Sunday, August 30, 2009

The JUMP controversy

In between my moving preparation, staging our current house for viewings and Open Houses, and a garage sale this morning (which wasn't very successful) I am trying to squeeze in finishing my promised profiles and playlists for Can Fit Pro. I've been a bit pre-occupied to say the least.

I do have one profile and playlist completed! It's for the session called Jump 'N Jazzier, which is a multitude of different ways to teach jumps, both on flat roads and on hills, with a focus on proper form. But I've had in the back of my mind for some time now to write an article on jumps, following the release of the ACE newsletter in June which decried jumps as being unsafe and intimidating. This statement came from a Schwinn Master Instructor, Julz Arney. Unfortunately, since Luciana Marcial-Vinson, a Master Instructor for Spinning, was also interviewed for the same article, but on other contraindicated movements, it appeared that Spinning was agreeing that they are indeed unsafe. Luciana had to quickly respond with another article stating the position of Mad Dogg Athletics & Spinning®. I've gone one step further and added my own $.02 to the controversy in an article over at the Indoor Cycle Instructor website.

I believe that Julz' comments about jumps being unsafe, too fast, impossible to master, hard on the knees, and intimidating are true! Yes, I said true...but ONLY when describing "Popcorn Jumps", which have long been on the contraindicated list for the Spinning® program. Popcorn jumps are impossible to do with good form or with control, and they impede a good pedal stroke. And yes, they are very intimidating if a student is watching from the outside looking in. If I was a potential student, and saw them being done in a class, I wouldn't want to go anywhere near that class! So if this is what a "jump" is being perceived as, then Julz' comments are absolutely true. Unfortunately, they are far, far too common in indoor cycling classes around the globe.

But can't that be said about any movement in an indoor cycling class? One that is done too quickly, out-of-control, with resistance that is too low and cadence that is too high? The bottom line is that all comes down to the instructor.

When done with proper form, proper cadence, proper resistance and with a speed that is in complete control by the rider, jumps are not only not unsafe, but fun and effective and they add variety to your class. Their cycling-specificity varies, depending on the method you employ. A cyclist in a Spinning class may decide to sit the jumping part out and just ride in the saddle, which is always an option. But they won't hurt you and they won't hurt your cycling or pedal stroke. When my class is full of cyclists, I rarely do them, or only do the cycling-specific power jumps (see my article for a description of those). But when there are many non-cycling students in my class, the added variety is very helpful for them.

So go ahead and jump. Jumps are GOOD! Jumps are FUN! But teach them correctly damnit! It's up to YOU, the instructor, to teach and to demonstrate proper form. So point the finger back at yourself and analyze your own form.

My article is lengthy and informative. You will find it over at the ICI Podcast. (I did that because I can reach a larger audience - I think a larger audience needs to learn this). While there, download the profile and playlist from my Can Fit Pro session called Jumps 'N Jazzier. I think you will really enjoy it and will find some new and exciting variations for teaching jumps and keeping them realistic.

By the way, our moving day is tomorrow. We are only moving 20 miles away, but it might as well be 2,000! So I won't be around much this next week or two. Please continue to spread the word about this blog and the ICI podcast! And if you know anyone who tends to jump too fast in class, please refer them to the article at ICI. It gives solid reasons why popcorn jumps are not advisable.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Can Fit Pro and the song of the weekend

Wow, my legs are still buzzing from Can Fit Pro this past weekend! I taught some hard sessions. Usually I have an easier session in the mix, or I am able to fake it a little bit more, but this time around, it didn't turn out that way. I had two on Friday, three on Saturday (all challenging) and two on Sunday. The final session was called Strategies for Strength, and I was too inspired to fake it! Too into the ride to go easy. Too engaged by the energy of the group to back off. And the music simply rocked...

This session ended at 3:00 and my plane left at 6:30 (international flight) so there was no time for a shower, just a quick wipe down and change out of bike clothes to travel clothes. Both Caroline Dawson (another Spinning MI) and I had to leave for the airport, and fortunately Claudia Lala, a Star 3 Spinning instructor from Argentina living in Toronto gave us a lift to the airport.

Today is my 2nd day of recovery. I was going to go hiking to the top of Vail Mountain, but I think that's too ambitious - it's better to give the legs a little more rest. Heck, getting up the stairs is challenging enough, much less a 7-mile hike straight up!

It will take me a few days to get caught up, but I do want to share my playlists and some other great information from the conference with you, so make sure to check back as I'll be posting them either here and/or over on the Indoor Cycle Instructor site.

