Sunday, November 30, 2008

Adrenaline packed playlist

OK, as of last night, I've finally made the mental switch to winter. I fight it all autumn, mourning the loss of longer days and warmer temps and of putting my bike away for the winter (my new pink bike that I didn't get to rid that much after I got it!), dreading every extra layer I have to put on, or the fact that I now need gloves when I go outside or that we now need to add shoveling the driveway to our list of duties to be shared (fortunately my DH does it most of the time). 

Every year the transition to winter is aided by the yearly release of the Warren Miller ski film. Once I watch the film, I walk out energized to take out my skis and get out in the snow. (It doesn't hurt that it's been dumping snow for 3 days and more is on the way).

We went to this year's movie last night in Beaver Creek. Living in a ski town, the auditorium was full of newly arrived just out of college skiers/snowboarders who plan on spending a season (or two or four or ten) living the ski-town lifestyle, waiting tables at night for their primary income, with another on-mountain job like a lift-operator (a "liftie" in ski-town jargon) to get their passes so they can ski or snowboard every day (that was kind of me 15 years ago when I began teaching skiing!) It was a rowdy crowd, with hoots and hollers with every amazing stunt, or with every crash (lots of them), or during the scenes of endless pillows of white powder to plow through. 

That white powder is our gold here in Vail, Colorado.

If you've never seen a Warren Miller ski film you might not understand. If you're not a skier, you really won't understand! But if you have, and if you are, you know exactly what I'm talking about. Warren Miller is an icon in the ski industry, making his first ski film back in 1937 I think it was! It's come a long way since then, with adrenaline filled, action packed clips of skiers and boarders hucking themselves off huge cliffs or down steep rocky couloirs in the Rockies, Alaska, Chile, Russia or Europe, double twisting flips with mute grabs in competitions, or plowing through chest deep powder in places all over this planet.

The reason for this post is that music is a huge part of these films and I want to share the soundtrack with you. It's funny, as I sat there watching the movie, my mind often wandered to, "Wow! This would be a great Race Day song!" or "I wonder if my peeps would go for this song?"

Some of the music they use in the films is way too adrenaline packed for me (more for the Gen X snowboard/skateboard crowd), but there are some fun energetic songs that I will be adding to my library.  You might find a lot of great tunes from this list depending on your tastes and your market. 

So, check out this playlist! It includes everything from Sigur Ros and the Foo Fighters, to the older rock of Cream to world music of Afro Celt Soundsystem. This year's movie is called Children of Winter, but on the left side of the page, you'll see the playlists for the past 5 years of movies. 

OK, it's time to go get my skis tuned....

Saturday, November 29, 2008

It's Snowing! Help! I'm teaching too much to ski!

And more snow is on the way.  I might have to pull my skis out and take a few turns on Monday (too many people in town this holiday weekend).

Which makes me think, it's going to be time to drop a class soon.  My Spinning schedule is too intense (for me) to be able to ski much.  Tuesday 5:30 pm, then Wednesday 6:00 a.m. (less than 12 hrs later).  Then I repeat that Thursday 5:30 pm and 12 hrs later, Friday 6:oo a.m.  By Friday I am toast.

Of course, I'll be doing a lot of aerobic base building coming up soon (and I'll be sharing with you all my info on periodizing and base building so make sure to come back often).  So one would think I could handle it if I were riding at lower intensities. But this schedule really is taking its toll on my physically, and I want to be able to ski 1-2 times per week. Skiing hard wrecks my legs for Spinning, and lots of Spinning wrecks my legs for skiing.

What's a girl to do?? I moved to Vail to ski, and I haven't got that much skiing in the past couple of years (too much working on weekends).

So it's one of my goals to ski much more this year. 

By the way, if anyone reading this is anywhere in Colorado and you come up to Vail, or if you're taking a vacation out here, let me know and we'll make some turns! 

Sigh....I guess I'll be giving up a Tuesday or Thursday night sooner than later!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

What I am grateful for...

Taking a little break from cooking and cleaning the house, getting ready for guests (13!) in an hour and a half....

I've been dwelling on what I am grateful for today. And I want to get it written down.

I am thankful....

