Friday, September 28, 2007


One of my favorite places to fully experience music is during Spinning sessions at my gym, the Sports Center at Toluca Lake—assuming the instructors use some of the tracks I burn for them. Illegal? Technically. But I believe I’ve inspired quite a few iTunes transactions during the five years I’ve been doing this, so get over it.

I started Spinning after a sobering visit to the orthopedist, where I found out that 20 years of daily runs had ground nearly all of the cartilage out of my knees. The doctor told me to switch to low-impact workouts and recommended bicycling. A few months later, with some trepidation, I took my first Spinning class and was gratified by the amount of sweat that poured out of me during the 50 minutes, although the music itself left something to be desired. Soon afterward, I bought myself a pair of bike shoes and started putting together CD compilations of tracks with infectious beats for the trainers. Some of them failed to get the hint or just didn’t hear the stuff I’d come up with as applicable to their approaches, but I was delighted when a couple of them started working my picks into their playlists. I’ll never forget how delighted I was the first time Spoon’s “The Way We get By” from my very first compilation came blasting out of the speakers and the whole class jumped right on the groove.

The most receptive trainer—and the one whose taste most closely paralleled my own—was the youngest, Essie Shure, who’s now 25. Essie has a great ear and a highly developed sense of rhythm, which she uses with the skill of a choreographer to keep the Spinners cranking at the peaks of their effort levels. If you haven’t tried one of these classes—and yes, it does look intimidating when you stick your head into a class and see the sweat flying off them and their legs whizzing impossibly fast on the pedals—you’ll be shocked by how motivating it can be with a good instructor and a compelling song sequence.

The basic idea behind Spinning is the adjusting of a resistance knob in relation to the groove of the track, from sprinting to the equivalent of pedaling up a steep hill, and the more resistance you dial up, the more effort it takes to stay right on top of the groove. The thing is, with an inspiring piece of music, you find yourself putting out a more intense effort than you thought you were capable of. Psychologically, it’s a lot like dancing—you’re so into the groove that you don’t realize how hard you’re working. Indeed, when I look into the mirror on the front wall and see as many as 20 Spinners in five rows of four bikes all completely in synch with a really good song, it reminds me of finding myself in a line of dancers doing the hustle back in the mid-’70s.

One of these days I’m gonna compile a Spinning’s Greatest Hits playlist from my now vast experience—I average six intensive Spins (and one creaky run) a week. But for now, a look at Essie’s playlist from yesterday (to the best of my memory) is a killer example of a playlist that doesn’t quit—think of the following as 800 calories burned in the most brutally pleasurable way possible.

1. Spoon, The Underdog (pre-class warm-up, 3:42)
2. Crowded House, Don’t Stop Now (sprint, 3:54)
3. Feist, My Moon My Man (climb, 3:48)
4. Traveling Wilburys, End of the Line (stand-up jog, 3:30)
5. Arcade Fire, Keep the Car Running (sprint, 3:29)
6. New Radicals, You Get What You Give (climb, 5:02)
7. Royskopp, Remind Me (radio edit) (sprint, 3:38)
8. Kings of Leon, Knocked Up (climb/sprint, 7:10)
9. Shins, Sea Legs (climb, 5:23)
10. Fountains of Wayne, Traffic and Weather (stand-up jog, 3:27)
11. Thom Yorke, Harrowdown Hill (extended) (climb/sprint, 7:03)
12. LCD Soundsystem, Get Innocuous! (sit/stand/squat, 7:12)
13. Prince, A Case of You (cool-down, 3:31)

1 comment:

paige said...

ride on. you nailed it, bud scoppa.