Thursday 4 February 2010

Spinning out the winter

I’m suffering from withdrawal symptoms. Cycling withdrawal symptoms.

I haven’t been out on the bike since mid-December, mainly because of the heavy snowfall we’ve had in Prague recently. Before anyone calls me a wuss, I should like to point out that I am, in fact, quite a hardy soul and normally ride pretty regularly throughout the winter. But the last couple of months have been just too cold and slippery to tempt me out.

So, as in previous years, I’ve been doing a bit of spinning at the gym to try to keep in condition until the weather relents.
For the uninitiated, spinning involves pedalling an exercise bike furiously to a loud musical accompaniment, surrounded by other paying punters doing likewise, while an instructor bellows at you from the front. If that sounds unpleasant, be assured that it is. But for me, the resulting fitness is worth the effort.

My instructor is called Honza and we’ve been friends ever since I first moved to Prague way back in 1995. It was he who talked me into trying spinning a few years ago, after I’d been complaining about the pain of getting back in shape one spring. I can’t say I enjoy it, because I don’t, but Honza is a great motivator and plays some cool and unusual tunes. Who’d have thought Nick Cave would make for good exercise music?

At the start of this year, the gym I go to launched a “Tour de Spinning” competition. As the name suggests, it’s based on the Tour de France. Each hour of spinning completed counts as 30 km. The race is 3,600 km long and is divided into 20 stages, each 180 km long. In other words, 1 stage equals 6 hours of spinning.

I declined to sign up, as I figured it was just a marketing trick to boost attendance. And a very successful marketing trick it has been too. Most of the sessions I’ve been to this year have been packed. There’s hardly an empty bike to be seen. This is good for Honza, as he gets paid more if more people turn up. But it’s not so good for me, as my favourite machine under the air-conditioning vent is now usually taken by the time I get there.

There’s a huge notice board up at the gym charting everyone’s progress. When I was there last week, the two leading competitors had already completed nine stages. Let’s do the maths. That’s 9 x 6 = 54 hours spinning in one month. Almost 2 hours a day on an exercise bike - these guys must be mad! Mad, and lighter of pocket, as they must have shelled out at least 2,000 crowns (around €75) for the privilege. That’s a significant outlay for most Czechs.

Spinning may be good for me, but cycling is what I crave. The only cure is to get back on the bike. And that’s just what I’m going to do. This weekend will see my first ride of 2010. Whatever the weather.


Anonymous said...

i agree spinning is not the same as outdoors, but it is a great way to maintain fitness and guage fitness for distance. i can always do more outside than spinning though.

Circuit Rider CZ said...

I agree on all counts. On the other hand, my heart-rate monitor usually indicates that I maintain a high work rate outside than in the gym. Maybe I don't notice the pain so much when I'm watching the world pass by.

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