  • For my husband Jeff, for being understanding of my quirks and silliness (and for understanding me when I spend a lot of time on my blog!), for sharing my life, for recognizing when he's cranky and apologizing for it, for being such a sweetheart, for coming to my Spin classes 7+ years ago (where we met), for being such a good athlete himself...
  • For the house that Jeff is building for us, about 20 miles away. About 2 months from being finished.
  • For living in such a beautiful place. It's getting cold now, so the wonders of winter are awaiting me (just a little more snow though, before I'll get out and ski).
  • For my good health; this is something I really cherish!
  • For Spinning, because it's allowed me to stay in excellent cycling shape throughout the winter - bikes on trainers can be so boring!
  • For my role as an instructor, because I love working with people to help them reach their goals.
  • For my role as a Master Instructor, because of the wonderful people I've met from around the world who are as passionate about Spinning as I am, and because it allows me to inspire other instructors to inspire their students. I just LOVE doing this! :-)
  • For my back. Despite the challenges it provides me occasionally, I could be so much worse off, and I am thankful that I can do everything I can do! Every now and then it reminds me that it has its limits, and now I can say I'm grateful for those reminders because it keep me careful. (my goal - more core training....)
  • For the fact that I found a way to have fitness as my job. Albert Schweizer said, "Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are dong, you will be successful."
  • For my bicycle tour company, Viva Travels, because it not only allows me to share my love of cycling in Europe with others (and make some money in the process) but look where I get to go ride my bike (AND get a tax write off while researching it)! ;-) Alpe d'Huez, Mont Ventoux, the Dolomites, Tuscany, the Pyrenees, etc! I am soooooooo grateful for this!
  • For my friends around the world, who keep my life even more interesting.
  • For the amazing opportunities that are presenting themselves in this economy - they're there if you'll look hard enough! History is FULL of stories of people who come out of recessions far better off than they were before, and I plan on being one of those people! I will not buy into this bad economy BS, I will only look for the good, how I can grow, how I can turn things around and really improve my income. (Because I'm not afraid to admit it - I want to make a lot of money some day. That's the only way I'll be able to help the world in the way I plan on doing it. And to travel and see other amazing parts of the world that are awaiting.
  • For my parents and the things they gave up in order to provide excellent educations for me and my siblings. I am thankful to them to this day for their sacrifices. Everything they did was for us!
  • For music and the way it makes me feel! ;-)
  • For gourmet food and wine - ah, one of life's greatest joys! (That's probably from all the traveling I've done in France - it's rubbed off on me!)
  • For Peace. The more we focus on being grateful for peace, the more likely we are to have it. Not being anti-war...but being pro-peace. Here's to the eventual end to the war in Iraq!
  • I am so incredibly grateful for the outcome of our election, and the direction I believe our country will take from here on in. It won't be a quick-fix, it won't be an easy 4 years, it's not a fairy-tale that with a wave of a wand all the negativity and wrong directions will be fixed right away. It will take sacrifice on everyone's part. But I believe that Yes We Can! I am grateful for Barack Obama!
  • For blogs! A year ago I never thought I'd be doing this, but what a great way to connect with people!
  • For everyone who reads my blog. Thank you so much!
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

My Thanksgiving class - The Gratitude Ride

I've decided to dedicate my Turkey Burner class to Gratitude.  It's a 90-minute ride tomorrow morning.  I'm teaching a 90-minute "Afterburner" class on Friday at another club and will do the same ride.

I am mentoring a new instructor, Samantha, who got certified with me a month ago.  She has already team taught two classes with me so far, and she will be serving up the "appetizer" and "apéritif" for tomorrow's ride.  I've asked her to do some surges and accelerations on the flats (see my previous profile for more explanation), for 20+ minutes after the warm-up and introduction.

When everyone arrives, I will hand them a post-it note and a pencil.  Then when class starts, I will ask them to write down 3 things that they are grateful for in their lives, and on the back of the paper, 3 things that are current challenges in their lives. They don't have to share it with anyone; it's just for them. Fold it up and put it in their pocket, or stick it on their handlebar as motivation, or whatever they want to do with it. It's more ceremonial than anything else.

Some of the song choices have something to do with the theme; some don't, and are chosen for the terrain and rhythm.

Here are the first 6 songs that Samantha will do:

1. Neil Diamond, Coming To America 4:19
Explain the format.  Samantha will serve the appetizer and apéritif for the first 30 minutes, mostly on the flats, revving up their legs, getting into some jumps, with one song of runs with resistance.  Jennifer will then come in and serve the "meat and potatoes", which will be some challenging climbs, followed by the "dessert", an easy flat to the finish.

We'll ask them to write down their challenges and the things for which they are grateful during this song.

2. Andy vs Dreamgate, Now We Are Free (Andy & the Lamboy Club Mix) 7:47
Warm-up continues.  One of the things we are grateful in our country is our freedom.  It's why many of the people came to America, as the first song described.

Start doing some accelerations, from 80-110 rpm, taking about 30-seconds, holding 110 for 30-seconds, then back down to 80 rpm.  Repeat.

3. Mike Oldfield, The Millenium Bell 7:22
A happy song.  1-minute surges.  Alternate 1-minute seated with standing flat surges, each with a 30-45 second recovery.

4. The Beloved, Ease the Pressure 4:21
4-count Jumps. Enjoy the feeling of the work on your legs. Enjoy the sensation of challenge. 

5. Djuma Soundsystem, Les Djinns (Trentmoller Mix) 6:17
Run with resistance for 8 counts, every 32 counts or so.  This song has a great beat.  After the last song of jumps, this might get a little high intensity, so caution everyone to reserve some energy for the upcoming climbs, sitting a few out if needed.

6. Joe Cocker, Feeling Alright 4:12
Feeling grateful for feeling alright! Thankful for life.  This will be an easy to moderate seated flat, preparing for the hills.

Then I will come in and begin the main course...

7. The Lounge, Free Your Mind 6:04
I've used this song a lot, anytime I want people to think about the doubts, fears and excuses that are holding them back.  It's just such an amazing song! (Available on itunes on Bonzai Worx). "You have to let it all go, fear, doubt and disbelief!" Let's be grateful for setting ourselves free of these inhibitions and obstacles.  This fast flat road will bring us to our hill, where we will encounter these obstacles that we'll overcome.

8. Dead Can Dance, Spider's Stratagem 6:41
We'll climb for 5 minutes of this song.  Resistance loading every minute.  Thinking of our first challenge during the first 3.5 minutes, and then as we near the top, think of the first thing we wrote down that we are grateful for, switching the mindset to one of gratitude. Knowing that we are grateful for the fact that we will overcome this challenge as well.

The final minute and a half of this song is a little recovery on flat roads before the next challenge.

9. The Cranberries, Zombie 5:09
How can you have a Thanksgiving meal without cranberries? 

This song however represents one of the challenges our country has faced the past 5 years. She talks about the horrors of war.  My thought on this hill is to be grateful for the end of war. By expressing gratitude for something that hasn't yet happened, we can help bring it to reality! But I am also personally grateful for a new president who will make ending this war a priority! Let's all be grateful for the positive things that are facing our country.

