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Indoor Cycling for Runners

 Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Do you enjoy cross-training? During my college running career, I spent countless hours on the bike, as I was in the 'fragile crew' and had to keep my running mileage under 75 miles per week. I can hardly imagine running that much now, but I was on a scholarship, so running was basically my job. I did one key run per day (yes, that averaged about 10 miles), lifted weights, and would add a 30-minute bike or swim most days to round out my training. 

Since having kids, my time-crunched schedule has little space for cross-training. I've focused on core training and some simple strength training to support my running, but haven't branched out much. This week, my cube neighbor from Life Time Cycle convinced me to try Life Time's new signature formats for indoor cycling. The creators of the AMP, EDG & PWR Cycle were teaching a sampler class yesterday, so our corporate Run & Cycle team took a quick 'field trip' to Life Time Fitness - Crosstown for the class. Our weather in Minnesota is crazy-windy this week, so it was a perfect time to take it inside.

My last time on a spin bike was almost a year ago, when I audited one of our top Performance Cycle classes to grade the instructor. At that point I was only about 6 months post-baby, and the lack of strength & power in my legs was evident. I just wanted to finish the class, while spinning at relatively low tension for most of it. Fortunately, yesterday was much more enjoyable, as I was able to make it through the whole class with my legs feeling stronger. That's a good sign that my fitness level and strength have improved a lot over the past year. 

The class started off with EDG Cycle, taught by Emily Booth. Emily was a Run Coordinator in Colorado before her growing roles in Group Fitness pulled her away from our team. It was fun to reconnect, and (finally) experience one of her classes. Emily created EDG Cycle to appeal to a wide range of indoor cyclists. It blends heart rate and power-based training with attention to the beat and motivating music. EDG Cycle probably fit my strengths the best, as I can create more power when out of the saddle than in, and Emily pushed us to stand on many of the intervals. It was heart-pumping, and I enjoyed watching my power output on the screen via LT Connect, which encouraged me to 'compete' with my neighbors on the bike - our Run Director on my left and my husband on my right. Yes, I am competitive, even when I'm totally out of my element...

PWR Cycle was up next - the format I expected to 'enjoy' the most. PWR was created by Troy Jacobson, Sr. Director of Life Time Endurance. I've worked with Troy on various projects over the years, and went through is first-ever Endurance Coach Certification way back in 2008. I bought my road bike shortly after that class, and trained for (and finished) a couple of triathlons in 2009-2010. Since then, my road bike has been gathering too much dust, but I hope to get back out on it this summer now that we don't have a baby in the house. 

Mentally, PWR is probably the best fit for my training-focused brain. However, my quads screaming from pushing that hard in the saddle, with Troy occasionally peeking over my power meter. I hammered through, but didn't feel as strong as I did in EDG. This would be a great format for me to further build my strength and road-readiness before hitting my road bike some this summer. 

The class closed with AMP - aka "Party on a Bike." I honestly didn't expect to enjoy this one much. I'm not into choreography, and thought I would feel self-conscious. I knew others in the class who felt the same way, but fortunately (for me) the class wasn't overly choreographed. We were out of the saddle, standing on the pedals most of the time while following the beat, and following simple movements, leaning into the rhythm with our upper body. We were encouraged to let go and simply tap the handlebars at times - a serious balance challenge. I underestimated the focus on core, arm strength & balance. My heart rate & power output were much lower than in the first two formats, but it provided more of a full-body strength workout. I'm not sure if I'll take AMP again, but I'd consider it for a fun strength workout on a day when I just need to clear my mind and not focus on being so dialed into heart rate & power or pace.

We survived! The leaders in Run & Outdoor Cycle join the format experts. From left to right - Peter Spencer (National Project Manager - Life Time Cycle), Emily Booth (EDG Cycle), Troy Jacobson (PWR Cycle / Sr. Director Life Time Endurance), Justin Reis (AMP Cycle), myself (National Training Manager - Life Time Run), Pete Miller (National Director of Run & Cycle). Photo credit to Pete Miller. 

How do Indoor Cycle classes fit into a runner's training program? Although they don't directly replace key Run workouts, they can supplement and round out a training program. Here are a few ways you can incorporate spin classes: 

  • During the off-season, use Indoor Cycle classes for no-impact cross-training to maintain general fitness
  • Supplement your running miles during your training season, while you build a stronger, more well-rounded physique
  • Add a cycling workout to increase your muscular strength, especially in your quads. This is a great training 'hack' for those training for downhill races!

Worried that adding cycling will take away from your running? Here are a few tips to seamlessly work Indoor Cycling into your training: 

  • Avoid taking a class the day before or day of a hard Run workout
  • Adding a class to an easy Run day? Try doing a short run early in the morning, and ride at lunch or in the evening. This was Coach MK's suggestion for me.
  • If you have cross-train days planned on your calendar, indoor cycling is a great option
  • Have a short run scheduled the day after your long run? Take a note from triathletes, and do a 'brick' workout. Bike first, then shake out your legs with an easy 20-30 minute run. 

Have you tried AMP, EDG or PWR Cycle? Which is your favorite? Let us know by commenting on the Facebook post for this blog.

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Rebekah Mayer, National Run Training Manager at Life Time Fitness. Follow me on Instagram at rebekah800, on Twitter at @rebekah_mayer and our team at @lifetimerun. Find us on Facebook at