Saturday, December 7, 2013
A dusting of snow fell two weekends ago at Sunday River. By midweek last week, early risers may have had to warm the car before heading to work. Most days now, darkness has come before dinner is finished.
It all adds up to a sad fact for most Maine cyclists: The remaining days of outdoor riding for this year are quickly coming to an end.
Fortunately, those who just can't give up their rides have plenty of options for continued pedaling, even if it has to happen inside. Many bike clubs, training groups and bike shops offer indoor sessions, while fitness centers and personal trainers provide options for cycling classes so riders don't have to slow down while waiting for spring.
At Body Symmetry in Brunswick, owner Martha Kittle noticed an increase in numbers for her Spinning classes a couple of weeks ago. With three Spinning-certified instructors and several options for weekly classes, the workouts are so popular that there are times when the instructor gives up a bike to fit one more client in.
"People like the cardiovascular component of it, and they like that it's for any level, triathlete versus stay-at-home mom versus the person who never exercised a day in their life," said Kittle, whose fitness center has 10 NXT Spinning bikes plus the instructor's bike.
Kittle believes the Spinning classes are harder than the average road ride, though her husband disagrees. Her reasoning is the increased ability to concentrate on form and heart rate on a Spinning bike.
"On a road bike, going up a hill your body will naturally find those shortcuts," Kittle said. "On a hill in Spinning class, you can focus your energy on the right leg over the left leg. Which leg is working harder? Can you equal it out?"
A different kind of indoor riding is offered by Gorham Bike & Ski, which begins its 11th year of indoor training Nov. 6 with two hour-long sessions, one in the morning and another in the evening. Classes regularly draw 20 to 30 participants who bring their own bikes and mount them in one of Gorham Bike & Ski's 35 CycleOps trainers.
Though it may be a drag to get your Specialized on and off the car rack in December, Gorham Bike & Ski instructor Dave Palese sees plenty of advantages in using your own ride.
"It's your bike so you're comfortable on it," said Palese, who will lead 90-minute variable intensity sessions on Wednesday evenings. "The body has a lot of muscle memory, so the more specifically you can train, the more like reality it will be come spring."
By using your own bike -- whether road, mountain or hybrid -- you'll never have to worry about handlebar position or saddle height. Your pedaling experience will be very similar to what you'd experience outside, including changing gears to make pedal strokes easier or harder, but without the natural resistance -- or speed -- you get from gravity on those hills.
The biomechanics and fly wheel of a Spinning bike gives a bit of a different feel, which Kittle likes to think of as cross training. Resistance is changed with a knob, wheel or lever on the bike. The positioning, with pressure taken off the wrists and lower back for serious cyclists, sometimes takes a bit of getting used to.
"Sometimes they'll come in and they'll try to do the drops position, and because of the nature of the bike we don't encourage that," Kittle said. "There's no wind against them."
There are five basic Spinning positions -- seated flat, standing flat, jumps, seated climb, standing climb -- that may be easier to do on a stationary bike than a standard bike on a trainer. These allow instructors to mix up their strength, hill, recovery and endurance workouts.
"It all boils down to better riding next year," Kittle said.
Of course, as Palese said, "The reality of the world is that when you're pedaling a bike in place it's not all that exciting." But when you're pedaling and going nowhere in a crowd of 20-plus with an instructor barking directions and music playing, the time seems to go by pretty quickly.
"What our instructors do is break that one hour up into small chunks," Palese said. Portions of riding hard have rest/recovery intervals in between. Climbs are followed by low-resistance stretches.
"It progresses through the winter, so in the beginning you're working on the kind of longer, more aerobic types of efforts and pedaling mechanics, those types of things.
"As you move through the winter the efforts are more specific to the type of riding you would do, like challenging yourself on that hill that always gives you trouble."
Karen Beaudoin lives in Portland and is the web editor for PressHerald.com.
Her Pedal On blog offers info, events and advice for people who love their bikes more than, well ... almost anything.
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