were a community sponsor for the Aids Lifecycle Ride in June and were team captains supporting the Livestrong Foundation for SPINNING NATION.  We are huge supporters of our local businesses and plug them at every opportunity. At Pedal, we offer classes to suit everyone's schedule, from 5:30 am to 8:30 pm.  Our schedule is all online and with the ability to book classes and reserse your bike directly from our website.  Towel service is availiable and water, juice and sports drinks are available for purchace in the studio.  We want all of our guests to know that this is their studio, and we are constantly striving make your time here the best part of your day.

BF NOTE: If you want to try spinning but you don't live in the California area, you can check out your local gym. I firmly believe that you should only take class with a certified instructor. For more on the Spinning program (the word Spinning signifies the program started by Johnny G, who founded indoor cycling (which is why SPINNING is capitalized in Cindy's interview)), you can go to

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