Sunday, June 23, 2013

Spin Bike & Yoga

Spin bike accomplished
This week has been full of novel experiences. After my first swim in ten years Tuesday morning, I beat back my discomfort-zone anxiety & hunted out the spin bikes at my gym on the way home from work.

Now, it's been a long time since I've done much swimming, but I had NEVER been on a spin bike. I haven't even been on a regular bike since grad school some eight years ago. I had to ask the attendant how to turn it on. (Hint: You have to pedal first, then press "Quick Start". Also, you could read the place on the dashboard where it says "Pedal first, then press Quick Start.")

My PT had recommended I stick to ~25 minutes at a time, keeping a cadence that roughly matched my stride rate (so ~90/minute), and that I should make like a triathlete & do as much of the pedaling by pulling backwards with my hamstrings as possible in order to avoid activating my quads & protect my hip flexors. (Or....maybe this is just the way you're supposed to ride a bike.)

This all seemed simple enough until I realized that there are different resistance settings, which he'd said nothing about. The settings on this particular bike went from one to twenty, so I figured 10 was the most statistically sound choice. I quickly realized that there was no way I could keep up 90 RPM at that level, so I kept dropping it down until I got to 7, which made the cadence still challenging but do-able. (Weirdly, it seemed to get easier as I went--at first, I was having a hard time keeping it over 85, but then towards the end it kept sneaking up to ~95ish with what felt like about the same level of effort.)

I am VERY happy to report that the bike really didn't bother my hip at all, and had the added benefit of giving me a really good hamstrings workout (which, let's be honest, I need). On the other hand, my sitz bones are crazy sore.

As with swimming, I'm sort of curious if there's any kind of mileage equivalence with running. I don't really need to know; mostly it would just be nice to have vague idea of how much cardiovascular work I'm doing, and running mileage is the yard stick that makes the most sense to me. I've heard people say 3:1 is reasonably accurate, but then I've also heard people say that 100 miles is comparable to running a marathon. And, my theoretical 5.5ish miles on the spin bike (which, btw: real miles, true/false?) supposedly took ~130 calories, which makes it seem like that's roughly equivalent to 1.3 miles of running. I know there are formulas out there for "converting" between bike & run miles for training purposes, but I also think those tend to take into account the wind resistance involved in actual cycling, so I'm guessing those aren't really applicable to spin bikes.

What I'm saying is that I'm utterly clueless.

I've also started trying to go back to yoga. The main thing I've learned is that there are certain poses that work fine, others I have to very carefully work my way into, and others I just plain cannot do. For example, anything that involves a lunge just does not work on the right side. I did once find a way to get into right-foot-forward crescent pose that let me use my glutes & hamstrings rather than my hip flexor muscles, but by the time I got into it, it was pretty much time to move on to another pose. I couldn't quite get it the next time, so my right crescent was basically a right lunge with me supporting my weight on my hands.

For the most part, I know what kinds of things I'm likely to be able to do and what is going to cause me pain, but every now & then something surprises me & I'll grimace to myself, "Huh, who knew hip flexors were involved in that?" Since this was my first yoga class since before the marathon, I was very concerned that one of those things would sneak up on me. I moved pretty slowly & carefully overall, which, it turns out, makes yoga a LOT harder. (I definitely sweated more at this class than I ever have in yoga before.)

So, I guess the good news this week is that I'm Doing Stuff again -- real stuff, beyond planks & bridges & free weights. As always, part of me is incredibly impatient & really wants to start swimming & cycling miles & miles like NOW and go back to doing normal yoga like YESTERDAY, but the difference between 22 year old me & 32 year old me is that I have some measure of self-control on that front. I now actually believe all the talk about how pushing too hard too soon only makes the recovery take that much longer. (I will spare you the numerous stories which constitute what I believe they in the business would call my "learning the hard way.")

So believe me, although it probably sounds like I'm doing a lot right now between swimming and spinning and karate and yoga and strength training, none of it is very intense, and I am keeping a very close eye (nerve?) on how my hip responds. That's part of the reason why I haven't taken a single dose of painkiller of any kind since that first really excruciating night--because I trust the pain I'm still having as a measure of how good / bad whatever I'm doing is for the injury, and damping it down is only likely to cause me to make bad decisions.

More actual serious questions I need answers to:

  • Any advice about how to convert spinning mileage to running mileage? (Yes, I get that running miles are running miles and spinning miles are spinning miles and there's no real comparison; I'm just looking for a vaguely accurate way to roughly gauge the amount of cardiovascular work I'm doing. Please don't tell me I have to wear a heart rate monitor.)
  • What do you know about spin bike gears / settings?
  • Any other tips?


  1. I know little, but:
    - my PT told me swim-bike-run equivalence was roughly 1/3-3-1. That's actually how it happens to work out for me by time, more or less, too. (1/3 of a mile is a little over 500 yards, which I can swim in 10-12 minutes; I can bike 3 miles in 10-12 minutes; I can run a mile in ...10ish minutes.) He also told me it wasn't exact and not to go nuts with it, but that's helpful for me. Maybe for spin, since you don't have to balance/deal with conditions, it would be more 4:1? (note that in some ways, spinning is HARDER than outdoor riding: you're not getting any time to coast down a hill, and you don't get a natural break from stop signs/lights/having to pass people/etc. I personally think it's like running on a treadmill vs. running outside.)

    - spin bikes are all different, in my experience, but I think going by cadence is wise. That's how I learned to choose my gears outside -- if my cadence was falling below 80-90, I was probably riding in too hard a gear to sustain for the terrain, etc. In my coach's fancy indoor cycling class (which is a little different because we're on our own bikes on trainers) we'll usually try to ride at 90 rpm at different levels of resistance - some easier, some harder - and then do some sets of riding at much higher resistance at 60-65 rpm to simulate climbing long hills.

    1. Good points all! Going by time seems to make the most sense, especially if I can manage the same effort level as with running (which the 90 RPMs seems to do). That's true about how with spinning you don't get to coast or pause - I didn't even think of that. So far my spinning has been very "easy run"-like in terms of effort, so I'm hoping I'll be strong enough soon to start doing harder intervals some days too.

  2. I didn't realize it had been 10 years since your last swim. Now you get double kudos in my book! I can't believe you have never been on a spin bike before. I love using them at the gym and even have one at my house. Great cross training for running. Keep it up pretty lady!

  3. Impressed with the amount of stuff you've been doing - I've done a few spin classes but I'm not massive on them. I found them a little stressful.

    I've always worked on the basis that 4 miles cycling = 1 mile running. No idea what that is on a stationary bike, I've always used a normal one. Maybe that helps a little?

    Hope you're're being so patient!

  4. I had the same question about the spinning. I tend to do it by time vs. mileage and sort of convert that to miles of running based on the time it took (though I know for effort level the running is going to be the better workout for the same amount of time). I do have a thing on my bike that can hook up to my garmin and give me distance readings but I haven't bothered with that and probably won't. Though, the cadence would probably be good to look at, but again, I've been lazy about connecting that up to my garmin again. I like doing interval/farlek stuff where I'll crank up the resistance and my effort level for a set amount of time and then do a recovery period. That gets my heart rate up and makes me feel good. There are a lot of spin workouts out there which I want to try. I probably will start soon but I was taking it easy with the intensity/increase in time to make sure it wouldn't set anything off. And yes, the sit bones take some conditioning for sure!

    1. Yeah, I'm thinking that time is the way to go. Which is...kind of depressing, given how mind-numbing even 25 minutes was. :P

      I'm hoping my PT will give me the okay to do some higher intensity / interval / fartlek type stuff. Maybe that will kill the boredom!