The Difference between Spinning and That Trendy New Class You Just Took

Spinning vs. Indoor Cycling --what's the difference?Happy Memorial Day! I hope you all are off doing fun long-weekend things instead of reading this blog post.

On Saturday, I drove up to New Hampshire to take a 9-hour Spinning certification workshop. Not how I typically spend Memorial Day weekend (quite the opposite, actually), but I’ve fallen so in love with teaching group fitness that I want to expand my expertise to the stationary bike, and this was the only day that worked for my schedule. I still have to take the online test to be officially certified, and once I do, I’ll put together a post talking more about my experience with it and the details of the certification.

For today, I just wanted to share a little interesting tidbit about the world of stationary bikes and clear up some common misnomers and confusions—there’s actually quite a bit of controversy surrounding “Spinning” vs. “indoor cycling.”

Spinning is a trademarked name, and is what you might think of as the traditional bike class you’d take at the gym (more common a few years ago). It’s based off outdoor cycling, so if you wouldn’t do it riding a bike outdoors, you don’t do it on the stationary bike. The workouts are supposed to replicate situations you might find yourself in on the road or in a race, and are built around heart rate zones—there’s actually a huge emphasis on this and wearing a heart rate monitor is strongly encouraged. Classes are each focused on different training types as well. Monday might be a strength ride, while Tuesday is a recovery ride, Wednesday an endurance ride, and Thursday a race day (you simulate a road race on the stationary bikes, pushing your hardest at the highest gear you can). To be an official “Spinning” studio, all the instructors must be Spinning certified through Mad Dogg Athletics and adhere to the program.

So that fun, trendy class you just took where you’re dancing around on the bike, using hand weights, doing push ups on the handle bars, and riding to the beat of the music? Not a spinning class. That’s an indoor cycling class. Pretty much everything you do in a SoulCycle “indoor cycling” class is prohibited in a Spinning class for safety reasons, or because it’s simply just not something you’d do on an outdoor bike. Unlike Spinning, where one day might be a recovery ride or a class where the goal is to keep your heart rate below 75% of your max, the goal of indoor cycling classes is always to kick your butt and leave you feeling totally spent. Think about it: if you’re spending $20+ per boutique cycling class, you want to feel like you got a killer workout–and people often associate killer workouts with a high heart rate, pouring sweat and a high-intensity class. I’m guilty of this as well–hell no am I spending $25 on a recovery ride. But in the training world…yes, these are just as important as classes where you push at max exertion rates.

To most people, it’s like…who cares. Spinning, indoor cycling—close enough. But the Spinning community is actually pretty up in arms about studios like SoulCycle and FlyWheel being commonly referred to as spin or spinning studios. Some hardcore cyclists and triathletes are flat-out appalled at what people are doing on stationary bikes in today’s group fitness classes because it goes against everything you’d do riding outdoors or racing.

The master trainer who taught my Spinning course on Saturday is a devoted and incredibly knowledgeable cyclist, and I found it fascinating hearing her opinions on these trendy boutique classes—especially since I love them. It’s ironic that I got Spinning certified, because the type of classes I love and want to teach aren’t even technically “Spinning” classes. I’ll get more into it in the post I do about the course, but I’m still so happy I did it—I learned a ton.

Traditional Spinning  vs. Indoor Cycling—which do you prefer? And did you know that Spinning and indoor cycling were two different things?


I’m an SPX Instructor at Btone Fitness!

Btone Fitness Boston studioWoohoo! I think I already mentioned that I was going to start instructing, but as of this week it’s official: I’m teaching SPX classes at Btone in Boston!

Leading group fitness classes has been something on my to-do list for a while now. I love creating workouts and posting them to P&I, but also wanted the personal interactions—I can’t correct your form and push you through a move you’re struggling with via the Internet. Unless I were to Skype you, which would be creepy…

Getting involved in the Boston fitness community, in addition to this wonderful fit blogging community, is beyond exciting for me. And it means I might get the chance to workout with some of you Boston-area readers!

It was about a year ago that I first took a class at Btone. At the time, I was a diehard HIIT girl—every one of my workouts had to be fast-paced and explosive and sweaty. Yoga? Pilates? Pfff forget about it. SPX was created by Sebastien Lagree and is done on Megaformers (think a Pilates Reformer machine on steroids), and involves low-impact moves done at a steady, slow pace. Walking into my first class, I was totally skeptical that this workout would be intense enough for me, which is laughable in retrospect because it Kicked. My. Ass. (and still does…every time).

I was shaking like a leaf, had to do easier modifications of the exercises towards the end, couldn’t walk up the stairs the next day—I was in love. The workout challenges my body in a way that isn’t really possible without the Megaformers, and I’ve been regularly going to classes ever since that first (humbling) day.

When I saw that Btone was looking to expand its team, I jumped at the opportunity. A group of us went through training last month (it was two full days of going through the Lagree Fitness Manual/Workbook and then a day of teaching mock classes before moving onto co-teaching with a current instructor, and Monday marked my first time teaching on my own. It was definitely a little nerve-racking at first (I think I sweat more than the students during my first practice run haha), but I’m actually surprised at how quickly I’m getting comfortable leading class. And as I continue to settle in, I’m looking forward to having more and more fun with the class and creating a really upbeat, positive environment while I kick your ass into shape. 🙂

There are three Btone locations—Back Bay, Lexington and Sudbury—with a fourth opening in Wellesley in April. I’m teaching at the Back Bay location on Newbury St.