5 minutes of climbing. Some seated, some standing, the final 1.5 minutes will be out of the saddle.

10. Melissa Etheridge, I Run for Life 4:22
What a beautiful song about gratitude for a vibrant life! This song can't help but bring tears to your eyes. Let's follow Melissa's lead and celebrate all those woman who have overcome breast cancer (and men and women who have overcome other cancers and diseases), because as she says in the song, "they cut into my skin and they cut into my body but they will ever get a piece of my soul!"

Think about anyone you know who is faced with this challenge right now, a challenge to their health, and dedicate this next climb to them.  In the process, be grateful for your own health and fitness!  

2 minutes flat recovery for the first part of the song, then begin the next climb.

11. Delerium feat. Leigh Nash, Innocente (Deep Dish Gladiator Mix) 11:54
We're continuing the climb from the last song. We've got 12 minutes to commit to climbing, with one little rest in the middle.

This one I want you to think first of the next challenge that you wrote down. Now you can see how we can use this climb as a metaphor to overcome it. Because no matter what, we'll make it to the top of the hill. We'll do 4 minutes of jumps on a hill. After that 4 minutes, devote a minute to the next thing on your gratitude list, adding a little more emphasis to your climb, increasing your effort (a little above 85%MHR).

Then take a 2 minute break, getting ready for the next onslaught... (by this time, we are 7 minutes into the song).

The final 5 minutes of the song is the next hill.  The first focus is the third challenge you wrote down on your slip of paper. Come up with more tactics for overcoming it. Devote 3 or 4 minutes to that, then focus on the third thing you wrote down that you are grateful for. Let this gratitude overcome you as you continue to jump on this hill. Each time you rise out of the saddle is a wave of gratitude.

12. Moulin Rouge (Soundtrack from the movie Moulin Rouge, cd 2) 6:57
Our final climb.  The first 1:30 of the song is easy flat, a little recovery.  Then the song starts to get powerful.  We start on a seated climb, adding to our gratitude list. I love this song because it is such a powerful crescendo, a fitting finish to our challenges, the music take you to the top with such energy, helping you out when you thought you were fatigued; you now know that nothing can stop you!

13. Iggy Pop, Lust for Life 5:13
OK, I know he has a lust for some not so good things in his life (liquor and drugs) but I like the energy of this song, and I am grateful for my own Lust for Life! So think of what things in your life that make you so happy to be alive; your relationships, your family; your work; your energy; your fitness and health. Me? I am grateful for Spinning! I am grateful for living in such a beautiful place like Vail, where people come to take their Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays - I live here full time! Thanks for coming to my backyard (I will have visitors to my class who are on vacation here)! I am grateful for Samantha for her zest to learn and to help me with this class!

We're off the hills now, feel the open road, how good it feels to spin your legs at will.

14. Shaman, Move Any Mountain 3:29
Great words to this song. Shows how grateful we are for our choices in lfe. We can CHOOSe to have a good attitude, we can CHOOSE to move mountains and not be a passive bystander to life. 

Continue on a flat, bringing our heart rates down.

15. Huff and Herb, Feeling Good (Epic Mix) 6:57
I love this song, with jazz great Nina Simone's voice.  Great lyrics. Feeling grateful for feeling good! (Like the earlier song by Joe Cocker)

Continue on this fast flat. Working on a high cadence.

15. Carlene Davis, Thank You Mr. DJ 5:05
Cool Down. Nice Lyrics.  Nows the time to add a few more items to our gratitude list. The more we are grateful for, the more we attract those things into our lives.

16. Ray Charles, America the Beautiful
Don't we live in such a beautiful place?

Thank you for coming! Thank you for giving me this opportunity! Thank you for being you!

And I also want to thank all of you who read my blog and for sharing it with others. Please leave me a comment and tell me about your thanksgiving rides!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dear Jillian Michaels, Follow up letter to the Biggest Loser

Dear Jillian Michaels,

OK, so maybe I was a little harsh in my letter of yesterday about your episode of The Biggest Loser on Tuesday night.  Please forgive me.  It's just that we work so hard to teach instructors the proper and safe way to teach Spinning (and any indoor cycling for that matter), that when something like this comes along, it sets this industry back light years.  My Master Instructor peers and I have to beat our heads against the wall when we encounter more and more students and instructors teaching unsafe moves and techniques, because they saw it on TV from a so-called fitness guru! So I hope you understand where I was coming from.

You see, you have such a visible role in our country, and if you wanted to, you could really do wonderful things for the personal training and group fitness/indoor cycling instructor industry by setting an example. So many people love that show, and love to watch you work. Think about the effect you currently have on them. Can you imagine how great it would be if you could show them how important it is to employ safe and truly effective training techniques? 

You're working with an unfit, unhealthy population, not marine recruits Jillian. They need your skill in balancing a tough workout with safe and effective methods. I understand the drill sergeant role you feel you have to keep up, or perhaps the network feels it must keep up - because hey, that's what sells, right? But does there have to be a total disregard for safety? I mean, I'm sure the network has those participants sign a liability waiver several inches thick, but a good lawyer could get right through that if someone got injured from something you had them do if it can be proven that it is unsafe, or even dangerous. Movements that are not advisable for a healthy fit person, much less an unhealthy, very overweight person who has no reason to be doing those things on a stationary bicycle! 

I have an idea. I will forego my own pay if you have me come out to teach you and Bob the correct way to teach Spinning! We could do a certification with the two of you, and then you can show the world that you truly are concerned for the health, safety and ultimate fitness of your participants. 