But, in the meantime, I think the song of the weekend was a song I used in my last session. I had more people ask about it immediately after class, and had several emails and Facebook messages within a very short time (one within 30 minutes!) asking for the title and where to find it.

So, here it is: it's by Alcatraz and is called Give me Luv (That Kid Chris Tribute Mix). It's 10:28 long - an awesome, awesome climb (ya gotta like electronic music though). The emphasis during this song was that by changing your attitude about climbs, you can change your experience. Hill climbing for some outdoor cyclists is the bane of cycling. Some people H.A.T.E. to climb. It's scary, it's tough, it's challenging, sometimes it hurts, sometimes you fail, it's demoralizing if someone goes way faster than you, etc. Indoors we don't encounter that as much - I think it's because our students always know they have the option of altering the hill simply by turning that resistance knob. But you cannot do that outside!

So if you hate climbing, or you're scared it's going to give you big quads, you must change your attitude about it. Instead of thinking about the hill as an obstacle in your way, think of it as an opportunity. An opportunity to get stronger, to get more fit, to experience and succeed at a challenge, to do something you didn't think you could do. There are so many ways to turn your distaste for climbing into pure love of climbing, and it all starts with you and your mind.

This song is called Give Me Luv, so I asked my class to give me some climbing luv! I asked them to first love themselves, because if you don't, how can you possibly think you deserve to get to the top of that big climb? I also wanted them to love the mountain. "Give Me Luv!" I repeated it several times throughout the long song.

Where can you get this song? There are a ton of versions on emusic, but not this particular fantastic version. The other ones are OK, and if you are a member of eMusic go ahead and d/l a few, but to be honest, if I heard them first, I probably wouldn't be as excited about the song. This version (That Kid Chris Tribute Mix) is really phenomenal. I love the woman's voice in the background saying "Give me Luv" (it's different than on the other versions).

iTunes has it, Napster has it, and if you google it, I think you can find even cheaper versions.


And give me some climbing luv!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Off to Canada!

It's 5 am and I am off to Toronto to present at Can Fit Pro. If you are going to be there, or are in the area, come find me in the Spinning room (there are two rooms, side by side). I will be presenting any of the sessions originally listed as Meg McNeeley.

I'll report back on Monday with some playlists!

Have a safe weekend, and get out and do something fun. Summer's almost over!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Another Milestone for the FunhogSpins blog! Thanks to you!

Sometime today, Sunday August 16, I surpassed 20,000 downloads! That includes any of the profiles or articles or playlists that I've provided for you guys. I also noticed on Google Analytics that I've been visited by 87 countries! That includes Botswana, Latvia, & Laos!

Wow, it's mind boggling! Indoor cycling truly is EVERYWHERE!

Keep spreading the word! I am so grateful for all of my readers - it inspires me to keep on writing helpful, informative and fun stuff for you guys.

I do have a little teaser for you. I am going to be spreading my efforts a little more over on the indoor cycle instructor podcast, because it is such an amazing medium for providing helpful content to IC instructors. If you haven't yet downloaded the audio profile on Over-Under Intervals that we did a week ago, make sure to do so now. We are thinking it is a new way to help you become the best instructor you can possibly be.

My recommendation is that you go over there and sign up for the ICI podcast newsletter as well as mine. They are just weekly notices about the posts (or podcasts) that are listed so you don't miss anything important. But don't worry, you won't be inundated.

The Indoor Cycle Instructor Podcast just celebrated 1 year of providing great content - go over there and wish John Magowan a "Happy Anniversary"! I chatted with John for a short podcast discussing the past year, and some of the great things that are coming in the next year (although some of them are a secret!)

I want to extend a welcome to all my new subscribers. I realized that any new subscribers are still getting my WSSC information from June. You'll enjoy it, but my automated reply email is a little dated. I'll be changing that soon to other free and valuable information - but don't worry, once you are a subscriber to the free newsletter, you'll always also receive anything I give away to new subscribers. And if you haven't subscribed yet, just enter your name and email in the top left corner of this blog.

Thanks to all who have commented on my post on "cycling-specific" classes. It will be about 2 weeks before I am able to write my intended response. For one, I am thinking it will be a series of articles that will take me a little longer to compile. Secondly, I AM GOING TO TORONTO on Thursday! Eeeek! How did it get this close? I have 7 Spinning sessions that I have to work on and develop playlists for, so I will be a little bit pre-occupied this coming week. But look out for updates just before I go.

It should be a very fun conference. I'll be joining three other very fun Spinning Master Instructors - all women - getting together leading a total of 28 Spinning sessions at Can Fit Pro! (And I think we'll go out on the town at least on a few evenings - how can it not be fun?!"

