Spinning for runners- part one

Since getting certified to teach RPM spinning, I’ve gotten a few requests for a post on spinning and the things I have learned.  So I’ll start with my spinning story:

I started spinning consistently after my marathon last spring.  My shin was a little achy, and I jumped back into long runs too soon, resulting in an ‘almost’ stress fracture (it was never confirmed) and a conservative two months off running.  In the healing process, I experimented with a number of spinning classes and quickly learned how much variety there is!

Initially, I was not impressed and was really missing the endorphin rush and good sweat from a nice run.  But I eventually found instructors who really pushed me, and I began to work harder.  I got to a point where I was consistently leaving class dripping wet and found my fitness improving (strength and pace).

RPM is one particular brand of cycling classes, although some of my favorite classes were free cycling… it really comes down to the instructor in most cases!

What I appreciate about RPM classes is that they emphasize interval training– hitting your peaks, then recovering so you can work hard again.  When you’re working, you should REALLY be working… it’s only 45 minutes long, so the idea is to max out in those 45 minutes.  Interval training has been shown to be the best way to get fitter.  And if you’re looking to burn calories, it revs your system and you continue burning calories for hours afterward.

After I returned to running, I found that I had not lost as much running fitness as I anticipated.  I ran my first 5k on two weeks of training and felt much better than I expected to (finished in 21:47). I continued going to spinning classes twice a week.

Spinning can effectively strengthen the entire muscles of the leg, serving as a great compliment to running, especially if you live in a flat area (like me) and don’t get a lot of hill workouts in, or rarely take the time to strength train your legs.  I credit spinning for powering me up the hills in Austin’s half marathon when I only trained on flat roads. I know that spinning has made me a more well-rounded athlete and a stronger runner.

Spinning can also replace one (or two ) easy runs per week and allow you to train harder without overtaxing your body with extra running miles.  Run Less, Run Faster encourages spinning as the cross-training of choice for this reason, and I’ve found that spinning helps me keep my mileage lower while my body still benefits from extra cardiovascular training.

I’ll continue this post on Monday with additional spinning tips that I’ve picked up along the way.  Head over to Jill’s for more Fitness Friday posts!

Do you spin or cross train?

Have you seen benefits in your running fitness from cross training?


73 thoughts on “Spinning for runners- part one

  1. I love spinning as a cross training workout. I go to class once a week but do more at home. I think it is a great way to balance and support running. I would love to become a spin instructor when I have a little more time in my life!
    Jen recently posted..Free FridayMy Profile

    • That’s so nice you have the option at home, too! Yes- you should definitely look into becoming an instructor, it’s such a great side jobs for moms with young kids… especially if you’re attending classes anyway!
      Laura recently posted..Spinning for runners- part oneMy Profile

    • Thanks so much for the comment, Claudia!! It’s been fun to reconnect with you and Michael… hopefully we’ll be moving back easy in the next year or two and might bump into you again. 🙂 And I love what you’re both doing with your blog, it has made me smile many days! Way to put yourself out there and something new!
      Laura recently posted..Spinning for runners- part oneMy Profile

  2. I started using spin consistently to cross train a year ago and really enjoyed it. I think it’s ideal cross training for runners. My only issue is that I’m short and had trouble getting the bike positioned correctly and it started causing some problems/pain for me. So I haven’t been able to go in a few months now.
    Heather (Where’s the Beach) recently posted..Running, Lifting & Stuffed ZucchiniMy Profile

    • Oh, no! How frustrating that you were having some issues with it… our classroom is transitioning to new bikes so we’re half old, half new right now, and I am much more comfortable on the newer bikes… maybe you can find one that would work better?
      Laura recently posted..Spinning for runners- part oneMy Profile

    • It seems like what you’re doing is working for you! I think the key is some sort of cross training to balance your leg muscles- it doesn’t have to be spin. There are so many things I feel like I “should” be doing that rarely happen each week- yoga, still haven’t tried crossfit, etc… but I’ve found what works for now and am realizing I can’t do it all!
      Laura recently posted..Spinning for runners- part oneMy Profile

    • I would ask your instructor to check your bike set up- it sounds like the seat adjustment might need to slide back a little (or up/down a bit) so your knee has full motion, you want a 90 degree angle when you’re knee is up, a straight line down to the ankle, if it’s greater or smaller, it could cause some pain. Hope you can figure it out!
      Laura recently posted..Spinning for runners- part oneMy Profile

    • Good for you for doing it yourself! Mixing it up with speed work and some hills makes spinning so much more enjoyable, too. I used to spin for an hour alone on those bikes and time just dragged by.
      Laura recently posted..Spinning for runners- part oneMy Profile

  3. Great post! I’ve taken indoor cycling and I loved it! Now we bike and swim for tri training but we will continue to cross train during our marathon training cycle. I can’t wait to see what else you have to say about spinning!
    Jamie @ couchtoironwoman recently posted..Five is the Magic NumberMy Profile

    • It’s great that you’ll already have a solid cross training base because of the tri training. I definitely think it will pay off in your marathon cycle! I wish I had incorporated more in my marathon training.
      Laura recently posted..Spinning for runners- part oneMy Profile

  4. Great post! This actually compliments one of the points I made yesterday about cross-training! Glad we agree 😉 Looking forward to reading Monday’s post about spinning tips too!