Maybe you can have me lead a class or two with your participants. It doesn't have to be an "easy" or wimpy class, but just a safe and relevant training session, using heart rate monitors in order to train them within their own individualized training zones, appropriate for their level of fitness. We can teach them how to set up the bike correctly, how to sit in the saddle properly, how not to lean on their forearms, allowing them to pedal in an efficient and safe manner at proper and relevant cadences (and not super high crazy leg speeds). And of course, we'd never take away the saddles. On the contrary - we need to teach them how important it is to stay in the saddle for as long as possible!

This will be something they can take with them long after they leave your show. You will be raised up in the eyes of the viewing public! You are more likely to see success with your participants! You will be even more of a fitness goddess Jillian!

How about it?

You can contact me at

In fitness,

Jennifer Sage

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

An Open Letter to Jillian Michaels of the Biggest Loser Show

Dear Jillian,

My name is Jennifer Sage and I am a Master Instructor for the Spinning program, a certified personal trainer since 1992, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, and I have a BS in Exercise Science. I am also a certified Ski Instructor, and I have 27 years in the fitness industry.

As an MI for Spinning since 1997 I have certified over a thousand instructors, taught many continuing education courses, wrote several of the continuing education programs for Spinning, and presented at many fitness conferences, including ECA Miami and New York, Can Fit Pro in Toronto, Crunch (Atlanta), New York Sports Club Summit, and WSSC (World Spinning and Sports Conference) Miami for the past 10 years.

Our biggest challenge as Master Instructors is to teach instructors PROPER training principles so they can then teach their students how to safely and effectively accomplish their goals. Notice the word "safely". There is so much crap that is taught out there in the fitness industry, and especially in indoor cycling. Unfortunately it has become rampant and widely accepted in many parts of the country as the way it should be done.

I actually wrote the workshop for Mad Dogg Athletics and Spinning entitled Contraindications in the Spinning Program. I know you know what contraindications means - but just in case you don't, Jillian, in a nutshell, it means just don't do it! In the workshop, I analyzed many popular but unsafe moves in indoor cycling looking at biomechanics, anatomy, physiology, proper training principles, the roots of road cycling, and plain common sense reasons why they should not be a part of ANY indoor cycling program, much less the Spinning program.

What you did with your participants on the Biggest Loser last night was horrendous and very sad. It showed great disrespect for your participants, for the Spinning program, and for indoor cycling in general. You showed rampant disregard for safety, for biomechanics, for understanding of training principles, and for concern for your participants. It shows that you know nothing about riding a bike, either. I know you think you must keep up your "image" as being a hard a$$, kick butt, no-holds-barred personal trainer, but this time you went too far.

Many indoor cycling enthusiasts from around the country were watching that show. They will come away from it thinking that these are acceptable moves (“because Jillian did it”) and want their own instructors to do them. Many of those poor instructors (the ones who don't know they can stand up to their uneducated students and explain the real reasons why they don’t do stuff like that on a bike) will feel the need to offer their students what they're asking for, even though they can sense that it’s unsafe. As a result, there's going to be far more injuries and far fewer people reaching their performance goals.

Burning muscles, as I'm sure you know, is not always a good thing. It can be caused by mechanical inefficiency, and not just anaerobic work. Pain in the joints is a sign to the person that something is amiss, and is often caused by incorrect form. Good form is crucial for proper and safe indoor cycling - I'm sure your riders last night felt pain in their joints because form was never addressed. You should never, ever, EVER, take away the saddle in indoor cycling, it has high-risk and serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever. It does not make you stronger, faster or a better cyclist, indoors or out. Do you think the best cyclists in the world would ever do something as silly as that? Yet look how incredibly fit they are! And for God’s sake, one should especially never do that with someone who is carrying that much extra weight! Jillian, there is no need to risk injury in the name of fitness. You should always respect the fact that this is a bicycle, and cannot pretend that it isn't. Being a fixed-geared bicycle has huge implications on the body when pedaling. You simply can't be doing squats, girations or other crazy aerobics-on-a-bike movements without placing the rider at great risk.

Spinning is a brand, and it is based on proper and safe training. You are using Spinner bikes on your show. You should respect the brand, and show what good Spinning is! Even if you didn’t have Spinning bikes, safety, smart training and common sense should still apply, because safety is important in all indoor cycling, not just Spinning.

I have a blog devoted to safe and effective Indoor Cycling, and if you go to and look under the label "Contraindications" you'll see several posts, including a huge list of what NOT to do on an indoor bicycle, and the biomechanical, anatomical, physiological and common sense reasons why not. I think you should read these. Many of them were on the show last night.

And get yourself certified. Please...

In fitness,

Jennifer Sage, BS, CSCS, CPT, MI
Vail, Colorado

UPDATE: Was I harsh on Jillian? I wrote a follow-up blog post here, where I offered to certify her for free in Spinning! And another blog post after getting some "Hate-mail" from Jillian fan who thinks I'm just jealous.

IMPORTANT UPDATE: I'm no longer writing here at FHS, all of my education and training efforts for indoor cycling/Spinning instructors can now be found at

Friday, November 14, 2008

BPM vs RPM - a comment from the perspective of a German instructor

Dear readers,

My goal of presenting this topic of BPM vs RPM was to create a discussion of what works for different instructors when it comes to music choice. My experience and opinion, expressed in my first two posts on the subject, are just that - my experience and my opinion. You may have a different experience, and as a result, a different opinion. I've known of instructors who do use BPM, but not as many here, and only the occasional MI in the US - that I know if - focuses on it. Because I originally had a bad experience with it, I am very curious to see how good instructors use it. And I know they do, and that they have good results. (Maybe I just need some faster music)! I am already learning a lot just since my first post on Monday, and have lots more to present to you as I pay more attention to the bpm in my classes this and next week.

