Tag Archives: exercise

Spin Cycle

No, not the washing.

I’m talking about a full-on cycling session in a funky indoor studio at a gym, such intense exercise that blood, sweat and tears will soak clean through your lycra-clad body.

Spinning has been around a while, but I’ve only got into it recently. I go to the Charterhouse Club in leafy Godalming, Surrey. There’s a certain irony in the beauty of nature outside the studio walls, and the torture that’s wreaked on your body inside.

Each session is 50-55 minutes in total, including the essential warm-up and cool-down elements.

Bring a large bottle of water, a towel – you WILL sweat profusely -and more energy than a hormonal teenager at a school prom.

The bike is a Keiser. The name is appropriately redolent of power and control.

Adjust the height and pitch of the saddle, the handlebar – vertically and laterally – and settle your feet into the metal pedals. And start spinning those wheels, dude….

The instructor will rule your life for the duration of the session. But at least you know it will be a well-trained, measured death.

Dim the lights. Turn on the fans. Crank up the music. Warm up the legs. Stretch the key muscles. And begin….

That monitor tells you everything you need to know for the next 45 minutes….

  • RPM….how quickly are you spinning those wheels? 70-100 is comfortable, anything above 100 could hurt. But it all depends on…
  • Gear = resistance. The flat road gear is likely to be 10-12, and a hill climb could start at 14-16, maxing out at 24. I think it’s 24, but I’ve never been above 22. And that really hurt
  • the clock. Do not look at how many minutes have elapsed. Just get in the Spin Zone and enjoy the ride. Ha!
  • watts & calories counter. Watts = power being expended. Apparently the wattage is more important than calorie consumption. All I know is that a wattage of 200+ is invariably really, really hurting, that a 450 calorie session is painful, and that 500 calories is a near-death experience

What I love about a spin class – in a masochistic way – is the way the instructor puts together the session: they will drive you onward – beyond what you think you can achieve – using a devious combination of RPM and resistance, on long sprints, up gruelling mountains and – using the all-important principle of “intervals” – every possible combination in between.

And the music – their personalised playlist – is chosen to sync perfectly with the pace and resistance of each part of the session. I’m not sure I could see a class through to the finishing line, without that symbiotic relationship between the pulsing power of the music and the rapidly sapping energy of mind and body.

At the end is a sense of simultaneous physical weakness and mental strength. And some very sweaty clothes.

Cool down those fatigued muscles. Stretch. Dry the sweat off your bike for the next victims.



Rinse and repeat.

Run, Andrew, Run

Forrest Gump is one of those engaging films that unpeels another layer every time you watch it.

One of the most memorable scenes is where Forrest feels he just has to run, sad after his sweetheart Jenny has moved on. So Forrest runs. And runs. And runs. For 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours, covering 19,000 miles across the USA several times. And then he stops.


I’ve never had quite that strong an urge to run, but just occasionally a jog near where we live, a session on the treadmill in the gym, or even a competitive 10k or 5k run gets the old competitive juices flowing.

A few years ago, I squeaked under a 10k tape in 44 minutes and 58 seconds, beating my target for that year by the tiniest margin. Much longer ago, before Forrest was even a character in a screenwriter’s imagination, I ran a few 10ks in the Bermuda International event.

And today, I ran the Charterhouse Club Trail Run for the first time, aged 58 1/2. Out of the three distance options – 5k, 10k or 15k – I was really glad I had chosen the shortest distance, after spending most of the week ill or entertaining….but certainly not training.

I breasted the tape – wheezing like a 70 year-old smoker with lung cancer, thighs and hamstrings as taut as Robin of Sherwood’s bow – in 26 minutes and a handful of seconds. Not too bad, considering my training-free week and the vicious, hilly course….but no need for Mo or Jess to feel threatened just yet.

Running is one of those things in life that you know is essentially pretty dull, but which at least gets the ageing limbs on the move again. The nervous anticipation before, and the pain during, an event is just about cancelled out by the satisfaction of completing a target, and by a few minutes of post finishing line endorphins.

Watching Forrest Gump run across the USA again is a whole lot more enjoyable…..