Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Respect the Sport

When we think about different sports - we think about the techniques that are inherent within each sport.
Throughout history as a sport developed and technological advances were made, sport-specific equipment evolved making each activity faster, smarter, safer.

Respecting the Sport means keeping the integrity of the sport intact. We know the consequences of running while lifting weights, or even running with ankle or wrist weights.  Why then, do some folks completely separate cycling from spinning?

Our video was born out of the necessity to educate the indoor cycling participant.  They know better.
They'll expect their instructor to know better too.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

My top 3 reasons for becoming an indoor cycling coach?

1. I love to rip the legs off of guys who I normally can't keep up with during the cycling season!

2. I love the look on people's faces when I say "TABATA".

3. I love new riders most of all, when they realize that "going for a ride" doesn't even feel like a workout!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Your core is your powerhouse

What exactly is your core?  The core muscles include all the muscles of the torso minus your arms and legs. Your core is at the centre of everything you do.  On the bike, a weak core is like riding a bike with a cracked frame, energy dissipates.  A strong core is the platform that your legs push up against.

I developed a fun round of exercises I call "around the world" that center around some common and not so common movements - grouped together they become "around the world" -  you'll see why when you do them.  Begin with 2 sets of 12 and increase to 4 sets, after which you can apply the "tabata protocol" of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off for a total of 8 sets (use the 10 seconds between to move into the next exercise).  Twice a week is plenty.

1. Bicycle - begin on your back with a traditional bicycle - hands behind the head, elbows wide (keep your knees bent if your are new to core work). Alternate knees toward opposite shoulder, twisting the torso.

2. Side Plank w/lifts - roll onto one side propped on one elbow, stack legs and feet on top of each other. Lift yourself into side plank pose (if this is too taxing, bend the lower leg and lift yourself up on to the ouside of the knee).  The other arm extends towards the ceiling.  Execute little lifts towards the ceiling with your hip.  (This movement works the entire side facing the floor).

3. Front Plank - support yourself onto your elbows and toes, keep torso parallel to the ground.  (Advanced movement - raise one arm or one foot slightly off the ground OR raise opposite arm/foot at the same time) hold for a count of 20 seconds.

4. Side Plank w/lifts - roll onto the other side (see #2).

That's Around the World!

Monday, 26 September 2011

See yourself through someone else's eyes

Imagine the person who loves you most;  your child, your lover, your best pal, your sister/brother, mom or dad, nonno or nonna.  

Imagine what they see when they look at you.

These are the eyes you need to see yourself with.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Living Big vs Living Small

It's easy to get caught up in the small stuff, pointing fingers, stuck in the rut of bitchiness.
It's harder to live big, let the small ugly stuff slip through, not stick on you.

Most days it feels like my natural rhythm is to focus on hurts, on unkindness done to me.
This kind of thinking feels bad, it feels achy, like a flu, wrapped up inside myself, fetal like, small.

Living big is spreading my arms, hugging my best buddy, because she makes me feel big, she tells me
that I was made with special "fairy dust".  Telling my sister how much I love her, because she is unwavering in
her love for me. 

Living big is reaching out to someone we might not know so well, offering a little of ourselves, a little bit of kindess. In the end that's all that really matters, it's what we'll remember about you. What you'll remember about me.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Bushel Half Empty

While September smacks of back to school, for us Italians September means sauce. Tomato sauce to be specific.  We're never quite sure when the tomatoes will be ready for picking (my mother bristles at the thought of buying ready picked) but damn it when they are ready you had better be prepared to drop everything.
I watched my mother at 80 years old, bent over for hours along side my 82 year old dad, fondling each tomato, eyeing it for colour, the right red or orangish/yellow.  Seeing her from a distance in her purple rayon pants, the sun on her back, we might as well have been miles away in rural Italy.
My sister and I helped pick every viable tomato, stacking 6 bushel baskets into the van. Mom knits her brow, hands on her hips and declares the baskets are half empty!
Every morning for 80 years,  my mother wakes up and makes a choice.  She chooses to see the basket half empty.
How do you see your basket?

Sunday, 28 August 2011


It doesn't matter how many kms you've got in your legs,  how many degrees you have or how expensive your bike is. When you're in front of your class empathy is all that matters. How well you understand and are able to share the feelings of the people waiting for your next word.

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Difference between an instructor and a coach - part 3

An instructor listens.
A coach hears you.

An instructor listens and sympathizes.
A coach hears you and acts.

An instructor sees his participant as someone who needs fixing.
A coach sees his athlete as someone to work with.

An instructor lumps everyone together into a "class".
A coach sees "Rita, Joe, Barbara, Judy and Asha".

An instructor loves teaching spin because she gets to burn a few extra calories.
A coach loves teaching spin because of the look of pure joy on the faces of his athletes.

An instructor isn't quite sure what "honouring your participant" means.
A coach not only knows, he lives by it.

An instructor is too busy to talk to management on your behalf.
A coach advocates for you.

Which are you?