But first, I received an excellent email from an instructor in Germany, Anita, who shared her experience with me. I'd like to post it here in its entirety, get some comments from you, and then answer some of her questions right here on this blog. I am thrilled to have this interaction and this discussion of our different teaching styles from one corner of the earth to the other! I can't wait to go to Germany and take Anita's class one day! ;-)

So, may I present to you Anita, with some great points about teaching with BPM.  I'll respond in a couple of days...

Hi Jennifer,

There is such a lot to say about music that I really don't know where to begin. When I became an instructor, I used the mood of a song for the different techniques. "Lady in black" by Uriah Heep was a hill for me (today I find it great for standing flat!). In class, I saw that my students did not always follow me in cadence and I could not explain why. Then I met another instructor who asked me if I did not count my music first and then put it in a profile. I learned how to count and this helped me to guide my students better. In my clinic (in 2003), we got no instructions by the MI about using music.

As far as I know, things have changed and I think most of the German MI use the bpm for their profiles. It is quite common to teach bpm = rpm and it seems in the Netherlands it is the same. Music has become a part of the clinic by now and the MI explain about the bpm and how to count them.

In the German forum we discuss these things as well, but it is more like if we should use the musical bow (every musical bow consists of 32 beats and the first one is known as the "big one", this indicates a change in the song, you can use it for a technique change or for jumps for example) or not. 

This sounds more like an aerobic instructor than a spinning instructor. This is how it has developed since I've been teaching and I find it good on the one hand as it makes it easier for the students to follow the beat of the music, especially on a hill (like Robert said) and bad on the other hand as the music dictates what you should be doing next (and it stresses the instructor in finding the right beat to change!). This is a limitation and leads to less variety in putting profiles together. Many profiles sound like mathematics with all the bpm and minutes to stay on. Outside, you will never find a road like this! But it is not bad if you want to improve your skills. Once, I did a ride with only 95 bpm music and the students had to change intensity or technique to reach different heart rates.

Sometimes, I wonder if there is a difference how to teach spinning in different countries. We Germans are not very rhythmic people, so we hear the beat first and not the rhythm. 

But you are right, it is not all about the beat, but if the beat is in front of the music, it is hard to ride a flat road instead of a hill. I would like to ride with you to learn more about how you use the music. By now, "Drippy" is just a hill for me! Maybe I will come to WSSC once (if I can afford it!).   

Your experience in San Francisco is a good example how the beat can be misinterpreted and overdone. I can give you an example vice versa: I took an endurance ride during a spinning event where the instructor played only techno music with approx. 138-140 bpm. Of course, the goal was to find your own cadence and to stay there for the ride. It was pretty hard!! I saw many people bouncing in their saddles, because they wanted to go that fast and there were also a few who made a hill out of it. So what do you think - was it a stroke of a genius or just bad music choice? Music is a motivator and supports you - I found it just the opposite! Ok - you can say you need a lot of intrinsic motivation to go through such a ride - but where is the fun factor?

I wonder how you teach the different cadences in your rides when you don't use the bpm and it is the goal of your class. Do you use cadence checks for that? How often? Every time you change cadence? It is great if you have a spinning computer, but what do you do if you have not?

Another question: how important is it to teach a certain cadence at a time? What's the use of it if you are just a "normal leisure time spinner"? If a certain cadence stands for a certain heart rate, then ok, but here I would say heart rate depends more on the type of music selection. 

I agree with you: beat is not everything - but it helps a lot, especially those who are not so experienced.

Thanks for reading!


And many thanks to you Anita for writing! Like I said, I'll address some of your questions about how I do it in another post.  

Now you readers have both perspectives; what say you??

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

BPM and RPM - a discussion of cadence and music (part 2)

I love music, and love how it motivates me and inspires me as I ride. And I will be the first to say that when I do find a song that matches my preferred cadence for that terrain, then I am energized, as it can certainly help me to drive my pedals, especially for a powerful climb to the summit.

But there is so much more to music than just the driving down-beat, which is what defines the beats per minute or bpm.  To me, the perfect song for IDC classes can  be used for a wide variety of terrain, at various cadences, and isn't limited to just one application. If I limited my music choices to only songs with a certain bpm, then I'd probably have to reduce my itunes IDC library to only 50 or 60% of what I have, especially my choices for climbing. Now that would be a bummer, because I have some great music!

As Robert so perfectly explained in his comment on the last post, a distinction must be made between the rhythm of the song and the bpm.  He mentions that when dancing, most people will fall into the rhythm of the music. I agree. There is a difference between a musician's technical understanding of a "beat" and that of a dancer's emotional and instinctive perception of that beat. This is what I tend to follow the most when riding in a Spinning class.

When you listen deeper into the music, you find the rhythm of a song, and based on this rhythm, you can find a complementary cadence. It's the mood of the song that then guides you down a faster flat road, up a hill, or at the beginning of class for the warm-up. In this way, some songs can be used for a wide variety of terrain.

Let's take a few songs as examples. 

The song Drippy, by Banco de Gaia is an all-time Spinning classic. Even after all these years, I still love it. I may not use it for a year, then I'll rediscover it like it's a brand new find!

It has a bpm of about 128 bpm, or 64 on the half beat (FYI, I'm not very techincal at my bpm determination - I just use a stopwatch for 30 seconds and count, so they may be off by a beat or two). 64 bpm/rpm is perfect for a climb, and when I use it as a climb, I probably fall right in line with the bpm in my cadence, and enjoy it while I'm there. However, I love to use this song on a flat road, in an endurance ride, or as my first song. Cadence would be 80-90-ish.  You can only do that by listening deeper than the beat of the percussion and into the other instruments and let them guide you. 