And I'm also very interested to meet Dan McDonogh of RPM. He was just at IDEA presenting this past weekend and will be in Toronto at CFP next weekend. He and I have been chatting back and forth on Twitter and are planning on peeking in on each other's sessions this weekend. Now, the Les Mills RPM method is not really my personal preference for teaching an IC class, but I am open minded and can't wait to see what Dan does that makes him so popular at conferences. When you think about it, we are all after the same goal - to inspire our students to get fit, help them meet their goals (be it performance, weight loss, etc), have a lot of fun and to come back as often as possible. Because he is a cyclist first and foremost, I know Dan has the same interests as me - to keep his classes as cycling specific as possible while meeting the needs of our non-cycling students as well.

See you soon!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hold a baby a standing flat!

The other day I was subbing a class at the Aria club in Vail (a club attached to the Vail Cascade Resort & Spa) and I had two hotel guests from Florida (in addition to one regular - numbers here are very small in summer). Both women are pretty fit. One is a frequent Spinning student, Linda and she talked her friend Sheri into coming along for her Spinning first class ever.

Before the class started, Linda was giving Sheri tips, pointing to the RPE sign, describing intensity and HR (she didn't have her HRM with her but said she always rides with one), talking about Energy Zones, proper position, etc. I walked over and said that she must have some darn good instructors, and explained that it is so good to hear her actually teaching her friend the correct way to ride in an indoor class. I say this because we get a lot of out of town guests at this club, and this is not always the case. We get some who say things like, "I have the best 'Spin' Instructor ever - she makes us take the saddle away!"

I gave her my card with this blog address, so hopefully she will pass them on to her instructors (and if so and you are her instructor reading this, please let me know)!

As usual, I really enjoy having newbies in my class. I try to make sure I make it interesting for the experienced riders at the same time as I am explaining proper form for the basic movements we do in Spinning. Since Sheri is a fit hiker, she really did well her first time, with just a few things she'll need to work on formwise as she gains experience.

I have my own cueing that I've used for various movements and positions, but Linda shared one with me that I want to pass on to you. We were doing a standing flat (run) and I was explaining to Sheri how it's important to hold on to the handlebars, but not in a death grip, nor do you want to lean on your hands. My favorite cue is to imagine that you have water balloons under your palms. I tell students "wrap your fingers around them, so you squish them a bit, but don't pop them!" This helps people realize they must pull back their weight off their hands and into the legs. We also don't want to be 'perched' on the handlebars, up on your fingertips like you're drying your wet fingernails either. Fingers should be wrapped around the handlebars, but comfortably.

Linda said, "In golf they tell you to hold a baby bird when you hold the club."

Yes! Can you imagine it? In golf, if you have a death grip, you will never smoothly hit that little white ball with any control. On the other hand, if you don't have enough grip, the club will go flying out of your hand. Pros tell their clients to imagine holding a baby bird, firm enough to keep it there, but not tight enough to crush it.

If your students are golfers, they may really understand this cue.

This also shows us that we can transfer cues from many other sports to help our non-cycling students understand what it is we are teaching them. Does anyone reading this have any examples of cues you've borrowed from other sports? If so, please let us know by clicking the comments link below!

Thanks Linda for teaching me something new! I hope to see you and Sheri in my Spinning class again in the future. Tell your instructors to keep up the good work and to come to WSSC and say Hi!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Point to ponder

When you hear the following terms, what comes to mind:

  • "cycling-oriented" Spinning class
  • cycling specific
  • Indoor cycling for cyclists
  • Indoor cycling for roadies
Or even, "this class keeps it real"!

I'm just curious. I have a pending discussion on this, but I'd like to see what either you, or your students, or what you think the general population (of indoor cycling students or potential students) might think when they hear these terms.

  • Does it attract you/them?
  • Does it turn you/them off, or away?
  • Do you think it's going to be boring?
  • Do you think it's going to be too easy?
  • Do you think it's going to be too hard?

Just click on comment and leave your impression, or what you have heard, in the comments section. Then come back in a few days for an interesting post.

Thanks for your input!

Friday, August 7, 2009

More on Susan Nelson

Elden wrote a beautiful post about his wife, how they met, Susan's amazing talents, their four children, and more.

I think everyone should read this. Take it as a moment to celebrate life, and to recognize that in every moment of our life, even the painful ones, there is a lesson, and something good that will come from it.



