Stationary Biking Does Not Require Stationary Thinking

Here’s the thing about spinning (ok fine, a few things): It’s as far from biking as running on a treadmill is from running. Obviously, indoors is worse than outdoors in terms of the mental ability to cope with the fact that you are working out and not enjoying patio beers and a bowl of queso. The success of the whole thing hinges entirely on your ability to pretend that you are not doing the very thing you are doing: Hammering away on a bicycle. In a dark sweaty room. Going precisely nowhere.

As workouts increase in length, I have become a black hole (and not only with respect to my ability to disappear oatmeal, spinach, chicken, and Easter candy) chewing through mental tools for endurance. It’s absolutely true that endurance athleticism is practically all in your head. Anyone can physically survive endurance athletics; all you do is just put one foot in front of the other. Sure, you need to build up over time, eat right, sleep plenty, stretch, and all of that. But those things really aren’t that hard.

What’s hard is getting your head in the game. Throwing back the covers at 5:00 am and yanking up a pair of spandex shorts — not physically hard but damn near mentally impossible. Jumping in an outdoor pool when you can make out steam rising even though the sun’s not up yet — that’s the mental equivalent of Stallone slamming the arm wrestling win in Over the Top. Keeping the wheels turning on a stationary bike when the only thing you’re passing is the one-hour mark is tough.

Jacked From: via Pinterest
Jacked From: via Pinterest

How do you do it?

Envisioning the course your shooting for (a great idea discussed by a non-blob blogger here). Giving yourself over to the righteous music stylings of Queen, Guns and Roses, or (probably just me here) Garth Brooks. mathematically calculating the percentage completed versus the percentage remaining for the drill, the workout, or the whole dang training cycle. Grocery store daydreams (It would start with a Boboli crust, there would be cheese, of course. Maybe alfredo sauce. pepperoni instead of veggies and — Oh my god . . . PANCAKES.) These are all great ways to get through a wretchedly long, tortuously indoor workout, but like all good things, they tend to wear out, too. This is where an instructor can really make it or break it.

So, after a particularly grueling indoor spin this morning that was undersupported by the instructor and heinously NOT followed by pepperoni-alfredo pizza and/or pancakes,

Here’s an open letter to spinning instructors everywhere.

Hey there, Spinning Instructors:

Y’all are doing God’s work. Hauling yourselves out before sun up to face a disgruntled sweaty pack of New Year’s Resolution hangers-on. We’re not ungrateful, we’re just needy. It’s tough on these bikes; it’s dark, sweaty, and gross in this room; we’re wearing sausage casing; and we could really use your help.


  • 3 Doors Down, Creed, of Evanescence. This is not a matter of taste, it is a fact.
  • A Drill Sargeant Sergeant in a Cheerleading Skirt. Just let us know the RMPs, watts, or time interval information we need to make the drill work. You screaming “Faster!” is less informative than it sounds. (If that’s even possible.)
  • To compete against the other side of the room. It sounds like a fun idea: to divide the room into two teams and have a “spin-off,” but there’s no way to gauge if we’re winning or losing, we can’t really form any team bond, and it seems to just devolve into you screaming “Faster!”


  • The music to last for the entire drill. There are very few things more difficult than continuing with a tough drill once the music stops. If you tie our cadence to the beats-per-minute, continuing in silence is impossible. This is not made easier by you screaming: “The music stopped but you don’t!”
  • New music roughly every three months. If you teach twice a week to the same ten people and you still play LMFAO every class, take two minutes now to just delete them from iTunes completely (even though they’re due to come back as retro in about six weeks).
  • The length of time for which you expect us to sprint. All sprints are not created equal. If it’s ten seconds, cool. If it’s ninety seconds, that’s cool too, but not if I think it’s only ten seconds. Probably the dirtiest trick you could pull, besides letting the song end before the drill does, is leading us through a series of 30-second sprints, and then inexplicably and without warning letting the last sprint go 90 seconds. This is another time when “Faster,” is particularly unhelpful. “45 more seconds,” would really be great as an alternative.


  • Music with beats-per-minute that match the drill cadence. This is not a small undertaking for a playlist maker, I know, but the payoff is so huge. This is stationary bike magic.
  • Visuals that transcend “This one’s a hill.” Bonus points for anything that draws on real local routes we all know.
  • New anything: music, drills, visuals. Remember, on a stationary bike where absolutely nothing seems to ever change, anything you can mix-up feels like Christmas.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for helping us slog through another too-long, too-inside workout. We get that you’re not on a real bike or outside either, and that it’s still pre-dawn for you, too. Much appreciation for all that you do week in and week out to pull us mentally through, since the pepperoni-alfredo pizza fantasy is already starting to lose its appeal.

With sincere gratitude,

The Blob With the Too-Tight Shorts (No. The other one.)


  1. Guess you wont be taking my class…still play Creed, Three Doors Down, Allman Brothers, Skynyrd, kid rock, and new mixed in…to each his own!

    • LB, now Skynyrd doesn’t sound so bad. I can’t thank you enough for your service. I’ve always struggled with that S word; spelling it may be the only thing tougher than spinning to Creed. 😉

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