By Linda Freeman, Star 3 Certified Spinning® Instructor
What we learn in the studio, we take to the road; what we learn on the road, we take to the studio.
My students tell me that they diligently train in the studio throughout the late fall, winter and early spring in order to return to their bikes, ready to transition seamlessly to the outdoors. We periodize our training. It is agreeable to everyone to do so since many of us ride together in the cycling season. Others ski, paddle, run, hike, swim and walk, but the principles are very much the same, so it’s a one-size-fits-all program.
We know we are better cyclists for spending dedicated hours on our Spinner® bikes. Likewise, we are better Spinning® students for having experienced the real life of cycling outside the gym.
Let me share an example with you. Frank began to ride with my outdoor cycling group in the early summer of 2013. He showed up on a bizarre, upright bike and worked fiercely to keep up–all the time with a broad smile. To our surprise, he persevered. In fact, Frank was determined that cycling was going to be his sport. He bought a road bike and in September he completed his first century. He made friends and enjoyed the support and encouragement from all of us.
I invited Frank to join our Spinning program. In his typical fashion, he did so and attended classes regularly all year while balancing a busy work week, family, church and community obligations.
Ultimately he bought cycling shorts and shoes and invested in professional VO2max testing as well as bike fit for his road bike. During this process the pounds and the years have been melting away.
But Frank has a mission. His beloved sister lost a courageous battle with cancer, a loss that severely impacted him. Determined to do something, he decided that in 2014 he will ride the two day back-to-back Pan Mass cycling event to raise funds for cancer research. This is more than a long ride, or rather two long rides. It is possibly one of the largest and best-supported organized rides in the country and, for Frank, one with enormous personal meaning.
He has been training meticulously. In classes, Frank listens to any teaching points I offer and tries to put them into practice. One day, we were working in the Strength Energy Zone and I had the class dig deep just before the top, “shift to a bigger gear,” (add more resistance) and approach the top with renewed energy, to guarantee them that they had more strength remaining than they realized (and yes, races are often won or lost by doing just this).
This practice was revisited by Frank months later on the road:
I am coming up the Randolph gulf for the first time. I have been fighting a pretty good headwind as well as the climb. I am using all the climbing techniques we used in Spinning® class. I am really tired and as I look ahead, the road turns sharply to the right so that you cannot see beyond the turn and the grade increases substantially right on the turn. I am seriously considering getting off the bike and walking up the rest of the hill. So in my head I hear Linda’s voice in one of our Spinning classes. We had been doing hill training and she added at the top of the hill and said, “this exercise is for the time when you need to go just a little more and you don’t think you can. You’ll be ready to give that little extra to get over the hill and move on down the other side.” So I don’t get off the bike, I decide to at least go a little further. I turn the corner. The steep grade is for a really short distance and I am at the top of the gulf. It is all down hill from here. So I just smile and think to myself ‘Thanks Linda.’
Students like Frank humble me. I am reminded that the words I speak must be selected carefully and the intent must always be made clear. One never knows when an off-hand remark might impact a listener. Teaching is learning. Leading a class mandates give and take, responsibility and accountability and saying the same things over and over in different ways. A good class is the product of skill and knowledge, study and experience, practice, failure and success.
I am a better teacher because I ride. I am a better rider because I teach. The same opportunities are here for each of us to embrace and utilize. I call one of my classes “Ride On,” a common, almost glib greeting or closing, but it is one worth saying. It goes well with “Ride your own ride,” and “Wishing you miles of smiles.” And I do.