Monthly Archives: January 2014

Group Cycle, Spinning and RPM

The training begins…

Boris Bikes

Last week it suddenly hit me that not only is our crazy challenge not ‘next year’ anymore, in fact it’s actually only just over six months or, more precisely, 207 days to go!

So that’s 207 days to get fit… and more importantly learn how to ride a bike! About 10 days ago Daniel Gould from Cycling Active kindly came to photograph us cycling to work on the Barclays Bikes, or at least trying to cycle in my case! Let’s just say I realised that definitely need to practice my traffic avoidance and general steering technique. As fun as crawling around London on these clunky bikes and stopping every time a car passes may be – I don’t feel like it is getting me much fitter! So I’ve resorted to an alternative solution: indoor cycling. In the last few weeks I’ve tried every cycling class at the gym. I never knew there were so many!

What is the difference between RPM, Spinning and Group Cycle anyway?

I’ve done all three in the last week and while they all cover the interval, hill climb (seated and standing) and sprinting elements of normal cycling, there seem to be some obvious differences even to a novice like me!

RPM follows a set structure, which is pre-choreographed with no flexibility for the instructor to make changes or adapt the activity to the mood of the participants. You are supposed to hit your max three times with recovery periods in between, this is meant to make you burn more calories and continue burning even after you have finished exercising – appealing if weight loss is your goal! Group Cycle is a free-style class, the instructor can choose any music and set the structure of the class. Depending on the instructor this class may burn the least calories. Spinning is also free-style, but with more emphasis on high intensity training, which is good for endurance and strength and probably burns the most calories out of the three.

I suppose RPM is good if you like predictability and want to know that you are getting the exact same workout every class. owever, I can’t imagine it is the best way to train your body – surely every real cycle ride will have it’s differences and you will go faster and slower in different areas, even the weather will make a difference.  I also suspect that your body must get used to the predictable rhythm of the class and so you stop progressing beyond a certain point and your fitness plateaus, unless alternative training sessions are added.

Both Spinning and Group Cycle are much more varied and the instructor can tailor the class to their mood or the performance of the participants as they go along. The music also changes and you never know what you are going to get when you walk into the class. This could be a good or bad thing. It means that the instructor in these sessions is far more important – they can really make the class great or… not so great! Their energy and choices really make an impact on the workout you get, so you may be disappointed if their choice of music or structure is not what you expected.

Personally I find RPM quite boring and I don’t really like knowing in advance exactly how long I am going to have to punish my poor thigh muscles. I also think I find it easier to push myself harder when there is more interaction and a feeling of spontaneity and fun, which I get most in the spinning classes I’ve attended so far!

The real question is how helpful are any of these classes in preparing one for cycling outside? I guess I’ll find out soon… Realistically I know there are a lot of challenges that come with real cycling that you can never encounter in the gym… the wonderful, but unpredictable English weather, uneven road surfaces and of course traffic (not to mention punctured wheels or broken chains!). For the moment, I’m happy that I feel fitter. Even after just a few classes I can tell that my body is responding to this new form of exercise and it feels good. The endorphin rush after spinning is particularly great – addictive almost! 🙂

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