Indoor Cycling: A Closer Look

As I mentioned in my previous post, indoor cycling is the newest studio fitness craze that has been sweeping the nation. In video below, you’ll hear from two employees and one rider at Recycle Studio, Boston’s first indoor cycling studio. They discuss their personal passions for the exercise, as well as the physical and mental benefits of the stationary bicycle. Afterwards, check out the article for additional insights and interesting info about the world of “spin.”

Megan Lieberman, 22, has been an indoor cycling addict ever since she took her first class on a whim two years ago. As a transplant from rural Maryland, Lieberman loved biking outdoors and was itching for a safer and more convenient way to get the cycling high in her first big city.

“As soon as I got off the bike, I knew I was hooked,” said Lieberman of her first indoor cycling class. “The camaraderie, community and enthusiasm combined with the sweaty, muscle burning workout was something I had never experienced before, and I wanted more.”

Lieberman works part-time at Recycle Studio, Boston’s first indoor cycling studio and the place where Lieberman’s passion blossomed. As a scheduler, blogger, graphic designer, front-desk employee and occasional teacher, Lieberman is Recycle’s jack-of-all-trades, and she offered to tutor me in Indoor Cycling 101. As I was to learn through my visit, cycling is more than just an exercise fad – it’s a lifestyle.

Indoor cycling uses a special stationary exercise bicycle with a weighted flywheel in a classroom setting. Bike features include a knob that allows you to modify pedaling resistance and multiple adjustment points that allow the bike to fit a range of riders. A typical class involves a single instructor who excitedly leads riders to loud music through sprints, hill climbs and intervals.

Johnny Goldberg invented Spinning in the mid-1980s. Goldberg, a cross-country and ultra-marathon bicycle racer, was hit by a car while training for a race at night. Looking for a safer and more practical way to train that closely mimicked road racing, Goldberg created an indoor cycling workout and improved stationary bike design.

The first Spinning program was officially offered in 1993 at Crunch Gyms in New York. Soon after, Rolling Stone magazine named indoor cycling the “hot” new exercise. Since then, indoor cycling has become a national phenomenon through the spread of trendy SoulCycle health clubs in New York, California and Connecticut. Other cities, like Boston, are beginning to catch on.

According to the Spinning website, one of the major advantages of indoor cycling is that participants can control exactly their level of intensity to suit ability or fitness level but still remain together as a group.

“One thing that we always tell newcomers to the studio is that it really is your workout,” said Lieberman. “No matter how hard the instructor is pushing you, you are ultimately in control of your bike. It really is based on your own motivation and how hard you feel like working that day. If you’re new to cycling, if you’re new to working out, it’s a great way to really ease yourself into it.”

For those newbies, she recommends shorts or clothes that are tight to the legs. Riders can wear sneakers or rent specialized cycling shoes from the front desk for a small fee.

Downstairs, where the classes take place, the room is completely dark, lit only by a few flickering candles surrounding the instructor’s bike and the outer walls.

“It creates a little bit of an intimate feeling, but it also keeps people from feeling judged by the instructor, by the people next to them. You can’t see other people riding in the room, and they can’t see you,” said Lieberman. “It’s all about you connecting with the bike, you getting your workout in.”

Because Recycle Studio only has two locations and employs just a handful of teachers, there is a strong community vibe that I felt as riders were walking in for the 8 a.m. class. Everyone was chatting, and seemed to know each other by name.

Rider Caitlyn Jones, who has been a Recycle regular since it opened three years ago, enjoys the social aspect of belonging to a small studio.

“It’s just a real strong sense of community and support, she said. “It’s kind of like a social sweaty happy hour of sorts.”

Three years ago, a friend practically dragged Jones to a class for her first time. Though resistant at first, Jones found that she loves having somebody else responsible for motivating and inspiring her to work harder.

“I was a runner and a dancer, but when I started doing this three years ago, my body changed completely,” she said. “I think the thing I noticed most besides overall toning is more of a connection with your abs, and being more centered and aligned more than I was before.”

As Jones described it, the physical benefits are plentiful. Riders burn between 400-500 kilocalories in 40 minutes, while also toning the lower body and engaging in excellent cardiovascular exercise. While the physical benefits are obvious (trust me – you’ll feel them after one class), indoor cycling is also great for mental health.

“This is where I come to regroup and rebalance, and I like that it is non-competitive. It’s just a space where you literally disconnect from the rest of the world…and I think that to me that is very therapeutic,” said Jones. “Sometimes we become so consumed in a subculture of losing weight and looking perhaps even unrealistically in a certain way, and I think that here it’s more focused on the mind-body connection than it is just on the aesthetics.”

Recycle Studio teacher Katie Barrett, who has been riding since she first visited Recycle two years ago, commented on the increase in popularity of fitness studios, citing the recent openings of several competing indoor cycling studios in Boston alone, including the Flywheel chain.