Another example by Banco de Gaia is the song Last Train to Lhasa, without a doubt one of my all-time favorites. I use it at every conference for pedal stroke drills (when I do the drill called the "Locomotive" with the sound of the train in the background). The beat is about 112 bpm, too fast even for a flat road, or 56 bpm on the half beat, which is too slow even for a climb. You'd have to erase this song from your repertoire if you only ever follow the bpm. But if you allow yourself to settle into the rhythm of this song, you'll soon find yourself on a long straight, flat road that is total "zen" for over 11 minutes of joy!

Another example is the song Sanctuary by Origene. Not only do I love the lyrics, but the beat and rhythm of this song get inside of me and helps turn my pedals. But at about 132 bpm, or 66 bpm on the half beat, one might think it could only be a climb. Yes, I've used it clibing, and it helps me up those hills because it does feel good to latch onto that beat. But when you separate yourself from the beat and fall into your preferred flat road cadence above 80 rpm, this becomes another introspective seated flat. (BTW, this was the song I sent to someone in the Netherlands who said no one would use it there, as it was "too slow" of a beat. IMO, that's sad, because of what you miss out on!)

How about Dance of the Witches Fire, by Spirit Zone? It's a very high energy song, but still, "only" 144 bpm, which makes for a 72 bpm hill. I always seem to find myself zipping down a fast flat road with this song, pedaling much faster than 72 rpm.

The fastest one I could find (in my brief search for this post) is Conga Fury by Juno Reactor. Great Race Day song. It's 164bpm, but I know I ride it in tempo rides or Race Day at a cadence faster than 82 rpm.

One more, a powerful hard climb if you chose to use it as such, because it's again 65-67 bpm (half-beat) is Zion by Fluke. But I usually use that for a seated flat tempo pace, or in a Race Day time trial.

I love how this type of riding allows students to determine their own preferred cadence, what is comfortable for them, but still within the guidelines of that terrain (e.g. 80-110 rpm for a flat, 60-80 rpm for a climb). It's about being intrinsically motivated, not extrinsically motivated.

I think this discussion has brought me to my own revelation about what I am attracted to in music. As I go through my music to find you examples, it could very well be that I don't have anything (that I can find) that has a bpm of 180-ish, which I could use on a flat at 90rpm, much less a songs with 200-220bpm for cadence drill of 100-110 rpm. Maybe, without knowing it, I never felt an attraction to a beat that fast. Or maybe, you guys can turn me on to some!

Love your comments, keep em coming!

NOTE: you can get some of the above mentioned songs as free downloads on eMusic by clicking on the icon on the left of my blog and signing up for a free trial. No obligation. If I were you, I'd get as many Banco de Gaia songs (or email me and I'll give you a list of the best IDC ones). And make sure to download all 3 versions of Sanctuary on the ep. My favorite is the Harry Lemon Mix, but I like 'em all... Unfortunately Spirit Zone isn't on eMusic, but my version comes from a compilation called Global Psychadelic Trance Vol 4 (sorry, it may be hard to find - try a search for Spirit Zone for their own albums). Zion is from the Matrix Reloaded soundtrack, and Swamp Thing is from the Bible of Dreams cd, both of which are not on eMusic (though they have other stuff by Fluke and Juno Reactor).

Friday, November 7, 2008

Stinky bike clothes

OK, I'm going out on a limb here to discuss something that I'm sure many of you have had to deal with as well, but it's not likely to be the subject of dinner conversation.

In my attempt to be more "green", I have been trying to make sure I only do loads of wash that are full and to use less hot water.

As a result, over the past year or two, I've noticed my bike clothes are more stinky than they used to be. Hmmmm, this is not a good trade-off for being a good steward to the environment!

I've picked up some new classes recently and teach 4 classes in a row, T, W, Th, F, and if for some reason this batch of clothes misses the rotation, say I did a big load on Monday, then they sit longer before making it into the wash. 

Peee-u! I sit on my Spin bike and notice a faint not-so-pleasant smell, even before I start to sweat. This is because that stinky smell that results from wet sweaty clothes being all balled-up doesn't easily get washed out (especially in cold water). I think the items that stink the most are my jog-bras (ladies, am I not alone on this??).

Also, since I am personal training much less than I used to, I have less of that lycra to add to the mix. 

Those of you with larger households, you probably do more wash than we do. Here, it's just me and my husband, and this summer, he hasn't been Spinning or riding as much due to his schedule. This is changing as we move into winter (he's a general contractor), so I'll have his bike clothes to add to the pile, allowing me to wash these loads more often. But here are some of the things I'm doing differently:

I used to always wash bike clothes and other lycra or polypropelene products together, so that pile had to wait until it got big enough to warrant its own load (increasing its stinkiness). If I rode or spun (spinned?) or skied a lot that week, it didn't take much time to grow the pile, but if I didn't, it could be a week or more. Nowadays, what the heck, unless the lycra pile is large due to an active family weekend, those bike shorts get thrown in with the jeans. It hasn't hurt them since I've been doing this! Right? 

I used to only wash lycra in cold water. There are three reasons for this: because the label says so, because it supposedly extends the wear, and because it's more "green". But now, not being smelly trumps a few extra months or years of wear or a lower electric bill. Now they probably get washed in cold water only 50% of the time (except the jog bras, which are more like 0% now).

I used to only hang dry my lycra/polypro (for the same 3 reasons above). Now, I probably hang them 50-75% of the time. The dryer doesn't seem to hurt them (yet), and it kills some of the bacteria, so an occasional hot spin seems to partially amend the smelliness. Right? Or am I wrong and that makes them smell more?