Thursday, August 6, 2009

Please join me in fighting like Susan

Elden Nelson, the Fatcyclist, sent out this announcement on Twitter late last night:

Susan died at 7:25 pm. Her battle with cancer is over. Mine just got more intense. FIGHT LIKE SUSAN

His previous tweet said, "Fighting cancer helps me cope."

Twin Six posted this on their web page in honor of Susan (warning - you'll shed a tear):

(EDIT LATER: If you're coming to this post a few days later, Twin Six changed their website front page back to their products, but it was very touching. It was the word WIN in pink, with a tear coming out of one corner.)

There are thousands of comments on Twitter supporting Elden, and in less than 12 hours, almost 1,500 comments on his blog. (update 8/7 one day later = almost 2,300)

Wow. What a community!

It just seems to me that we should not let this opportunity pass us by. It's evident that Elden has inspired thousands of people around the world to be better people, to love more deeply, to care for others (including those we don't know), to see the humorous side of things, to love their bicycles and revel in the joy that cycling brings, and most importantly, to join together in this fight against cancer.

I know, I know, I was raising money for Livestrong only a few short months ago for the Giretto. Please don't close this page if you're thinking, "oh no, here we go again..." I actually signed up for "Team Fat Cyclist Fighting Like Susan" for the Austin October Livestrong event back in January, before the Giretto. If you gave back then, you can feel really good about yourself. But if you haven't, I am hoping I can inspire you to make a donation in Susan's memory, or in honor of someone you know with cancer. Anything, no matter how small. We cannot let her passing last night go by without a major impact on this effort to Livestrong.

I know we are all affected by the economy and are cutting back, but to tell the truth, that's when giving means the most, when you have to make a sacrifice. $5, or $10 - it won't break you, but you will symbolically join hands with all the other indoor cyclists and cyclists to FIGHT LIKE SUSAN. If that is a sacrifice for you, then all the better.

You can sponsor me if you like, or if you know someone else on Team Fat Cyclist, please sponsor them. Or sponsor the Fatcyclist himself. Or better yet, come join us in Austin and ride for "Team Fatty Fighting Like Susan". There are already over 500 on the team (the largest team ever for a Livestrong event) and so far they've raised $.5 million (between all four Livestrong events)! I see Susan's passing as the potential impetus to raise another $.5 million in the next 2 1/2 months.

It really doesn't matter to whom you give; it matters that you give. And whether you think so or not, your $5, or $10 or $20 really does matter, in more ways than you could ever imagine. It matters to Susan, it matters to cancer survivors and patients all over the world, it matters to your loved ones affected by cancer, it matters to the Fatcyclist, it matters to Lance Armstrong, and most importantly, it matters in your heart.

Susan has inspired me both in her life and in her death; I hope she inspires you as well.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Gimme some climbing luv! 7 hours of climbing music

I'm very grateful for where I live, and I admit that I am pretty spoiled because of the beauty of these surroundings and the great, but challenging cycling. Around here, you better like to climb (at elevation no less) or you're going to be relegated to only riding east or west (left to right) in the photo below, in that valley between where I am taking the picture below (which is a gated community called Mountain Star), and the mountains across the valley, looking south towards Beaver Creek ski area on the left and Bachelor Gulch on the right, another gated community. Literally all other roads heading north and south of this valley go UP.

I took the above photo last fall. It will look like that again in about 6-7 weeks from now. At the moment, it is a verdant green, due to a very wet spring that has provided us the most beautiful and lush summer I can remember in 15 years! On Saturday, I rode 2.5 hours, first going up into Beaver Creek and onto some of the roads into the hills. Sometimes I like to ride up there just to ohh and ahh over the amazing houses (and dream). Then I rode over Bachelor Gulch. It's a 5-mile climb, with 2,200 feet of elevation gain that tops out at about 9,200+ feet in elevation. I'd say it's 7-8% on average, with sections of 9-10%. That's steep! I think of this climb as my "test" ride for Alpe d'Huez! I always time myself on this particular climb, to use as a litmus test for how fit I am (or not, as the case may be). Saturday I climbed it in 47:40; not my record but still faster than I ever did it on my old bike. I was feeling tired from some pretty hard Spinning classes the three previous days, but I wasn't about to turn around, no way!

Prior to going for my ride, I created a climbing playlist for my iPod shuffle to use on long climbs like this. I wanted to add songs that aren't on almost all of my other "climbing" playlists, such as from my Moving Mountains or Alpe d'Huez rides (although admittedly, one or two made their way into this list; I must really like those songs).