“One of the things I’ve noticed that makes people want to come to studios is the idea that you are coming to a place that’s tailored to exactly what you want to do,” Barrett said. “People aren’t looking to go to the gym and run on the treadmill for an hour and a half or lift weights in a big weight room. It’s just a more personal experience, even if you’re paying a little bit more money.”

And that experience is one that teachers and customers alike will dedicate free time to. With a full-time job secured after her graduation from Northeastern University in December, Lieberman still plans to work and ride part-time at Recycle.

“While indoor cycling isn’t for everyone, I don’t think I’ll ever give it up,” said Lieberman. “It’s something that has just become a part of who I am, and I can’t picture my life without it.”

Hubway Bike Sharing: A Visual Examination

Photo by Tim Sackton | Republished with Creative Commons license

Photo by Tim Sackton | Republished with Creative Commons license

I recently started using Metro Boston’s Hubway bike sharing system to get around the city when my destination is too far to walk, but too inconvenient to wait for the T or splurge for a cab. For a 24-hour bike pass, it only costs $6 (as long as you spend <30 minutes in between stations), which is only a few dollars more than the T, and even doubles as a workout!

There are some really interesting maps to allow bikers to make the most of their Hubway experience, by visualizing bike availability and common bike traffic patterns. Hubway created a map on their website that includes all the information riders need to know in order to plan their trip, such as where bikes and docks are available. The one feature I wish this map had, though, was a place where I could enter an address and find the nearest Hubway stations. Bostonography, a website for interesting visual representations of life and land in Greater Boston, dedicated a project to mapping Hubway availability. While the maps can be a bit confusing, the authors draw important conclusions, including observations about gaps in coverage, overnight access, daytime accessibility and availability in high employment areas.

Hubway also partnered with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council to host the Hubway Data Visualization Challenge, which resulted in some awesome visualizations, animations, maps and info graphics about the more than 500,000 bike trips in one year. Even if these maps don’t help you get from Point A to Point B more efficiently, they’re really interesting and make me excited to be part of such a progressive bike sharing movement.

I would highly recommend checking these maps out and giving Hubway a try. However, helmets are not provided at the stations, and beginner city bikers often aren’t familiar with biking laws – so just be safe.

Indie Coffee Shop Offers Healthy, Local Ingredients

Coffee shops in any city are a dime a dozen, especially in Boston where Dunkin’ Donuts are located on every half-block. Although I’m not a coffee drinker, I occasionally stop into different cafes to pick up a green tea or a healthy mid-day snack. When I moved into my new apartment in the Fenway area, I noticed Neighborhoods Cafe in the midst of a quaint restaurant strip down the street.

Founded by Boston locals, Neighborhoods management strives to incorporate other local food products, people, farms and other small businesses. Their website also features a different entrepreneur and cause each month, furthering their community engagement. The shop is only about a year old, but the staff feel more like family. Employee Noah Hodge said that:

The friendship that the owner and the managers have with the people that work here, it’s just a lot more personal, and that translates to the customers’ experiences.

And that experience just gets better with a look at the healthy menu options. All tea is Numi brand, which is organic fair trade certified. I highly recommend the Jasmine Green. The coffees are direct trade, from George Howell Coffee and Vermont Coffee Company. As for the crepes, Neighborhoods offers signature recipes, as well as a list of ingredients to create your own. My personal seasonal favorite is The Tudor. They also sell baked goods, with offerings that are gluten-free, raw, vegan, kosher, soy-free, and more, to satisfy every customer’s health habits. Check out the cafe for a guilt-free pick-me-up.

coffeesign

Address: 96 Peterborough Street, Boston, MA 02215

Closest MBTA stop: Fenway, on the Green Line (D train)

Hours: Mon – Fri: 6am – 10pm | Sat: 7am – 10pm | Sun: 7am – 9pm

Blog I’m Loving: Well+Good NYC

So much reading, so little time. Photo taken by Sam Javanrouh | Republished with Creative Commons license

So much reading, so little time.
Photo taken by Sam Javanrouh | Republished with Creative Commons license

Since the start of Sneakers and Skyscrapers, I’ve been searching for a go-to site for information and inspiration on fitness happenings and city living. About a month ago, I stumbled across Well+Good NYC, an editorial website that explores the New York City wellness scene. While I tend to focus on city living in general, and not specifically in NYC, almost every trend they discuss is applicable.

Well + Good NYC has five areas of focus: Good Sweat (fitness), Good Looks (beauty), Good Escapes (healthy retreats), Good Advice (expert opinions) and Good Food (nutrition). Since its launch in 2010, Well + Good NYC has focused on providing accessible and affordable content for a healthy, urban lifestyle. Few other sites blend the topics so seamlessly. Additionally, the site is partnered with Self, Prevention and Huffington Post Healthy Living, which only bolsters its reputation and resources.

