Sunday, January 10, 2010

Contaminating my hermetically sealed fitness routine with human interaction -- yikes

As I've often told people, I really did have to attend my Weight Watchers meetings to lose my weight.  I needed the meetings for a host of different reasons, but first and foremost has been the value of being weighed by a Weight Watchers person.  In any case, when it comes to staying on the path of nutritional righteousness, I'm very much a group participation person.

Interestingly, I have never been one for group exercise.  When it comes to working out, I'm pretty much of a lone wolf (dark and mysterious, even).  My weight lifting routine is too much of a Rube Goldberg contraption to expect either 1) others to do it with me or 2) find room for a personal trainer in my complicated mix.  When it comes to cardio, I am also an individual player, preferring to jack in my own tunes on a Lifecycle and have at it at my own pace.  It's worked well for me, so my stance has been not to rock the boat.

Now I find myself on the precipice of slowing including social-exercise into my weekly routine.  It's kind of my New Years exercise resolution to start routinely including the following two group formats:

  1. Spinning
  2. Yoga

I've been to about three spinning classes over the past week at Equinox gyms in NYC and in CT.  Compared to solo cycling, there really isn't any comparison.  I find myself pushing at least 50% to 75% harder in spinning classes than when pedaling on my own.  I've been wondering why this is the case?  You can get a ridiculously hard workout on a Lifecycle, so why don't I?  The answers:

  1. The spinning instructor:  she (Emma) seems like a nice, kind, decent person on the outside.  However, once the class starts, she becomes slightly fascist and a little bit abusive.  "David, you're spinning too fast, you need more resistance!"  "I need you to get to a place where you are kind of miserable."  "You should be feeling nasty by now."  This is not nice behavior, but strangely it works.  When someone looks you in the eye and tells you to push harder, you do.  
  2. Peer pressure:  when I exercise on my own, I feel like pretty much of a stud.  In my solo-workout mind, I'm pushing my pedals harder than what anyone has ever attempted before!  I rule!  In a spinning class, I keep seeing everyone keeping pace while jacking up the tension on their spinning wheel.  I stink.  Therefore, I push to keep up.  [BTW, I cannot rule out the possibility that they really aren't increasing tension on their wheel, and it's all for show.  Not that I would ever do this.]
Bottom line:  my desire for the approval of others (Gold Stars are the best!) and my inherent competitiveness make this format pretty ideal no matter how much physical duress it creates during the actual class.  Based on this, I plan to make spinning a new part of my fitness scene.   

One side point on spinning class selection:  three key elements to a great class (my opinion, anyway). 
  1. Good music:  no to house music I've never heard of.  No to really slow music (including dirges).  Never show tunes (really, never).  Yes to music that is hard and fast.  Yes to cheesy, spastic music.  
  2. Instructor must have a sense of humor and must not take herself/himself too seriously.  Prefer if instructor can avoid temptation to be a life coach during the class.  Best spinning instructor I ever had was prone to violent air guitaring during the class.  
  3. Class should be fun and slightly silly while also being challenging.  

My second area for exploration is Yoga.  I have historically been pretty skeptical about the whole spiritual exercise thing.  I prefer the route of the knuckle dragger, clinging to my free weights at all cost.  However, I decided to give yoga a try for two reasons:
  1. Stretching:  I am probably the least flexible person I know.  I rarely stretch after exercise due to my lack of time and discipline about activities that I don't see directly leading to the improvement of my appearance/vanity.  However, it's a little sad that someone who considers himself to be in really good shape cannot touch his toes without a sizable knee bend.  Yoga is a pretty thorough way to get in a huge range of stretching that I would otherwise never do.  
  2. Getting my zen on:  like most people, it feels like my brain is on constant overdrive, barreling from thought to thought without ever a break.  Meditation is increasingly used as a great way to settle the brain and improve concentration.  Again, the yoga classes I have tried have had a pretty heavy dose of concentration.  I have even been known to join in the chanting, albeit with my usual tone deafness (my singing voice sounds like a horrible cross between Frankenstein and Tarzan -- see old SNL clips w/ Jon Lovitz for an example).  
As was the case with spinning classes, I have particular preferences when it comes to Yoga.  Specifically, I seem to be gravitating toward birkenstock, crunchy, chanting yoga classes rather than hyperactive, hardcore aerobic-class style yoga.  To each, his/her own.   

So what does exercise look like going forward given these changes:
  • Weights:  no change here.  Stick to 4X split each week.  Keep morning about physical fitness.
  • Cardio:  use Lifecycle as 30 min adjunct to my weight lifting mornings.  It still has the benefit of easy in-and-out.  However, replace two of my 45 minute cardio-only Lifecycle workouts with spinning classes.
  • Zen stuff:  try to get to one yoga class during the week at night and one on the weekend.  
Will I stick with all of this?  I hope so.  It feels like good blend of resistance training, ample cardio, and a little bit of stress management.  

What fitness changes are you guys doing this year?  




  1. First, I love this blog. Entertaining and informative. Reading about your exercise regime both shames me and inspires me. I've almost lost all the weight I'd hoped to, and next I have to get serious about working out.