One thing I'm trying to get better at is when I get home from Spin class, lay the sweaty wet clothes on the top of the hamper so they dry out. If I'm in a hurry, sometimes they'll sit in my gym bag all balled-up for a day or two or over the weekend (Jennifer, that's pretty gross)!  One club I work at has plastic bags for wet clothes, and there are times I'll forget to take them out of the bag and they'll sit in there for 3-4 days until the next load of wash. Yuck. These items needs to go through two hot loads in a row, and that's certainly not very green,  and my conscience suffers as a result.

I'd love to get some comments from all you guys as to how you combat this olfactory problem, especially with ways to balance being more green and protecting our resources with not being smelly. Smelly is not good. Are there products you have found that help? Have you found the life of your bike clothes is reduced from using warm water or putting them in the dryer, or is that not an issue to you? Do you only wash in cold water and live with a musty smell? Or do you not sweat and wonder what I'm talking about?? 


In freshness,


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Beating Instructor Burnout Podcast and the Mental Toughness Teleseminar

I think we've all been there. The alarm goes off early in the morning, and instead of hopping out of bed and into your waiting bike shorts, with your profile printed out the night before and iPod sitting on top of your gym bag, you just want to throw the alarm across the room and pull the covers over your head. Or if you teach in the afternoon, instead of looking forward to your class, you drudgingly drag yourself to the gym and barely get there on time. "Ugh! I don't want to teach this class!"

This past spring I met an amazing woman at an entrepreneur business conference in Las Vegas who, as it turns out is an indoor cycling instructor. She is from Toronto and had received her PhD in Social Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity in Boulder, CO, so she lives fairly close to me. I mentioned that I would be presenting at Can Fit Pro in Toronto that summer and she said that she was presenting as well! Our common interests continued and we've become fast friends. In fact, I am excited to announce that she will be presenting numerous sessions at WSSC next June on topics such as motivation, mental toughness and the psychology of winning. 

As many of you know, I've been interviewed on the Indoor Cycle Instructor Podcast, as well as have been invited by John Macgowan, the producer of the Podcast, to co-host some of his interviews. John asked me recently if I knew anyone who was into sports psychology who also taught IDC who would be good to interview on his podcast.

"Do I have the person for you!" I told him, and I connected him with Dr. Haley Perlus. He had a very successful interview with her recently and has just posted it online and I think you're going to want to listen to this one (if you've subscribed to the podcast, it should automatically be in your iTunes by now). If you are experiencing any burnout in your teaching, or are starting to doubt yourself as an instructor, then this podcast will be essential for you to help redefine your role and find your passion again. And even if you are enjoying your role as an instructor but occasionally feel drudgery or lack of enthusiasm, then you'll really want to listen to this podcast to make sure you take the steps to avoid burnout.

Dr. Perlus is offering a special teleseminar on Mental Toughness for indoor cycling instructors and group fitness instructors, and normally her sessions cost $97 per person. She's offering this FREE to the first 25 people who download this podcast, and only $9 for anyone else who signs up. You will have the opportunity to email her your questions in advance so she can be sure to cover them on the teleseminar.

Check out Dr. Perlus' website for more information on her services and her amazing resumé. You can sign up for the teleseminar on Sunday, November 23rd by clicking on this link. You should know that teleseminars like this have become extremely popular in many other industries in the past year or two but they are still fairly new in our fitness industry. I am probably on at least 1 or 2 teleseminars per week for entrepreneurs and internet marketing. Think of them as free or inexpensive continuing ed! Don't miss this one! Sign up online and she'll contact you via email with a reminder and the information on how to call in.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I am so proud of my swing State of Colorado!  And so thankful for Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio - and everyone who voted everywhere! It's been 8 gut-wrenching years.

Here's to an optimistic and exciting future, and to healing the division in this country and our place in the world view. I will never forget this moment. I think of my mother who would be crying tears of joy that we have elected an African-American as president of the United States of America. 

Man....when you read that, it's even more powerful. Especially when you read this article by Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post. back to our regularly scheduled programming. Tomorrow, you'll learn how to overcome instructor burnout and apathy (something we've all experienced).

Get fit everyone!

With optimism and hope,


PS.  If you're interested, you can follow the discussion of a black presidency and growing up with racism and tolerance on this thread on Innercycling. Yes, we do have an amazing community on some of these indoor cycling forums!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Results of my Election Day Profile - my club is a Polling Place!

My neighborhood club where I teach 2 mornings a week at 6 am is actually part of our HOA (Homeowner's Association). It's .25 miles from my house. As the weather gets colder, we get a big influx of riders coming back indoors, as well as people renting here for the ski season (most of the local rentals include the club membership in their rent, since their HOA dues pay for it anyway). 

So this morning I had quite a few new faces in my class.  Hmmmm, I thought. I have my election day ride planned - gotta make sure I don't offend anyone!  I knew that I'd  be ok with my planned ride with my regular students but wasn't sure how to approach it with the newcomers. The only thing I did differently was to make a few less comments as we rode (see my previous post for my profile and playlist) and made sure to avoid anything partisan, except to express my desire for change, the significance of an African-American coming this far and running for President of the United States (during the Martin Luther King speech in the Spiritual High song), and that I hope everyone would get out and vote.

It went great! I had more people singing to my songs than usual (it's kind of hard to sing to electronic or world music, my normal fare), and several fun comments when certain songs came on. One woman grabbed my arm as she walked out and said, "Thank you Jennifer. Thanks for doing that, it was great!"

