After #ISTE2014, my head is spinning… (aka five spinning hacks)

Hey guys.  Thanks for tuning into yet another random blog post.  I just returned from #ISTE2014, via Google Teacher Academy (#GTAATL), via Canada’s Flipped Learning Conference (#canflip14), via Innovative Education Colorado (#InnEdCo14), via iPadpalooza (#iplza14).  The day before that was the last day of work.  Right before that,  I had a teary goodbye with my students, preceded by a mad dash to pack up my room, preceded by a mad dash to finish the yearbook, and other random end of the year madness.  So, yeah…it’s been intense. These last few weeks,  I have learned so freaking much and met/hung with so many cool people face-to-face, that I can’t even begin to process all the awesomeness.  I will spare you until another blog post.  Maybe. Anywhoooooo…this blog post will go in a slightly different direction than my usual educational technology topics.  Today, I want to talk a little bit about work-life balance.

This is How I Roll

A few months ago, I posted a video about how technology helped me get in shape.  Right now, I’m in a more rounded shape (ha!), but I’m happy to say that I’ve maintained a net loss of 40 pounds.  If you missed it, here it is again:

Today, I made the very tough decision to get off the couch, despite the jet lag, and go to spin class.  My definition of spinning, which may or may not be quite accurate, is stationary cycling.  It’s not like those big clunky bikes you see in most places…they look more like the Tour de France bikes.

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I’ve been doing spin class off and on for about seven or eight years, but I really got into it about a year and a half ago.  I really like spinning, because it forces me to clear my head and disconnect for an hour, and focus on what I’m doing.  Cell phone use is highly discouraged, which is exactly the excuse I need to leave it alone. I have to shout out a couple of awesome instructors.  I have seen some great ones, but the three whom I have enjoyed the most are named Reem, Tee, and Michael.  If you are in the DMV, I highly recommend you check out their classes.  Tonight was Reem’s class, and I’m so glad I went.  By the time it was over, I even had the energy to lift some weights.  Total difference from how I came in, like a zombie. Here are five spinning hacks for the newbies, and anyone else who may want some tips.

Five Spinning Hacks

  1. Get your settings right.  This is very important, otherwise you won’t be comfortable.  Well, let me not mislead you.  The first few times, your derriere will probably be very uncomfortable, thanks to the saddle, but stick with it and your body will adjust.  The Hack:
    • In terms of the adjustable settings, stand next to the bike, and set the seat at approximately hip level.
    • If there’s a horizontal setting for the seat, adjust to your preference.  I like to push my seat forward, personally, since I’m kind of vertically challenged.    Taller people may like theirs backwards.  The goal is to be able to reach the handlebars from a seated position without too much strain.
    • The handlebar vertical position is based on your preference.  I like mine high, because it hurts my back to bend down too far.
    • Make note of your settings once you have found the perfect balance.  This will save you the trouble of having to go through all that hassle in the future.
  2. Adjust your resistance.  Spin instructors have different styles, but many of them ask you to adjust your resistance based on your RPE (rate of perceived exertion).  Some of them may call it a scale of 1-10.  One is no resistance, and 10 feels like you’re pushing through mud.  The Virgo in me has found a hack for this to keep it somewhat quantitative.  The Hack:
    • On old-school bikes (i.e. manual models): Before class begins, get on the bike.  From a seated position, keep turning the knob to add resistance until your legs can no longer pedal.  That is your level 10.  Turn the knob the other way to release resistance.  Each full turn of the knob takes you down a number.  Before class starts, get to a level three or so.  That’s usually where you need to be for warm-up.  Don’t panic if it all starts feeling the same after five.  Trust me, your legs will thank me later.
    • On new-school bikes (i.e. digital models):  I usually do the same process here.  Push the resistance until you can’t pedal anymore.  From there, I try to break down the levels into multiples of 10, and go from there.  For example, if my RPE of 10 is a level 20, then my 1 RPE would be level 2, 2 RPE would be level 4, etc.
    • Find whatever system works best for you.  This is just my strategy, and it’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all.  Winging it may work just as well for some folks.
  3. Water.  I suck at drinking water.  Spin class will force you to drink.  Some people sweat so much that they leave puddles on the floor.  I have witnessed maintenance coming with a mop when class was over.  One instructor even brought a “Caution: Wet Floor” sign with him, and used it as a prize for the hardest worker.  If he put it next to your bike, you were the big winner.  The struggle is real in spin class.
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    The Hack:

      • Want to get through a 20 oz bottle?  Take three sips every time the song changes.
      • Is water gross to you?  If so, flavor it with Mio, or Crystal Light, or something like that.
      • Even better…use this stuff.
  4. Gear.  You don’t have to have any special shoes or clothes for spinning.  Gym clothes and tennis shoes work just fine.  Just make sure your laces are tied, so the bike doesn’t try to eat them.  True story…it happened to me tonight.  However, proper cycling shoes do make a difference, as they have harder soles.  I can’t really put the difference into words, but you’ll understand when you put them on.  The skies will open up, and birds will start to sing.  In addition, certain spinning clothes may be useful.  The Hack:
    • Only invest in spin gear when you decide that you want to continue.  I don’t want to hear, “Sarahdateechur told me to spend $100 on this stuff, and it was a waste of money.”  Stick with the basics until you know if spinning is right for you.
    • You can get cheaper spin shoes on  Check out this deal that I got. Advantage: They have stepped my spin game up, big time.  Disadvantage: I didn’t get to try them out first, so they’re kind of narrow.  Also, the European sizes are a little confusing to us in the States.  But you can use a size converter, such as this one and you’ll be in the right ballpark.
    • I also got a sauna suit that I wear under my workout clothes sometimes. It makes a lot of claims.  Advantage: I can’t vouch for all of the benefits, but what I can say is that it makes you sweat a lot more.  This, in turn, makes you drink more water.  Win-win.  Disadvantage:  You smell like rubber really badly until you wash it…a lot.
  5. Have fun.  One thing that was keeping me from spin class, prior to the weight loss, was that I was afraid of being judged.  I imagined that the room would be full of these fit, Barbie and Ken look-alikes, pitying me for being the “big girl.”  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Spin class is full of all types of people.  And, furthermore, who gives a crap?!? Forgive my French.  The Hack:
    • The best quote I have ever heard went a little something like this: “What others think of me is none of my business.”  Let that sink in, rinse, and repeat.  You are your own worst critic.  Nobody else is paying you any mind, except to give you your props for being part of the spin community.  I have a hypothesis that most people are like me, looking at themselves in the mirror, making sure their RPE 10 faces don’t look too…cough…inappropriate.
    • If anyone does say anything off-kilter to you, realize that it’s a problem with them and not with you.  Sometimes it’s easier said than done, but don’t let one person derail you from your mission.  This is just like anything else in life…you may deal with negative people, but you have to let them roll off your back.
    • Soak in the music and relax.  Make spin class fun.  If you prefer to go it alone, there’s a great app called iRideInside, available from the App Store for iOS (possibly for Android, too).


The Cool-Down

Well, that was a lot longer than I had anticipated.  Congratulations for making it to the end of our ride.  As educators, we have a lot on our plate, and exercise is a great way for us to take a mental break, while doing something good for our bodies.  Schedule time in your day to take care of yourself.  However, before you leave, please chime in with a comment and/or by answering the poll below.  Happy summer!

Want more fitness tips?  Click here for my Fitness board on Pinterest.