Online Exercise Bike Classes – “I see you baby, stay on top!” Robyn Arzon yells as I increase my resistance and start pedaling faster. I take her 45-minute online cycling lessons using the Peloton app on a bike in my gym’s spin room when classes aren’t in session, and despite the 45 empty bikes around me, I feel like I’m hanging in a pack with Lance Armstrong on one of his practice laps at the Tour de France.
I am focused. I am determined. And I’m motivated to show Robyn that I can push through when she says so—despite the fact that Robyn has no idea who I am, what I look like, or that I’m even streaming a spin class she taught two Saturdays ago.
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Yet something amazing happens: I get stronger and it makes me even more excited to get on my road bike to see the fruits of my labor in indoor cycling class pay off outside.
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Fast forward a few months and I got my answer. Here’s how taking online spin classes in the off-season helped me on my road bike this spring and summer:
I live in Boulder, Colorado, a land of too many winter sports opportunities to list. Although you’ll find me cross-country skiing or snowshoeing when it’s too cold or snowy to get on my bike, I’ve never put my road bike on a trainer or taken a spin class—and my bike fitness has suffered . Of course, my cardiovascular health never deteriorated too much thanks to my Nordic track hours and love of slogging through feet of snow. But as any road cyclist will tell you, too much time out of the saddle doesn’t do much when you get back into it for the first few rides of spring.
Still, after sneaking in at least a few spin classes every week throughout the winter, I couldn’t believe how easy my first outdoor ride felt. I was able to keep a steady pace on the flat and never once growled on the hills. In fact, I felt so strong that I found myself riding more than usual – and I even asked cycling friends who are stronger and faster than me if I could try to last them on their next ride.
I’ll never forget my first bike ride in Colorado after moving from New York. A friend took me up a fairly steep hill and my shortness of breath, weakness and needing to unbuckle my shoes and walk my bike to the top made me feel like I was having a heart attack at 28 years old. Despite 11 years of altitude adjustment, I still find climbing above 5,400 feet to be a challenge – which is why I tend to avoid riding with big hills until late summer or early fall when I feel the level of my bike fitness is high enough that I have no other walking – the biggest shame.
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Although after a few months of online spin classes, which almost always include some resistance-induced “hills,” I can’t believe how strong I feel on my outdoor climbs. My quads and glutes know exactly how to kick in to help me speed up the inclines, and I even notice that I’ve replaced my usual hill mantra (“right, left, right, left” as I focus on just one stomp and then another) with something more empowering (“You’ve really got this!”). Now that same hill that threatened to topple me at 28 feels like a cakewalk at almost 40.
While my indoor cycling habit has largely meant that I feel strong on my road bike, there are days when I don’t feel so stellar. On these trips, I found something magical happening: out of nowhere, Robin’s voice would come from somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, saying something like, “You’ve got this, cheater!” or “I see you, honey, stay on top! When that happens, I go back to my time on the spin bike – and find that I have a little more in the tank than I previously thought.
I think one of the reasons I stuck with my online training regimen during the off-season (and still sneak in here and there now that I’m out riding more regularly) is that I find them really fun . The music combined with amazing trainers makes the time fly and the efficient sweat sessions make me feel accomplished.
However, no matter how committed I am to these indoor walks or how many calories I burn, this fact remains: I won’t actually be walking anywhere. What’s more, my opinion of Peloton’s sneakers (though beautiful and inspiringly good) is pretty mixed. That’s why, on my first road ride this year, I appreciated more than ever the 27 miles of land I covered and the incredible Colorado scenery I saw while doing it.
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Megan Rabbit Megan is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in national magazines and websites, including Women’s Health, Dr. Oz The Good Life, Yoga Journal, Prevention, Runner’s World, Well + Good, Refinery29 and many more. When she’s not writing, she enjoys yoga, swimming, or biking in Boulder, Colorado.
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