Then as I walked out of class, I saw the long line of people on the stairs, waiting to vote - I'm talking, 15 feet from my Spin room! Yes, my club is a polling place for the local community! Even though I live so close, I'm actually in another precinct, so I didn't think of it (the HUGE signs on the front of the club indicating this as a Polling Place for precinct 4 escaped me the past 2 weeks).

All I can say is I'm glad my class wasn't any later - it ended at 7 am and the voting started at 7. You just never know, someone might not have liked the fact that I played (rather loudly) Barack Obama's campaign rally song (or Sarah Palin's), or Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech! Not sure if you'd count that as "campaigning" but the law says any signs, buttons, or people endorsing any candidate must be 100 feet from the doors of the polling place. But the only thing they might have heard was "Are you strong enough to be my man" or "Waiting on the world to change."

Later, after I voted, I got my free Starbucks coffee.  We have two guys who open the club a few mornings a week who also work at the local Starbucks, so they know me quite well when I come in for my usual Americano.  Today Stan asked me how my Election Day ride went this morning. It's fun to live in a small enough town that people at the coffee shop know about your Spin classes!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Day Profile and Playlist

Thanks to a post on Pedal-On, I was inspired to create an election day playlist. SloSpin started the thread with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, and then Katie Sweeney came up with a fun theme of Road to the White House. So I am totally stealing their idea (with permission) and giving it to my two classes tomorrow (I'm subbing at 6 am and have my regular class at 5:30 pm). If you go to the Pedal-On post, you'll see a variety of other song suggestions. Although I am pretty passionate about this election and the need for some serious change in our country, my goal was to keep it as non-partisan as possible (admittedly a bit difficult at times), so I decided to not use some of the more, er, judgmental songs... 

So, here's my rendition of the Rocky Road to the Whitehouse!

1. Mission Impossible, U2 version (3:27)
2. I've Been Everywhere, Johnny Cash (3:17)
We're on the flats, checking out the political climate. Is it a Mission Impossible? Or is change possible? Remember in the show Mission Impossible - waaaaay back when, they always accomplished their missions, so I believe this mission IS possible with the right person! But as a candidate, get ready to travel non-stop, day-in, day-out, everywhere in this country! 
3. Closer to Free, Bodeans (3:11) 
4. I Can't Get No Satisfaction, Rolling Stones (3:44)
A fast flat first down the path of good intentions, that for just about every politician, seems to turn into the path of least resistance. Several surges, with cadence increases to 100 -105 rpm.
5. A Change Would do You Good, Sheryl Crow (3:50)
6. Get Off This, Cracker (4:11)
7. Rescue Me, The Alarm (3:23)
Jumping over all the mudslinging, and slogging through the media onslaught and misrepresentation. Jump through Sheryl Crow, followed by some 30-second runs with resistance during Cracker (very appropriate lyrics to this song). Back to surges on a flat during The Alarm (which is in honor of our "rescue package" that the new president will have to deal with).
22-minutes of climbing up the Slippery Slope (the next 6 songs):
8. The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song, The Flaming Lips (4:55)
Very powerful words in this song. "What would you do with all your power?" Power is very intoxicating to some. I guess that's why they go into politics! We have to be grateful there are some out there willing to take on these challenges.
Begin with an easy hill, gradually loading on the Power! What will YOU do with all that power under your legs? Stay seated throughout this song as you load it on.
9. I Won't Back Down, Tom Petty (2:58)
A few jumps on a hill. Time to stick to your guns, to your promises,
10. I Heard it Through the Grapevine (LDM101 Remix Radio Edit), Marvin Gaye (4:38)
Sometimes the media is like one big Grapevine! What are you listening to? Where does it come from? Where's the truth, and how do we really know? C'mon, just the facts, ma'am! Dancing with the media and the misleading political ads, let's continue to jump, much slower this time (16-32 counts if using the beat, or about 20-30 second transitions)
11. The Rising, Bruce Springsteen (4:47)
This is one of the songs Obama uses at his rallies. 
Strong and steady, sit most of this climb, and transition to a standing climb when he sings "Come on up for the rising" (he does it twice, at minute 1:10 and 3:45).  After the first one, sit back down after 30-seconds or so and continue to climb seated; after the second one, stay standing until the end.
12. Thunderstruck, AC/DC (5:01)
This is a song used by Sarah Palin at her rallies - you gotta hand it to her, she sure has a lot of gumption! A Great Hockey Mom!  
It's important voters aren't "thunderstruck" by their candidates, and instead base their choice on the facts and on more than one issue, issues that will help our country in the long run.
Powerful climb, allow yourself to get "thunderstruck" for a moment as you go a bit over your threshold, to the point of breathless, pushing it out in a standing climb on the most energetic parts of the song, then sitting back down to catch your breath. Watch your intensity, it's easy to get overly caught up in this one!
13. Spiritual High Part III, Moodswings (5:14)
This song speaks for itself. Riders can choose their own hill, but settling back into a manageable intensity. No matter your preference, think of the significance of the speech in the song, of the significance that an African-American is a candidate for president of the USA. Martin Luther King Jr is beeming! I only wish my mother could have lived long enough to experience this, she would have been so joyful! Whether he becomes president or not, just the fact that he came this far is indicative of the positive changes in our country.
Be grateful for how far we've come as a nation, how much more tolerance we have, how much more opportunity is available to everyone, than 40, or even 20-30 years ago. ...But we've still got a long way to go!
14. Time to Move On, Tom Petty (3:15)
Back to a flat road after our climb, bring the heart rate down.  The road to the Whitehouse is coming to an end. One president will move on, another will move in. We'll know who by the end of the day!
15. Strong Enough (to Be My Man), Sheryl Crow (3:10)
16. Waiting on the World to Change, John Mayer (3:21)
Cool down and stretch.