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Is it better to take a spinning class or to cycle at home on my trainer?

Ask a Pro — Diane Stibbard

Coach, Personal Trainer, and Two-Time Canadian Duathlete of the Year

Diane Stibbard - two-time dualthlete of the yearQ: Is it better to take a spinning class or to cycle at home on my trainer?

A: Now that Old Man Winter has sunk his teeth in, we have to take our rides indoors. I know, I can hear all the groans from here. But nevertheless you gotta do what you gotta do to maintain your fitness so you can return to the outdoor riding season in decent shape.

I’m asked all the time, “Should I ride my own trainer, or is it OK just to participate in spinning classes?” That is a very good question. One of the complaints I get from my cycling clients, and from fellow cyclists, is the boredom factor from riding inside. The main benefit of spinning classes is the motivation you get from the instructor and your fellow participants. Spin classes provide you with stimulation and variety you may not necessarily be able to get while riding on your trainer. Spin classes also allow cyclists who don’t have a lot of space at home for a trainer to be able to ride without constantly setting up their bike on a trainer every time they want to do a workout.

But what about cyclists who have a big basement or a spare room where they can leave their bikes set up on a trainer? Are there benefits to riding your own bike? The main advantage of using a trainer is that you become more comfortable riding your own bike. Most of you have had a proper bike fit. Your bike is ergonomically positioned so you aren’t putting stress on your knees, neck, wrists and shoulders. Only three adjustments can be made on spinning bikes: seat height, handlebar height and distance from seat to handlebars. Your own bike, when set up by a bike-fit specialist, accounts for many other measurements to ensure correct fit. That reduces injury and fatigue in the areas of the body mentioned above. Being on your own bike allows you a more customized and comfortable ride.

The second advantage to riding your own bike is that you can get a better workout. Spinning bikes operate on a large front fly-wheel that keeps the pedals going around. When you stop pedalling, the fly-wheel continues to turn, providing a coasting effect that you don’t get on your trainer. When you ride your bike on a trainer as soon as you stop pedalling, the bike stops, the power stops and the cadence stops. There’s no “coasting,” which makes the workout harder.

Both spinning and riding your own bike on the trainer have benefits. Here’s what I suggest:
1. If motivation is your main issue I suggest you participate in a spin class two out of three rides per week, and ride your own bike on the trainer once a week.
2. If motivation is not your issue, then ride your own bike two out of three rides per week, and do one spinning class a week for variety.
3. If you’re a cyclist who experiences knee and neck issues, then riding your own bike all the time is a better option.
4. And finally, if you’re interested in staying fit, having someone else motivate you, and do not have problems with your body from using the spinning bikes, then the spinning classes may be a better fit for your indoor riding season.

Whichever way you decide to ride, the key is to be consistent. And that will help you maintain your fitness and keep a healthy body weight throughout the winter riding season.

Training for a two-day cycling eventDiane provides training programs for recreational and competitive cyclists, duathletes and triathletes, including nutritional counseling and personal training. Does your company need a fitness consultant? Get in touch with Diane to discuss fitness seminars for corporations

You want personal training but don’t live near Diane? No problem. Diane does email and telephone consultations. To learn more, contact Diane at [email protected] or at LinkedIn.

Check out Diane’s e-programs: Keeping Fit in the Off-Season and Training For a Two-Day Charity Event For the Time-Starved Cyclist.

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