    My friend and I also write a blog, which I think you might enjoy as it incorporates much about our WW experience...we both joined in September.The link is:

    I have also written an email to you and have called your office twice this past week to get your email address but to no avail. Would it be possible to send it to me so that I could write you? I would appreciate it. Many thanks.

    lyn familant

  2. I spin about 5 days per week. My instructors are drill srgts for 60 minutes. I have a spin bike at home as I wanted to be able to train myself. My cadence on the hills are never as fast as when Im in group class. And I never do sprints at home. ha ha. I am tough on myself when I work out --but I just dont do what i dont like. HUman Nature maybe? I still get a great work out but I dont incorporate the sprints or hill sprints. So this blog reminds me to catch 2 classses a week to get back to basics. Stretching is huge and a big issues wit athletes. I used to be a runner 3 marathons under my belt but I never ever stretched. Can you believe that? Now I do Pilates. Love love love it. In fact it is a workout and makes everything run smoother. I will think of your spin insturctor when mine yells at me to increase my hill cadence. Good luck! Great post!

  3. there's a spin instructer in this world that dares to teach to Barry White - unfollow. I love spin class for all teh reasons you state - on your own you dont push yourself near as hard as the Nazi spin fascist will (facism and nazi all in one right). My new thing is to do a down town loop every sunday - great for walking, exploring, seeing my city and getting some vitamin D.

  4. Gotta look up gel seats on Amazon. Haven't spun in years but I found it crucial to be properly equipped.

  5. coincidence would have me at my first spin class in about three years this afternoon. i quickly remembered why i didn't care too much for it back then (incredibly sore tushie) but when i went to my WW activity tracker and saw that a 45 min spin class netted me 7 activity points versus the 3 that i usually earn with 30 mins on the eliptical...well, let's just say i'll find myself with a sore tushie again twice a week.

  6. Dave,
    WHAT's UP WITH THE CBS STORY?? PLEASE TELL ME YOU WON"T LET THEM GET AWY WITH SUCH A GROSS REPRESENTATION OF US???? Sorry for shouting, but I just read about it on the staff site and now I am all riled up. Phooey on you, CBS! :(

  7. Yes to many things you said, but I have to say, yoga has lead to specific, noticible "cut" arms and abs for me because I go to the most challenging but beginner-friendly yoga in NYC. Check it out, if you'd like - yoga to the people. It's awesome, I sweat more than when I'm doing "regular" cardio, and I get my zen on too. It's excellent time management, as far as I'm concerned.

  8. I've just started using the nautilus weight resistance machines at the Y it's a circuit with red/green light giving the indication. I try two-three circuits followed by 30 mins elliptical (still working up to that!), treadmill or bike. I've totally been wanting to check out the spinning classes too, I usually am at the gym same time they are on and yep, music is awesome and teacher abusive, but I respond well to that when exercising...maybe that's why I lurve Jillian so much LOL
    Good for you for the balanced routine you've got going, yoga still scares me a little!

  9. i attended my first kickboxing class last week, and i'm in LOVE. tonight's my second class and i'll be going three days a week now. i was really scared because it's at an actual kung-fu studio, not just a gym that has various classes. my classmates welcomed me right away, and it was the perfect blend of fun and hard work. yay for stepping out of our comfort zones for hot bods!

  10. I'm also not much for human interaction during workouts, but oddly enough I LOVED Zumba classes. Someday I'll be back at a gym that has classes, but for now, I'll continue lone warrior-ing it on the 'mill or the roads training.

  11. I've got the seat and the earplugs. Now all I need is the motivation. Tell me, does the music really have to be so loud? I can't even walk by the spin room without my ears being assaulted. OK, OK, I'll give it a try on your say so!

  12. Zumba is a wonderful group exercise program too...and its all about fun

  13. I started cardio boxing 4 days a week, along with my regular workout (Oddly enough, I'm more the zen yoga type to begin with, having practiced Ashtanga yoga for the past five years); it's sweaty, hard work, but after about 30 minutes of hitting the bag you feel great.

  14. I just located your blog today. I am a FB fan. I am 2.5 pounds from goal weight!! (finally) I started with solitary walking. Which really helped me settle my mind. Then I swam in the summer and took up flat water kayaking. All wonderful and all good for the mind but all solitary. I joined a gym so I could begin some strength training on the nautilus type machines. Still solitary. But I discovered I was loosing my motivation. My daughter talked me into attending a Zumba class over the Thanksgiving break. What fun!! I have a terrific teacher. The music is exciting with a good beat. The ages of my fellow Zumba's is from the 20's to the oldest being 84. I love this stuff. I even went to the "BIG" zumba class with 300 people the other night. It was an event to support a local Heart Institute with the inventor of Zumba, Beto Perez. Awesome!! It is all about moving, sweating, burning calories and having fun. Who cares if this old WV gal can't shake her booty like the young gals. I am shaking it off and that is what I am in it for. Great motivation.

  15. I have done some type of group aerobics for many years. The music and the instructor is crucial for motivation and inspiration. The instructor must remember they are there for you and not for themselves!