  • Mondays 6AM & 6:55AM
  • Thursdays 6AM & 6:55AM
  • Sundays 10:55AM & 11:50AM

Your first class is only $5, so you should definitely come check it out and say hi if you’re in the area! You can sign up HERE. Even if you can’t make it to one of mine, try out one of the other instructors or locations–I’m so passionate about this workout, and I know you’ll love it, too! 🙂

Alrighty, I just wanted to throw up a quick post sharing the exciting news. I’ve got a busy day ahead of me with a cooking class at the Seaport Hotel and book club to look forward to, but I’ll be back in action tomorrow!

Have you ever worked out on the Megaformer before?


My Experience with the NASM Personal Trainer Certification Program

NASM CPTI typically try to keep my posts here short ‘n sweet, but I wanted to cover all the details of my experience with the NASM CPT program. This is a long post, but hopefully all you interested in getting your PT cert will gain some useful insight from it.

Why I Chose NASM

In deciding which personal training certification to get, it seemed there were three options: ACE, NASM and ACSM. I quickly ruled out ACE because I read a ton of dissatisfied reviews from people saying the gym they wanted to work at wouldn’t accept the ACE certification. Because the ACE exam has the highest pass rate, the assumption is that it’s the easiest of the three certifications to get, and therefore not as highly regarded as the other two.

So it was down to NASM and ACSM. Honestly, had I spent a little more time talking to trainers I know instead of solely relying on online research, I would have gone with ACSM. In the future, I might actually get an additional cert from them. ACSM has the lowest pass rate (=hardest test) and is the only program to require candidates have a college degree. A couple trainers I spoke with after already signing up for NASM were adamant that ACSM was the way to go, but that ship had sailed.

That’s not to say NASM isn’t highly regarded. In most of the reviews I read, people agreed that any gym would be happy to hire a personal trainer with either a NASM or ACSM certification—it didn’t matter. NASM even cites ACSM research in their textbook, so I think at the end of the day, you’re getting a lot of the same information from either program. The main difference between the two I gathered from researching reviews online was that NASM emphasized training the vast majority of the American population, while ACSM was a better choice if your goal was to train high-level/professional athletes.

Choosing a NASM CPT Package

There are five different packages you can chose from when signing up for the CPT cert through NASM. They range in price from $699 for the most basic self-study package, to $1,999 for the most inclusive package that comes with job guarantee, free re-test and an associate personal trainer experience. I went with the cheapest, self-study package because 1. holy f*cking shit I’m not spending two month’s rent on anything and 2. I’m a huge nerd—I love studying, I’ve always been “good at school,” and I was confident I could teach myself the material and pass the exam without the added access to online classes, live workshops, etc.

So basically I spent $699 on a textbook, access to some online study materials and a test. Makes me angry every time I think about it, but sadly, that’s just life when it comes to pretty much any sort of degree or certification.

What I Liked about the NASM CPT Program

NASM lays down an excellent foundation of knowledge and will prepare you to train the majority of clients you’d encounter. I guess what was kinda sad for me during studying was the realization that the majority of clients you’d encounter (aka the majority of Americans) are sedentary, completely deconditioned, and afflicted by one or more chronic diseases like diabetes, cardiorespiratory diseases or hypertension. The program focuses a lot on dealing with these issues and either training around them or how to improve them.

While it is sad that our country is so afflicted by obesity and other chronic diseases, I’m really happy I have the knowledge base to work with and help this majority population. I found it so interesting to learn about today’s common postural imbalances (hunched shoulders from sitting at a desk, for example) and how to improve them by strengthening certain muscles and stretching others. While NASM doesn’t introduce you to any creative exercises or workout routines, it definitely will help you create more informed and effectively targeted workouts.

I actually already have been using what I learned on myself! My feet pronate slightly when I run (rotate inward). Whereas before I thought of it simply as a permanent trait of mine, now I’m conscious of trying to strengthen certain muscles and improve the flexibility of others in order to improve this pronated posture. Thanks to NASM, I am definitely better able to create workouts that address specific issues or goals, which is awesome. I feel much better educated in this respect. 

What I Disliked about the NASM CPT Program

While it gave me a great foundation of knowledge and I feel confident I could create a training program for the majority of people out there (elite athletes excluded), I was left feeling like That’s it? Ok…what’s next?

You won’t learn any new exercises through this certification; it won’t help you make creative, innovative workout routines and training programs; you won’t be an expert in any specific mode of fitness; and it pretty much focuses on working out in gyms. This NASM cert will 100% prepare someone for getting a personal trainer position at a gym; but since that’s not really my goal, I was a little disappointed.

The bottom line is that now that I have this awesome foundation of information (because NASM really does do an excellent job of teaching you the basics), it’s time to get the necessary certs and training experience in the specific areas I love: kettlebell training, Lagree method Pilates, spinning, etc.

Exam Advice

I can’t talk too much about the test—pretty sure that’d be cheating. But I would say definitely know your vocab, and also be familiar with muscle locations and functions so that you have an understanding of which would be affected during different exercises or postural imbalances. Also, definitely take the practice test NASM offers on their website. It gives you a great idea of the types of questions you’ll see.

You have six months to take the exam from the time you sign up. Before taking the exam you need to get your CPR/AED cert, if you don’t already have a current one. I signed up in July, but didn’t start studying until November. I spent the last month studying and then took the exam. You have two hours for the test, which is made up of 120 multiple choice questions. Only 100 count towards your score, but you don’t know which ones. It took me just under an hour to finish. You won’t get a numerical score, just a PASS or FAIL. One final piece of advice—try not to look like a total disaster when you go in for the test; they take your picture. Wish. I’d. Known.

Let me know if I didn’t cover anything or you have other questions!