Now before I give you that playlist, I'm sure I'll get comments on riding a bike with an iPod. I should preface this with the fact that when I am on busier roads, I always take out the left earbud and keep it very low or turn it off. The sound of the wind in my ears covers up far more of the sound of approaching cars than my music does - wish I had an "off" button for that! But when on climbs like this, on roads with very little traffic, I feel comfortable riding with my music (still listening for cars though). On Saturday's ride up Bachelor Gulch, exactly zero (yes, none, zippo, zilch) cars passed me in that 47 minutes. That's because these are second homes, where the owners might stay 2 weeks in winter and 2 in summer. For some reason, they're not here right now. Many of them look like this:
It's almost sinful that these houses sit unoccupied for much of the year...(most have full-time caretakers).

Anyway, I want to share with you this playlist of great climbing music. Click here to download the iTunes playlist. In this almost 7-hours of music, there are only 44 songs; that's because they range from just under 8-minutes on up to almost 13-minutes long. I like lonnnnng songs when climbing because I can really get into it and focus on the rhythm, and when it's over, I mentally acknowledge that a long time has passed, which translates to covering a lot of road uphill. It's a mental trick I play with myself.

There is great variety in this playlist, though most of the tunes are under the "electronic" umbrella. But you will find reggae inspired electronic (Beat Pharmacy), ambient psychodelic (Asura, D.P.O.D., Enigma, Delerium - in fact, Delerium figures the most in this list with 5 songs), Alternative (from the early 90's The The to more current Death Cab for Cutie), heavy tribal beats (Manaca, Chus & Ceballos), techno (Crystal Method), rock remakes (Eric Prydz vs Floyd), even rock (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and even, dare I admit it, Guns 'n Roses)!

Some of my most recent favorite climbing songs are in this list. Breathless by SBP is one of my new top songs after using it in my Mont Ventoux playlist during the Tour de France. Le Ciel est Triste by Emou is a long time favorite - it has a slow bpm, good for steep hills like this one where my rpm struggles to stay at 60-65 rpm. I LOVE the very catchy and engrossing Give me Luv (That Kid Chris Tribute Mix) by Alcatraz. I have to admit that I replayed this song several times as I was climbing, trying to match my cadence with the bpm. I could only do so on the easier climbs; when I did so on the steep parts of Bachelor Gulch, my HR went too high (above threshold, which is not good when you still have a long way to go uphill) and I had to slow my legs down. BTW, this song is the source for the title of this blog post!

I also discovered some new (or in some cases, re-discovered some forgotten) favorites that I'll be putting into a Spinning profile soon. Strange Shades of Light by Midnight Society, Hug the Scary by Will Saul, Giant by The The, Emergency by Faithless, Resurrection by Delerium, Things Can Change, Klangstrahler Projekt (another slow bpm for slow rpm climbs).

Where can you find these songs? I haven't had the time to peruse eMusic to tell you if they're available there. However, check out this list of songs I've gotten on eMusic first. However, just because it's not on that list doesn't mean it's not available there; either I've not looked yet, or because eMusic has recently significantly expanded their library, so make sure to do a search.

I think eMusic is one of the better downloading sources - the songs are only about $.50 instead of the over $1 on iTunes (and you can get free songs just for signing up - click on the eMusic icon on the top left of this blog for 25 free downloads). You can also google the artist, or check, a good, but fairly expensive, source for hard to find electronic music (some of the songs on my list might only be available there - but if you found them it would be worthwhile). I always use iTunes as a last resort - you'll pay a lot more for the average song you can find elsewhere for less, but they have a big variety. It's one thing to pay more for a hard-to-find fantastic song on Beatport, but for a song available elsewhere, iTunes can make us instructors in search of musical variety go broke...

Oh, by the way, there are a few songs in my list that say "Track 8" and then words like "good tempo, HIT, STR**" These are just notes to myself. HIT = high intensity training, STR = Strength, JOH = jumps on a hill, and ** means I really like this song. I will do this when a track doesn't have a name to help me remember it. These come from the Hanima Hitechwell cds from an Italian producer. I got them at a Spinning conference a few years ago. I believe they are doing a BIG sale right now - I will write a blog post soon about how to get some of these songs and cds. These are fantastic climbing songs.

Check a few blog posts back on my discussion of the song Breathless by SBP on the Ventoux ride profile. It's also from Hanima Hitechwell, but available on the Spinning CD, Vol 13 - that post tells you how to d/l those songs from Many others on that cd are GREAT climbing songs.

For long lists of my other favorite climbing songs (both short and long) I wrote two posts last year. This one and this one.

Enjoy all this great climbing music!