The Spine for Spin

April 27th, 2010 by Harrumpher Leave a reply »

The legendary Martha lived in the air of Cambridge Common last week, in mentions of her previous life as a spin instructor. That amusing fitness subculture is a bit more obscure than yoga, but has it adherents.

Four of us were at the bar. It’s become a regular afternoon joint every week or two both because it always has a fine range of IPAs among its 30 taps and because its prices are good at a buck or sometimes two or even three less a pint.

The bartender said she was about to go on the Cape Cod MS charity bike ride with some girlfriends. She added that the first time has done the ride, she felt she might die, but she’d been taking spin classes, so she figured she was ready.

That was the cue for guys on adjacent bar stools to do what they so best — play the Greek chorus and make a harmonizing response. One noted that spin classes and road biking use muscles a little differently, that there’s no direct correspondence. Another acknowledged our fraternity here. Two of the other three had been in spin classes I led.

Leave a Puddle

They did what I think all spin instructors want to hear. They spoke of how tough I had been.

That was my turn to talk about my first spin instructor, Martha. She told her classes, “If you don’t leave a puddle under the bike, you’re dogging it.” We believed her for two reasons. First, if she figured you were using a lower resistance than she had told you for the given exercise, she’d get off her own bike-like object and crank up your dial. Second, she left a puddle. She worked at least as hard as any of us.

She subsequently went on to become a well known yogini here and then in San Jose. Along the way, she lost her h and became Marta and teaches exclusively yoga. When I knew her, I also took power yoga with her and learned that she taught step as well. She was exhausting classes three ways all day long. She probably was the fittest person in New England in the process.

I see from her new site, her former yoga boss, Rolf Gates, wrote a blurb — Marta brings all of herself to what she does and in so doing, expresses the essence of yoga with each step she takes. That’s what her spin classes were like too, plus she demanded the same of us.

Panting in Burlington

For the three of us on the stools, none was a kid when we started spin. Properly led, it’s damned tough. It did forge some bonds too, much like being on a sports team, I suppose.

We did our spin classes at the FitCorp in Burlington. When Martha dropped her classes there to focus on yoga, I carped mightily. The manager of the gym shut me up by saying there was Keiser Power Pacing training in a couple of weeks in Boston. If I wanted classes so badly, I should become an instructor. In other words, put up or shut up.

I put up and took the certification class from Kris Kory, the aging surfer type who literally wrote the Power Pacing book.  It’s certainly adolescent of me, but I have to say that style is much superior to the original, the trademarked, capital S Spinning®. The latter is by far the most common and it’s, well, kind of sissy. You might need a towel for your brow, but there’ll be no puddles.

I learned from the best. Kris was master of the theory and technique. He taught hard and snazzy stuff like slides that the other guys don’t. Before I even got to him though, I had learned what a real workout is.

We used to do spin three times a week. We got aerobic and anaerobic workouts unlike anything else I know.  I love my road biking, but it’s not as physically challenging. I’ve taken Spinning® classes as Y’s and other gyms too, to find that they are only a workout if I combine them with fast cycling to and from the gym.

A good class combines enough peer pressure to keep you pumping and a skilled enough instructor to make  you pray for the end of the hour. I think of another guy we used to work with who sometimes took Martha’s class. He was a lifter and quite strong, but wasn’t used to the relentlessness of it all. When she said to the class, “Remember to breathe,” Mike panted out, “That’s all I’m thinking about!”

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