  5. I love spinning! I used to go two to three times a week, but then I moved a lot and didn’t always have a gym membership AND I had incorporated more running miles into my weeks, so spinning kind of fell by the wayside. I have thought about getting back into it, OR buying a bike and actually riding it around instead! I love being outside, especially in the Bay Area where it doesn’t get as hot! (most of my spinning was done during the summers in Louisiana)
    Travel Spot recently posted..The Relay: Race RecapMy Profile

  6. So glad you posted this. I do spin! I love it. I try to go at least one time a week but would really love to work 2 days of spin back in my schedule. Some of my running pals thought I was nuts when I told them I thought spinning was why my running has improved in regards to both speed and endurance. If I had to choose a favorite form of cross training it would definitely be spinning!
    kimert recently posted..Three Things Thursday (+1)My Profile

    • Yes- unfortunately it does require a gym membership. There are plenty of options for cross training from home, too, as you have been sharing! I like the idea of not belonging to a gym, but for now, especially with Houston’s summers, it’s really helpful!
      Laura recently posted..Spinning for runners- part oneMy Profile

    • Yes! Cross training comes in so many forms– anything to give some variety to running is so helpful. Swimming’s a great one, too… it’s always on my “if I have extra time in my week” to-do list, but I’m not great about squeezing it in.
      Laura recently posted..Spinning for runners- part oneMy Profile

    • You should give it a try! The nice thing about spinning is that you make it your own… you don’t have to increase the gear if it’s too challenging, and you move at your own pace… so you can make it as easy or difficult as you want (and most people won’t be able to tell if you’re not hard core!)
      Laura recently posted..Spinning for runners- part oneMy Profile

  7. Because I’m a RLRF girl, I XT like a mother and yes, I’ve noticed the benefits from spinning that you describe. I find the fast RPM interval training helps my leg turnover in running and I feel stronger and faster. 😀
    Marcia recently posted..Pre-Race DreamsMy Profile

  8. Love that you did this post, I’ve been wanting to go to some spin classes and now I want to go even more 🙂 wish I could come to a class taught by you too! I like that you pointed out that the instructor is who really makes it or breaks it for you, the one class I did a while ago wasn’t that challenging and I missed running but it must of been the instructor that didn’t push me as hard as I would of wanted to. I look forward to reading more about spinning in part 2 🙂
    Kris recently posted..Week 9 of Half Marathon Training and Bloomsday Race ReportMy Profile

    • Aww, I would love to have you in my class! I had two people today who didn’t seem all that interested in working hard, which is fine- but I really appreciate when people are there because they want a tough workout!
      Laura recently posted..Spinning for runners- part oneMy Profile

  9. I first tried spinning about a year ago when we belonged to a different gym and I LOVED it. It was such a great, sweaty, empowering workout. Then we changed gyms and our current gym’s cycle classes are more geared towards actual cyclists, which isn’t my thing. Gold’s Gym (which teaches RPM classes) just bought our gym, so I”m hoping they start offering RPM style classes.

    Would love to attend one of your classes!!
    Michelle {lively kitchen} recently posted..Photo Friday – good eats, conquering the fear and her first runMy Profile

  10. Great that you found a x-training activity that you like. I do like spinning and cycling in general. My typical Friday workout is an easy hour on the bike followed by yoga to set myself up nicely for Saturday’s long run.
    misszippy recently posted..They won’t’ always get itMy Profile

    • That’s a great way to prep for a long run. Fridays have become my “off” day lately, but now I’m teaching a spin class Friday morning so I’ll be experimenting to see how the long runs feel on Saturdays.
      Laura recently posted..Spinning for runners- part oneMy Profile

  11. My husband and I bought an exercise bike in December so we could get back into shape after having our second baby in under 2 years (having a newborn and almost 2-year old made it hard to get to the gym). I’ve worked out really hard on it consistently since December (and lost 35 pounds). 3 weeks ago I decided to give running a try. I’m really NOT a runner at all. Never have been. I’ve never done anything athletic. In the past, whenever I would try and run, I’d quit after 30 seconds.

    This time, however, I completely surprised myself by being able to run for 2 miles without stopping the very first time. Since then, I’ve ran for as many as 5 miles without stopping, which is huge for me.

