Spinning 101

woman, showing arm muscle and wearing a towel(BlackDoctor.org) — You may have heard people throw around this word spinning when they talk about their workouts but what really is spinning? Here’s a mini guide with all you need to know about spinning if you’re thinking about joining a class.

A Brief History
Spinning was created by world-class cyclist “Jonny G.” Goldberg as a convenient and quick way to train for races. In 1989, he and John Baudhuin opened the first spinning center in Santa Monica, California and then developed a program to certify other spinning instructors.

What is it?

Spinning is an aerobic exercise that takes place on a specially designed stationary bicycle called (obviously enough) a spinning bike. As you pedal, motivating music plays and the instructor talks you through a visualization of an outdoor cycling workout: “You’re going up a long hill now, you can’t see the top yet.…” During the class you vary your pace — sometimes pedaling as fast as you can, other times cranking up the tension and pedaling slowly from a standing position. This helps you to focus inwardly and work on your mind as well as your body.

Why it’s awesome

Spinning burns serious calories (about 450 in 45 minutes) and offers an awesome aerobic workout that makes your heart pump fast. It also tones your quadriceps (front thigh muscles) and outer thigh muscles like nobody’s business! Because you stay in one place with the same basic movement throughout, Spinning doesn’t involve a lot of coordination; it’s easier to concentrate on your form than in other types of aerobic classes. And although you follow the general instructions of the spinning teacher, you are in control when it comes to your pace. You can finish a spin class, regardless of your fitness level, simply by adjusting your pace or the tension knob on the bike.

Spinning does not work all leg muscles equally, so if you spin without doing some cross training activities, you may develop muscle imbalances. Spinning every day can also be too much of a good thing — real spin enthusiasts have to watch out for overuse injuries in their knees, hips and lower backs. If Spinning is your main source of exercise, we recommend doing some resistance training workouts that include hamstring (back of thigh), buttock and inner thigh exercises.

What You Need
Other than the bike, here’s what you need for a safe, comfortable ride:

  • A stiff-soled shoe with good ventilation. (Running and aerobic shoes, which are soft-soled, may leave your feet numb by the end of the class.)
  • Two towels, one for wiping away sweat and one for draping over the handlebars so your hands won’t slide out of position.
  • A full water bottle, because you’re definitely going to sweat. Most spinning bikes are equipped with a water bottle cage so you can place your H2O within easy reach.
  • Get cute right after your workout

Insider information
Riding with an incorrect seat setting can also lead to injury. Set your seat height so your knee is slightly bent at the bottom of the pedal stroke. Set the handlebars so that they are level with the seat. When you lean forward and place your hands on the bars, there should be a slight bend at your elbows.

Hot Tip
Arrive five minutes early for your first class so your instructor can answer any questions and help you with bike adjustments. Make sure you let her know about any injuries that you have so she can help you modify some of the moves. During class, be sure to let your instructor know if you are having trouble with the resistance knob or the general technique. If the class is too intense, just pedal more slowly or take the tension down.

6 Surprising Food Cures

green tea in a clear glass on a saucerIf someone told you there were eight foods that could make you more beautiful and help you feel a lot healthier, you’d want to eat up, right?

Consider this your grocery list.

Problem: Thin, Dry Hair
Fix: Green Tea

The benefits of green tea keep piling up, and here’s another one: The caffeine in tea slows the production of a chemical that shrinks hair follicles and results in thinner strands. He recommends two to three cups of tea daily. (Coffee drinkers, your morning cup of java can have the same effect.) But if you’re plagued with dry, flaky scalp or hair loss, it may be a sign that you’re not getting enough zinc. Meet your 8 milligram daily quota with a variety of zinc-rich foods like crabmeat, yogurt, baked beans, green peas and pumpkin seeds.

Problem: PMS
Fix: Milk or Cheese

When women don’t get enough calcium, they may experience more severe cramps, mood swings and bloating. Research found that 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day (the amount in about two slices of Swiss cheese plus a glass of skim milk and a yogurt) can cut premenstrual symptoms by as much as 48 percent. If you tend to get headaches during your period, you may be low in magnesium. A quarter cup of almonds or cashews can help you meet up to 30 percent of your day’s needs for the mineral.

Problem: A Bad Mood
Fix: Healthy Carbs

When you’re blue, you probably crave sweets, and there’s a biological reason why: Simple carbs prompt the brain to secrete serotonin, the calming hormone that can ease stress and depression. But after the initial spike in mood, sugary treats set up the body for a blood sugar crash that can make your bad mood worse. A better food group for a boost in spirits: complex carbs like chickpeas, lentils and whole-grain bread.

Problem: Acne
Fix: Fish or Walnuts
What you don’t want: anything made with white flour, especially refined, processed carbs like white bread and sugary cereals. (One study found that these foods triggered more breakouts than a diet rich in fish, fruit, whole grains and legumes.) What you do want: Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help control inflammation throughout the body, including inflammatory acne. That means halibut, walnuts, flaxseeds—and especially salmon.

Problem: Splitting Nails
Fix: Protein

We think of nails as one layer, the one that gets buffed and painted during a mani. But your nails are actually made up of layers of a protein called keratin—and eating protein may strengthen those layers. If your nails are weak, for a lot of women, the easiest fix is protein. Researchers from the University of North Carolina who studied the growth of big toenails (no, we’re not kidding) found that nail growth rates have increased by almost 25 percent since the 1930s, possibly because protein-rich foods are more available. But some women today still don’t get enough because of chronic dieting. Most of us require between 45 and 65 grams per day, so try to eat some protein, like lean beef, poultry, fish or nuts, at every meal. Don’t forget breakfast: Just two eggs provide 12.5 grams—roughly 20 percent of your daily requirement.

Problem: Bad Breath
Fix: Plain Yogurt

Breath mints may be a quick fix, but they don’t combat the main cause of bad breath—a buildup of bacteria on your tongue, in between your teeth and in the back of your throat (often caused by food left behind from not brushing thoroughly enough). In fact, if your breath mint contains sugar, it’ll actually feed those microbes and can make odor worse in the long run. But Japanese research has found that eating plain, sugar-free yogurt may help get rid of the stinky sulfur compounds.