Friday, 19 August 2011

Just Listen

I had the opportunity to talk to a lot of people today. They asked about C.O.R.E Cycling and what we were about, what made us different, etc.  And while I loved to talk about C.O.R.E, I loved more to be quiet and just listen. To listen to them.
Because in just listening I was able to learn who they were, what they wanted and most important what they needed. 
It's great to talk, but it's greater to just shut up and listen. 

Friday, 12 August 2011

Be a little scared

I've been painting my whole life.  It's what I'm good at, it's what I did at school.
I''ve probably painted 2000 paintings, most are pretty good and some are really great, but
whenever I pick up a brush, even when I just think about painting, I get a little scared.
I feel a little flutter of fear in my gut.  What if I've forgotten how?  What if I can't get my colours mixed right?
Even though I feel this way every single time I'm about to paint, I paint anyway. 
Being a little scared is good.  It makes me question myself just enough to reafirm my commitment.
How many times have you been stopped cold because you're a little scared?
How many works of "art" have you left undone?

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The difference between an instructor and a coach - part 2

An instructor may or may not recertify.
A coach not only keeps his certification up to date, he upgrades.

An instructor gets paid to workout.
A coach gets paid to take her group to the next level.

An instructor tolerates the front desk staff.
A coach gets to know the front desk staff.

An instructor gets annoyed if one or two of his participants look like they're dogging it.
A coach understands that this is their workout and if at times they dog it, that's ok.

An instructor thinks nothing of hopping off her bike to add resistance to one of her participant's bikes.
A coach would never, ever touch someone else's resistance dial.

An instructor knows all the answers.
A coach asks all the questions.

An instructor is all about his riding.
A coach knows that there's so much more than just the riding.

Which are you?

Friday, 5 August 2011

The difference between an instructor and a coach

An instructor shows up for class on time.
A coach comes to class early.

An instructor rifles through his playlist 5 minutes before the ride.
A coach has a ride planned.

An instructor sticks with the chosen ride, regardless of who's in the class.
A coach makes modifications to the planned ride, depending on who's in the class.

An instructor doesn't really concern herself much with learning people's names, after all they come and go.
A coach makes a point of learning people's names, regardless of whether they come or go.

An instructor puts his class through their paces, not really sure as to why.
A coach understands the purpose of each drill.

An instructor calls out cues.
A coach teaches.

An instructor rushes off to her next class.
A coach stays behind to answer questions.

Which are you?

"That's the way we've always done it"

Accepting things as the only way because that's the way we were taught or because everyone else does it that way, doesn't always mean its the best, the smartest or the safest.  Mandatory helmets weren't enforced by the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) until 2003!

Hovers, jumps, isolations, excessive cadences, excessive standing have been a staple in spin classes world wide.

Just because classes are taught this way, doesn't make it ok.  Because it sure as hell isn't best, smart or safe.

Thursday, 4 August 2011


I hate my IpodIt doesn't hold a charge worth sh*t and there's that stupid voice, that stupid computer voice that tells me the name of all my songs, who sings them and what album they're from.  Last week I couldn't get the voice to stop, it went through my entire library, every single song, over 500 of them.

Then there are the voices of the beautiful people, on their bikes, spinning their legs, chatting with one another even when the class has started.  You try several times to raise your own voice above the din, to no avail.  You hesitate, catch the eyes of another participant, a quiet one who with her eyes is telling you "Let's go! We only have an hour!".  You realize you owe it to her to politely ask everyone to be quiet. 

And what about the voice in your head?  The one that tells you "you're not good/smart/strong enough to deserve that", "maybe you shouldn't",  "it's just too hard".

Of all the voices you hear, that last one is the only voice that can get you stuck.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

I Will

I will check that my Ipod is charged the night before a class.

I will keep my Ipod charged for every class.

I will back up my favorite playlists on to cds.

I will never be late for class.

I will always greet new spinners.

I will always help them set up.

I will always remember their names.

I will always make the ride about them.

I will never make the ride about me.

I will always be present.

I will always honour each and every participant.

I will expand my knowledge regarding spinning to always stay current and fresh.

I will change my music and playlists frequently.

I will take time off from teaching spin in order to keep from getting stale.

I will review this list and choose the most important and stick with them.
I'm choosing to go from an ordinary instructor to an extraordinary coach.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

New Riders

Class has started, you've established your cadence, added enough resistance to simulate the road under your bike and you're in the middle of describing what's in store for the next 60 minutes.
In walks not one but two brand new riders.  Cute young women, maybe 17 or 18.  They quietly hop on a bike hoping to blend in. The easiest thing to do is just carry on as if they weren't there.  The hardest thing to do is get off your bike, ask their names (make a mental note to remember) set them up, explain the brake, explain the dial, explain the effort, describe what's expected, emphasize "listening to their body", give them permission to leave at any time, show them how to take saddle breaks, explain that perineal soreness is normal, hop back on your bike and resume the ride.
Which do you do?

