“I just don’t have time.”
There’s no question that fitting exercise into a busy schedule is hard. But there are a lot of reasons that the time is worth it. Of all the things you can do for yourself as a medical student, resident or practicing physician, staying fit has to be at the top of the list. It’s not only essential for your physical health, it’s one of the most effective ways to reduce stress.
It’s important to look for exercise that’s fun. The last thing you need is to put exercise on the scut list. One option that you might think about, if you haven’t tried it, is spinning. Spinning is basically a great cardio workout done to music with other people. So, you not only get your heart rate up, you can destress with loud music in the company of people you don’t work with!
What is spinning?
Spinning is a workout on a special stationary bicycle, usually at a fitness or spin center. Unlike regular stationary bikes, spin bikes have a heavy fly wheel and the design is closer to a road (or racing) bicycle. There are no gears – you control how hard you are working by turning a knob to adjust the resistance (i.e. you control how hard it is to pedal). This means you have control over how hard you are working.
Spinning is most often done as a group class (although there is no reason you couldn’t use the bicycle on your own when there is no class going on). The class leader (instructor) will be on a bike at the front of the room, will choose the music and will guide the class.
How do I find a spin class?
Most big fitness centers will have spin classes, so the first place to look is a gym near you. Many gyms let you pay for spin classes without joining the gym. Some cities have spin centers i.e. a gym that only has spin classes. Use Google and see what you can find. If any of your friends are cyclists, they probably go to spin classes during the winter (in the north) or summer (in the south) to stay in shape, so you can ask them, too.
What do I do to not look stupid the first time?
The first time you go to a spin class, it’s easy to be intimidated. There will be people there who do spin classes 2-4 times a week, are all decked out in bike gear and look like they could ride a bike up Mount Everest. Here’s the bottom line – they all had a first class, just like you. Secondly, the instructor (and most of the people there) will be happy you are there and learning. Finally, you don’t have to do all the moves – You can sit on a bike in the back of the class and just pedal – and no one will say anything.
When you find a class you’d like to try, call and ask if the instructor will meet with you for 5 minutes to explain how the bikes work and how to best adjust the seat and handlebars. Alternatively, show up 10 minutes early and ask the instructor to show you what to do.
You don’t need anything special for your first class, but you will need a towel and a bottle of water.
What “moves” will I see in the spin class?
In addition to just sitting and pedaling, the instructor will “simulate” a ride. For example, he/she may use a specific song during a “hill climb” – and will ask everyone to increase the resistance on the bike so it’s hard to pedal. They may also have you do “sprints” i.e. increase your cadence so you are pedaling really fast. The only other move you’ll see involves standing up to pedal. The first time I did a class I couldn’t do this at all (so don’t worry if the same is true for you). It will come with time as your quads get stronger.
Should I buy any equipment?
Initially, no. You can do a spin class with regular gym clothes. A heart rate monitor is a good investment for any of your cardio exercise, but it’s particularly helpful for spinning.
If you end up liking spinning, you’ll want to buy a pair of good bike shorts. (They REALLY make a difference!)
The pedals on spin bikes have both a toe cage (to use with regular running or workout shoes) and a clip (for bike shoes). When you use the cage or the clip, you secure your foot to the pedal, which allows you to pull up as well as push down. If you become a real fan of spinning, you may want to buy the shoes, but make sure the cleats are “SPD” which is what is used on almost all spin bikes.
Picture from http://bicycleapparel.com/shoes.html