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:
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:
- 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.
- 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.]
- 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.
- 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.
- Class should be fun and slightly silly while also being challenging.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.