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Why train like a pro in spin class?

Fifteen years ago in a dimly lit spin studio with six spin bikes, Kevin Wallace, ultra endurance cyclist and all around formidable bike rider led me and several others on a journey with him.  He was poetry in motion.  His pedal stroke smooth and velvety, every movement on the spin bike a beautiful, supple and fluid motion. Even though we were indoors, Kevin simulated his ride outdoors.  He was taking us with him.  I will never forget that feeling of authenticity, the feeling that I was riding like a "real rider" even though at the time,  I was a chicken shit on an actual bike outside!

As indoor cycling instructors we owe it to our participants to teach them to ride their spin bikes just like "real cyclists" ride their bikes outdoors.  Whether we re-create a mountain bike trek,  ride in a peloton on the open road, or a crazy commute in the big city, participants in our classes deserve the credibility and authenticity of a realistic bike ride.

Not every ride need be on cobbled pavers of the pro tours.  I'll never forget Jill, who took us on a trek through the rainforest, battling humidity, thick greenery, steep ascents and to top it all, leeches!!  Jill had hiked this particular trail in the Amazon, but she re-created it for us on a bike!

Interval based rides are what serious cyclists will use to tweak fitness.  Want more bang for your workout buck?  Intervals are the key.  As an example, Chris Carmichael (Lance's coach) uses what he calls "weight loss intervals".  2 minutes at a perceived rate of exertion of 9 and 2 minutes recovery. He uses "attacks" on hills to push riders past their thresholds when they're already tired from the climb itself, leaving opponents in the dust!

All it takes is a little effort, a little bit of time to learn how to use actual cycling principals and apply them to the spin bike.
My participants are more than worth it, aren't yours?

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Are You Stale?

People talk.  Out of earshot, in the change room, people talk...about you, your music, your ride.  What they say depends entirely on you.  Did you phone the ride in?  Have you been winging it the last couple of months?  Using the same old playlist over and over?   If you go in to teach your class and have no idea what you're going to do with no plan, you might as well call in a sub.  Chances are the sub will do a much better job, he's keen and fresh.  He's out to impress.  You?  You've already won their hearts (and legs), you were known for your kick ass music and then after a year or two you stopped caring as much.  You played whatever came up on your Ipod, falling back on your repertoire of old drills.  Your class can probably tell you what's coming next.  B-O-R-I-N-G!  If you have the nagging feeling that this might be you, there's still time to save your reputation as a formidable instructor.  Change the music, change the ride.  You should be using a new ride once each week.  If you're C.O.R.E certified you are privy to a new ride with new drills each and every Monday.  If  you don't care enough to dedicate the time to change it up, then you need to take some time off.  At least that way you won't be boring anyone but yourself . 

Thursday, 2 June 2011

If You Don't Do it Outside DON'T Do It Inside

Several years ago, I helped form a new bike club in the greater Toronto area.  I was on the board of directors and also rode with the club, guiding new riders.  One of the members, a man in his early 60's, had signed up for a 50k charity event and wanted to know how to "train" for it.  He thought it would be a good idea to keep going to his spin classes because his instructor really knew how to get his heart rate up.  They would "box" while riding!  I told him I was pretty certain that he wouldn't have to"box" anyone on his 50k charity ride and that the best training for him would be to ride outside...often, and leave the boxing gloves at home.

Indoor cycling has evolved over the past 15 years, moving further and further away from its roots.  Most spin instructors (cyclist or not) see a distinction between spinning indoors and riding outdoors.  Most indoor cycling classes have become nothing more than "aerobics on a bike".  Not only is this sad, it's downright dangerous. 

Any movement that is not done on a real bike, regardless of whether it's a road bike, mountain bike, cyclocross, track bike or hybrid, shouldn't be done indoors on a spin bike.  Movements like hovers, isolations, jumps, running  or upper body contortions are harmful to you as an instructor and to your participants as well.

Respect the bike, respect your body. 
If you don't do it outside on a real bike, don't do it inside.

Friday, 20 May 2011

They're new to spin class, and they're LATE!

It's bit of a leap for a new rider to take their first spin class.  Remember your first class? It's intimidating for them.  Many will come a little early to let you know that they're new and welcome your help getting set up. But many new participants often come in when the class has already started.  Do you get off your bike when a new person comes into your class?  Yes even when they're late?  "Well, they're late" you reason, "why should I disrupt the whole class and get off my bike to help this one late comer?" Why?  Because not doing so is neglectful.  Get off your bike and help them set up, your class won't fall apart if you have them continue warming up for a few minutes longer while you quickly tend to this person.  You have no idea who this person is, where they've come from, why they've come.  Perhpas they've been tending to an ailing member of their family, or they've just put their kid in daycare and junior started to act up.  The reason doesn't matter.  Treat them as if they have the best darn reason in the world for being late! So get off your bike and tend to them.  Get one of your regulars to do a cadence check to keep the rest of the class occupied while you look after this new rider.  I promise you it's something they'll always remember.