East Boulder Community Center, 5660 Sioux Dr, Boulder, https://bouldercolorado.gov/parks-rec/east-boulder-community-center
Instructor: Carol DeBaca has been leading group fitness classes for 25 years and teaches classes all around Boulder. She studied physiology at the University of California, Berkeley, before relocating to Colorado. You couldn't pick a more apt environment for teaching spin classes.
What is the workout? A high-intensity stationary cycling class. DeBaca turned up the heat and the music to get students out of their seats and climbing imaginary, yet no less strenuous, mountains and hills.
Whether it's picking up the pace or increasing the resistance, DeBaca is a master at coaching students to push themselves through the intervals. With her headset on, she set the scene: You're keeping pace with your team, and when they increase their cadence, you stay on their wheel. DeBaca believes in simulating outdoor cycling as much as possible. When you're cycling indoors you're training for cycling outdoors.
"I love to see people improve. I love to see someone who thinks they can't do something, then two months, three months down the line, they are doing it no problem," DeBaca said.
What's different? The nice thing about this class is that it is a very traditional cycling class. It's not dressed up or overblown. You grab a bike and get cycling with a well-trained coach pushing you to your limit. In Boulder, traditional classes are less common then many of the hybrid classes offered in this mecca for outdoor athletes.
This class is singularly focused on cardiovascular endurance. The full hour is spent getting your heart rate up and your blood pumping.
"The participants add so much to the workout. You're feeding off each other's energy. The opportunity to push cardiovascular intervals is there, and you can push pretty hard on these bikes," DeBaca said.
The workout isn't just a race against your fellow cyclists. You're also racing yourself. In classes with weights and repetitions, it's much easier to judge how hard you're pushing yourself, and each set lasts only a few minutes. In cycling, you have to constantly watch your speed and resistance or you could easily slack off during an hourlong ride.
Cost: The drop-in price is $7.50 for adults and includes access to all the gym's facilities. For other pricing information - including for punch cards, monthly and annual passes for residents, nonresidents, seniors and youths - check out their website.
Level: The great thing about cycling is that it's very low impact, allowing almost anybody to participate. "Anyone can come in, beginner to advanced. Often, if it's someone's first time on the bike, I tell them, 'You're job is just to get used to the bike. Don't try to have the greatest workout ever.' Because each person is in charge of their resistance, they can make it as hard or as easy as they want," says DeBaca. "It's all ages. I have some of the mountain biking team from Fairview High School and all the way up to people in their 70s and 80s."
When: The hourlong class is offered at 6 a.m. and 8:50 a.m. Mondays and Wednesdays and 8:50 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays.
What to prepare: Regular workout clothes and water. I highly recommend wearing bicycle shorts for this class, unless you have buns of steel. Towels are provided.
Muscles worked: Your cardiovascular system works the hardest. If you push yourself in this class, the sweat is flowing and your thighs are aching.
What I loved: This is the kind of class I love to hate. Pure cardio classes force me to ignore the Midwesterner in me that would rather sit on the couch and stuff a bunch of cookies in my mouth.
Fighting this intrinsically lazy part of me is why I take group fitness classes. I need someone to push me or I end up sitting on the bike and riding it like a cruiser through the park.
I was so caught up in the workout, I didn't even look to see the full distance I had ridden or my average RPMs at the end of class. I didn't think about it until much later. The workout was so satisfying in and of itself that I didn't need the stats to make me feel like I had accomplished something great.
What I didn't like: Holy guacamole, my bum hurt! I immediately regretted not wearing padded cycling shorts to this class. Hence my recommendation to protect your nether regions.
How I felt after the class: Invigorated, if a little saddle sore. There is nothing like a good cardio workout to make you feel like you've really accomplished something at the end of the day.
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