    The only thing I can attribute this success to is spinning. It definitely increased my ability to run further without getting out of breath and has built the muscles in my legs. So yes, I totally agree with this post. 🙂

    • Wow, that is amazing, Shoni! Congrats to you on your weight loss success and seeing all your hard work pay off. And I love that you’re finding your running legs! Thanks so much for sharing your story.
      Laura recently posted..Spinning for runners- part oneMy Profile

  12. Very cool! I have taught Spinning for 8 years now….I am a runner! I love to share my first marathon story. I ran 2 times a week, 3 if I was super lucky. I was teaching 4-6 spin classes a week as well as lifting weights etc. I easily ran a sub 4 hour marathon and I thank spinning for sure! Running was my cross training in this instance! I only teach 3 spins a week now, but it really keeps my fitness up!
    Marcia@momwifefitnesslife recently posted..Race Reminiscing Through Pictures!My Profile

    • I love your story!! I have always been a relatively low mileage runner and love that spinning can help with longer races… I used it a lot in my half training, but haven’t trained for another marathon yet. I’m curious to see how different my next marathon cycle will look with spinning in the picture (hopefully no injuries afterward next time!)
      Laura recently posted..Spinning for runners- part oneMy Profile

    • That is amazing! Isn’t it crazy that we can take 8 weeks off and feel like we didn’t lose much running fitness? It’s the main reason I’ve held onto my gym membership too– weights I can do at home, runs I prefer to do outside… but I don’t have a bike at home. Maybe someday- although I think the group effect is more powerful!
      Laura recently posted..Spinning for runners- part oneMy Profile

  13. i have heard a few times now that if you bike hard enough it can help you get through running injuries to come back strong. i finally started doing more biking and was surprised that after a month or so i actually liked it!
    Amanda @RunToTheFinish recently posted..Help me hit a PR!My Profile

    • I was surprised to find how much I liked it, too! And it made me appreciate running more, since it replaced one of my easier runs, I’m not running as many days per week and I really look forward to my runs more than I used to.
      Laura recently posted..Spinning for runners- part oneMy Profile

  14. My old trainers used to beg me to try Spinning, but was always afraid because of my asthma and when I saw my aunt come out dripping sweat repeating “I’m gonna die” “I can’t breathe”….Although I did find it pretty funny. She survived, she just hadn’t worked that hard in a long time. I love when you take a different approach to exercise and it surprising makes a huge difference. Nice finish to your race and that you felt great after.
    Lilli Toby recently posted..Jumping ropeMy Profile

    • The nice thing about spinning is that you control how hard you work- so you can come away without breaking a sweat (which I wouldn’t encourage!) or you can push yourself to make fitness gains. It is fun to mix things up and try new things!
      Laura recently posted..Spinning for runners- part oneMy Profile

  15. I started spinning a couple weeks ago consistently. I love it now that my behind is used to it. I have heard it helps with endurance and run time, so I’m hoping! I am drenched in sweat everytime I leave a spin class and I always get a good workout! Looking forward to more info on Monday.

    Oh, and I do have a question. I have been wanting a heart rate monitor to use during spin class since my resting heart rate is higher then normal and I want to make sure I dont get my heart rate up to much. Any suggestions for a watch/heart rate monitor? I would also love a watch that has a GPS for my runs. If you have any recommendations I would love to hear them.
    Andrea Merrigan recently posted..Fitness Friday 4.27.12My Profile

    • Congrats on starting spinning! I am sure you will experience some running benefits along the way. Yes- a lot of instructors will give guidance in class as to where your heart rate should be through intervals. Adidas miCoach Connect and HR is a basic one just for heart rate and includes pace. If you’re looking for GPS, Garmin’s watches are expensive but definitely worth the money, in my opinion! You don’t need the fanciest model: the Forerunner 210 is a great option. Feel free to email me if you want more details or have other questions!
      Laura recently posted..Spinning for runners- part oneMy Profile

  16. Cool post! I have done a spinning class on occasion – and with the right instructor – really enjoy them. I’m doing a lot of cross training with hiking hills and carrying weight, which I think helps with running hills! 🙂
    Mandy recently posted..Life is Better When You’re a DogMy Profile

  17. I agree, spinning is such a great cross training exercise that is still high in intensity and caloric burn but doesn’t pound the legs. It’s helped me during my stress fracture this winter come back just as strong, if not stronger. LOVE IT!
    Jen recently posted..Tour de Cure Training and Life LessonsMy Profile

    • I thought I already replied to this, but I just wanted to say, thanks for sharing your story, Jen! I didn’t realize spinning was your main cross training, that’s so inspiring- you really maintained your fitness!
      Laura recently posted..Purposeful running- Kim’s storyMy Profile

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  19. i love spinning so much that a few years ago i bought my own spin bike. best investment ever! i like to mix things up on cross training days…currently i’m also working my way through the P90X2 program…
    bekkah recently posted..the running mamaMy Profile

  20. Wow! I did not know there were so many enthusiastic Spinners out there. This is an awesome blog, and your baby is soooo cute! I have been teaching Spinning since a couple of years now and you have indeed given great advice to beginners. Glad to see so many women taking up this exercise to stay fit.
    Great job with posting, and looking forward to more news from your end!

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