However, because I added this site to my list of daily reading, I have noticed that it doesn’t update as frequently as I would like. The site posts anywhere from zero to five new stories per day, and I often find myself wanting to read more. On the other hand, a site like FitSugar provides similar news content but updates almost every hour, though their posts can sometimes stray from my focus. Additionally, Well + Good NYC stories tend to read more like a magazine and often include click-through lists. While I enjoy this quick access to summarized information, I occasionally enjoy reading long-form fitness journalism like that which can be found on The New York Times Well Blog. This blog includes a wide range of health and wellness stories, written to include quotes from experts and unbiased reporting.

Well + Good NYC’s posts include coupons or free fitness deals to local gyms or seasonal products, which encourages the audience to explore the city wellness scene. I’m also engaged by the fact that the founders and contributors are all women like myself – busy, active, and passionate about staying healthy. I am drawn to the fact that the writers on the other side of Well + Good NYC understand my drivers, as well as my barriers, to pursuing a healthy urban lifestyle.

Recycle Studio: Profile Coming Soon

Photo taken by Nottingham Trent University | Republished with Creative Commons license

Photo taken by Nottingham Trent University. | Republished with Creative Commons license.

When I lived in New York City from January to July of this year, I couldn’t escape the SoulCycle craze. It seemed like everyone was heading to or talking about these indoor cycling studios. I never really caught on, maybe because the following appeared to be almost cult-like, and more of a trend than a way to stay fit. Not to mention, a SINGLE CLASS starts at $34. However, indoor cycling was on my radar, and I have been on the lookout for an opportunity to explore it more without breaking the bank.

Megan Lieberman, a Northeastern University senior, is heavily involved in Recycle Studio, an indoor cycling studio with two Boston locations. She has played many roles since the studio opened several years ago, from running their blog to teaching classes. I’d love to learn more from her, as well as her coworkers, about the Recycle’s history and the spin craze that’s really caught on in the past couple of years. I’d also like to explore the kind of commitment it takes to run a fitness studio. I plan on attending a class for myself, and also speaking with participants on why they chose to spin, and specifically at Recycle. I look forward to providing you with some insight into the world of indoor cycling, as well as a look at what it’s like to be a part of a small (but expanding) fitness studio.

If you have any suggestions, or anything you’d like me to specifically address, please let me know in the comments section.

Breaking News Verification | Josh Stearns

Warning to my blog’s gracious followers: this short article has nothing to do with my city fitness focus. It is a class assignment that I am required to post here. More fitness content coming soon.

Josh Stearns, Journalism and Public Media Campaign Director for the media-reform organization Free Press, spoke to my class today about verification and fact checking in the age of social media. His Storify Story of the Year tracked journalist arrests at Occupy protests nationwide. When he began to notice that the arrests of reporters seemed to be a trend at the Occupy protests, he began to flag anything that resembled press suppression. Josh said:

Curating and capturing the moment has really played into the fallout from the Occupy protests as it continues in courts.

Yes, his Storify has even been submitted as evidence in court cases for freeing journalists. However, ensuring accuracy by verifying breaking news and user-generated content takes some due diligence on the part of the reporter. Josh developed his own three-part verification process for the Occupy protests:

  1. Confirm with the person who has been arrested. (They were often Tweeting or live streaming from the paddy-wagon.)
  2. Locate people in that location and hear their account. (Check out geolocated Tweet stamps.)
  3. Check in with the news organization or police department the next day.

But again, this was just a process Josh found useful for his particular Storify. Nothing is set in stone, and there are still many questions surrounding breaking news journalism. For instance, if a journalist gets a fact wrong in breaking news reporting, how should they go about making a correction? Josh advised being completely transparent. There is no process that is agreed upon within the industry on how to make corrections in today’s social media landscape, and it’s often difficult to make sure those corrections travel as far as the first error traveled. However, Josh is still exploring this new realm of verification and is self admittedly making it up as he goes. He holds that:

We can change the culture of how events are reported by just doing the best that we can.

Josh also believes that news outlets need to change the social media reward system, which currently consists of retweets and likes. News sites who engage in faulty reporting are often rewarded with these sought-after sharing tools, resulting in increased site traffic and ad clicks. Despite the draw of being the first one out with a piece of information, responsible reporters should make sacrifices in favor of journalistic integrity.

When it comes down to it, it’s about humans doing the tough work, asking the tough questions, poking and prodding…and sometimes that means not pushing that photo out until a later time.

For more on Josh Stearns, check out his Media Shift essay on tools for breaking news verification, and his Tumblr account, Verification Junkie, where he posts his verification tools.

Boston Marathon Registration 2014: A Storify

Posted on Flickr by Wally Gobetz and used under Creative Commons license.

Posted on Flickr by Wally Gobetz and used under Creative Commons license.

While traditional blog posts are a great way to explore city fitness, I decided to play around with Storify to convey the buzz in Boston this month around the 2014 B.A.A. Marathon registration. I used Storify to display content from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Flickr, which will visually chronicle the registration process for you.

With that said, check out my Storify of the 2014 Boston Marathon Registration, and let me know what you think.