Running & Fitness

Give Spinning a Spin

Meredith O’Brien
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Being from the North East, the cold rarely bothers me here in Virginia Beach, but I do many of my training runs partially on the Virginia Beach boardwalk. Home to what are often strong, sea water and salt filled winds, running out there just is not worth it sometimes. When the weather turns sour and I cannot force myself outside, I will head to the gym. Rather than aiming for a dreadmill, however, I jump right into a spin class. It is always great to workout with a group, and spinning has many of the same benefits a run does.

Here are a three big reasons I am not afraid to use spinning as an awesome substitute for the occasional bad weather training run, and why you should consider a spin class as well.

Maintain or increase fitness. Spin class often involves lots of variety in pace and resistance, which is great for challenging the cardiovascular system. Making your legs work harder to pedal against more resistance or increase tempo not only gets muscles burning, but raises your heart rate. A higher heart rate, and the interval work that is a big part of spin class, are fantastic ways to increase lactic acid threshold. Stronger legs and a higher lactic acid threshold mean longer runs with less fatigue, and that is a goal towards which every runner should strive.

Avoid injury. Spin class strengthens muscles required for running without the impact on hips, knees and ankles that running produces. It is possible to simulate a long run, tempo work and even hills on a stationary spin bike, which is especially handy during icy winter months. Running hills can be incredibly dangerous in the ice and snow, and if you are prepping for that Boston Qualifier race, injury is not something you want on the menu. Taking a spin class is an excellent way to build quad strength without risking a twist, stumble or fall.

Cadence. The more efficient you are at pedaling in a spin class, the more power you will put out and the faster you will go. The same thing goes for runners and running. The less time each foot spends in contact with the ground, the faster your body will travel. One of the best ways to improve race times is to increase leg turnover rates, and if you get your legs used to moving fast on a bike, they will want to move fast on the ground, too. And an added bonus?  The less time your feet spend hitting the ground, the more likely you are to stay injury free.

Happy running in 2014!  I am a few weeks into training for 2014’s first race, and with six half marathons in five states in addition to a few 5, 8 and 10K races on the books, I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead.

How do you substitute during bad weather?  Have you tried a spin class?